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Electronics That's it everyone, aruging about the best gaming machines is over.

Signa

Libertarian Contrarian
Sanctuary legend
Messages
789
Price and Quantity
$600, with options to add or remove some features
Rating
5.00 star(s)
I like buying computers to mess with and employ in different situations. For a while, we've had these mini PCs on the market, and they make great portable machines where you can staple them behind your TV or something and get a nice living room PC for playing movies or something.

However, these mini PCs are usually very weak. It's not unexpected, because they are small, cheap, and under-powered, but they will get the job done for your basic computing tasks. My current TV PC, I paid about $200 for, and while it's been pretty great at doing what I got it for, it's been choking on some Youtube playback lately, so I decided it was time to look for an upgrade. I stumbled into this thing while looking.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CGTYKBP4

Being a huge fan of the Steam Deck, and finding its APU to be enough to play games like Elden Ring, I decided I'd give it a try. I got the $600 version with a 1TB drive and 32GB RAM. What I didn't expect when it arrived, that it was going to MASSIVELY out perform the Steam Deck. In fact, it out performs it so well, I flirted with the idea of keeping my desktop gaming PC off during the summer and using this thing so that there's less heat being generated in my office.

But then I got to thinking, Elden Ring is really the only game my older gaming machines couldn't keep up with, in fact it won't even launch on several of them. Gaming as a whole is starting to languish, and most of the good games I want to play are low-spec indie games that are far more simple than an open world game like Elden Ring. Also, it doesn't take much power by today's standards to run emulators for most of the consoles. Even a couple of these mini PCs in the same class were suggesting PS3 emulation in their product title on the store page. Is there anything this tiny box can't do?

Well, short answer, yes. I wouldn't suggest it if you're a CAD renderer or something, because if you're looking for top-tier power, you're going to need to pay a top-tier price. This on the other hand, meets practically every gamer's needs at a super affordable price. A price so low it's console-tier, and it also requires no assembly. I also was running Elden Ring at 720P, but using AMD's FSR upscaling, it was looking close enough to as good as max settings at 1080p on my main PC, and it cost less than 1/3rd the price.

So, as far as I'm concerned, with a device like this, there isn't even a hesitation in my mind that if you want to play games, this is literally all you need. Steam games are cheap for the patient, and they will stick with you for as long as you have the account. GOG is also an option. Nintendo keeps shutting down their digital stores, and Sony and Microsoft are barely offering anything worth playing on their consoles either.

The biggest flaws I have found so far:
- The Wifi antenna seems a bit weak. I've had a microwave half way across the house interfere with it, and it wasn't placed between the PC and the router. It does have Ethernet, so there's ways out of that problem for anyone that also has a similar issue.
- The graphics hardware seems to have a bug in it that doesn't play nice with Ryujinx while playing Tears of the Kingdom. I'm getting blotchy purple squares at complete random that my Steam Deck didn't have. A Google Search showed me it was more likely a hardware issue and not being properly compatible with the emulator, as it's not a discrete video card. Something like that may disappear with time and development of these emulators.

So in summary: I have 2 spare monitors, a very nice bluetooth mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse, PS4 gamepad, and a set of USB speakers set up on this machine now, and it's become a full gaming rig for around $900 total. Some cheaper accessories would have driven that price down too. Console systems are now fully obsolete.
 

Signa

Libertarian Contrarian
Sanctuary legend
Messages
789
I'm starting to look for the upper limits of this thing. I threw Doom 2016 at it last night, as well as Horizon Zero Dawn. Both ran great. Doom was hitting 120FPS on this APU, and never dropped below 60. I barely played Horizon, so I don't know how it goes, but it is a great looking game, and that's what I wanted to test.

I'm probably going to get Cyberpunk next time it's on sale and give that a shot.
 

Signa

Libertarian Contrarian
Sanctuary legend
Messages
789
For $900, why not just go for a last-gen high-tier laptop?
Because I'm only truly counting the cost of the computing hardware. All the rest I have attached for that total is accessories I had on hand. I have not seen a laptop at $600 that performs this well. I'd be shocked if a person didn't have an HDMI TV or monitor, mouse and keyboard laying around their house to get this thing operational. Not everyone needs dual monitor either, which is being accounted for in my total cost scenario. Also, my keyboard was $100, instead of $5-$10 for the most basic options. An alternate cheapo price could be around $100 for the monitor, $14 for an Amazon basics mouse and keyboard, $25 for a set of USB headphones if your monitor doesn't do audio, putting that $900 tag I quoted down to $740.

In short, if you're serious about gaming at all, you're going to have these accessories on hand already. And if we're comparing to consoles, which I am, then the $1000 TV people put into their living rooms absolutely count against their costs.

305


Edit: Also tested Borderlands 3 today. My old gaming machine had choked on that. So, at the very least, it's outperforming that.
Edit2: Just checked and there's no Ryzen 9 CPUs with 32GB RAM and 1TB available for under $1k on Amazon. Would you get more bang for your buck going for those options? Maybe, but the point I'm geeking out about here is how small the starting investment is and how much power you get from it.
 
Last edited:

Arnox

Master
Staff member
Founder
Messages
5,441
The 7940HS is indeed a powerful CPU, but the Radeon 780M that comes equipped with it is about equivalent to a little more than a 1050 Ti. So basically, that relatively big-ass CPU is getting bottlenecked by the 780M pretty hard. And since this is a mini PC, you can't exactly upgrade the GPU in there.

In comparison, just going off the sales listings of Ebay's "laptop computers" in the price range of $800-950, I found one almost immediately with an i7 8750H paired with an RTX 2070. It even has a numpad. (I use mine all the damn time. Don't underestimate how useful they are for both gaming and productivity.) The CPU is old enough too, so you can also attach a BD drive via USB and officially play blu-rays on Windows 10. If that's your thing. And all that for $850. Take the extra $50 and buy a mouse and controller. Boom. Done. You have a portable """mini PC""" with attached battery, screen, keyboard, and touchpad.

I imagine if I was willing to poke around the listings for a while, I could find an even better deal, but yeah. Guess I'm just not convinced by the value proposition of these mini PCs really. At least the Steam Deck natively supports running the fantastic SteamOS.
 

Signa

Libertarian Contrarian
Sanctuary legend
Messages
789
The 7940HS is indeed a powerful CPU, but the Radeon 780M that comes equipped with it is about equivalent to a little more than a 1050 Ti. So basically, that relatively big-ass CPU is getting bottlenecked by the 780M pretty hard. And since this is a mini PC, you can't exactly upgrade the GPU in there.

In comparison, just going off the sales listings of Ebay's "laptop computers" in the price range of $800-950, I found one almost immediately with an i7 8750H paired with an RTX 2070. It even has a numpad. (I use mine all the damn time. Don't underestimate how useful they are for both gaming and productivity.) The CPU is old enough too, so you can also attach a BD drive via USB and officially play blu-rays on Windows 10. If that's your thing. And all that for $850. Take the extra $50 and buy a mouse and controller. Boom. Done. You have a portable """mini PC""" with attached battery, screen, keyboard, and touchpad.

I imagine if I was willing to poke around the listings for a while, I could find an even better deal, but yeah. Guess I'm just not convinced by the value proposition of these mini PCs really. At least the Steam Deck natively supports running the fantastic SteamOS.
Comparison:
Yeah, I'm not going to say the value isn't there in that listing, but it's not really that good of a comparison. It's half the RAM and SSD space, and it's used and it still costs more than the basic setup of this box. My excitement comes from the fact I can point anyone to this product, and they can buy it off the shelf right away. Also, I couldn't see how many USB-C ports are on it. I have an external GPU that my little box will connect to, so if it really came down to it, I could attach whatever GPU I want. Same probably applies to the laptop, but laptops like that usually get only one port, and mine has two. Therefore, still more flexibility if I need to plug something USB-C in along side that eGPU.

SteamOS:
I actually tried installing SteamOS at first, but either I did something wrong, or it's not going to work. It shipped with Windows 11, so I shrank the partition and tried installing it on the new free space, but the installer stopped without any clear errors why. Ended up wiping the thing and installing Win10 because at least I can trust it to not get a version of Recall added into it. It also has two NVME ports inside, so I may drop another 2TB in. It doesn't have a SD card reader like my last TV PC, so that sucks, but I have a few USB readers that'll get the job done anyway.

Numpad:
Oh yes, 100%. My main desktop has one, and I wouldn't abandon it for anything. The setup is in my bedroom where space is a consideration. I originally got the table and PC in here to dodge my roommate since he was driving me nuts. Kinda got used to having a PC near by from that, and since my gaming PC is also my work PC, the change in location is helpful. It starts to feel opressive being in the same place all the time.

Blueray:
Are new CPUs not allowed to play bluerays? This is news for me. I have a blue ray drive attached to the TV PC this was meant to replace, and I was expecting to plug it in at some point here. I sticky taped the drive to my TV, so I can't easily tear it off just to check.

Steam Deck:
It depends on what you're looking for, but I consider the Steam Deck as something as an aside to this. Not every game plays on the Deck, and using the attached controls, you probably wouldn't want to play a bunch of games either. Still, as transportable this mini PC is, it's still not a portable game system like the Deck. With all the same accessories + a dock, you can get the Deck to do the same thing I have set up here. After all, I had to unplug them from the Deck to get that picture above :D The problem is, I kinda stopped using my Deck as a portable game system while it was connected like this, and now I can lay in bed playing games with it again.
 
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