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The Best Hardware for Dolphin Emulator

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My current computer and Dolphin Emulator

You’re probably asking yourself if your computer is good enough to run Dolphin Emulator, right?  Or you’re planning on building a computer and wondering what’s the best hardware to purchase considering you want to run Dolphin Emulator.  Let’s get down to the details.

Current Computer

First of all, unless your computer is older than 3+ years, you should be able to run Dolphin Emulator.  Even if your computer is older than 3+ years you still might be able to run the software, albeit with some issues or some slowdowns and more than likely won’t be able to run every game at full speed.  There are some caveats though.  If you are using an AMD processors then expect to have some performance issues when compared to the Intel counterpart.  If you only have integrated graphics, you can survive, but it is highly recommended to have a dedicated video card. RAM is not a key component to running Dolphin Emulator and most computers come with 4GB anyways which is plenty.  If you are planning on building a computer or what to know more details about components then you can find the information below.

Minimum Specs:

Intel Dual Core Processor / Intel HD3000 IGFX / 2GB RAM

Building A Computer

If you are planning on building a computer and are taking into consideration the components to run Dolphin Emulator than here are a few guidelines.

Operating System

You’re definitely going to need a 64-bit Operating System, which should be the norm by now, but currently all development builds that are released daily are 64-bit only.  I believe Dolphin 5.0, which will be released in the coming months is 64-bit only as well so you might as well make the transition now if for some reason you haven’t.  While they support Linux and Mac OS X, Windows is recommended for ease of use.

Recommended Operating System:

Windows 7 x64 / Windows 8.1 x64 / Windows 10 x64

Processor

The processor is the most important component that you have to consider and you’ll want to stick with Intel.  Emulation relies heavily on the processor, specifically IPC (instructions per cycle), so the higher the clock speed the better.  I repeat, the higher the clock speed the better.  Dolphin Emulator is a dual-core application so even if you have an i7, which is quad-core, you won’t see that much of an improvement over an i5 (quad-core) or i3 (dual-core).  It is said that a quad-core processor will give you approximately 10-15% increase in performance so it does provide some benefit, but it’s not as substantial as you might think.  This performance increase mainly comes due to the fact if there was an additional process outside of Dolphin Emulator that it will run on the other available cores rather than the 2 that Dolphin is occupying.  Here is a general benchmark that was done to give you an idea on how important clock speed is:

“A” (lower is better)
Core i7-4790K @ 5.0 GHz = 3:47
Core i7-4790K @ 4.9 GHz = 3:54
Core i7-4790K @ 4.7 GHz = 4:03
Core i5-4670K @ 4.4 GHz = 4:16
Pentium G3258 @ 4.6 GHz = 4:25

The “A” denotes that the CPU is fast enough to run the most demanding titles at full speed *, including double-speed mods with WS AR patches and virtual CPU overclock.

* “Full Speed” in this benchmark means full speed all the time (without dips, even in the most demanding parts), not “full speed most of the time” or “full speed half of the time”.

As you can see the top 3 scores are all the same processor, just at different clock speeds.  The most important thing to note here is that the Pentium G3258 also achieved the “A” status and nearly achieves the same performance as an i5 and the i7.  For those that don’t know, the Pentium G3258 is a 3.2GHz dual-core processor, but only costs $65 on Amazon.  There is a newer Pentium G3260, which is clocked at a higher 3.3GHz, but is locked and therefore can’t be overclocked and is currently $45 at Microcenter.  The Pentium G3258 is a much cheaper option  yet competitive to  the more expensive Core i7-4790K which is a 4.0GHz quad-core processor and is valued at $299 on Amazon.  It is recommended to just purchase an i5 rather than an i7 to save you some money.  You can then use that extra money towards a nice CPU cooler if you do plan on overclocking.  You can find the in/complete list of tested processors on the official forums.

Recommended Processors:

Desktops:

i7-4790K /  i5-4690KG3258

Laptops:

i7-4700MQ / i7-4930MX

Graphics Card

While a dedicated graphics card isn’t mandatory, I would say it is necessary if you plan on doing any enhancements.  Integrated Graphics are very limited and might cause issues with some graphic intensive video games.  Also, you’ll be limited on the graphical enhancements you can apply before your computer starts showing signs of low fps.  I’m not saying you have to go out and buy the top of the line graphics card, like the GTX 980, but anything other than integrated graphics will help significantly with graphic intensive video games and will allow you to apply additional graphical enhancements to make the game look better.  With brands either NVIDIA or AMD will do.  If you plan on going with NVIDIA you’ll want anything equal to or better than the GeForce 4xx series and if you plan on going with AMD anything equal to or better than the HD5770 will allow you to run most games on HD resolution.  If you decide to try IGFX the HD3000 and above is supported.

Recommended Graphics Card:

GeForce 4xx or above

AMD HD5770 or above

Intel HD3000 or above

RAM

These days 4GB is the bare minimum that most computers come packaged with and Dolphin recommends 2GB or above, but I would go with at least 8GB and might even recommend 16GB.  While RAM does not impact performance that greatly when running Dolphin Emulator, there are instances where it can be beneficial, namely using HD texture packs. If you plan on using a lot of custom HD texture packs then you have the option to cache it to the RAM to increase performance.  If you do go with HD texture packs you will need to take their size into consideration.  I’ve seen a few at 3-4GB, but have read that some go even higher, even 24GB, yikes!  I’m not even sure what the game would look like with HD texture packs that large, but apparently they’re out there.  I think for the most part you’ll be fine with 16GB and that is what I would recommend.

Recommended RAM:

4/8/16GB (the more the better)

So there you have it.  The three most important components I would focus on when considering a computer purchase would be the processor, graphics card, and RAM.  Remember, the Dolphin Emulator is heavy on processing power so the higher the clock speed the better and if you decide to go with an unlocked processor to overclock, even better.

Dolphin Emulator Hardware FAQ

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4 Comments

  1. So if you’re using an Alienware Alpha, did you opt for the i5 or i7 for Dolphin emulation?

  2. thegeekfix

    August 24, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    I ended up finding a deal for an i3 if I remember correctly. Emulation comes down to single core performance so the i7 would probably be best, but I decided not to spend the extra money to get it. I’ve moved to using my desktop for emulation which is an i5.

  3. with the alienware alpha whats the highest internal resolution before you start to drop in framerate?

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