Cheap PC for TR, Zwift, and streaming. Prebuilt or custom?

With winter coming, I’d like to pick up a dedicated pain cave PC. I’m using my laptop right now and want to be able to just leave something in the pain cave all year. Mainly for TR use, but would like to run Zwift alongside and/or stream movies. I thought there might be some Black Friday deals and wondering if a prebuilt PC would be the way to go or should I go custom built. Max budget is $1000 and I’d like to be cheaper, so I’m not looking for something super crazy powerful, just enough to run Zwift at decent settings and TR at the same time. WiFi is a must as I don’t have Ethernet access in the garage. I have a computer monitor and a TV for display. Any suggestions?

Edit: I should be more specific. Absolute max budget is $1000. Ideally, I’d like to stay around $500 if possible, but I’m not up to date on computers these days so not sure if thats even possible.

Mac mini

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Actually have been considering it. I’m using a MacBook right now so I’d feel more comfortable with the OS (haven’t used a PC in about 10 years). I’m assuming Zwift and TR have apps that run on the new M1 chip? Also wondering if it would run Zwift and TR ok.

I’m also using a MacBook Pro but it’s a few years old. I think ”legacy” programs runs fine on the M1 chips, but Zwift and TR may not be optimized for them yet. Maybe @IvyAudrain has some insights to offer.

If I had a place to permanently mount a screen I’d definitely go for a Mac Mini. Until then it’s the laptop. If you get a Mini, I’d love to know how it works with Z and TR.

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I’d absolutely suggest a budget gaming PC if you want to run Zwift nicely. Don’t need anything too fancy, but a dedicated GPU will great. I’d be cautious about the GPU in the Mac Mini. Although it says it runs Shadow of the Tomb Raider 4x faster, it doesn’t mention framerate or settings. For all we know it might increase from 5 to 20fps at low!!

My advice would be a windows gaming PC with a NVIDIA GPU. A GTX1050ti will have enough grunt to run Zwift at ultra settings.

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Just get the cheapest Alienware or HP Pavilion Gaming PC you can find - it’ll be fine for Zwift and TR. If you look towards the top of your budget, you should be able to run 4k Zwift just fine.

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This is not a real thing :crazy_face:

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As long as you are OK with the graphics, that’s fine. It wasn’t clear what your bar was. There are limitations, but in all practicality, it doesn’t really matter much. If your minimum bar was Ultra graphics and 4K resolution, then it won’t work to that expectation.

Yeah, that’s fine. Zwift and TR do not have native apps, but there’s translation and it has been error free for me.

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IMO ipad or iPad pro is better… Unless you are planning to use the PC for other things.
A good combo worth less that 1k…
Regular iPad and a 32" TV with Apple TV to run zwift on it…

If you are considering a mac, the air, I think, is a real alternative…
its within your budget and its very nice!

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I would opt for the 13" MBP. It’s less thermally constrained than the air, and is about the same price (IIRC). But the M1 Mini is even less thermally constrained, and has more ports. I would argue it has the better form factor for the setup being considered.

OP has a monitor and a TV, so a dual “monitor” solution will work fine with the mini, without a bunch of dongles and you can tuck it behind the TV.

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I’m kind of between PCs at the moment, my 13 year old core2duo kicked the bucket recently (it works it just doesn’t read any type of sata hard drive which is kind of important lol) so im debating building one, it seems that for $500 you can put together a pretty decent system with amd ryzen and decent specs. My wife has a MacBook Air which runs zwift just fine and I hook it up via hdmi to a 32” tv but Im a windows person primarily and I like desktops so im hoping to get something soon. Good thing is anything is an upgrade from my old system lol

The is start at $1000, the MBP 13 start at 1300.
I think the mac mini is a great solution too.
The reason I suggest the air is the budget…

The reason a laptop is better (IMO) from a mac mini is portability. Why spent 700 on a machine that will stay on a single place, when you can have a laptop that you can do more with…

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I’m running TR and Zwift on an M1 Mini - runs flawlessly, TR talking via Ant+ (dongle plugged into USB), Zwift talking via BT. :muscle:

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The reason a laptop is better (IMO) from a mac mini is portability. Why spent 700 on a machine that will stay on a single place, when you can have a laptop that you can do more with…

I have MacBook Pro (2017 I think) that I’m currently using as my main computer, so I have the portability. I’m actually looking for something that doesn’t move. I’m probably just being lazy, but I don’t like having to bring my laptop down, and connect the monitors and speakers, then unhook everything for every workout. I want something that I can connect once and leave it, can also hide the cables better. The other option I’ve considered is picking up a new laptop for my normal computer and leaving my old MBP in the pain cave. I don’t want a powerhouse machine, and I’m happy with Zwift performance on my MBP. So I guess that’s the baseline for performance. I could probably check the trade in value for my MBP and pick up a MacBook Air for me and Mac Mini for the pain cave.

The upside of staying with Mac is the connectivity to everything I already have in the Apple ecosystem. The downside is probably lower graphics performance (for the money) than a gaming PC.

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As mentioned above, a tablet is probably the easiest solution.

I have a 2014 Mac Mini on my 65" tv and I stream everything from there. It rocks as a general purpose streaming TV device. I’d investigate the prices on used Intel Minis. I know the M1 Macs are the way to go forward but you can pick up an i5 cpu Mini for around $200 on ebay.

The new M1 Pro processor is expected to come to Mac mini within the next 6 months. I’m holding out on that. Which reminds me, I have 2 ‘more recent’ Mac minis to sell and an early 2009 that has a HDD that is slowly dying.

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Yea I was hoping for an update with the new MacBook pros. May have to hold out until the new ones; sounds like they’ll have better graphics as well.

It’s hard to believe I’ve got 4 Mac minis here, two from family members. The new ones with M1 Pro or Max will be sweet.

You should have no problem at all on a few-years-old MacBook Pro!! :sunglasses:

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Whatcha going to do with them when you upgrade?