Best PC For Emulation
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Building a gaming PC specifically for emulators has become much more popular than you may think. Well, not you specifically – you’re the one searching that exact term. But in general, it’s something that has slipped under the radar when it comes to custom PC building.
Despite that being the case, there is still a tonne of individuals that look to create the best gaming PC for emulators in 2021. Well, look no further, the following build has been tailored for the best gaming experience for emulators. Whether you’re looking to emulate N64, PS1/2/3, XBOX360, Wii, or Switch, you name it, this thing will be capable of handling whatever emulations you throw at it.
What You Get For Your Money
Let’s be honest, we could have probably built a gaming PC for emulators at a slightly cheaper price point. However, it wouldn’t of showcased anywhere near as much ‘bang for your buck’ as this particular build.
That being said, we still tried to keep it as cheap as possible and consider $700 an excellent price for this particular usage.
From a performance standpoint, this PC will handle pretty much every emulator you can throw at it. Most emulations require good single-core performance, so most people opt for an Intel CPU. However, the CPU we’ve opted for still has more than enough power to handle the most demanding emulator scenarios.
Furthermore, as we’ll discuss shortly, we’ve opted for a standalone GPU for this build – even though it doesn’t really require one. That being said, having a standalone GPU allows you to play both emulations and PC games – something other PC builds for emulations can’t boast.
How We Choose
Our team has years of experience behind them building PCs for a range of needs and budgets. All this knowledge combined with hours of research, user feedback, and onsite benchmarking is what goes into choosing the best components for all of our builds.
We look for value for money, how the components perform together and focus on gamer’s needs to make sure our builds are the best your budget can buy.
We build all these PCs ourselves, in-house, so trust us when we say we want to make them as good as possible. We actually use all these builds ourselves day-to-day in the WePC offices.
How We Test
We build each of our selected PC’s from scratch to make sure all the parts we recommend work well together, fit into the selected case, and provide the best performance possible for the price range.
Once built, the PCs are used in the office for everyday work as well as a range of games from light to heavy-duty. While we test, we also run benchmarking tests to see how well our builds perform, all while keeping an eye on the temperature of the components themselves.
We tested our AMD builds against their Intel counterparts and found that these CPUs performed better across the board, and for a lower price. This is why we only recommend an AMD version.
NOTE: Due to the ongoing effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, some retailers are experiencing stock issues. WePC constantly updates our pages to reflect current availability, so if the PC or part you want shows as out of stock, check back later or check out these alternatives.
Our Best Prebuilt PC Recommendations
By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of whether or not this build suits your needs and requirements. You will also have decided whether or not you feel you can tackle a custom build PC as well.
For many, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue – especially if they follow one of our handy build guides. However, for some, the job of building their own PC is probably a little too daunting.
For those individuals, we’ll be recommending some prebuilt gaming PCs which take the stress of building your own PC away. Whilst they might not offer the same value for money as our custom build, they’ll certainly run emulations at a very good standard.
CYBERPOWERPC Gamer Xtreme VR Gaming PC (GXiVR8480A6)
Our Recommended Custom Build Details
This performance-tailored gaming PC caters to gamers that want to get the best possible experience out of their emulations. That said, this PC also has all the performance power required to play lesser-intensive PC games and do some moderate multitasking too.
Our Best Custom PC Build for Emulations
Our best custom built PC for emulation is a well-balanced mix of hardware tailored to handle the most demanding (said half ironically) emulated titles.
This PC is a well-balanced mix of gaming performance and affordability, all wrapped up in one of the best PC cases on the market.
Whilst this PC won’t be suitable for high-end PC gaming, it’ll definitely handle all the emulated titles you can throw at it – along with some lesser intensive AAA PC titles.
AMD Ryzen 5 2600
3.4Ghz - 3.9Ghz
We’ve opted for the very capable Ryzen 5 2600 processor for this build as it showcases fantastic multi-core performance and pretty good single-core performance too.
With emulated games, your main focus should be on the single-core performance of your PC. That being said, the Ryzen 2600 showcases excellent value for money in this particular department, providing capable levels of gaming performance at a very affordable price point.
MSI B450 Gaming Plus
Despite the MSI B450 Gaming Plus being considered an entry-level motherboard, it still provides everything we need for this custom-built gaming PC for emulation.
The Gaming Plus motherboard has great featured geared towards gamers, including a strong VRM design, good RAM overclock support, and even supports the latest Ryzen 3000 series motherboard CPUs.
That means, if you do decide to take up PC gaming full time, you’ll easily be able to upgrade your CPU to something much more powerful – without having to go through the stress of purchasing a new motherboard.
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Corsair Vengeance LPX
Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 3000MHz DDR4 was the memory of choice for this build, and for good reason. As many will know, Ryzen CPUs operate more efficiently under quicker RAM. Whilst this isn’t the faster RAM in the world, it’ll still provide plenty of speed for your emulation requirements.
Furthermore, by choose 16GB over 8GB, you’ll also be able to run fairly substantial background tasks without losing out on any in-game smoothness.
XFX Radeon RX 570 RS XXX Edition
Memory Bus Width
Let’s be honest, most emulated game titles won’t physically require a GPU of this pedigree. However, as we’ve gone for a standalone CPU, a GPU is necessary for this build to work.
At this stage, we could have opted for the cheapest GPU we could find, but that seems a little wasteful when you can purchase this very capable GPU at a super affordable price point.
Furthermore, if you are the sort of person that likes to dabble in PC gaming, opting for a CPU/GPU combo over an APU is going to yield much better performance results.
Samsung 860 EVO 500GB
Available in 250 GB, 500 GB and 1, 2, and 4 TB
SATA 6 GB/s
NAND Flash Memory
Samsung V-NAND 3-bit MLC (TLC)
DRAM Cache Memory
512 MB, 1, 2, and 4 GB LPDD4
Phanteks Eclipse P300
E-ATX, ATX, mATX, Mini-ITX
400 x 200 x 450mm
1 x 120mm
The Phanteks Eclipse P300 is a hugely popular case here at WePC, mainly thanks to the superb value for money it displays in today’s market.
As you’ve probably recognized, there is a running theme with the hardware we’ve chosen for this custom build for emulators – value. That being said, this might be the best value for money product in the parts list.
It comes equipped with 1 x 120mm fan, plenty of internal room for large hardware, and the easy build process that comes with Phanteks cases. A fantastic addition to this excellent custom build.
EVGA BQ 80+ Bronze 500W Semi Modular PSU
EVGA’s BQ 500W 80+ bronze PSU gets the spot in this custom build and for good reason. This affordable PSU offers up excellent levels of power efficiency, meaning nothing is wasted from socket to PC. At 500W, you’ll have more than enough power to run the components used in this build. You’ll even have the power for some pretty hefty upgrades if you wish to do so sometime down the road.
Whilst this case isn’t the biggest in the world, you won’t have to worry about cable management either. With its semi-modular design, the EVGA BQ 500W PSU does half the work for you. Overall, a superb little PSU at a very good price point.
What Games Can This Custom Build Run?
With a Ryzen 5 2600 and RX 570 to play with, 1080p gaming is pretty much sorted. Modern AAA games like Control and Red Dead Redemption 2 see 30FPS at High settings, but lowering the settings or playing more optimized titles like Doom Eternal or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can easily see in excess of 60FPS. In terms of competitive gaming – Fortnite, PUBG, CS:GO – these are more than taken care of. 200FPS using competitive settings in Fortnite and CS:GO at 1080p, and an average of 120FPS in PUBG.
Emulation of older systems is at the point where even our $300 build would have no trouble running them. The Sega Master System, Saturn, Genesis, NES, SNES, Gamecube, Wii, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advnace, DS, 3DS, PS1, PS2, and PSP. All of these will run more-or-less flawlessly in addition to more temperamental systems like the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 – many games are playable but their emulation isn’t as refined. Further, any CPU from the last 10 or so years will have the supported instruction set required for emulating these systems.
There’s also various emulators and cores for each system . The PS1 has many to choose from; ePSXe, Mednafen, and PCSX-R-PGXP are just a few. It’s when we start talking about relatively more modern systems like the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and Switch. Xenia is currently the most popular and well-developed emulator for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console; RPCS3 for Sony’s PlayStation 3; CEMU for Nintendo’s Wii U and Yuzu or Ryujinx for the Switch.
Despite the systems themselves approaching 15-years in age, the emulators are all under active development and nowhere near the level of previous emulators in terms of compatibility and performance. As such, don’t expect a solid 30FPS or 60FPS in many titles, and even if you happen to hit that average framerate, don’t expect a consistent frametimes. Basically, you’ll experiencing the odd bit of hitching as you move into a new area.
Sony PlayStation 3
Now, in terms of the performance you can expect from these emulators it will vary by game. With RPCS3 you can expect a fairly solid 30FPS in both Demon’s Souls and Persona 5. Using mods to raise the frame cap to 60FPS will see a less stable experience with framerates anywhere between 50 and 60FPS. Areas with lots of physics-heavy objects like in the opening area in Demon’s Souls (Boletaria) will be subject to a fair bit of stutter and frame drops,. especially if they experience any collision – the player breaking or walking through them. Similarly, Persona 5 runs well, but the framerate can dip in heavily-populated areas like the cities and subway, but the overall experience is great.
Other popular titles like The Last of Us and Red Dead Redemption are far less impressive with an average framerate of about 10 and 15FPS respectively. Another hugely popular PS3 exclusive, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots sees middling performance with a 25FPS average. Rajkosto’s build can get this approaching 30FPS but it just isn’t quite there.
Microsoft Xbox 360
With Microsoft having a vested interest in PC gaming, many of the Xbox 360 exclusive titles like those form the Halo series have made there way to PC in the form of the Master Chief Collection. Gears of War saw a PC release back in 2007, removing the necessity for emulation. However, Gears of War 2 and 3 were 360 exclusive (likely due to poor sales and/or piracy on PC). Those of you with a copy of Gears of War 2 will be happy to know that performance is exceptional with current builds of Xenia seeing a near-solid 30FPS.
Red Dead Redemption is another console exclusive and it sees better performance through Xenia than emulation via RPCS3. With a 20FPS average, it isn’t exactly what we’d call playable but it’s quickly approaching the desired 30FPS target.
Nintendo’s Switch has two contenders for emulation: Yuzu and Ryujinx. Looking at the former and the overall experience is great – this is probably in part to the Switch being a simpler and less powerful console than the PS3 or Xbox 360. Mario Odyssey is a title that targets 60FPS, and whilst the 2600 will get you there most of the time, there are many instances where it can drop to 50 or even 40FPS. It remains playable though.
Another hugely popular title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, runs exceptionally with a solid 30FPS experience. Removing the framecap can see an average of about 50FPS in the more demanding areas so it’s more than playable even at resolutions higher than the Switch is capable of. Lastly, Pokémon Sword and Shield. These titles are turn-based RPGs so any stutter or slowdown won’t be as impactful in gameplay. With that said though, 30FPS is a common sight and only when traversing the world do you see dips to 20FPS.
Overall then, older systems are no issue even if you want to run them at far higher resolutions than the original consoles. Relatively newer systems are hit and miss when it comes to performance, but as we’ve discussed, it all comes down to the individual game. The ability to uncap framerates beyond what was intended certainly offers a welcome and more fluid way of experiencing these console exclusives.
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One of the main factors you must consider before going into a custom PC build is your budget. Your budget will dictate what components you can and can’t utilize. For this particular build, we didn’t enforce a budget at the start, we simply tried to find the hardware which showcased the maximum value for money.
As we stated at the start, you could piece this build together for slightly less. That being said, you’ll struggle to get the same level of value from far worse components.
For the most part, if you’re looking to price up a gaming PC for emulation, you’re probably going to be spending anywhere from $500-$1,000. Within that price range, the last thing slowing you down will be your hardware.
Upgradability And Future-Proofing
Whilst you might prioritize playing emulations over anything else right now, future-proofing your build is still one of the main things you must consider before purchasing a new PC build.
In this particular build, we didn’t opt for one of the latest CPUs on offer. Instead, we chose a perfectly capable 2nd generation CPU that showcased great value for money. That being said, the motherboard utilized here does offer 3rd gen Ryzen support. That means if you plan to upgrade sometime in the future, this PC will fully support a next-gen upgrade.
Ease Of Building
If you’re familiar with any of our PC case pages, you’ll probably be very familiar with the case we’ve chosen for this build. It’s the Phanteks Eclipse P300 and is one of our personal favorites here at WePC.
It not only provides superb aesthetics and a tempered glass viewing windows, it also provides plenty of cable management options and a very easy build process for your parts.
As many of you will probably be new to PC building, we’ve opted for this case because it makes your life a little bit easier.
The aesthetics of your gaming PC should definitely be something you consider when you’re choosing the hardware for your next custom build PC. Whilst they don’t play any major role in the overall performance of your build, having good aesthetics does give your next PC that feel-good factor.
For us, we’ve chosen a very attractive case and have paired it with some – not too flashy, yet still attractive – internal components. We’ve tried to keep RGB on the moderate side, equipping only a few key components with lighting.
Build A Gaming PC By Price
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Build A Gaming PC For Specific Games
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Related Prebuilt Gaming PC Guides
Check out some of our related prebuilt PC guides below.
Best Prebuilt Gaming PC Brands
Every recommended prebuilt gaming PC in this article is from a reputable manufacturer. You are probably wondering how we know what the best gaming PC brands are? Well, we have done our research and purchased PCs from these brands.
Most notable brands:
For those that really like the look of this build but some areas just aren’t powerful enough to run some of the tasks they require, we’ve decided to include an upgrade list that will give you an additional power boost without spending a great deal of cash.
As versatility is one of the priorities of this build, you’ll be able to simply swap out each individual part without having to worry about accompanying hardware.
Remember, the upgrades will increase the base price of your custom build.
Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
Operating System & Peripherals
Note: These will raise the price of your build!
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That’s pretty much everything you need to know about the custom build and the hardware it comes with. One thing we haven’t really discussed, however, is the physical building of this PC. If you’re new to the PC building game, then I would recommend checking out our 12 Mistakes that Every Newbie PC Builder Makes article. Furthermore, our 15 Common Questions About Building a PC should answer the most frequently asked questions first-time builds have.
Below are some of our best building tips for new and old builders alike.
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