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Laptops and COH: A Modern Guide By GM_Tahquitz, Age 8. So, it's time to get back into City of Heroes. We know you have many choices in the COH-niverse, and we're glad you chose/got goaded by your friends into/just Googled and clicked on Homecoming Servers as your new home for COH. But wait! It's been a while, slugger! Your plug-in Pizza Box that ran it well several years ago is starting to show its age. Or perhaps it's only good for holding a pizza anymore. Or maybe you heard about all these laptops out there able to play it, and you want to join in the fun. Or perhaps you didn't mind playing it on desktop, but your aunt and uncle bequeathed you a used Laptop, and you're curious if it'll even run it. You've come to the right place. Also, as a fair warning, I've been binge-watching "Travel Man" on Hulu a bit while writing this, so apologies for the bad jokes in advance. INTRODUCTION - OR- ARE YOU GOING TO BLAB ON THIS MUCH FOR THE REST OF THE GUIDE? Yes. I am going to blab on. It is a guide after all. But in the modern day and age, I recognize that Internet-fluent people are short on time, and can't be bothered to read why and how I've come to conclusions, so in that interest, I've made a convention to speed things up. Colors and everything. Throughout this guide, I'll point out four tiers of expectation, mostly divided by how much cash you want to spend – GOOD: A good system will be able to play the game. Frame rate may choke at points, the detail will have to be turned way down, or there's physical considerations afoot (it's not REALLY a gaming laptop, but that doesn't mean you can't do it, per se.) A good machine may have a hard time with a public event, raid, or a task force with a lot of GPU demands (ITF). But if it's a second gaming machine, or you're strapped on cash, it's still worth it. BETTER: A better system will do fine with City of Heroes. You can expect a 30 FPS or better frame rate, a good amount of detail in graphics settings but not the whole banana worth of Ultra Mode, and in Task Force/Raid action you have a good chance of keeping up with the occasional complication here and there. BEST: The best systems will be on-par with a desktop's performance. You can expect 30 FPS to 60 FPS performance, Ultra Mode being mostly available with some quirks (this IS OpenGL after all...) AND: you might be able to lead a Task Force/Raid much easier, network permitting. NO GOOD: I'll also point out what's no good, or older hardware and technological 'dead ends' that make City of Heroes a non-starter for a particular system choice. For the rest of you who are long-read fans, I've got all sorts of opinions based on studying this topic for the last decade and a half, as well as a deep dive on computer specs and what to look for to get City of Heroes playing it's best. Finally, at the end of the guide, several "EXTRA CREDIT" segments are there for more detail on some topics that I could expand for hours, but pulled away from the body of the guide to stop from glazing eyes over unnecessarily. I may have failed at points, but when I do, I try to crack a joke or two so it's not too dull. So, whether it's from a store shelf and you're staring at the Control Panel wondering what any of these things mean, or if your Uncle Ivan the Terrible is trying to bequeath you a hand-me-down from his son's failed stint at College before he visited Cancun for one week too long after Spring Break, then dropped out and jumped on a tour bus to be an EDM-Superstar... this can help with your search. At the end of this guide, you'll be able to separate out the unplayable from the usable at a minimum. At best, you can find what we call in "used sales" as the ever-fantasized "creampuff"... a used system that someone doesn't know what it's worth, ticks all your boxes, and is offered at a price that's figuratively called a steal. This guide can help during your shopping efforts. Let's get cracking! CORONAVIRUS: WHAT'S CHANGED? It's 2021 now, and... nothing's changed. Supply is down, prices remain higher. Unless a major development occurs for the best or worse, no need in rehashing old news. Electronics aren't going to go for MSRP online or in stores for awhile. Shrug, spend accordingly, and try to kill some time waiting for the shipment to arrive. We're all feeling it with you. For those interested in building a PC (which is past the scope of this guide), there is scarcity in CPUs and Graphic Cards, which (regarding laptops) is impacting inventory in a number of areas including, you guessed it, prebuilt systems like laptops. TABLE OF CONTENTS EASIEST - SHUT UP AND TELL ME WHO TO TAKE MY MONEY! EASY-ISH - BUY NEW/USED THINGS Straight from the Horse's Mouth: Microsoft & Apple Devices Other Devices NOT AS EASY - BUY NEW/USED HARDWARE FROM ANYWHERE ELSE Laptop Graphics Chip: CRITICAL FOR GOOD RESULTS RAM: RAM IS IN CHARGE. Processor: DOESN'T MATTER FOR THE MOST PART. Hard Drive: SSDs are better than non SSDs. BATTERY LIFE: Forget it. MISCELLANY - Systems not to even bother with. SOFTWARE SHOPPING ONLINE NEW USED REFURBISHED CAVEATS NO GOOD EXTRA CREDIT: WHY NOT A DESKTOP GUIDE? EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT: GRAPHICS CARD DIFFERENCES (by name, anyway) EXTRA X3 CREDIT: CHROMEBOOKS. Y U NO LIEK? EXTRA CREDIT - FINAL FIGHT: WHY ALL THE HATE ON 32-BIT LATELY? EASIEST - SHUT UP AND TELL ME WHO TO TAKE MY MONEY! But for the TL;DR crowd, if you want three picks based on cash on hand, here you go. I'll do the shopping for you. Prices were accurate on the day of the update. This also ignores any 'brand-hate'. I, personally, loathe Acer. Worked on their systems for 4 years. I REALLY hate their almost 32-character serial numbers when calling in for warranty support. But if the price, hardware, and form factor line up, then fair is fair. If you find a similar pick you bought and want to recommend them to join this list, feel free to reply. GOOD: HP 14" HD at $400 on Amazon. Ryzen Vega 3 graphics will do the job, but make no mistake, the machine will run hot while playing. Before the Coronavirus Pandemic, this was $100 less, and it still frequently sells out at the higher price. BETTER: Acer Swift 3 - $679.99 on Amazon. More choices if you're willing to spend $600-800. This one (despite the name) uses Ryzen 7 with better Vega Graphics. This should make most players happy, without draining the wallet too much. It even got a recent and very favorable review on Ars Technica. Expect this to be the new 'sub-$700' darling for a while. BEST: Any "Gaming" Laptop from $900 and up (ASUS TUF FX505DT linked to the left, keeps flagging between $900-$1,200 based on supply). It was the best advice back in 2012 when the game was live, and it hasn't changed. The best gaming laptops are going to be in the $900 - $1,500 budget range. Past $1,500, just make sure you're getting more bang for the buck instead of portability (read: lightness) and build quality which tends to be why laptops cost past $1,500 anymore. (See LG Gram. It's gorgeous, and it COULD work for City of Heroes, but it will burn your lap while doing it with Integrated Graphics.) At this price, insist on a Laptop with Dedicated Graphics if you are going to pay this much. Integrated, walk away. Ideas include Dell XPS, HP OMEN, Lenovo Legion, ASUS ROG/TUF, MSI, Acer Predator, among many, many others. Custom Model Retailers are out there that specialize in gaming systems like iBuyPower, CyberPowerPC, and XoticPC offer a lot of choices above $900. A lot of the "Manager Specials" are priced $999 for the same reason used car buyers price things with 9s. (If you hear $999, subconsciously, you think it's under $1,000, right?) Seriously, if money's not an object, then why are you reading this? Go visit Alienware already! Or Origin, they've got ridiculous price tags, too. Anything that Alienware and Origin sells will run COH no problem. Just make sure whatever you buy has an NVidia or AMD Graphics Card built-in with a high-ish number in the tens digit (Radeon RX 590 or GeForce GTX 2080 are both examples of good picks), then off you go. EASY-ISH - BUY NEW/USED THINGS Straight from the Horse's Mouth: Microsoft & Apple Devices - PROS: One price for a versatile device, very portable, excellent drivers and firmware support. CONS: You can't repair them, and easily damaged without a good case so once they're done... they're done. If you have abusive travel habits or rambunctious kids, a gaming laptop will be a little bit more durable for the price (at the likely cost of lower portability). Microsoft Surface: GOOD: Surface Pro 4-7 (Intel Iris Graphics - Unlike Intel GMA, can play on Recommended Settings with decent throughput, but no Ultra Mode if you want a high frame rate.) BETTER: Surface Laptop 3 (AMD Ryzen Vega - Can play on Ultra Mode well.) BEST: Surface Book 2 & 3 (NVidia GeForce 1060/1650 in laptop mode – Easily does Ultra Mode.) NO GOOD: Atom and ARM based Windows Systems - Including but not limited to: Surface RT, RT 2, Surface 3, Surface Pro X. Windows on ARM devices are out of luck. Microsoft's botched Intel x32 emulation basically guarantees that Surface Pro X will never play the game well at all. Surface Go 1 & 2. Sorry, the Pentium Gold lacks in strength. The price isn't even all that great for what it does, either. Even with a Core iX chip, the Surface Go 2 isn't fairing much better in the video department. (There's been folks saying with external watercooling or ice-packs, it does better, but with condensation being a real thing, I don't want to even try it.) Any Intel GMA-based Surface tablets - Surface Pro 1-3. Even the Core i7 ones were only dual-core for heat dissipation reasons. Technically, some will work if you don't have a choice, but it's not worth the effort and headache. (Surface Pros 1-3 on GMA does 10-20 FPS on average, Surface Pro 4 and higher with Iris does 25-40 FPS on average. It's as simple as that.) Apple MacBook: (including Air, Pro, and the eponymous one that got a brief run the last half of the 2010s): GOOD: 2012 and newer MacBooks will work well, regardless of model (MacBook 2015-2019/MB Air 2012+/MB Pro 2012+). BETTER: MacBook Air 2018 and newer OR MacBook Pro 2016 and newer. (Intel Iris Pro Graphics.) BEST: MacPro 2013 and newer (…but seriously, this is a laptop guide. None of the recent Apple laptops will have Ultra Mode fully on due to Intel's graphics limitations. If you have an AMD Radeon on a laptop with a processor not too old, you might fare better.) HOLD OFF IF YOU CAN: Apple Silicon M1 Devices. There is a Beta of Homecoming Launcher for Big Sur systems right here, and a testing thread to report your experiences here. It's not ready for mass-enjoyment yet, so if you're picking between a M1 or Intel system, side with Intel. If you don't have a choice and an M1 is on the way, know that we're working on it. INITIAL TESTING has been very promising that we can add Apple M1 to the "BETTER" list above eventually with a little more leg work, so stay tuned. NO GOOD: 2008 and older Macs regardless of model are NOT ADVISED. Core 2 Duo is an absolute minimum. Intel Core Solo and any PowerPC Macs (Specifically anything that can't upgrade past OS X 10.1-10.7 or "Old World" MacOS System 9 and prior) are not supported. All of these systems will be USED systems, as they've been out of the market for a while now, this is just good to know when your uncle or aunt have a Mac they used to check their email from 10 years ago. Other Devices-- Chromebooks: NO GOOD The reason why is big enough to get an appendix now, so visit "EXTRA CREDIT" below if you want to know why. Linux Laptops (Dell, System76): PLAUSIBLE. (Visit the NOT AS EASY section below and compare the specs first.) See the above. Generally, if the system CAN run DirectX games if it had Windows 10 instead, it can play City of Heroes. (Important distinction there. Intel/AMD Linux laptops WILL WORK. ARM/Qualcomm Laptops like the Pinebook WILL NOT.) Linux laptops have one advantage over Chromebooks: you don't have a firmware and OS to work past to get Wine to run. And it's not as hit-and-miss between the same model or manufacturer. Advice: aim for a newer laptop with Radeon or GeForce graphics that has been released since 2018. Even if the difference is a couple hundred out of your price range. DXVK (aka: Direct X over VulKan) support is totally worth the expense... you can play COH without it, but with it you'll be happier. Last fall, I wrote a guide covering this very topic. This will be a degree harder to get running than what Mac Users have troubleshooting-wise. If ease of use is a factor for you, look at Windows or Mac first. But it's not as hard as ChromeOS. Android/iOS: NO GOOD. Both are ARM based. Same as most Chromebooks or Windows RT, can't run City of Heroes at all. NOT AS EASY - BUY NEW/USED HARDWARE FROM ANYWHERE ELSE If Microsoft and Apple isn't in the cards for what they want price-wise, it's okay. There are literally 1,000's of laptops released in the last decade that CAN play City of Heroes. But you need to look at the specs a little more than you might be used to when laptop-shopping if you want one that can play it well. This is where the jokes stop for a minute, because there's a lot of grift out there, and separating it from an honest offer is important, so pay attention: #1: Most important rule when buying a new laptop from Brick & Mortar: Don't trust the shelf. You can't trust sale price stickers in Best Buy, Walmart, or Target if you want to visit and shop in person. This isn't about the price, but the specifications. They're not going to be up-front with the details. You can do one of two things in a store to know for sure: Look the model number up on your phone. Make sure it's an exact match, not a 'close enough' one as a lot of laptop models are just one digit or letter off between vendors (missing a letter is the difference between one from Target and one from Fry's Electronics, with different internal parts.) See if the specs match up online to what you need. If it's an in-store model, at most places*, you can open the Control Panel to access Device Manager as a Standard User. Here you can find out the installed Display Adapter in the drop down list. It's normal for a palm rest sticker to indicate it's an NVidia GeForce or AMD Radeon laptop, and not mention what card is inside on the sticker itself. That wasn't the case in the past, but that is how it normally is now. Also, press WIN-BREAK on the keyboard as a shortcut to open System Control Panel and check the Processor and RAM in one screen. The Windows edition doesn't matter, and keep in mind that you don't need Windows 10 Pro to play games at all. (If someone's selling a laptop with Windows 10 Pro over Home, it doesn't matter. Take the more affordable one.) On a Intel Graphics, Radeon Vega, or other Integrated Graphics system, seeing something like "8.00 GB (7.89 GB useable)" in memory is normal. That means the 'un-useable' portion is set aside for graphics only. * = Best Buy, shaking my fist at YOU... your new Demo images lock customers out of Settings and Control Panel in Windows 10 so we're forced to talk to an employee. "The specs are on this panel on the right..." the webpage-fed ones that are 404'd half the time? May as well just put in lead-filled display models that don't turn on. This might sound rude, but most sales people aren't really well-versed in picking out equipment, especially if it's not an electronics retailer but a big-box dept. store. No, it's not cause they're "stupid teenagers" or any of that jazz. It's not their fault: most retail training is really horrible. Two thirds of the info is wrong to boot, and most "trainings" are really profit motivated over purpose-driven advice given to store employees to drive sales. If you know what model you're after, don't ask a sales associate for help concerning how to buy gaming laptops, unless it's a stock check to see if it's in back. And do not let them sell you a different model. YOU KNOW what you want. That doesn't mean that they do, even if they think they are helping or sound like they know more than you do. #2: Don't Special Order ANYTHING. Don't do it. Especially in the era of Amazon/Newegg. Don't let a sales person talk you into buying a laptop that's not in stock at a store, or try to sell you something sight-unseen that's from a catalog or website page. Special Orders only tie your money up with the store, and too much can go wrong between payment and delivery. If you absolutely have to buy it online, then thank them for their time and leave, then go do it yourself from home. Because it is literally no different. #3: Concerning in-person sales -- until the money leaves your hands, YOU are in control. Don't let a sales person lead you around. Pay attention if more than one sales person approaches you for more than a single unknown question, because this can be a tactic. ("Team-selling". They'll see if you warm up more to another sales person if the first one doesn't get results, then they'll play off of each other.) If talk of computer specifications isn't in your wheelhouse, be careful if the sales person drones on and on about them. They're probably doing it on purpose to confuse. If a computer meets the minimum you're asking for, a simple "Yes" will do. If it doesn't, no excuse or story changes that. Consider bringing another person with you for support. Let them talk you out of a mistake if you're not pleased with what's going on. Watch your emotional state. If you're disappointed or nervous, trust your instinct. Never spend money out of fear or anxiety. A good salesperson will try to answer your questions honestly (even if it's "I don't know"), then walk away when you tell them you need a moment to think it over. A bad salesperson thinks Glengarry Glen Ross is the most underrated movie of all time, and spend hours in the mirror rehearsing Alec Baldwin's speech. Then they try to live it. (This really isn't a joke, I'm afraid.) Remember: Spending more or less cash doesn't get you better results. Spending precisely on the right machine DOES. It's not personal. If they don't have a usable laptop, close the wallet/purse up, thank them for their time, and keep looking even if you have to leave. The mantra is simple: there is no such thing as a "good machine in a bad situation." You can do this. Laptop Graphics Chip: CRITICAL FOR GOOD RESULTS-- Any Laptop: GOOD: Intel Iris Graphics (some systems may require a shim to work correctly), AMD Advanced Processing Unit (APU, Before Ryzen). BETTER: NVidia GeForce at Entry Level. Low End AMD Ryzen 3 & 5 with Vega Graphics. BEST: NVidia GeForce at Mid or High Level. AMD Ryzen 5 & 7 with Vega and Navi Graphics. Intel Iris Graphics is the generation after Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) which makes for improvements over the prior offering. This is still the bottom of the "might play City of Heroes" bracket, unfortunately. AMD APU systems were the 2011-2016 laptop chipsets combining an AMD A-Series or E-Series processor with a Radeon On-Chip Graphics Processor into one chip, similar to Intel. Unlike Intel, they put more cache in the graphics side, which was a nudge past Intel performance-wise. NVidia Geforce and AMD Radeon are discrete graphics chipsets. This means the processor and graphics are on separate chips (hence, discrete). Separating graphics off the CPU makes for better performance, at the cost of being more expensive to produce. But the results are hard to argue with: discrete graphics on a laptop far outperform on-chip graphics, no matter the platform. AMD Ryzen is a mix of the two. The Vega and Navi Graphics component is on the processor like Intel's graphics solutions, but unlike Intel (for now), Navi and Vega are architectures in place on AMD Graphics Cards out in the wild. (Intel is looking to get into the desktop graphics card game soon, though. No idea what that will look like, as their OpenGL support has been inconsistent at best. Probably not in favor of COH.) So, what's Entry, Mid and High Level for Laptop Graphics? Good question! GeForce/Radeon number scheme: only the last two digits of the card matters if it's made after 2008! Easy! 00-45 – Entry Level. 50-65 – Mid Range. 70-95 – High Level. Any GeForce or Radeon laptop with the last two digits at 50 or higher will run COH with Ultra Mode settings well. Any card south of 50, and you'll need to turn settings down if you want to make at least 30 Frames Per Second happen. That's the simplest answer. If you want to deep-dive, there’s more in Extra Credit below. If not, move on to Processors! NO GOOD: Intel GMA (or Graphics Media Accelerator, their initial foray into built-in graphics -- Too inconsistent to recommend, even used ones). Also, laptops before GeForce GTX 250 or AMD K10/Llano. All of these graphic chipsets will be found in USED systems (or overstock resellers who get lots of unsold, discontinued systems), as they've been out of the market for a while now, this is just advice for the folks perusing the Garage Sales. Most recently, Intel has removed all drivers and support for systems with HD Graphics 3000 (which is NOT a GMA product) and older out of the market, which USED to be the baseline to play City of Heroes on when the game was live. In short, if it's working now, enjoy it. If you're buying it or need to reinstall Windows, you might be out of luck. Yeah, I know some of you do play with Intel GMA as your system. Or an earlier AMD Mobility Radeon HD in your laptop. Or even the ultra-rare NVidia Geforce MX120. But the purpose of this guide (I hope) is you obtaining a new or used laptop that will play this well, not one that plays on minimum settings. If frame rates you're currently experiencing are well below 30, and if you're procuring another machine to play the game, why not get one that doesn't strain at it? I'm so confused! How does my video card compare now to one I'm thinking about? I got 'ya. Here's two pieces of additional help: UserBenchmark.com allows you to type in a Graphics Card and compare it with another to see an apples-to-apples comparison, even across brands like NVidia, AMD and Intel. Tom's Hardware gives a list of Hierarchy every year to classify GPUs into performance groups. In particular, look at the Legacy GPU Hierarchy list midway down the page for a broad comparison across all the cards. If the one you're thinking about is two groups or more higher than your current one, it's going to be a definite improvement. If it's 1 group away, or any lower, it'll perform about the same or weaker overall. RAM: RAM IS IN CHARGE. The more RAM in the system, the better. Baseline in retail right now is 8GB for a new system on Windows 10, but COH will run with as little as 2GB on older operating systems with less 'weight' kept overhead when Windows is running (Windows 7 and older). On Windows 10, 4GB is the minimum RAM if all you do is play City of Heroes and nothing else. If the laptop has an access panel to upgrade or add RAM later, this is less urgent, as you can upgrade the memory up to the motherboard's given maximum. (Used laptops, this is less of a guarantee as the machine may be already at the maximum allowed RAM.) Why RAM Matters: You like Multiboxing? Free CPU Clock Time and Free RAM is the only thing holding you back. Stronger processors with adequate RAM can do multibox play better than budget systems. Also, RAM is important for multitasking. If you like playing COH, listening to Spotify or Pandora, and reading ParagonWiki while answering texts from Mom in-between DFB/DIB runs, you're going to need at least 4GB on hand. Processor: DOESN'T MATTER FOR THE MOST PART. MOST PROCESSORS MADE DURING AND SINCE 2012 WILL RUN CITY OF HEROES. This includes: INTEL Core 2 Duo (this was king back at launch, but it's an absolute minimum now... my gaming laptop from 2009 still runs Homecoming, but that's all it's good at anymore... not even Star Trek Online runs on it now, and it used to.) Celerons made from 2012 onwards (Did you know Celerons come in Quad-Core now? And Hyperthreads? Never thought I'd see the day...) Pentium Dual-Core made from 2012 onwards (NOT PENTIUM D, which is two Pentium 4s sharing the same socket) - Oddly enough, Celeron now tops Pentium in performance these days, which is not what it used to be in the past. Biggest difference: Pentium is only dual-core, whereas Celeron can be dual or multi-core. Try to aim for a Pentium Dual Core sold from 2012 onward (to avoid underpowered ones sold in discount laptops that couldn't game with Solitaire well.) For Laptops, Pentium Gold and Silver processors are markedly SLOWER than any current Celeron in the market. (Not the case on Desktop, but this is a laptop guide.) Biggest culprit: Surface Go uses a Pentium Gold Y, one of the slowest processors in Intel's lineup. City of Heroes might run on it, but it won't run well. Highly Recommended: The whole Intel Core-iX family -- Core i3, i5, i7, and i9. Can't go wrong with any of them. Even the older 1st and 2nd Gen Core-iX chips still work great today. Fact Check: Intel Core 8th Generation and newer Desktop processors have increased their number of cores in each line except Celeron and Pentium. For mobile processors, this is not the case: Core i3 remains dual-core, and Core i5-i7 you'll need to look the model up. (There are dual core i5s just as much as quad core i7s when it comes to laptops. Strict power requirements on laptops does put a limit on how many cores a CPU can make use of.) Core i9 appears for the first time as a laptop processor in "Comet Lake" (10th, and at the time of this update, current generation) as an octa-core CPU. AMD AMD APU Series, including A-Series and E-Series chipsets. The AMD APU's differentiator was AMD including integrated Radeon graphics in their chipsets which were a big improvement over Intel's integrated graphics for the most part. A-Series was the flagship, with A4 being the entry level and A12 being the top. Highly Recommended: AMD Ryzen. Great performance, good pricing. And in many cases, cheaper than brand new Intel Core-iX chips with just as much performance (or in a couple of high end chips, both cheaper and better. Looking at you, Threadripper! 😄 ) Ryzen 300/3000 Line: Laptops with a Ryzen X 3000 series chipset have built-in graphics (Ryzen 3 3300U through Ryzen 7 3780U and all numbers in-between). Unlike their Intel counterparts, all of the chips are quad-core (Ryzen 3 has the same quad-core as the Ryzen 7) but in affordability, some of these are below the $300 mark. Starting with the Ryzen 400/4000 Line, laptops will differ in core counts (Ryzen 3 has 4, Ryzen 5 with 6, and Ryzen 7 with 8-core.) NO GOOD – Forget running City of Heroes on the following if you haven't bought it yet. They are ALL showstoppers. (FEW of these should be sold brand new in any stores at this point in time.) Any ARM Processor (COH needs Intel/AMD architecture to run), which includes any Windows RT device. Devices made on Windows RT are the wrong architecture. It won't even launch. This includes newer Windows 10 laptops using Qualcomm Snapdragon like the Surface Pro X, Asus NovaGo, Lenovo Miix 630, and HP Spectre X2. After trying one out, the x32 emulator MS came up with is horrible. At best, it can run 2D apps acceptably, and that's pretty much it. (Paying $1,000+ for these isn't worth it to try to play City of Heroes on.) The only bright spot on these machines is battery-life, which COH would sap like mad anyway. Intel chips from the following lines: Chips pre-dating City of Heroes. (Do I need to say it? Fine... Intel 8086/8088, 80X86, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, etc.) Pentium 3, and 4, (worked when the game was released, but not now) Pentium D (two Pentium 4s smashed onto one die, sharing the same pin outs as a Pentium 4... if you like analogies, imagine a pair of backyard garden hoses connected by a Y adapter to a single hose of the same thickness at the end and turning both of them on at once. Yeah, it wasn't a good idea when they made it either.) Celeron older than the 935 (made in 2008), Pentium Extreme Edition. Intel Atom. It's a 32-bit processor built for low-powered use. These do not do gaming well at all. AMD chips from the following lines: Chips predating City of Heroes. (Again? Gah! AM486, AM586, K5, K6, etc.) Athlon, Athlon XP/Athlon II, (worked when the game was released, but not now) Phenom (production halted in 2011, replaced by APU series), E-Series (the AMD APUs that were made as a one-off processor for budget laptops, then never again) or any A-Series processor under the "Bobcat" codename (I know, vague, but nothing positive came from that line gaming-wise), Sempron - AMD's answer to the Intel Atom, low-powered & budget focused. Duron. Except ARM, all of these systems will generally be USED systems older than 2009, as they've been out of the market for a while now. This is just advice for folks looking at Pennysaver Ads. The only advice I can give with a processor -- buy the most powerful one you can reasonably afford. Same as GPU, this is a component that can't be changed later. Laptops live and die with the processor they're born with (unless you know someone who is proficient at "re-balling" a processor into a PCB. Don't try this at home, kids. It's not worth the fumes.) Hard Drive: SSDs are better than non SSDs. (But again, for the most part this doesn't matter.) In the Windows 10 landscape, your SSD (Solid State Drive) must be over 120GB for Windows 10 to be useable with frequent updates. Most laptops today come with 250GB standard. You'll be hard pressed to find a laptop NOT equipped with an SSD on weight-conscious models. (If it's under 4 lbs. and brand new, there's an excellent chance an SSD is already there.) Realistically, any system with storage over 120GB, will play City of Heroes. Less than 120GB, and your system will not be able to update Windows 10 easily. As with the RAM, if the laptop has an access panel to change the hard drive, not a huge deal if you get the cheapest one at the onset. (Unlike RAM, HDD Capacity isn't as limited. You can get a better drive later.) While not as plug-and-play, with some work, your hard drive can be cloned to a new SSD and installed on a used system. For "unibody" systems like MacBooks or Surface Pro, you should buy the highest storage model you can afford because it's a good bet you won't be able or willing to take the steps to take it apart later. (In Microsoft's case, Surface Pro repairs means too much glue between you and success. It's really not worth it... enough that iFixIt didn't even bother with a Surface Pro 7 guide, just a video and a 1/10 score. Or in Apple's case, trying to swap the SSD out yourself may brick it.) BATTERY LIFE: Forget it. Battery life is NOT a selling point. Consider the following: Most laptops turn graphics and processor performance down by a large factor while on battery power on purpose. For the best performance, you'll need to be plugged in at all times while gaming. Forcibly turning performance up while on battery will cause the laptop battery to drain rapidly and go into alarm shutdown/sleep/hibernation due to a lack of power left. Advice to save power on battery is the same across the board: turn screen brightness down, unplug USB devices you don't need (all of them if you can), set aggressive sleep timers, turn Power use down to "Energy Saver" or "Balanced" mode. All choices that make a gaming experience worse. (In Energy Saver mode, gaming drops dramatically in performance.) Gaming laptops are designed to dissipate heat. One giveaway of this is the design of the DC Brick. Conventional laptop DC power bricks are small, thin and light. Gaming Laptop DC Bricks are much larger and draw more watts overall to covert to DC power away from the machine. Laptops that are NOT designed to be gaming machines specifically are not as cooling efficient and the hotter and longer they run, the shorter the overall battery life will be over time. (This is true even if it's plugged in when you game.) Laptop batteries may be high capacity, or larger and heavier in Workstation-grade laptops. But even compared to a regular laptop, actual Gaming Laptop batteries are small. Where most are designed to fit under the entire palmrest, most ASUS ROG laptop batteries I've seen in person are the width and height as a small index card, and maybe ¾" thick. This is to both cut down on weight as well as heat. A gaming laptop battery only has enough charge to last 1-2 hours under duress when it's manufactured. After a couple of years, a gaming laptop battery will have only enough capacity at 100% to move the power plug to another outlet without dying immediately... that is, if you're lucky. For those reasons, battery life is not a concern when gaming. You can safely ignore it when shopping for a laptop, as long as it POWERS ON reliably in the first place (Used Computer Protip: never buy a machine that doesn't come with a DC Adapter or that you haven't seen for yourself turn on and boot before purchase. This isn't specific to laptops, it's good advice for electronics in general.) Any claims that a system can do 3D rendered gaming on a laptop battery longer than 3-4 hours should be looked at skeptically in most cases. MISCELLANY - Systems not to even bother with... (ALL NO GOOD) The "Chromebook Killers": Systems include HP Stream (ALL of them. Even the new 14" models suffer from this category), Lenovo Ideapad 100-300 series, and ASUS Transformer series Windows 10 machines. Microsoft had a program in 2016-2018 where they encouraged manufacturers to build Windows 10 on cheap, small and lightweight systems to compete better with Google Chromebooks (ignoring why they've been a smash hit at Schools: Google Admin Console knocked security and safety out of the park.) All of these systems have worse performance than Chromebooks for one simple reason: except for the processors, OEMs picked slower components across the board to match the pricing. They didn't meet a Chromebooks speed at all. Worse, some models with less than 32GB are no longer capable of receiving Windows 10 updates anymore. That means I can't even recommend them as new or used computers, since Windows 10 Build 1810 is no longer supported with security updates. Netbooks: Examples include the Acer Aspire One, HP Mini, Asus Eee PC, and Dell Mini. Most of these DO NOT have Intel GMA, they have an older Intel On-Board graphics chipset that predates GMA. Put simply, COH won't even launch. Tablet PCs: I'm not talking modern ones made since Windows 8. I'm talking Windows XP Tablet Edition through Windows 7 Touchscreen devices. Even with a NVidia GeForce Go inside of one I tried out in the late 2000's, these did horribly on games. Not even Minesweeper worked right on them. Cloud Gaming: This field is in it's infancy, and while a certain audience of users here on Homecoming can make it work for them, it comes with TWO drawbacks. City of Heroes has a semi-complicated control relationship that doesn't translate well to Tablet/Phone play (whereas titles like PUBG and Fortnite have been developed specifically for use in mobile play... City of Heroes HASN'T.) While it's possible to play on a laptop, Chromebook, or other device that doesn't have the specifications to play it natively, high mobility is going to be difficult to implement. Touchscreen adaptations for mobile gaming fits certain genres better than others, and PC-MMORPG play is not one of them. Either you take away the social aspect and "consolize" the title for remote play, or you require peripherals that most folks aren't willing to use. Cloud Gaming services require a high-end Internet Service Provider. I can't say High Speed or Broadband anymore, because both of those at the minimum of 25Mbps still fails at Cloud Gaming. High end ISPs include Cable at certain tiers, Fiber, or other service that regularly is over 100Mbps in download speed, a latency (ping) that is from 25-50ms or lower, and has a HIGH monthly data cap (1TB a month would be an example). I know lots of services say "Unlimited" and "No Data Caps" now, but yes, they're lying. (Read "Network Management" and "Traffic Shaping" policies in your terms, you might be surprised.) If you don't live in a city, you are probably out of luck. Trying Cloud Gaming on Satellite, DSL, or Terrestrial Wireless/LTE at best means your game won't load. At worst, bill shock. For those two reasons, I would recommend letting the paint dry on the fence first. Buying a laptop to play it on is still better than dealing with the above. (Understandably for the same reason as why we're not distributed by Steam, there is no effort to get Homecoming: City of Heroes running on platforms like Stadia, GeForce Now, or other similar providers.) SOFTWARE Operating System: There are only three out there, and all three are generally free, built-in, or come with the purchase of a new system. This is more about acceptable minimums. Don't get caught up in the "Which is better?" discussion when friends, salespeople, and co-workers share their preferences with you. Windows PCs, Macs, and Linux systems are all just machines. Anyone who says Macs are better than Windows or Windows is better than Macs are continuing an argument from the 1990s-2000s that doesn't really matter any longer: It's what you do with them that matters. It's your comfort and skill level that matters. It's also your money. Want a metaphor? This is the age of data. If you are asked to produce a report, and you hand your boss a stack of bread toasted with your data because you made a toaster/Raspberry Pi/ATMEL monstrosity that prints graphs on bread, YOU STILL WIN. That being said... if your tech skills aren't as strong as you'd like them to be, THE EASIEST AND BEST SUPPORTED CLIENT/HARDWARE COMBO IS GOING TO BE ON WINDOWS. Not for any reason other than the simplest one to give: it's the most wide-spread and broadly available system out there. Windows: Fully Supported -- Windows 8/8.1/10. No longer updated by Microsoft but will run COH – Windows XP SP3, Vista, and as of January 14, 2020, Windows 7. (Homecoming Servers won't stop you, but connecting the Internet into these systems isn't wise as no more security updates are being offered to these OS versions.) Paragon Studios required XP SP3, so prior Windows OS systems than XP SP3 will not run. And you don't need to pay for Windows 10 if you have older Windows 7/8/8.1 already installed. (See ZDNet, this isn't really a secret anymore.) But if your system was brand new when Windows 7 was released, Windows 10 will work much better on BRAND NEW HARDWARE as 32-bit devices reach the end of their usable life. (See "Why all the 32-bit Hate?" in Extra Credit below.) Windows can also be installed on Macs using Boot Camp in a dual-boot setup, but this is less popular as it makes a user choose between booting MacOS productivity apps on their Mac OR Windows for gaming, where using Wine allows for both at once. For Homecoming, your system should have the Visual C++ 2015 Runtimes installed. Specific to Tequila, you'll need the .NET 3.5 Framework as well. Mac OS X/MacOS: Fully Supported -- Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave or Catalina. Big Sur support is in Beta. Island Rum includes a private build of Wine to run the game. The MacOS Sierra requirement is based on Unity Player's system requirements, which is what Island Rum is based upon. Older than Sierra, we have a Launcher Public Beta that you may want to try out. Linux: Self-Supported only. Homecoming Servers Staff does not have a recommended setup or installer for Linux. ...but that doesn't mean you can't go for it anyway. In general, Debian 10 Buster, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Bionic Beaver will work at a minimum. (Fedora users should use the latest version as there is no LTS support offered.) Current versions highly advised. You will need to use and configure Wine to run City of Heroes. If you're looking for a more turn-key installation of City of Heroes, Windows and Mac are just going to be easier. If you don't mind rooting around with config files and trial and error, Linux may work for you. In fact, as GM Korvin has said, OpenGL support is a different beast for Linux, which may do a few things better graphically in-game than if it was under Windows 10. (If that doesn't encourage you tinkerers, nothing will!) See above in "Linux" under "Easy-ish - Buy New/Used Things" for a separate guide to running Homecoming Launcher in Linux. SHOPPING ONLINE New to all of this and need ideas of where to look? Here's a list of online retailers that work well with laptop sales. EVEN IF you prefer to buy from a brick-and-mortar place, online shopping can temper your expectations concerning price differences and what's out in the market today. New The one I can write paragraphs about, and for good cause, is undoubtedly Newegg. They are the B&H Photo & Video of computer websites... they take a niche like retail computers, and push the shopping website concept to a higher standard than most companies are used to doing. While it's not specific to laptop sales, Newegg is where computer builders go to price out and compare components to build a Gaming System. In fact, the NewEgg Wish List system is a way to share builds of desktop computers you plan to make (much like Mid's or Guides on making toons in here, there's millions of builds from today and yesterday to look through.) Concerning Laptop Sales, Newegg has better lists of specifications, photos of the item for sale, and reviews from knowledgeable shoppers to warn you of weak spots in build quality or annoyances (bloatware being a common crime among OEMs). Newegg's major weakness: while they tend not to have 'bad listings' when you exclude "Marketplace" sellers (someone who sells a laptop with embellished specs, like on eBay or CraigsList) ...they're not always the lowest price in town. You can find models of laptops with the same specs cheaper elsewhere, if you are careful and know what listings to avoid. With that unpaid endorsement out of the way, here are other good places to look at systems for sale. Gaming Laptops - straight from the sources - HP/Omen - HP is finally doing something with the Omen label they bought in the 2000's and ignored for almost a decade. Dell or Alienware (Same company, different labels.) Dell XPS and Alienware are their gaming lines. Lenovo - The Legion line of laptops are their approach at a gaming label. Acer - Their gaming line is called "Predator". ASUS - Their gaming laptops are either in the TUF line or ROG (Republic of Gamers) labels. Origin - Corsair's gaming line. Super pricey, but Corsair's build quality is very good. MSI - A gaming-first laptop maker, virtually all of their laptops are good for MMO play. Razer - A very Apple-like approach... they only sell one laptop, the Razer Blade. But it comes in sizes and flavors. Best Buy. You can visit their storefront (which there's probably one near you) and try out a system before buying it in most cases. Not the best place for a Gaming Laptop above $800, unless you live in a metropolitan market and they can afford to put them on the shelves. (Be careful when you find a system below $400 that's cited as a gaming laptop, as their definition of gaming is pretty loose: to me, "runs Candy Crush" doesn't count.) Less likely places to find laptops that can play City of Heroes (leaning on NO GOOD, but you might get lucky): Big Box Retail. Sure, Walmart offered the Motile Laptop in 2019, but from the closeout pricing, it doesn't look like they're going to continue doing so. Again, ignore the price tag until the end and check the specs first before looking at the price. Most laptops sold in these stores are for folks looking for any computer, period. These are intended for the typical computer user, which sad to say isn't us. (Typical means checking email, hop on Facebook, maybe stream a TV show or two and shut it off. If any gaming, Candy Crush or Words With Friends.) Most of their customers won't care what they actually have inside. So their sales associates will act accordingly. Office Stores. It'll be RANDOM to find one that plays games. Most office laptops are mass-made systems intended to have stable pricing for Purchase Orders and business sales. You'll have better luck elsewhere, but you MIGHT get luckier towards Christmas time (Fall after Thanksgiving) and Back To School (Summer before the end of August) when they have temporary stock of middle to higher-end systems to take advantage of these rush seasons. Closeout iBuyPower Xotic TigerDirect Closeout shops get a bad rap. They're not selling used computers, but they're not selling top of the line systems brand new either. Closeout shops get overstock from laptop companies who need to clear warehouse space of unsold stock to make room for new products. Think of them as Big Lots, in a way. You are buying a new laptop that has never been used before. It's not used or refurbished. You're just buying one that was considered new and top of the line a year or two ago. Most of the time, you pay less than the MSRP of the original laptop price because the manufacturer sold them at cost to the closeout company and written off the loss of profit already. The closeout company still makes their profit, even if the price is less than what the original manufacturer sold it a little while ago. Why the bad rap? Well, the downside is that this isn't always the case. There's a lot of variables between the point the manufacturer offloads the stock and when you see it on a closeout store that affects that price (including the "Kohl's Tactic": Manufacturer sets the MSRP higher than their initial sale price so the Closeout company thinks they're selling it at a discount with some margin when they actually bought it at retail, so the cost savings is not realized for the customer at all...) so sometimes a closeout group is stuck with a shipment of laptops that sells 2-3 at a time instead of something that flies like hotcakes. Often, a closeout retailer has stock that's been aging for years that they need to mark down at a loss. Selling 10 laptops at a cut of $150-200 when they paid for it retail is better than selling zero and eating the loss altogether. But there's incentive to selling quickly... Closeout sales of a new laptop model that is NOT currently discontinued by the manufacturer still counts as an original sale when it comes to warranty policies. Said a different way: if the laptop is not discontinued, you can buy it from a closeout retailer and the laptop manufacturer will honor the original warranty as if they sold it themselves. Extended warranty protection can be added on for things like ADH (a pricey "if I drop it, you fix it" rider that covers incidents that you cause within reason -- take a baseball bat to it like Ice-T, and it's still your problem) or 3-year warranties, which usually aren't available from the manufacturer in a used sale. That's one big advantage over Used/Refurbished. The reason why: the closeout people paid the manufacturer already, so they get their money regardless. An add-on to the warranty sale is a cherry you're buying on top of the cupcake they already got from someone else. Discontinuation is the major clause against that advantage. Not only does it mean no further sales are coming from the manufacturer, but also they're clearing the parts out of their service centers for warranty repairs. (Existing warranties may be honored if they're on the cusp of a full year of use before the end-of-life date, but they flex the "equivalent or less-costly replacement" clause instead of a straight up repair; you'll get back a refurbished model that won't be the same laptop.) When that happens, a closeout company will mark down the unsold laptops further knowing that the manufacturer won't honor any new warranty claims from those sales, BUT they may still have a DOA 90-day warranty or similar from the closedown seller themselves, so you have some assurance it'll work when you bring it out of the box. Refurbished Computers There's lots of channels to get these, most of which I've already listed. (Newegg, as well as all the manufacturers.) Only ones that don't offer them are Brick & Mortar stores, since they get returned more than kept. Open Box models are there, sure... (returned to a store, staff can't find anything wrong with it, so they repackage it and put on the shelf at a 5-15% discount.) But Open Box isn't refurbished. Systems that don't get sold in 90 days get collected and returned to the Distribution Center to be offloaded to a reseller. Manufacturer Refurbished laptops, on the other hand, have some advantages over retail: body panels with heavy damage is repaired, blown parts that fail to test get replaced, and there's a Refurbished Warranty (far less than a new one) that covers the sale should something happen and it's Dead on Arrival, or breaks in weeks. If you need something now, or don't expect the machine to last past 3 years (very possible when kids are involved) refurbished equipment can be a more affordable option. If you don't mind self-repair, refurbished can be a GREAT deal if you don't mind replacing a part or two here and there. Used is NOT Refurbished... kinda. There's a difference. A used computer is sold as-is, with all problems, shortcomings, and damage intact. A used sale is from one owner to another, no work done or implied. A Refurbished System (in theory anyway) has been repaired to sell. Think of it less like a "Certified Used Car" from a dealership with a 30-point inspection (And why 30 points? Does more points mean more accuracy, or less?) and 90-120 Day Warranty. Lemon Laws REALLY DO NOT apply to consumer electronics. Think of it more like a used car sold from a mechanic's garage. You're trusting their assurance that they gave it a "once-over" and it works out the door. And that's basically it. Buying a Refurbished Computer usually means it won't be problem-free. Even if it works well out of the box, the components have age. Motherboards have issues over time. Batteries can charge only so many cycles before the charge times start to decrease. And backlights on screens can dim over time or one day go out completely. If any of this is something that will bother you, buying a new machine is the best way to get a long life out of a laptop. Advice: avoid refurbished computers are offered with "Marketplace" sales groups on NewEgg, Amazon, and Walmart, particularly with Gaming Laptops. Get them straight from the source if you can, or Refurbished listing with Newegg. (Instead of an Newegg Marketplace seller pushing an MSI Laptop for $400, change the seller in the search listings to "Newegg". Less inventory, but compared to marketplace resellers, Newegg themselves sell only "refurbished from manufacturer" stock.) Used Computers These are sold as-is. Once the sale is made, it's yours, problems and all. BUT if you don't care about warranty coverage, you can find a good deal on an otherwise expensive device. Swappa. Known for used phone sales, Swappa also has a laptop section. Especially if you're after a Apple, Microsoft or Razor device, Swappa is a curated listing site (Swappa only accepts certain items to sell online, and buyers will get what they're paying for, or the seller gets booted from the place). The downside is their stock isn't guaranteed. Some months are better than others to find a used MacBook, Surface, or Razer Blade. Mostly, check them between College Semesters: Summer and Winter. Unlike refurbished sales, Swappa purchases are final. (They only use PayPal, however, so you're free to open an incident with them if it's a scam sale.) Live in the UK? Give Gumtree a try. Same as Swappa, but better local results. CAVEATS Extended Warranties. Pretty straightforward. Get one if: you have kids, and personal property and space is still a lesson they need to learn (or possibly never will), you don't know how to repair most computer problems (Take a look at ifixit.com and look up your current laptop. If it looks daunting, trust your instinct...), you have bad luck with keeping your smartphone screens uncracked, (tablets even less,) or if computers aren't really your thing but having a working one is really important. If you remember buying a laptop, then having to replace it with a new one in less than 2-3 years, an extended warranty might make sense. Instead of buying two new laptops within 5 years, file a claim, pay a deductible around $150, and get your original one fixed up for less than the cost of two new ones. Pass if any of the following applies: you can repair your own damage, this is a secondary computer for gaming and if something goes wrong it's not going to keep you offline, you baby your stuff beyond reason and treat your electronics like people, damage you cause to a laptop you can typically be fixed with an accessory purchase or do yourself for less than the cost of a deductible, or you think it's unlikely you would damage it at all (where a warranty doesn't make much sense). Accidental Damage from Handling (ADH) is a "contract rider" that is NOT present on most manufacturer warranties without paying an add-on price. If you don't pay for an ADH rider, accidental drops, kid damage, minor screen damage such as missing pixels and lines, cosmetic issues (cracked panels other than the screen, missing covers, etc.), or missing key caps and buttons that still function is your own problem. (If you don't see ADH in your receipt for warranty coverage, you probably don't have it.) In short, weigh the risk of paying for protection you don't need vs. not getting an extended warranty and needing it. There's a lot more in the "I don't need it" camp than salespeople want customers to recognize. Warranties are a boring form of gambling with no prize at the end. If you win, your stuff works for 5 years. If you lose, you bought protection you didn't need, or worse... Extended Warranty Exclusions are important to take note of. You can't protect against the following claims no matter what you buy: Theft. No extended warranty anywhere pays out a claim if it's lost or stolen. Generally, a repair can't fix a loss like that. And if a warranty claim center elects to replace your laptop, they want the original one to come back to them to harvest for parts at the least. (Watch your stuff when out in public. If you don't, someone else will.) Water Damage is usually a deal-breaker. Some might consider it ADH, but most do not. In short, don't use laptops outdoors without adequate protection from rain and spills. (Yeah, talking to you, Poolside DJ Kid.) Any damage you did on purpose. No amount of paying off a company will insure you if you damage the equipment yourself. (Record a video on YouTube smashing your Razer Blade over a handrail? Your ad revenue better be worth it.) You might be thinking "how can they prove it?" and usually, an Aluminum Unibody laptop bent in 90 degrees from a Hydraulic Press is pretty hard to prove as happening from an accident (especially if your job is NOT a construction worker). Insurance claims adjusters are not court officials: innocent until proven guilty doesn't apply when it comes to a payout. So if you have any of the above in mind when thinking about an Extended Warranty, don't expect it to handle those situations. If that talked you out of spending unnecessary money, you're welcome. Accessories. Be sensible. Unless you produce a streaming video/audio show or podcast, you likely don't need a better webcam. The one in the lid should be sufficient. A Headset Mic does wonders for voice chat, but Wireless vs. Wired is still at a premium (a difference of 50-80% depending on the brand.) If you can live with wired, do it. It sounds just as good and you save money. Wireless Keyboards and Mice should only be considered for ergonomics reasons. Don't get them thinking you'll reduce wear on your laptop... it'll happen anyway over the years with dust and debris every second it's open. A case or plastic shell only does so much for aluminum unibody devices (common with MacBook, Ultrabooks, and Microsoft devices... sorry, "VaporMG".) It doesn't matter how much it's MIL-Spec or ran over with a 2-4 ton vehicle, a single drop will damage these devices in ANY case, period. Buy a case or shell to keep them clean, not safe. A laptop sleeve or bag, if it's well made and fits it, CAN save you from a simple fall of 3-5 feet from damaging a device. Put money towards a good bag if protection is what you're after. NO GOOD - AVOID THESE IN COMPUTER SHOPPING Online Pawn Shops. Most Physical Pawn Shops are interested in sales, not specs. Online ones are no different: raw profit. "Pawn Stars" isn't far from the truth, they turn away most used computers that come in. But if they DO accept a laptop, they'll pay the consigner next to nothing and sell it for half of the market value or higher, even if the condition isn't worth the price they're asking. Example: the original owner of a MacBook Air that is worth $500, Pawn shop owner says "I'll give you $80 for it." Desperate person just wants to get rid of it, takes the deal. Pawn shop owner turns it around for $800 as-is, seeing most of them at that age sell for $900 elsewhere. Sold as-is, a person buys it then discovers what only the original owner knows: it won't even turn on. The battery is fine, but the original owner removed the RAM DIMMs to use in another system and didn't replace them. "As-Is, Take it or leave it" is a common policy, as well as preventing buyers from inspecting a product before a sale. Don't shop for gaming laptops at these places. Rent-To-Own/Finance Deals: This is NOT about making a Credit Card purchase, which is at no premium to a seller and you're free to pay off at any time. Financed Sales from a Rent-To-Own or "Hardware as a Service" company are structured loans that depend on finance charges and interest to be profitable to the seller. Ignore the pros and just listen to one thing: depending on your payment arrangement, you're paying 120-200% for the exact same device with no different terms in warranty coverage past 1-2 years. Keep that in mind when considering a deal from your Wireless Provider or Rent-To-Own Business. And consider the damage to your credit and finances if you default on such an agreement. (5-7 years of debt collection calls and harassment isn't worth it for what amounts to a digital toy. I'm speaking from experience, here.) You're not making payments on an "investment", but you're accepting debt for new hardware when you might not have to. If you're unhappy with what you have, you can resell a computer for 50%-70% of what it's worth in 1 year. In 2-3 years, even less than 50%. At the end of a laptop's useable life in 5 years you'd be lucky to see $50-100 for it out of an informed buyer. When financing a computer, you're paying twice as much for a fraction of that resale value. Please consider buying used before financing a new system that will be nowhere near worth what you paid for it out of pocket. CraigsList and Local Sales Apps. I've heard more horror stories than happy shoppers. CraigsList is about as viable for laptop shopping as your hometown newspaper's Classified Ads. It's really not. Also: any 'CraigsList' Inspired Groups on social networks. There's also a growing swath of online apps that do "local sales" like Close5, letitgo, and OfferUp. Garage Sales make a slightly better choice only because most Garage Sales proprietors are willing to let you power it on and take a look before paying for it. (Being nice to your neighbors being a surprising incentive against lying to them. After all, even if the sale is final, they still know where you live.) eBay. It used to be great. The last several items I've bought there have all been damaged or not as advertised, and friends have told me the same. There's a reason folks are running from it. Concerning Computer Hardware, eBay is not advised. Offers to price-match online stores: You'll see this in Brick & Mortar places. Bring in an Ad of a cheaper price on Amazon, NewEgg, Walmart, etc. They can match the price in the store, and you keep the difference plus get it today. Too good to be true, right? In most cases it is. IT IS COMMON PRACTICE to sell a model number specific to a store or outlet, and offers like this are rigidly set to "Same Make/Model Only". This makes price-matching worthless to customers. Here's a sample justification: "Sorry, you can't price match the ASUS ROG G15GBB, because Amazon is selling the ASUS ROG G15GA. Yes, it's the same model essentially. Physically looks EXACTLY the same. But one is sold in Best Buy with different RAM and storage, and the Amazon one is a 'standard' model with less RAM and storage overall, so they're different laptops." You're left with the same problem without the offer in the first place: spend more to get it today, or spend less to get it delivered. This is a common trick, so don't count on price match offers having any weight once it's time to buy. EXTRA CREDIT: WHY NOT A DESKTOP GUIDE? It's far easier to make any standard desktop system play COH than a laptop that doesn't come equipped with the right graphics chipset. Unlike a laptop, you can spend cash to solve this problem after buying it. Take a desktop made in the last 10 years, open the lid (..well, geez, dust it out a little first, would you?) and add a Graphics Card, MAYBE a Power Supply to hook into the new card if it needs one (High End ones do, Mid-Level and Entry-Level may not). Poof! You're done. Exceptions: But the card won't fit in the machine. (It won't work. Either remove the prior card if there is one, or you have a Small Form Factor system also known as an SFF that the card will never fit into. There are several models of graphics cards that might fit one out there, but they're not as powerful at Low Profile height or half-width.) But there's no slot for the card. (It won't work. It's not a standard desktop system with a PCI-Ex16 expansion slot. It happens. There are PCI-Ex8 and PCI-Ex1 cards out there, but they're rare, and very few are past Entry Level power.) But the card needs a power supply upgrade and this one inside has a funny shape. (Congratulations, you bought a Dell. Kidding aside, this might also be a SFF system. So sorry.) But there's no machine, the computer is in the screen itself. (Then it's not a desktop, it's an All-In-One machine, or an AIO. That's essentially a laptop computer baked into a display for home users or folks with desk space at a premium. AIOs have the same issues as a laptop, except there are FAR FEWER All-in-Ones that will play games like City of Heroes out of the box. iMacs are the only safe bet.) The point... if you want a desktop to play the game on, you have a lot more choices and options at the cost of being stationary or semi-stationary in where you can play it. (It costs a little more, but a decent SFF build means you can take a computer and monitor to play wherever you like, and it's only as difficult to move as a game console.) NEW: September 2020 -- If you are interested in Desktops, there's a place for that now. Go here. EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT: GRAPHICS CARD DIFFERENCES (by name, anyway) NVidia: Generally the Hundreds or Thousands Digits indicate product family. (GeForce X000 GTX was the numbering scheme before 2010, with the GeForce 8800 GTX being the high-end. Back then, the 100's digit was the significant one for buyers. Then they switched the letters and numbers around to GeForce GTX X00/X000 just before the 2012 live shutdown to the current scheme. Today's high-end is the GeForce RTX 2080, with the GeForce RTX 2060 as the mid-range, and GeForce GT 1030 still holding up the low-end since 2016.) GeForce GTX 200 - Made in 2010 GeForce GTX 300 - Made in 2011 ... GeForce GTX 900 - Made in 2013 Geforce GTX 1000 - Made in 2014 GeForce RTX 2000 - Made in 2018 GeForce RTX 3000 - Made in 2020 The current generation is GeForce RTX 3000 and GTX 1600 series (all the improvements from 2000, no raytracing... Thanks Hyperstrike for the correction!) AMD: Generally the above "last two-digit" rule still applies (last two digits count for comparing power/speed), but there lies some complexity ahead... Mobility Radeon HD 4000 - Made in 2009 Mobility Radeon HD 500/5000 - Made in 2010 Radeon HD 6000 - Made in 2011 Radeon HD 7000 - Made in 2012 Radeon HD 8000 - Made in 2013 Radeon R5/R7/R9 M200 Series - Made in 2014 (The R# was intended to differentiate quality: An R9 always beat an R5 in performance, for example. The last two digits of the three digit number still differentiate the stronger cards regardless.) Radeon R5/R7/R9 M300 Series - Made in 2015 Radeon RX M400 - Made in 2016 Radeon Vega - Made in 2017 Radeon Navi - Made in 2018 Research, research, research. No consistent naming is present from 2011-2017 when they were scrambling to compete with GeForce and Intel. Generally, they follow the same 'last two' digits comparison of the card quality if you run into an APU or Radeon X000 series model, but since Ryzen, AMD has become far more stable, and on laptops it's easy to recommend AMD Ryzen with Vega/Navi Graphics over ANY of their prior chipsets. They're cheap enough to buy new below $600 and get decent results for the cash. (See Acer Aspire 5 AMD Ryzen 5.) You may notice the slowdown of product families being released both from AMD and NVidia since 2015. This is due to a number of factors, but primarily, the end of the Moore's Law Era of computing. As miniaturization fails with the smaller micron processes getting harder and harder to reach, it's more difficult to get more power out of existing silicone. The same thing is happening to CPUs as well, with Intel's Tick-Tock rhythm being broken after the 14nm process was hit. This is partially good news for PC Builders, the choices are stabilizing in Processors and Video Cards for the time being. The downside of this? There's a reason the RTX 3090 is only shown in a profile shot in most press images. The damn thing takes three peripheral slots up in order to have a significant increase over the prior vanguard device, the RTX 2080. (In case you haven't guessed, the RTX 3090 is probably a non-starter for laptops right off the bat.) EXTRA X3 CREDIT: CHROMEBOOKS. Y U NO LIEK? When I wrote this guide, I took a stand and said no to any Chromebook playing City of Heroes. See a recent post. Now, I'll amend my stance. GOOD: Google Pixelbook, Pixelbook Go, Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14, HP Chromebook X2. (All of these are $600-$1,000.) NO GOOD: Virtually any Chromebook sold before 2019. Non-starter for any ARM based ones. (Qualcomm, NVidia Tegra, Samsung EXYNOS, Rockchip, etc. are all names of ARM-based CPUs.) Also, in the original guide, I wrote this. Well, my Chromebook was facing armageddon. AUE had it's number up last year. So I did exactly that. And my Chromebook has a Homecoming Launcher running in Wine on Ubuntu. You don't even need to go to the drastic route as that anymore: if you have an Intel Chromebook that has been new on the market from 2019 and later, you can install Linux apps including Wine (The Crostini I recommended to go to hell in the prior quote? That's the method. In Chrome OS it's called "Linux Apps (Beta)" on the Settings panel if your device supports it.) Wine begets Homecoming Launcher, and you guessed it... I'm not going to try to make a guide for this method, just point you in a direction if you like to give it a whirl. ArchLinux has a help FAQ for Crostini installs. Although I'm relenting on the "it'll never work" stance, even now I'm not recommending it. Why is that? Though it is technically possible for City of Heroes to work on a Chromebook, it's still a LOT of work over a regular Linux laptop. And the payoff is not so great. Soloing, you can play it, albeit slowly. Raids, it is impossible to participate. And I got to that point by making one change that a lot of users will say "Nope, not worth it." I had to reduce "3D Resolution Scaling" below half. And as said at the beginning, if it can't run City of Heroes well, why bother? If you want to try it anyway, you need the following: The Chromebook must be Intel. There is no ARM client for City of Heroes, and non-Intel devices won't run the City of Heroes client. You need an emulator to operate the client, which may or may not work on your device. An answer for one Chromebook will not apply to other ones, SOMETIMES under the same model name. Some makers like Lenovo or HP sell a device under the same model name with similar specs, but entirely different parts. (You may be asking "But Apple M1 can run it, what the hell?" Well, Apple has hardware support for X86 instructions, as well as a emulation subsystem called Rosetta 2 that isn't present on other ARM devices. Without that in place, you need to find your own answer on software emulation.) If you want to use Crostini or Linux Apps (Beta), the device must support Linux Apps. As a rule, all Chromebooks sold starting in 2019 forward support Linux App use. Before then, you'll need to check a model list as it is all over the place. (Anyone who saw this list in the past: Devices marked as "planned" or "beta" before are now cancelled. The project has moved on to concentrate on new device releases over refurbishing prior models.) ARM/Intel isn't a factor, but the Chromebook must support Hardware Virtualization extensions in the CPU as a default. If you don't care for ChromeOS and intend to replace it, then you can ignore when it's purchased to a fault - the device specifications must be able to run City of Heroes in the first place. The bar is pretty low: 1 GHz, 1GB RAM, 5-10GB Free Space on the HDD/SDD to install the game client on top of the Operating System requirements. (Ubuntu takes about 10-12 GB on a finished install for 20.04.) If the device is 16GB or less, you're going to have problems. This is 100% on your own. Homecoming does not support using a Chromebook to play the game, and anyone seeking help on how to do it will be pointed here instead. EXTRA CREDIT - FINAL FIGHT: WHY ALL THE HATE ON 32-BIT LATELY? It's been in the news a lot in 2020. 32-bit is getting the axe for a myriad of reasons: A big factor: as linked gently above before this list, Intel is dropping 32-bit support. Not like "all of these products are discontinued" but more like a bad habit. Downloads, drivers, and software has been removed from their site concerning any non-64-bit capable processors and all the accessories around that time frame. Kind of hard to get a 32-bit computer to reinstall Windows if the drivers are gone and there's no way to get them back. One reason: Intel has A LOT of vulnerabilities they'll need to shore up concerning the Heartbleed and Spectre reveals in January 2018, (and new ones exploiting similar hardware flaws) and the easiest solution is to tell customers to stop using older hardware that isn't worth the time to patch up anymore. The Domino Effect. When Intel says something, people listen. But when AMD and Intel both say it, the industry follows in lock-step. NVidia and AMD dropped all 32-bit support earlier. Apple recently disallowed 32-bit apps from MacOS and iOS. Even Ubuntu said images of their Linux distributions will stop being pre-made for 32-bit. And it's only going to accelerate. It's less of a problem for ARM as mobile devices have a far shorter lifespan than their desktop counterparts, but tablets and phones on ARM processors are past the scope of this guide. It's easy to shun a 32-bit tablet or phone, because the performance decrease compared to the cost of a brand new replacement motivates folks to just replace the device and move on. The lifecycle of a phone or (non-iPad) tablet is far shorter than that of a laptop. The largest reason: the architecture has been around since 1985. The amount of development work to maintain, update and support systems is getting to be more time consuming IN COMPARISON TO the amount of people still using a 32-bit system today. In addition, removing 32-bit instructions and support from a CPU frees up space for new improvements, which is getting more important as miniaturization slows to a crawl past 7/10nm lithography. Simply put, if you're on a 32-bit Operating System and you have a system that can use a 64-bit Operating System (which is very likely if your PC was bought from 2008 onwards), it might be time to reinstall Windows or Linux and take the plunge. That will buy you a little time. And to be fair, for the record the big absence in the hate list here is Microsoft. At this time, Microsoft is not planning on discontinuing 32-bit Windows support, either as a operating system choice or 32-bit app support. Doing so would be a bigger PR black mark than saying goodbye to Windows 7. If it's in the works, it won't be for a long amount of time... after all, it took them until Windows 10 to drop 16-bit app support. (It's not beyond them, though. Microsoft did end 32-bit support for Windows Server as of 2012 R2's release. And Intel/AMD's stance doesn't help.) If you're on a 32-bit system that can't upgrade anytime soon... you're going to find if a major problem happens, it's finally time to say goodbye to your machine. That's a large reason why I wanted to post this guide in the first place. The adage of "City of Heroes worked on my machine back in 200X, and it'll work on it now!" is going to meet with some new obstacles going forward. Hopefully the above explanation will help explain why the move is happening. At the end of the day, City of Heroes is an online game. It may have been written a decade and a half ago, but the fact that it's constantly changing and being patched means you need a current system to keep playing on it. It DOESN'T need to be the latest and greatest, or most expensive, however... in fact, the most expensive laptops on the market can still struggle with it if they're not specifically Gaming Laptops. ADVICE: 2008 isn't a magic year, but that's when 64-bit processors entered the mainstream in a lasting manner. Put as simply as possible -- Find out how old a used computer is first before considering anything else. Gambler's Fallacy aside, while newer is not always better, used laptops can't be brought up to speed as easily as desktops though upgrades. No matter what it is, how neat it looks, or if it was only used once a week on Sunday by an old lady to play Solitaire on. (The classic used sales line.) If a used computer you're thinking of installing COH on is older than 2008 (past 12 years old by now), and YOU HAVEN'T decided to buy it yet... walk away. This will save you a LOT of time, headaches, and lost hair. Questions? Thoughts? Anything I missed? Do I talk too much? Let me know by replying below! 😄 Happy hunting... Special Thanks to GM Cyclone, GM Korvin, Hyperstrike, Manga, and Slickriptide for contributions to this guide. This guide is considered 'complete' revisions-wise, but corrections are always welcome.