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  1. #1

    Default Dirt Cheap Potato PC’s for Hardware Boxing WoW Classic

    Bottom Line Up Front: Consider a used HP EliteDesk 705 G1 "mini" as the cheapest, workable mini-PC for WoW-Classic. Its "good enough" as a potato PC for followers at low resolution and GFX settings.
    ***edit - prices changed since I posted this, but these old, mini PC's can be found for under $150 if you look around***

    I posted this on is the ISBoxer discord, Hardware channel earlier. But by tomorrow that will have scrolled past where anyone will ever see it.

    For about $140 USD I picked up a used HP EliteDesk 705 G1 and I'm averaging 41.9 FPS (but bouncing all the way between 11 and 60 FPS) in WoW Classic at 1080P with all settings as low as possible.

    The 705 G1 mini comes with an older AMD APU A8-7600B (quad core 3.1 GHz processor) and AMD integrated graphics. I put in 8GB of DDR3 and the system dedicated 2GB to my integrated GPU leaving 6GB left to Windows and WoW. I also dropped in a 120GB SSD I had lying around. Windows 10 and all the drivers used about 35GB and WoW-Classic needed 6.5GB to install, so I could have fit within a 64GB SSD. Retail looks to be about 75GB, so you'd want at least a 160/180 GB storage drive for retail (although I have my doubts that the integrated GPU would be suitable for retail).

    The AMD performance utility is showing that I'm basically bottlenecked with my GPU - its nearly always pegged at 100%, while my VRAM is 61%, CPU is 44% and RAM is at 43%. These numbers generally match what I'm seeing in Windows Task Manager.

    Running around open world I'm mostly in 40-50 FPS range. I was ~35 FPS running around TB, but in mid-teens and 20's running around Org. Org was a bit jittery, but I never broke follow or had any issues.

    Dropping render scale does help a bit. I dropped down to 960*540 (50%) and just sitting in TB my FPS went from 35 to between 40 and 45 (but obviously everything looks really clunky at that low or a render resolution). 1280x720 render (67%) puts me a pretty solid 40 FPS running around Thunder Bluff.

    For under $200, I don't think you can do better. You can probably get some better intel CPU's for this price, but they'll have worse integrated graphics and that seems to already be the weak point in the system.

    Its generally pretty hard to find any level of dedicated graphics until you get to about $250. If you're planning on playing retail WoW at all, that'd probably be the minimum level I'd recommend for a potato PC. An Nvidia GT1030 is a very nice step up in quality for only ~$90, but you do need at least a small form factor PC to fit a low-profile dedicated GPU. If you're really set on the mini-pc size, then I'd suggest looking a more recent Ryzen APU - but that'll probably run you closer to $400. There's always a size vs performance vs cost trade-off. But I think think the 705 G1 mini hits the lowest cost and size possible while still delivering "OKish" performance in WoW-Classic.

    Sound and heat wise, this mini-PC is doing great. It does take a 90 Watt external power brick (typical laptop power supply). Both the power brick and the min-PC are "slightly warm" to the touch after an hour of gaming. At first I thought this thing was totally silent - I had to put me ear next to the chassis to check. There is a very faint, higher pitched fan sound. But I can't hear it all over over my regular desktop PC a few feet away, so its pretty good.

    I didn't actually use the Amazon link up top, but I wish I would have. Instead I found a stripped down version on Ebay (4GB RAM, no hard drive, no power cord), but it was "only" $43 - seemed like a good deal. After shipping and tax I was up to $60.83, then a power cord for $10.59. Cheap 250GB SSD I could find was $29.67 after tax and shipping (although I used a drive I already had on hand) and 2x 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 SO-DIMMs were $36.57. So I'm up $137.66, but with no OS (at least not a licensed one), and no warranty. That and it took 10 days to get everything shipped. I really shoulda just bought the one from Amazon for $144.40 - that comes with Win10 Pro and a 90-day guarantee. Ah well. At least this mini-PC works as expected.
    Last edited by jak3676 : 04-11-2021 at 03:03 PM

  2. #2


    I picked up a used Dell Optiplex 980 small form factor PC to continue testing really cheap PC's for harware boxing WoW. This model has an Intel i5-650 (2 core, 4 thread) CPU at 3.20 GHz, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and I pop'd in an Nvidia GT 1030 GPU and a 120 GB SSD. The PC can be found for about $150 USD.

    The real reason to get a small form factor PC like this over the "ultra small form factor (USFF)" or "mini-PC" above is that this can take 1/2 height Nvidia GT 1030 GPU. For about another $90, you get a much, much better graphics card. The GT 1030 is still a really bad graphics card, when measured against any other dedicated GPU, but it is signifigantly better than any integrated GPU. The bonus point of the GT 1030 is that it can be found in the 1/2 height version which is what's needed for these small form factor PC's that can't take a full height GPU. The GT 1030 is also a low-power card, so you can drop it in just about any PC and not have to worry about also having to upgrade the power supply.

    This GPU finds the sweet spot for WoW classic - delivering about all the performance someone would want, but still at a dirt-cheap price. I'd be happy to use this as my main computer, so long as I wasn't doing much more than single-boxing WoW-Classic.

    Running around Thunder Bluff I had my choice of settings to stay above 60 Hz. With graphic settings at "5" I'm consistantly above 60 FPS at 1080P, or 40 FPS at 4k resolutoin. I can even do select setting at "7" at 1080P so long as I turn down SSAO. Open world I seemed locked at 100 FPS with those settings. Org at raid night was considerably lower at ~25Hz, but I'm on a very high-pop server at peak time - I even get lag on my watercooled i9-9900k w/ Nvidia 2080. So Org on raid night may not be a great test.

    For <$250, this is realy a raid-ready PC. I think its almost overkill to call this a "potato PC" - at least when it comes to WoW-Classic. I really don't see any reason to spend more for a follower PC. Price shopping around Amazon and Ebay, you may be able to piece something similar together for a bit closer to $200 if you find some good deals and don't mind doing bit of DIY PC repair. I was actually looking for a Dell 7010/9010 (something that would come with an i5-2400, quad-core CPU) when I found this model. I would still recommend something with an i5-2400 or better as a good CPU for basically the same price. But I got this a bit cheaper without a hard drive (which was fine because I still have a few old SSD lying around).

    Comparing this to the mini-PC above almost seems odd. The "small form factor (SFF)" Optiplex 790 is easily 10x the size of the EliteDesk 705 G1 "mini", although this still much smaller than traditional PC's. Comparing the 790 SFF to my main desktop PC - the SFF is probably 1/4 the size. It about the size of an old-school VCR, or about like a case of 48x soda cans. Where the 705 G1 "mini" is about the same size as my wifi router, or a medium sized book.

    I'm still going through all the Windows 10 updates, but I'll see if I can test WoW-Retail on this thing tomorrow - I expect it'll work OK, but I'll probably turn down GFX settings a bit more.

    Overall, if you can fit size of a stack of these, and you're OK with the $250 price point, this performs much better than everything cheaper. Its more than 2x the performance for less than 2x the price. If you need to stay as cheap as possible, and you're OK with accepting some performance hits, the mini-PC is great. If you want much better performance, can afford to go up to $250 per PC and you can fit the size, the small form factor Dell is great. This should also be much more future proof as we look forward to TBC and maybe WOLK-Classic.

    (If you really don't want to sacrifice performance, but you still need it to be as small as possible - look for a modern Ryzen 5 mini-PC. That'll probably run you $500+ USD and it'll still be larger than the mini, but it should have similar performance.)

  3. #3


    Did some quick shadowlands testing with the Optiplex 980 + GT 1030. At 4k resolution and gfx setting "1", I'm only ~40 FPS in the open world. Dropping down to 1080P resolution at gfx setting "1" was over 90 FPS in the open world; gfx setting "3" I've seen a low of 55 FPS, but generally in the 60's. At gfx setting "5" I dropped down to ~20 FPS.

    Overall, I think this PC is still perfectly viable for followers in shadowlands, but you are playing at reduced gfx settings (which I generally prefer for followers anyway).

    I should note that I didn't have room to fit shadowlands on the 120GB SSD that I had installed, but I did have a old, traditional 500GB, 7200RPM hard drive floating around. So my load times sucked, but I don't know that there's any real determent while running around the open world.

  4. #4


    So is there a way to have the screens from the slave PCs showing on the main and just run the slaves headless? My current monitor does not support any type of PIP and so I am wondering if there is any software that can be used to view the slave PCs, something like VideoFX with ISBoxer?

  5. #5


    Quote Originally Posted by crowdx View Post
    So is there a way to have the screens from the slave PCs showing on the main and just run the slaves headless? My current monitor does not support any type of PIP and so I am wondering if there is any software that can be used to view the slave PCs, something like VideoFX with ISBoxer?
    You might be able to take something like and & use WoW Open Box to grab & organize the Splashtop screens and possibly even remove the title bars from the windows. If I recall correctly WoW Open Box, though initially developed for WoW, can actually capture the window of multiple games/software and if a given game/software cannot currently be captured it could possibly be added. It is an Open Source project so even if the developer who started it doesn't have the time to add a given feature or support a given game/software anyone could either help add it or fork it.

    Note that Splashtop may or may not be the best tool for this but it is just the one that comes to mind... After trying multiple options it is the tool I use at home to remotely control my wife's & kids' PCs and my old gaming PC and it does pretty well with 3D games. My old gaming PC is in our "kid office" and it is headless and it generally is fine for me to remotely control my F2P ArcheAge accounts on my old PC in the kid office that I use for farming and labor...

    Edit: While it started centric on WoW there is a link more focused on multiboxing just about anything:

    If there is a feature missing or a game/software that cannot be controlled feel free to join and contribute.

    Should be a really nice way to handle any headless video windows on a main PC and that is where I would start.
    Last edited by nodoze : 02-27-2021 at 11:24 AM

  6. #6


    I also tried an old Dell Optiplex 3010 - i5-2400 CPU (quad core, 3.1GHz), 8GB RAM, 120GB SSD - using only the integrated GPU (Intel® HD Graphics 2000). Even with all settings as low as possible, at 1080P, I was getting frame rates in the mid-teens running around open world. Turning the render resolution down to 720P did get me to a semi-playable, mid-20's FPS. This same PC does great with a GT1030 - so the rest of the PC is fine, but this is there was

    I'd be curious where the lowest "playable" Intel integrated GPU is? I have some old i7-3770 and 4770k CPU's around that I'll test on. (those are still my kids daily driver PC's).

  7. #7

  8. #8


    BLUF - consider AMD R5 340X or R5 430 for good, dirt cheap graphics. For $30, they work great for WoW Classic, and probably good enough for Retail.

    I went looking for 1/2 height, low-power, slim graphics card for my small form factor (SFF) Dell Optiplex 3010 - i5-2400 CPU. The Intel Integrated graphics (HD2000) were just not cutting it - even on the lowest gfx settings possible and turning down the resolution to 960x540, I was still getting a very stuttery ~15 FPS.

    With the current spike in graphics card prices (since I posted the original few posts in Jan-Feb), I couldn't find an Nvidia GT1030 in stock for under $100. I'm seeing prices above $150 right now, which just seems insane. I have a GT1030 in one of my potato PC's and its plenty - even at high graphics settings, the card sits at around 60% utilization at 60 FPS at 1080P, although task manager is showing that I'm using all 2GB of my 1030's VRAM, so I didn't want to go lower VRAM.

    So I went shopping for something cheaper. I started out looking for an Nvidia GT 730 (the predecessor to the GT 1030), but those were still over $100 (should be 1/2 that). Ebay has a variety of old, used AMD R5 Radeons for $30 that seemed promising. I went back and forth between an AMD Radeon R5 430 2GB GDDR5 and and R5 340X 2GB DDR3, but ended up going for the 340X simply because it had an HMDI output so I wouldn't have to re-cable my setup. (I think they're actually the same GPU - just different memory attached).

    My AMD Radeon R5 340X 2GB DDR3 graphics card is working great. I'm locked at 60FPS for all graphics settings up to "3". I can stay at 60 FPS at "4" if I disable SSAO. I would have been happy with anything that seemed playable at level "1", and I'm getting much more than that. So I think this is now my recommended "dirt cheap GPU" for potato PC's. For at $30 GPU, I couldn't ask for more.

    Looking around Ebay and Amazon, it seems like used Dell Optiplex's have gotten a bit cheaper than they were a few months ago. A working i5, quad-core, 8GB RAM and hard drive with Windows seems to be about $125 now, so you can add a graphics card and still stay pretty close to $150 for a 60FPS small form factor, potato PC. These aren't as small as the Ryzen 5 mini PC's, but those are about $500 and don't perform any better - you're paying a lot for that the micro vs small form factor. Good times for hardware multiboxers!

  9. #9


    i picked up Dell Optiplex's 960 intel dual-core 4 gb ram for about £15 each. i added 120gb sdds 2 i had lying around and got a used Samsung for about £20. i added 710gts as well for about £40 each so £70 a box for classic, and they run fine for classic-tbc, As well live they do run but they get hit hard when players are around. for my use on low settings it would be fine but am going full out on tbc as am done with "live" for now.

  10. #10


    I'm in team ghetto builds too.

    Bought a bunch of HP Prodesk 400 g1 SFFs from a bankruptcy liquidation auction. Threw in some used SSDs for 15€ each, RAM stick from my old build (8gb each now) bought dirt cheap AMD GPUs just for the HDMI out and changed a few CPUs. Now they're are all 4-core i5s and i7s. Top one being a i7 4770. I'm running retail on the CPU graphics (they are actually stronger than the trash GPUs I got) at 720p just fine on all settings low. Perfectly playable IMO.

    Total cost comes out to around 350€ for the 4 rigs. If you're really going for budget builds, 2nd hand and auctions are definitely the way to go if you ask me.

    I might eventually do some upgrades (specifically GPUs) but currently I do not really feel the need need to.
    Last edited by Wubsie : 04-23-2021 at 11:49 AM

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