Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

I am desirous to play the original Quake franchise again. The main problem is that I need a PC to play it. There was never a great port for the Mac, and my last gaming PC was sold to a friend back in 2003, so I really have nothing capable of running the good ol’ original Quake game.

Sure, there are options. Plenty of cheap-ish systems that will run it fine. I am pretty sure that a base i3 NUC with 8G of RAM will be buttery smooth. But will I be happy with the original Quake franchise? Possibly, but I will always want more. It is the human condition to always reach for the next step, the next rung on the ladder, so to speak.

But if I could find a used, but functional NUC I could placate my itch.

If only…

Option 1 - Look for a used NUC

Sure, I know it is not optimal, but to scratch an itch, and to have a small machine that could be used for other purposes is tempting. But where to find one?

My go to for legacy hardware is eBay (at least these days), and searching for Intel NUC’s turns up literally thousands of hits. Some are even real Intel NUC’s, but not many. Alas, the listings are loaded with Chinese knock offs, many look beat to hell, and virtually all of them are of questionable provenance.

The kicker? They weren’t cheap, by and large they have memory and SSD’s removed, so it is no better than a bare kit.

Bad idea.

I also tried Craigslist. Local only, and there were only 10 listings, but they were either ridiculously expensive, or knock offs.

Thin gruel in the CL universe
Thin gruel in the CL universe

Groan. This isn’t going to be easy. Sure, you can look for used “last generation” gaming PCs on both eBay and CL, but I have not had good luck with used hardware for PCs. Just not worth the risk, unless it is dirt cheap.

Option 2 - price out a new NUC

Here is where it gets interesting. Sure, the Intel HD graphics that is bundled is mediocre, but even at the i3 level, it is good enough to play Quake - Quake III smoothly. But a base 8th generation NUC with an i3 is a hair below $300. To use it, I would need to add memory (about $50 for 8G), and an M.2 SSD (probably $150 for a 512G storage size). Then I would need to add a license for Windows 10 Pro, $150, a total of $700.

And that is for a system that will disappoint outside of playing Quake (or Doom).

So the compact NUC is out.

Alas, Intel has an 11th generation of the NUC, that is modular, and it will accommodate a small form factor GPU, so it will run modern-is games well. The bad news is that an i7 version of this is about a grand. In fact, for $1,200 from Amazon, I could by an i7 version, with 16G ram, a 1TB SSD, and Win 10 Pro installed and configured. This is tempting. Will it be the ultimate gaming system? No. But there are short Gforce RTX 2070 cards that will fit it, and that is a decent system to run many recent games. Especially at HD resolution (1080p) it should be a good performer.

I like the NUC’s, I have an i5 version that I run my Plex server on, and it is a trooper.

The cons, that while this is upgradeable, and will support a whopping three M.2 cards (so I could get multiple TB of storage) it is a dead end. Is that a deal killer? Not really. In the late 1990’s I was upgrading every 18 months or so, and busses, processors and storage was evolving really rapidly, and most upgrades were really motherboard/memory/CPU/GPU swaps.

Option 3 - Buy a gaming Laptop

There is another option, for about the same price as the Ghost Canyon + graphics card (albeit when the shortage is abated) is one of the myriad “gaming” PCs. These have high end mobile processors, ample memory (16/32G) and most importantly NVIDIA GPU’s.

The $1500 tier is entry level, but likely sufficient.

Alas, I will likely shy away from this option. Laptops have thermal issues, and I would likely prefer to run it clam shell, plugged into a 27” 1440p monitor, so it will spend its life closed up tight.

So, I considered it. And rejected it.

Short term

I do have an old PC, a generic box I built circa 2010, with a Core i7, 16G ram, and an ATI GPU, and I think I have a single HD in it, that I will resurrect. I am pretty sure that it has only an 80G SSD in it (I pulled the pair of SATA drives to toss into an enclosure for external back up of my Mac’s, so it will be cramped.

It also runs Win7, and I haven’t fired this up in probably 6 years, so I am not sure that it will still operate.

I have a second desk that will arrive, and I know that I need a place to have my hobby, currently gaming.

But if that fails to work, I need to figure out what to buy in the Windows world.

Stay tuned!

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