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I improved Linus Tech Tips' ultra cheap PC during LTX 2019

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Linus Tech Tips, a channel most of you are likely to be familiar with as they are one of the staples of the tech community and someone you might have opinions about One of the things that I love about Linus Tech Tips is how they use their resources to handle large projects that few others in the tech space would have the capacity to do One such project was this, a video where Riley and Linus show a set of gaming PCs built using new components at different price levels, including monitor and peripherals, and analyzed the experience you could get at every level For me the most interesting of the bunch was what they called "El Cheapo", nope not that one, this one: a computer built with basically the cheapest new components available in every category and what they ended up with is not that far to what I would have picked

An Athlon 200GE which is continuously one of my favorite cheap parts as CPU and GPU, as well as the cheapest a320 motherboard available At this price point that is actually (IN MY OPINION) a smart build when the used market is not an option and and it has an impressive price too Yes, I am aware this would likely be significantly more expensive outside the cheaper United States Believe me, I know What I was worried about was that they had built this PC as the comic relief of the video but to their credit, Linus and Riley gave it an actual swing

Linus: Yeah it is running all right I mean Not great but it is running at 90 fps it is just league's graphics do not look amazing at the best of times and this is particularly not amazing However, the most interesting part came a bit at the end when they explained what they intended to do with these: The thing is that we are actually taking all of these rigs, the whole thing, to LTX and there are still some tickets left so (at the time of filming) try them out there and you can game on everything from a $300 complete gaming setup all the way to a $7000 complete setup and figure out what is right for your budget and your preference For those unfamiliar LTX, or the Linus Tech Expo, is rather new tech convention organized by the folks from Linus Tech Tips in Vancouver Canada to celebrate PC Gaming and tech nerdism in general For the third edition, one of the planned expansions was inviting a bunch of tech-related creators including a certain familiar name So a few days and 15 hours on planes later after I first saw the video I was ignoring rows of gaming PCs to find myself in the promised exhibit, face by face with the target of my affections

alone ignored, or worst the target of ridicule by the occasional passerby Now, if you know me you will know how much I dislike people dismissing the low end side of tech, but on this case my key frustration was that with a tiny, tiny change and some low spec magic this PC could be playing an entire higher category of games as I have experimented with time and time again on this channel So I got a hold of someone of the Linus Tech Tips staff and asked permission to, right there, while LTX was going, open up El Cheapo and do a little experiment and to their credit, I got an immediate thumbs up And so this little adventure began Allow me to explain my logic: while there always several performance-related upgrades that you could do on this build, like changing the motherboard for something overclockable or adding a discrete GPU, the one change that would have the greatest impact at minimum price is RAM

You see, dedicated GPUs have dedicated onboard VRAM, integrated GPUs do not and that means that they allocated part of regular RAM as VRAM So for starters, 4 GB on a PC with a dedicated GPU is already a challenge 4 GB on an integrated GPU is going to cause most bigger games to straight-up crash or stutter as the game tries to use the page file as RAM

however, the real problem today is not quantity but speed Zen CPUs, in general, tend to perform better with faster memory due to the infinity fabric architecture, which Linus recently made a video about, but on 99% of the stuff you can run on this PC the integrated GPU is going to be the main bottleneck and that means that we see a different memory issue Since the integrated GPU is using regular RAM as VRAM if you use a single stick at pretty much any speed in single channel mode a lot of the performance numbers are going to be limited by memory bandwidth rather than pure GPU power

So, by adding one more RAM stick the price theoretically would barely scratch 320 while being able to play a lot of modern games thanks to the improved VRAM bandwidth With this in mind, I ran back to my hotel and got these, a couple of DDR4 4 GB sticks that I had packed for a different video idea and got started on installing one of those sticks on the empty RAM slot and then I remembered why it is not the best idea to try to test and film a project in the middle of a live conference as Windows would immediately blue screen on boot After testing a boot with each stick individually I ran into the unfortunate conclusion that not packaging the sticks properly while traveling had been a mistake and that either I had busted the RAM sticks or I ran into some obscure compatibility issue As I would try to troubleshoot I could not help but listen to that pair of sarcastic jokers who saw me working away and commented "Ah, see? This is why you don't spend only 300 dollars on a gaming PC" To which I could only smile and feel my blood pressure spike as I mumbled "Oh I will show you

I will SHOW THEM ALL" At this point, I was entirely sure my RAM sticks where the problem so I asked Riley if there was any RAM stick I could borrow anywhere on the show and he suggested we take a stick from the "mid-ranger" a "mid-range" "$1000" PC that is better than anything I own which had two sticks of 8 GB of RAM Now settings to RAM sticks from different vendors, speeds, capacities and price categories is usually a bad, bad idea, and it is up to the motherboard to make it work which, given the price range of this one I was concerned but it booted, perfectly, no-hassle, running at 2400 MHz dual-channel

the speed of the slowest stick All that just to add one measly stick of RAM but it works My original idea was to recreate what would had happened if they had bought two sticks of the same ram rather than one, thus making the final price around 320 dollars instead of 300

Due to the issues with ram compatibility we ended up with an unnecessary 12 GB of RAM which we will go mostly unused as I have shown in the past with similar setups But it is running dual channel which works for the point I wanted to make So we are done, right? nope! I sorted through the games they available for the convention and thought that 2016's Doom might be an appropriate eye grabber for what I wanted to try For this to function properly Doom should be using the Vulkan API but changing it on the menu caused the game to crash and never open again I know this feeling of dread

I have experienced this exact same issue before Could it be? Well, yes, the installed driver was either old or incorrectly installed and would crash a lot of the newer heavier games Yeah, it is running all right I mean Not great

Mmm Oh well Hopefully, that did not affect the tests on their video since those games are… lighter but I definitely needed to update and downloading new drivers on convention wifi was a hair-pulling experience I had was stuck on this screen for a while now and the estimate was over 45 minutes for the download Many thanks to the volunteer that allowed me to use his personal 4G hotspot to download it, or I would have gone insane

New drivers, the game running on 720p low, just one little LowSpecGamer touch left As I explained in my video on Doom on integrated GPUs, this console command disables dynamic shadows until the game is rebooted for a very significant performance boost This was again a strategic choice as the Mood of Doom makes it easy to pass over the lack of shadows Some other games on the same engine can not say the same but I still wanted to prove that for a lot of people low graphics are more acceptable than the willing to admit I intentionally disabled the FPS counter as well, as I wanted to see how people would feel about the performance rather measure numerically, and I stood in a corner of the booth like a spider waiting for its first victim

Slowly but surely, people started to notice the suspiciously cheap PC playing Doom I saw so many people do a double-take as they would first laugh at "El Cheapo" and then go "Wait is that running Doom"? And the people who actually tried were surprised: Like, it is obviously not running in a crazy rig but it is playable

For sure For $320 And the graphics They Look really good Yeah! I talked to everyone who tried this and tried having people guess what I had changed on the PC and what I had changed on the game

On the hardware level about half of the people correctly guessed that I had expanded the RAM but all of them thought it was simply about not being able to play Doom on 4 GB, which is correct for that level of smoothness but no one guessed that the dual-channel had a positive effect on the integrated GPU performance About a third, interestingly enough, though I had somehow thrown a used GPU there While this is super anecdotical and a poor way of doing generalization it reinforced my impression that: -People in pc gaming enthusiast circles, in general, tend to underestimate modern integrated graphics – The knowledge of how to get the best out of those graphics, such as using dual channel ram, is not super common outside of low spec enthusiasts On the software side, the results of my inquiries were even more interesting

Only couple of people were correctly able to identify that I had removed dynamic shadows Alex: There is one thing that I changed in the game Guy: One thing in the game? Alex: Yeah, one thing that I removed Guy: Shadows Alex: Wow you are the first person to hit it immediately

Of course, if I tell you in advance it is incredibly obvious but for attendees that were not that guy in the middle of a conference, it was not as simple In fact, most people thought the game looked good enough! And that leads me to another very interesting anecdotal point Sure, being fair I picked my demo game very carefully because I knew Doom did better than similar games without shadows and often on my videos I go a bit to the extreme but every time I read a comment of someone going “Oh what is the point of this all? No one is willing to play on low settings or under” I like to point out that many of techniques or commands used on my videos can be used to get that extra performance while still having acceptable visuals and I suspect many people care more about a passable looking playable experience on a well functioning game… rather than having to do everything to the Ultra all the time as most online benchmark graphs lead you to believe Also an important note This was running on 720p

You know how many people noticed? One guy actually commented on how this was “definitely not on the native monitor resolution” and that’s it Many people would point out the jagged edges and lack of anti-aliasing but no one seemed bothered Again, this is a quick demo in the middle of a convention but considering how often I read comments like “It is 2019 who still plays on 720p” this is definitely food for thought I know in people our community frequently plays game on 720 or less #540pEliteClub

But it is interesting to notice that even people outside the target audience of this channel will be fine with 720p on a casual settings And with that… the modified El Cheapo kept running games during the rest of the show at decent performance… but I heard that on that morning the super expensive PC had a motherboard snafu and had to be serviced to work correctly sooo… WHO LAUGHING NOW BI***? All in all, I understand the appeal of checking out the luxury of an Overkill solution, but very often the tech youtube space can be a bit guilty of over fixating on the expensive side of gaming and a result many budget gamers can tend to overestimate what they need to get started, or just what they can get away with a low budget PC with a little bit of know-how and resilience I was satisfied with the results of my little experiment, and with the fact that I could contribute to this knowledge in some way and show the result to the people that worked on the original video Riley: Dang duge, that is pretty smooth! Alex: I know right? Riley: It is not super smooth Oh well, you can’t satisfy everybody

In fact this is a good moment as any to thank the rather surprising number of people who approached me or recognizing me on LTX, specially those who shared stories of how this channel had either helped them rescue to their office lunch breaks by running games on their work-issued laptops or making for extra game time between classes on their university or school laptops or just ignited a passion for seeing PC gaming not just like this, but also like this I don’t have any good footage of all this because I quite frankly was not expecting to be recognized, stopped for pictures or approach by as many people while randomly walking Thank you! You make this all worth it, what I do have footage is slow mo footage of me yeeting PC cases and some clips of your projects Special shoot-out to his freaking low spec fan who brought this monstrosity to the LAN party/BYOC area This was originally a Dell XPS m1330 with a Core 2 Duo

Turns out you can upgrade the CPU on these old laptops so he upgraded to a Core 2 Extreme which he overclocked to 34 GHz and installed this copper heatsink mod coming right from under the laptop to cool it, upgraded to 8 GB of DDR2 RAM and then used one of these wanky Chinese external GPU adapters to connect a GPU over the ancient express port This is the PC this guy took when he moved to the US and his gaming PC for Overwatch during LTX Screw those RGB mods now this, THIS is creativity, what a fu*** legend I should recreate a setup like this step by step

This is great Next year I am definitively spending more time on the BYOC are looking for crazy low spec setups I am very glad Linus and his team invited me, as I was able to meet a ton of fans, and keep pushing for a different perspective for PC Gaming It was a blast of event With that said… Linus: Everyone has been super positive which has been awesome but that is actually not helpful because we need to know what to do better next year

Oh righty then One of the cool things on these show were the great Streaming stations available to attending streamers How come there was no video recording station? For many invited creators LTX was an opportunity to bounce ideas with other creators Der8auer did his keyboard challenge with a bunch of people, Ozi, Nerd on a Budget and Coalition Gaming tried building a budget PC while outside the US, and freaking GamerNexus Steve recording like a hundred videos with creators during the event in some room he found A boot with a simple set, a table, two chairs, lights and a microphone for invited creators to film stuff together

That is all we need Maybe allow us to borrow one of the exhibit PCs ocasionally Would be cool Just saying That might have made this video look better… but who are we kidding

I am very proud of what this channel has achieved and the people we are reaching considering I am still running this from my living room almost by myself with support by Joe the LowSpecEditor who has to do everything on a very subpar laptop Getting to see how some of the best-known channels in tech youtube operate with a studio and larger teams is impressive, if a bit intimidating, but you know what LowSpecGamer has that Linus Tech Tips does not? A video sponsored by Curiosity Stream As far as I checked they had not had his sponsor yet Which is good because Curiosity Stream is one of my favourite streaming services out there Curiosity Streaming is a streaming service by the founder of the Discovery Channel featuring original content from big names in the cientific community

Available on Browser, Phone and all the typical platforms My recommendation this time is Catalyst, a series of documentaries on how technology is affecting our world and specifically this episode “What Facebook knows about you” about the growing power of Facebook and all the companies they are accumulating and the really scary effects this is having in our future Curiosity Stream is only $299 which is a steal at the value they provide and with curiositystreamcom/lowspecgamer you get 30 days free so you can get started without paying a thing and by using that link you support the channel and what I do here

Thank you for them for sponsoring this video and you for watching Go sub to LowSpecGame on YouTube

Source: Youtube

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