Mini PC recommendations for emulation

terry.330

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So I'm looking at getting something to hook up to my main TV and also use on a rotatable monitor. It's mainly going to be used for emulation and light computing (browsing the internet, YT, streaming etc). As far as emulation goes I want it to run later Cave games and won't likely be doing anything past the PS2 era.

There are an insane amount of these mini PCs and every YT review seems to just be a comped ad where they focus on emulating newer consoles and seeing how far they can push it with relatively newer games. Keep in mind I'm not a PC guy so I know jack shit about specs and different GPUs, etc. which makes this all pretty confusing.

Can I run my emulation setup of an external HD and get solid performance or does that need to go on an internal SSD?

I'm looking to spend $250 or hopefully even less.

I know some of you guys have experience with these and any input is appreciated.
 

100proof

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If you don't care about more recent stuff, the Pi 5 can run everything up to a PS2/Gamecube/Wii and the upgraded models even have an NVME slot (so you don't have to waste time and space with external drives). The 8GB RAM model goes for $80. Once you get a case, sufficient storage and a USB hub, you'll be bumping up close to your price limit.

NUCs (the little mini computer boxes) are pretty solid and can usually house an SSD but those get expensive quickly.

If size isn't a concern, just buy an old rig off of Craigslist/fleabay/reddit/whatever. Anything pre-built is going to be out of your price range new but ]eople are always looking to unload their old machines.

If you need help assembling something, just hit me up. I may actually have a couple of NUCs lying around from when I was tinkering with different server options.

Edit: Also if you're willing to wait on a sale, the Steam Deck is a really good emulation machine that can easily be plugged in to a TV (and controllers) with a docking station.
 
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terry.330

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If I get a Pi can I add new rome,files and apps easily? In other words download stuff with it and do basic drag and drop stuff like on a regular desktop? Because I won't have any other computer aside from an old iMac and an iPad. The main reason I want an NUC is because a lot of them come with Windows 11 and I want a traditional desktop format for file management and internet browsing.
 

100proof

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If I get a Pi can I add new rome,files and apps easily? In other words download stuff with it and do basic drag and drop stuff like on a regular desktop? Because I won't have any other computer aside from an old iMac and an iPad. The main reason I want an NUC is because a lot of them come with Windows 11 and I want a traditional desktop format for file management and internet browsing.

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that the initial setup will be complicated/frustrating (as Pi runs off of custom Linux distros that, while plug and play for the most part, do take some tinkering initially) but there are full step-by-step setup guides all over the web. Once you get all that setup, adding/removing games is incredibly easy. People generally use Retropie, Batocera or Lakka.
 

terry.330

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Yeah that sounds like too much hassle for me.

Used a Steamdeck a bit and didn't care for it.

I need the simplest and easiest to use option. The NUC is appealing because it won't take up any room under the TV and still give a traditional Windows experience.
 

HornheaDD

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Agreed on the Pi5 but is there a retropie build out for the Pi5 already?

If not you can get by with a Pi4 as well. Or you can get one of those older like Dell Optiplex 9010s or whatever. I got mine for... $80? I think? I put an SSD in there and it can run all the Batocera stuff, bigbox, etc. The video card I have in there can run stuff up to street fighter 6 with no issue too.
 

fake

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I'm in sort of the same boat as OP, but not for emulation. I had an Alienware Alpha, but it ran like shit. I haven't had a PC since and would like to play some of the Steam games I've bought. I'm specifically looking for something I can set up once and just turn on and use a controller with from then on.
 

GohanX

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I love Retropie, but what I’d suggest is a used enterprise computer off eBay. Most emulation doesn’t use a gpu for much, one of the little Dell or HP mini pcs for $100 will do just fine. Load it with Batocera, it’s really easy to configure and once set up you don’t need anything but the controller to navigate. Transferring can be done by a usb flash drive.
 

Ajax

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I got this guy last month:

Beelink SER5 MAX Mini PC,Ryzen 7 5800H(8C/16T,up to 4.4GHz) Mini Computer,TDP 54W High-Performance Mini Desktop Computers,Micro PC 16GB/500GB PCle3.0 SSD 4K Triple Displays,WiFi6,BT5.2,USB3.2 https://a.co/d/d2v9WWv

It can handle the 360 Cave ports easily, same with all the stuff I play on Steam. It can run Forza Horizon 5 on low settings, which is way more intensive than anything I’ll use it for. I’ve been really satisfied with it.
 

kernow

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A Pi isn't going to run the CV1000 stuff. A little NUC or something Ajax suggested is decent.
 

Heinz

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I got this guy last month:

Beelink SER5 MAX Mini PC,Ryzen 7 5800H(8C/16T,up to 4.4GHz) Mini Computer,TDP 54W High-Performance Mini Desktop Computers,Micro PC 16GB/500GB PCle3.0 SSD 4K Triple Displays,WiFi6,BT5.2,USB3.2 https://a.co/d/d2v9WWv

It can handle the 360 Cave ports easily, same with all the stuff I play on Steam. It can run Forza Horizon 5 on low settings, which is way more intensive than anything I’ll use it for. I’ve been really satisfied with it.
Ehh I dunno man I don't think you included enough specifications.
 

Ajax

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It copied all that shit with the link, haha!
 

AppleiDog

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If you don't care about more recent stuff, the Pi 5 can run everything up to a PS2/Gamecube/Wii and the upgraded models even have an NVME slot (so you don't have to waste time and space with external drives). The 8GB RAM model goes for $80. Once you get a case, sufficient storage and a USB hub, you'll be bumping up close to your price limit.

NUCs (the little mini computer boxes) are pretty solid and can usually house an SSD but those get expensive quickly.

If size isn't a concern, just buy an old rig off of Craigslist/fleabay/reddit/whatever. Anything pre-built is going to be out of your price range new but ]eople are always looking to unload their old machines.

If you need help assembling something, just hit me up. I may actually have a couple of NUCs lying around from when I was tinkering with different server options.

Edit: Also if you're willing to wait on a sale, the Steam Deck is a really good emulation machine that can easily be plugged in to a TV (and controllers) with a docking station.
I would also rate the steamdeck, give it another chance to me its gaming perfection. Both emulation and latest releases. Both handheld and hooking it up to tv.
 

Heinz

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It copied all that shit with the link, haha!
It's a good choice, I think if you're in the market for a compact pc and want to play games the Ryzen series APU's are great. They blow Intel out of the water on iGPU performance for the price.

@terry.330 you could run the TTX3 multi off a portable SSD on this thing pretty well.
 

terry.330

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It looks like I can get one the of the units a step below what @Ajax linked but a Ryzen 5 5500 4.0Ghz and 16GB DDR4 for around $200. Will that run the 360 Cave stuff?
 

joe8

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A lot of the smaller PC cases are pretty limited in which graphics cards they can hold.
 

kernow

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It looks like I can get one the of the units a step below what @Ajax linked but a Ryzen 5 5500 4.0Ghz and 16GB DDR4 for around $200. Will that run the 360 Cave stuff?
Is there a reason you want to emulate the ports over the actual PCBs?
 

Ajax

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Kern has a point here. There’s a solid build of mame out that is tailored to the CV1000 hardware. I can slide it to you when you’re ready.

That said, the ports do offer some things that are worth something on their own. Replays, the ability to pause, arrange versions, ability to change soundtracks (real handy after you’ve grinded Mushi maniac for 100 hours), etc.

Ahem…

I imagine the one you found with the R5 5500 would also fit the bill. If it’s from Amazon, it’s worth a shot, and you can return it if it doesn’t work out.
 

terry.330

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Yeah I was just thinking it would be a bonus if it could run the 360 stuff as the extra modes, arrange versions and soundtracks are nice.
 

Ajax

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I feel you 100%. Do you have a link to the one you’re considering?
 

GohanX

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Last I heard 360 emulation was pretty shit even with powerful hardware.
 

kernow

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It's mind boggling how they got it working as a VM on the Xbox one tbh
 

Ajax

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It runs great on Xenia Canary
 

100proof

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Yeah, 360 emulation is rounding in to shape at this point but you'll actually need a GPU from the last few years to run a lot of stuff. Not something you're gonna be able to do cheaply (unless you buy a Steam Deck which can only run lower end games at full speed).
 
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