Up For Debate: Desktop Gaming, Upgradeable Xboxes or External GPUs for Laptops?

Written by Jacques Waugh on Sat, Mar 5, 2016 2:30 PM

Microsoft has caused quite the buzz with their plans to create an upgradeable Xbox, as opposed to having a defined life cycle in which the hardware remains at a fixed performance level. The benefit to the usual model is that developers can optimise their games to the console much better as time goes on due to the familiarity with the hardware and architecture, and a lack of variables compared to PC gaming. That's why we end up seeing games looking much better graphically than the hardware would suggest, as well as often having more complex game mechanics as devs learn all the little tricks to eke out every last inch of performance.

The downside to this is that games development becomes completely fixed to that level of hardware. There can only be so much improvement when using the same graphics card or CPU and so to achieve a true leap forward in gaming software, a developer has to wait for the next big console. I still remember as a young lad how excited I'd be to get my hands on the next console and to experience the difference in games and graphics and I think it's a feeling that many console players still cherish.

Then there's PC gaming. Already fully upgradeable and always as current as a gamer's chosen hardware is, PC gaming has always stood as a bastion for high end gaming. The downside in terms of development is that a games developer has to optimise its game across an insanely huge range of different hardware, meaning that certain graphics cards will run some games much better than others despite said games not being dissimilar in terms of what they actually need to run.

It's a debate that will probably still be argued vehemently between console users and desktop users, as both sides are often adamant that the features that define their platform make theirs the best. With Microsoft pushing to narrow the distinction between PC and Xbox, and AMD on the verge of announcing a new type of standardised external GPU slot, it seems that big business really believes everything needs to be upgradeable now.

So the question comes down to which you guys would all prefer. If you were offered the choice between an upgradeable console, an upgradeable laptop or an upgradeable desktop (each of which could run the latest games to an acceptable standard), which would you choose?

If you had to choose one platform exclusively which one would it be?

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22:26 Mar-09-2016

The biggest problem with an eGPU that hasn't been addressed yet is bandwidth. The eGPU standard being proposed uses USB-C with a 40gb/s bandwidth. When cards like the upcoming R9 490 have 512gb/s of memory bandwidth you are practically spending a bunch of money on a GPU with DDR3 vRAM.

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22:48 Mar-09-2016

Not at all, that 512GB/s(not Gb/s!) is only for the GPU to be used internally.


A regular desktop also has no more then 16GB/s(or 128Gb/s) of bandwith towards the GPU via PCIe 3.0 x16

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23:19 Mar-09-2016

Makes sense. Thanks for explaining it. Although, it still makes me wonder why the speeds can be so drastically different between the PCIe and the vRAM. wouldn't GPU's be more efficient if the speeds were more equal? (As in, if the PCIe connection was nearly as fast as the vRAM.)

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01:45 Mar-10-2016

Also, TB3 behaves like a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection. The Alienware laptops have a similar connection, and have only shown a 5% decrease in performance. Not bad for using only 25% of the bandwidth a GPU normally uses.

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04:03 Mar-10-2016

My internals are PCIe 3.0 x8 on this Alienware. I do not know what the external models use.

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08:29 Mar-09-2016

Best option is obviously the dedicated desktop PC, but it definitely doesn't save on space or enable portability, therefore I also like beefy modular laptops, like my Alienware 18 :)

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04:13 Mar-07-2016

2) is cheaper than a desktop with the same performance. You can build the computer itself as cheap, but then there's the keyboard and screen, which can cost almost as much as my total investment. And, this is important, I can't take a desktop anywhere. My laptop is completely portable, minus the external GPU. Best of both worlds. Soon, laptops will overtake the vast majority of desktops in performance. Laptop gamers of the world unite!!! (This is an unpaid endorsement.)

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04:30 Mar-07-2016

It's cheaper only because OEMs cheap out on those things. The only way to get screens, keyboards, speakers etc that are even half the quality of what you have is to get really high end laptops, and with that price range, you don't have a use for external GPU because the GPU inside will be powerful enough already.

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05:29 Mar-07-2016

Sorry, but I don't agree. You say the only way to get even half the quality I have is to get a high end laptop. Mine is considered top mid-range and I have all those things. It came with a GTX 970M, still the 2nd fastest laptop GPU. Only laptops with GPUs in SLI can beat my laptop and only laptops with SLI 970M minimum can out perform my rig, but it will not have better components. I believe your information on laptops is a few years old. Things have changed.

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05:41 Mar-07-2016

Not sure where you come from where a laptop with a 970M isn't classed as high end, but to me, that's pretty high end and therefore having good quality screen, keyboard, case and other odds and ends is a given.

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06:12 Mar-07-2016

I thought, perhaps wrongly, that high end laptops started at $2,000 and mine was $1600. Given my income, it's hard for me to think of anything I have as 'high end' :-) Your rig is great, but mine has comparable performance and my cost was less than $2100 total. If you built yours for the same, or less, you did well indeed!

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08:05 Mar-07-2016

Really?

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08:08 Mar-07-2016

$1600 ain't high end??? LOL... LMAO...
Considering GD data to be accurate, which it likely is, R9 380 is close to your GTX 970m in performance (a little behind) and R9 390 is much better than your GTX 970m
Consider this build (USA Price)-
1) r9 380 2 GB CF ($400, http://goo.gl/pXU2fH )
2) i5 4590k + Suitable mobo ($235+125)
3) 8*2 GB DDR4 RAM ($72)
4) Cabinet ($80 would fetch a good one)
5) PSU ($120 max)
6) DVD ROM+ Miscelleneous (max $50)
7)Keyboard ($85 Razer gaming, http://goo.gl/wN9gP3)
8)Mouse ($60 max, http://goo.gl/GfSd4h)
9)Monitor (24 inch gaming,$180, http://goo.gl/m1Dn)

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08:09 Mar-07-2016

10)Speaker ($100 would give a very good one)


Total is below $1600 and much better.
You could replace 380 CF with 390x or something :P
Anything I missed?

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08:10 Mar-07-2016

You can even add a bit better GPU.


This is only for fact that Cheaper PC could be build that $1600 laptop with better performance. Mobility is another issue.

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10:16 Mar-07-2016

LMAO? I'm so glad you're amused. As for the rest, I don't think so son. Despite the fact that I love my Alienware, it's upper mid tier, nothing more. No, I wouldn't consider that build and, no, it wouldn't be better. Besides hard drives, plural, you missed adding labor. Laptops come no assembly required. I can't build a computer, so labor would make the desktop much more expensive and cost prohibitive.

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10:55 Mar-07-2016

So you cannot for 30 min for getting 70-80% more performance??? or atleast 40%??
And Even add $100 for Harddisk (2 TB), it would be still close to $1600.


And I really LMAO hearing $1600 Laptop not to be high end.
Maybe $1600 to you is a smaller issue than it is to me.


And by the way, In India, Laptop with GTX 970m would easily cost $2100+ and PC that I told would cost Close to $1800 :P

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11:00 Mar-07-2016

And Do check out 380 CF performance.
Only a few FPS behind Titan X on DX 11 and likely better on DX 12

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14:02 Mar-07-2016

fair enough I gotta agree, but this applies only at certain level of performance and build quality,
many people seek for PC under 1000$ and for that price you barely get laptop which will survive beyond its warranty,
sure if I wanted laptop for same price as my workstation, I could probably get something really beasty, but still I am pretty sure I wouldn't have the comfort of 27" QHD screen, Cherry-MX-Black mechanical keyboard, professional grade audio interface and 12-thread 4.3/4.4GHz OCed cpu which is being cooled well enough to actually maintain such clocks on just air cooler (Noctua NH-U14S)...

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14:04 Mar-07-2016

again, I wouldn't carry my rig on travels though, got laptop for that :D

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03:01 Mar-07-2016

Then there is laptops with external GPUs that are non standardized by Alienware and MSI. It seems we don't even exist as I don't even have a chance to vote for my own choice of rig. Interesting that I've tried pricing a desktop for my son. Just the components, we have someone that can build it for next to nothing. However, I cannot match the level of performance my rig has with a desktop even with free labor for the same price. That's right. My laptop & external GPU =more=

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01:13 Mar-07-2016

Isn't an upgradeable console just the same as an Desktop PC with just other Operating System installed? After a few years console gamers will need to read the system requirements for their console platform :D just like PC gamers are doing.

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22:00 Mar-06-2016

The external GPU isn't a new concept, anyone remember Alienware Graphics Amplifier? That was a success in functionality but a flop in practicality as the price/performance ratio wasn't good enough for many to dish out for. I feel like its going to be the same even if the extend the customer base. PC 4 the win it seems.

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23:36 Mar-06-2016

The main issue wasn't price/performance, though that was a factor. The main issue is that it only works with the latest Alienware laptops. What AMD (and Razer, in a way) wants to do is make the external GPU a standardized system.

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05:50 Mar-07-2016

Your're correct that the graphics amp only works with 2015 or later model Alienware laptops. Standardized is better, but that's complicated. The graphics amp has its own PSU and cooling, plus MSI Afterburner can read the external GPU's temp to display when gaming. How all that can be done with existing connectors, I don't know. Alienware and MSI couldn't do it. I hope AMD and Razor have better luck. I think it's a great concept.

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01:51 Mar-10-2016

Thunderbolt 3 is a two-way information stream. It can send graphics info the Razer Core, while at the same time taking in information from the GPU and from your USB peripherals and Ethernet cable.

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05:45 Mar-07-2016

Sorry, but I don't agree. The amplifier gives a ton of bang for the buck, or I wouldn't have gotten it. You are right in that many haven't gone for it, although I think that's Dell's/Alienware's fault for poor marketing. It's given me a great rig that I can upgrade, for not that much money. Granted, laptops in general are not for everyone, but it's worked out great for me.

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05:56 Mar-07-2016

@Seedian, I didn't give you the +1 for your comment. It was because you appear to be in the military. While neither a flag waver, or Republican, I always give a +1 and thumbs up to those I see are serving our country! Thank you for your service!

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18:49 Mar-06-2016

Actually waiting for next gen APU (zen based) to provide some awesome pefrormance/$.

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19:47 Mar-06-2016

that's what I'm planning as well depending if it has integrated Vram or not, a 4 core/4thread or 4 core/8 thread with an iGPU as powerful as the PS4s for 250$ would be nice.

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10:58 Mar-07-2016

It will likely have a GPU better than PS4 for that price if they use their Upcoming GCN at 14 nm Finfet :P
Their upcoming non-zen or Excavator based APU are close to Xbox one APU :P
Only Memory bottleneck would be problem :P

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13:58 Mar-09-2016

don't expect Zen to be as cheap as bulldozer, expect a regular 4 core/4 threads to cost about 150-175$ or even 200$.

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19:08 Mar-09-2016

I know.
I live in real world rather than Fantasy :P
But it would still be cheaper than Intel counterparts (likely).
I am ready to pay $220 for an APU better than PS4 with 4 Core/4 Thread :P
A zen CPU at with 8 Core/8 Thread at price of Fx 8350 would be overkill :P Intel will go to dust :P

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19:55 Mar-09-2016

a zen 8 core/thread at the price of the fx 8350 will make AMD go bankrupt :D

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20:00 Mar-09-2016

If AMD actually put out a decent CPU, then I imagine Intels prices will drop a bit. So um, here's hoping for Zen to be sufficient.

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10:40 Mar-06-2016

undoubtedly the gaming PCs
and like PresidentG wrote
"did we really need a poll for this?"

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10:22 Mar-06-2016

In my opinion laptops with external GPU is kind a fail due to requirement of extra PSU and a GPU is like carrying a desktop PC without a monitor and GPU's without auxiliary power are still equal to or worse then laptop gpu

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18:46 Mar-06-2016

Then you didn't got its purpose.
Its mainly for those who do need a laptop (ultralight) and a desktop but do not want to spend on both :P

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19:14 Mar-06-2016

I agree. Some of us simply can't justify getting a desktop just for gaming. I want a desktop, but I need a laptop. But an external GPU will let me have the best of both worlds.

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01:57 Mar-10-2016

Take into consideration that the Razer Core has its own built-in 500W power supply. Also, the Core is not meant to be carried around in the first place. It's supposed to act like part of a desktop.

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08:01 Mar-06-2016

i always wanted a laptop which support external graphics card to play games when im not at home, but the cost of laptop + external graphics solution is high and upgradibility too but my first preference is always desktop gaming :)

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08:41 Mar-06-2016

yeah, desktop pc is always better (especially) for gaming...because it's doesn't get too much heat...but i still liked laptop :)


sorry for the english :P

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06:56 Mar-06-2016

Did we really need a poll to know the results?

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06:57 Mar-06-2016

LOL! Well times are changing, but not that fast. ;)

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12:48 Mar-06-2016

Maybe this is about knowing the percentage ?

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06:46 Mar-06-2016

Never seen the appeal of external GPUs for laptops myself. Gaming laptops themselves are already on the heavy side compared to your average laptop (mine is about 6-7 lbs, and that's just a 960m). I wouldn't want to have to carry another 5+ pounds of kit. Might as well just have a desktop then.

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06:58 Mar-06-2016

Ha! Try carrying my 12lb laptop. XD

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10:43 Mar-06-2016

Just for the record, mine is 4.4lb (2kg) and I'd add that nasty external GPU

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15:30 Mar-06-2016

Guys you're scaring my 1.2kg laptop.

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16:17 Mar-06-2016

2.5 kg. old lappy.

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17:41 Mar-06-2016

do you even lift bruh?

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18:10 Mar-06-2016

I carry my 10-12 kilogram PC everywhere with me. Man up and man-mode things.

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19:17 Mar-06-2016

Thing is, an external GPU is for those of us who need a light notebook to take on the go but do not necessarily need to game on the go.

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05:02 Mar-06-2016

Who wants upgradable xbox one when you have awesome PC and all Xbox games on PC

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02:23 Mar-06-2016

Wait a site about PC gaming post a poll about whats the best to game on and its gaming PCs wow mindblown

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01:47 Mar-06-2016

Though I would anyday choose Desktop PC, I like new external GPU Soln for laptops if it is cheap.
For College, I have to get a laptop. In my Budget i.e. $800, I can get a Laptop with at max has GT 940m. For PC, I could have got R9 380x or something close.
But I guess I will have to wait and see what I have to buy :P

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05:41 Mar-06-2016

I don't know if you would want to. Just to get a laptop with a CPU that won't bottleneck a decent GPU will set you back $800, and on top of that you still need to buy the GPU and the case for it. Maybe if they start making laptops for that express purpose the option will be viable, but currently you would be better off just building a desktop.

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18:47 Mar-06-2016

I also think so :P

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01:23 Mar-06-2016

So upgrade able Xbox 1 lets stick this ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202155 ) in it

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03:23 Mar-06-2016

Ya that is not going to happen since they are sticking with a APU solution.

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01:10 Mar-06-2016

In thirty years, no one will be having this discussion as graphics will have been perfected or nearing perfection. Any machine could run almost any game. Desktops will be dinosaurs, laptop tablet combo the real staple of technology.

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04:28 Mar-06-2016

I think desktops will just shrink. A lot of people don't want a 17" display and a small keyboard.

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05:27 Mar-06-2016

Your desktop may be the central hub, but all home devices, each super computers in the future, should be capable of shared computing power. Your home will be connected to itself. Directly streaming content, tablets to TV, will be the norm.

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05:48 Mar-06-2016

I sure hope not, imagine somebody exploits software security weaknesses and takes over the functions of your house, or runs your self driving car off the road, or steals all your information. I mean, that's just hypothetical, but I see that kind of technology becoming a novelty rather than a norm. Of course, that doesn't mean security won't get better in the next 20 years.

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07:04 Mar-06-2016

Yeah and we will all be wearing contact lenses that have an overlay display built into them for day to day use that can be put into game mode for VR. Oh... and our implanted RFID chips will log us into the game clients automatically.

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00:31 Mar-06-2016

Upgradeable Xbox means more overpriced hardware....

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22:46 Mar-05-2016

Ext-GPUs would need to be smaller for better portability to really take off. As they are now it seems like a rather bulky set-up to carry around. Tech usually shrinks in size over a period of time so it'll be interesting to see how this evolves.

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08:40 Mar-06-2016

I think the whole point of Ext-GPUs is that you don't take them with you. You can travel with your weaker and lighter laptop, at home you plug your laptop in and have more powerful laptop.

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22:18 Mar-05-2016

The external gpu doesn't fix what laptops lack and that is build quality, good screen, good mouse, keyboard and build quality plus poor durability and poor battery life. And the Xbox one upgrades doesn't fix the lack of exclusives..... So I personally don't give a cr*p.

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Can They Run... |

Core i7-11800H 8-Core 1.90GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 8GB
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-6260U 1.8GHz UHD Graphics 620 12GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i3-9100F 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1070 Gigabyte Windforce OC 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-2500 3.3GHz GeForce GTX 750 8GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz GeForce GTX 1060 Inno3D Compact 3GB 12GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 MSI Ventus XS OC 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i3-9100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-3470 3.2GHz Radeon RX 470 Sapphire Nitro+ 8GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-10300H 4-Core 2.50GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-1005G1 2-Core 1.20GHz UHD Graphics 630 4GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i3-1005G1 2-Core 1.20GHz UHD Graphics 630 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500 6-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Super Zotac Gaming AMP 6GB 16GB
50% Yes [6 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-7300HQ 4-Core 2.5GHz GeForce GTX 1050M Ti 4GB 12GB
Core i7-10750H 6-Core 2.60GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Core i5-4440 3.1GHz Radeon HD 6670 v2 Gigabyte OC 1GB Edition 16GB
| 30FPS, Low, 720p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz Radeon RX 560 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 2600X 6-Core 3.6GHz Radeon RX 5600 XT Gigabyte Gaming OC 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB