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rainnyx4
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Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by rainnyx4 Sat Dec 20, 2014 9:24 pm

Thinking of picking up a new tower for hooking up to the tv to play emulators and video rips. I've been out of the scene for a while so I'm not too sure what I'll be needing and thought I'd ask you guys for some help. I have a PS3 and Wii with me so I don't need a computer for any of the platforms/media that those can handle. Would like to get something that can definitely do Dreamcast, Saturn, N64, PS2, and XBox emulation. I have two options in my price range thanks to my university student discount.

Intel® Pentium® Processor J2900 (2M Cache, up to 2.67 GHz) (Quad Core)

Intel® Celeron® Processor J1800 (1M Cache, up to 2.58 GHz) (Dual Core)

Both have the following:
Windows 8.1
4GB Single Channel DDR3L 1600MHz (4GBx1)
Intel® HD Graphics

I'm pretty positive the Pentium Processor will have no problems but the Celeron is $50 cheaper, so if you guys think it can handle the requirements for emulation I'll just pick that up.

Thanks!
casterofdreams
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Re: Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by casterofdreams Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:50 pm

From what I've gathered its really tough to emulate Original Xbox, PS2, and Dreamcast no matter how much hardware power you throw at it. I think its down to poor coding of the emulator or something else just not playing nice with the hardware. I am by no means an expert but if I am somewhat right I'd hate for someone to spend money on hardware that can run Crysis at 120 FPS natively but can barely run a PS2 game through emulation if that is your main intent.

You mentioned that the Wii is taken care of. A shame because the Wii and GameCube has massive support and thus can run a hell of a lot better on different sets of hardware.

N64 is also heavily supported too so it can run on various hardware.

All this assumes that the rom is of good quality.
Tanooki
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Re: Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by Tanooki Tue Dec 23, 2014 2:30 pm

Unless something changed since the 90s, Celeron chips are crap for much of anything aside from business computer level stuff and low level gaming (forget decent emulation of 3D systems.) They may be speedy on the clock speed you're told, but they have really small data cache on them so they can't handle a lot at once so it bottlenecks and kills performance.

If you're looking for a gaming machine to handle that kind of stuff you said, you'd be better off with the other. I'd do what I did lately, make a price you'll go to, find the best parts to fit that, and don't break the budget. Realize you can skimp on stuff up front and get it later. A good GPU will cost more money than one that'll serve alright for now, and you can always get a board that'll take like 32GB of ram, but then just stuff 16 or 8 in there to start and up it later.
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mrkola
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Re: Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by mrkola Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:41 pm

I'll echo a bit of what has already been said but with a few differences from what I've experienced. Xbox emulation is a complete no go currently, problem being with how close the architecture was to a traditional PC, no one has been able to emulate the platform consistently. However, Gamecube/Wii, PS2, and Dreamcast are very doable and actually improve upon the experience with the right hardware. Saturn emulation has also gotten much much better over the past few years and most things are emulated quite well at this point.

To get an idea of what you might need specs wise, it may be helpful to look at the emulator's documentation to see what they recommend:

https://dolphin-emu.org/docs/faq/ - Gamecube/Wii emulation
http://wiki.pcsx2.net/index.php/PCSX2 - PS2 emulation

If you're meeting or exceeding the specs listed on these pages, you should be good to go for everything previous to these systems. The onboard graphics card in those is really what will bottleneck your performance. A dedicated GPU is somewhat essential for good emulation performance on these relatively new systems. To be honest the newer Celerons and Pentiums aren't too bad from a CPU standpoint, they are just cut down versions of the higher end processors. For single or dual threaded tasks they tend to keep up with their big brothers. Keep in mind though generally a faster dual core is better than a slower quad core when it comes to emulation.

Really what it comes down to is what you want out of the experience. If you want to run PS2 games at 1080p with improved texture packs and anti-aliasing, what you have listed wouldn't really be up to the task. At best, you'll be getting a base experience with some frame drops due to the weak GPU. Have you ever thought about building your own? Likely you could get something better than what's offered here and it would be expandable down the line if you wanted to get into PC gaming.
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rainnyx4
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Re: Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by rainnyx4 Wed Dec 24, 2014 1:15 am

Thanks for the replies guys, appreciate it!

So it looks like XBox emulation is a no go and PS2 and Dreamcast emulation is difficult but doable with the right hardware.

Checking out the requirements for PS2 and Dreamcast it seems that the Pentium processor should be able to handle it, though I may need to upgrade the graphics card.

N64 and Saturn emulation should be fairly easy to set up, though I feel like the Saturn may also benefit from a graphics card upgrade.

Will probably pick up the Pentium computer and see how it runs everything without a graphics card and will upgrade if necessary.

Thanks again!
Tanooki
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Re: Help on choosing a new computer for emulation

by Tanooki Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:09 pm

If that on board chip is one of those Intel HD 4X00 chips you maybe alright. They're actually fairly strong as intel finally learned a lesson a few years back to stop peddling barely serviceable crap that barely handled Word+web browser stuff. The laptop I just gave up had a HD 3000 chip in it and it was fluid with N64, PS1 and Saturn shouldn't be a problem, PS2 wasn't exactly smooth if I remember right. The HD 3000 I had was as capable as a mid-range video card a year older than it and the 4X00 models are better. They do suck off your main memory to run video as it's shared so that could run you into issues.
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