Project idea #4: Mini gam­ing PC

APC Australia - - » Mini-pc Projects -

WHETHER LO­CALLY REN­DERED OR STREAMED, THERE ARE EVEN NUCS WITH GAM­ING ABIL­I­TIES.

When it comes to gam­ing chops and mini-PCs, there are a few ways of go­ing about se­cur­ing the right per­for­mance to de­liver the de­sired user ex­pe­ri­ence. Paired with aware­ness of what is and isn’t ask­ing too much of these diminu­tive PC so­lu­tions within the scope of gam­ing is im­por­tant to con­sider in or­der to avoid some dis­ap­point­ment from the user ex­pe­ri­ence and gen­eral im­ple­men­ta­tion.

There are a few things you need to out­line prior to even look­ing at spec­i­fi­ca­tions of dif­fer­ent NUC-like mini-PC prod­ucts on the mar­ket. These main ques­tions are: What level of vis­ual fi­delity do you de­sire? What res­o­lu­tion will you want to out­put? Will the gam­ing pro­cess­ing be done lo­cally on the mini-PC or on a ded­i­cated gam­ing PC and streamed to the mini-PC’s in­puts and out­puts? If pro­cessed lo­cally, how much graph­ics pro­cess­ing power do you re­quire? Will an in­te­grated GPU (iGPU) be suf­fi­cient for your planned so­lu­tion or will you re­quired dis­crete GPU (dGPU) lev­els of per­for­mance? If im­ple­ment­ing a dGPU op­tion, how is it im­ple­mented into the build spec­i­fi­ca­tion? Will you it utilise a hy­brid iGPU-dGPU load­ing so­lu­tion for im­proved en­ergy ef­fi­ciency or will the dGPU be en­gaged as pri­mary graph­ics pro­ces­sor and the iGPU com­pletely dis­en­gaged? Un­der­stand­ing these ques­tions, the sub­se­quent an­swer(s) and whether the out­come is suit­able for your in­tended goal is key to avoid a half-baked im­ple­men­ta­tion that does the job but comes short of the de­sired ex­pe­ri­ence.

Look­ing specif­i­cally at three ex­am­ples from the NUC-like mini-PC roundup, the ASUS VivoMini-V VM65N, In­tel Skull Canyon NUC (NUC6i7KYK) and Gi­ga­byte Brix Gam­ing UHD GB-BNi7HG4-950-MF, these three op­tions present dif­fer­ent lev­els of gam­ing com­pe­tence and with it sys­tem pres­ence within the home theatre.

The VM65N rep­re­sents the use of mo­bile hy­brid GPU tech­nol­ogy as the unit au­to­mat­i­cally switches be­tween the In­tel HD Graph­ics 520 iGPU and the mo­bile tech de­rived GeForce 930M dGPU de­pend­ing on graph­i­cal work­load re­quir­ing pro­cess­ing. While the GeForce 930M would be con­sid­ered by main­stream core PC gamers to be in­signif­i­cant com­pared to their high-end desk­top coun­ter­parts, but in these small form fac­tor so­lu­tions the use of the GeForce 930M con­sid­er­ably boosts graph­ics pro­cess­ing power com­pared to the iGPU al­ter­na­tives. A clear ex­am­ple of this is the al­most dou­bling of 3DMark re­sults when com­par­ing the VM65N and VC65R bench­mark re­sults from the re­view roundup. In­ter­est­ingly, you can see the gap close con­sid­er­ably be­tween Fire Strike and Ice Storm Ex­treme re­sults due to the sim­pli­fied vis­ual ef­fects in Ice Storm Ex­treme com­pared with the com­par­a­tively bru­tal Fire Strike bench­mark.

The Skull Canyon NUC demon­strates the po­ten­tial pixel push­ing power of a high-end In­tel iGPU util­is­ing the In­tel Iris Pro Graph­ics 580 core. This unit is suf­fi­cient for many eS­ports ti­tles such as Counter Strike: Global Of­fen­sive, League of Le­gends and DOTA2. Pack­aged in the sleek, slen­der chas­sis and with plenty of con­nec­tiv­ity for con­trollers, this could be a great con­sole re­place­ment PC for the home theatre.

The Brix Gam­ing UHD unit in­tro­duces a low-end dis­crete desk­top GPU to the mix. This spec in­clu­sion romps over ev­ery other mini-PC in the re­view roundup. This is thanks to the GeForce GTX 950 GPU and will help fa­cil­i­tate mid-graph­ics lev­els at 1080p res­o­lu­tion.

The need for a strong disctete GPU can be negated by util­is­ing a net­worked ded­i­cated gam­ing ma­chine to do the ma­jor­ity of the gam­ing pro­cess­ing, then stream­ing over the net­work to the mini-PC with gam­ing soft­ware so­lu­tions like Steam. For best out­comes, en­sure the mini-PC has plenty of CPU power and RAM, run­ning on a Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net con­nec­tion — prefer­ably wired to re­duce la­tency.

Mini gam­ing PC in one hand, con­troller in the other — watch out lounge room!

A Thun­der­bolt 3.0 port with a 40Gbps trans­fer speed can pro­vide high-end desk­top GPU power to a tiny NUC PC, via an ex­ter­nal bay like the Razer Core.

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