If you just downloaded ONYX or purchased a PC interface for ONYX, you might be wondering “How Powerful of a PC do I need?”
This, and many other hardware questions are answered here! As of ONYX Version 4.8, the recommended PC specs from Obsidian are listed at this link: https://support.obsidiancontrol.com/Content/License_Information/PC_requirements.htm
What Does This Mean? What PC Do I Really Need to Run ONYX?
The first thing we see if that ONYX highly recommends using a touchscreen. We agree! In fact, if you are short on budget, we’d recommend buying a big touchscreen vs. a physical surface, it’s that important.
When buying a touchscreen, there are (2) things to avoid.
The first, is if you are buying a touchscreen to use with an ONYX console (non-PC), it can’t be an ELO brand touchscreen.
The second thing to avoid is any optical touchscreen. These are generally the cheapest touchscreens, and they use small optical sensors in the corners of the screens to sense the finger presses. This means that bugs, dirt, dust, flying cheeseballs and any other objects WILL trigger the touchscreen and mess up your programming or play cues you didn’t intend to play!
Top Recommendations: The best ones we’ve used and seen are the Dell Touchscreens. The Planar brand are also popular, including the PCT2235. My PCT2235 has been in use on my desk for about 4 years at the time of this writing and has developed a power supply issue, which upon searching, I’ve found is prevalent in Planars. So take that or leave it, these are often quite cheap, and do perform very well.
Recently, we’ve heard of people finding success with the Acer UT222Q, which looks like it’s very “inspired by” the Planar model above.
Many laptops also have excellent touchscreens built in, we’d recommend avoiding the bottom-of-the-line models as they often have poor brightness and bad off-axis visibility.
The current versions of ONYX are 100% stable and built to run on Windows 11. Windows 10 is also acceptable, and may be the highest version you can run on some hardware.
Laptop or Desktop?
ONYX doesn’t care if you use a laptop vs a desktop. Each have their advantages. Laptops are quick and easy to setup, but desktops can offer higher specs at a lower cost, and offer few disadvantages when using an external touchscreen.
If you DO use a desktop, I would invest in a pure sine save UPS to keep power flowing in case of a power blip or loss of power to FOH.
While a desktop has a battery to stay on during a power outage, a desktop is going to take a few minutes to reboot, log in, and launch ONYX/load your show, and then re-launch your cues to get you back to where you were….you don’t want the whole audience looking your way while the stage is dark for 3 minutes in the middle of an event!
All-in-one (AIO) desktops can offer large touchscreens and a PC all within the frame of a monitor. These can be a good deal, but may or may not be upgradeable later, similar to laptops.
Processor, Hard Drive, GPU, RAM, SSD, Space, and Network Adapter
The rest of the specs for an ONYX system are pretty straightforward. I appreciate how they mention different processor levels for each level of software – the amount of DMX you’re actually processing and sending out has a pretty significant affect on how much power you need! Note that AMD Ryzen processors do run ONYX well, and are not expressly prohibited in the specs. Myself and others have used Ryzen with ONYX extensively and found that it works just fine.
As you can see from the specs, you can get by on a pretty old processor, and if you’re running ONYX and no other software, it’ll run very smoothly. If you do plan to run other pieces of software alongside ONYX, be sure to test your hardware to ensure everything is smooth.
While a dedicated GPU is mentioned, it’s by no means required, in fact, the consoles use Intel Graphics.
The only other “gotcha” is that the network port MUST be gigabit for X-Net and remote protocols (including OSC). A lot of entry-level PC’s may not have this, so watch your specs. Worst case, if your PC has a USB 3.0 port, it’s simple to get a gigabit USB 3.0 to ethernet adapter.
Can you run a PC below these specs and get ONYX running smoothly? Maybe, but it’s not wise, especially when it comes to upgrading to future ONYX versions.
Recommended PC’s for ONYX
While for years we simply said “Just buy a PC that meets the minimum requirements”, we get the question a lot, so we’re going to list some PC’s we’ve found in a couple of price points that meet the ONYX specs. If you’re looking for a PC to buy, these just might be a great fit!
The ONYX Essential tier is any ONYX system running 8 universes of DMX or less.
All In One PC: The HP DP1250
Laptop: HP i3 X360 Laptop
Desktop Tower: HP M01-F1057C (Many options, just make sure to pick one with an SSD)
The ONYX Premier tier is any ONYX system running 9-64 universes of DMX.
All in One PC: Lenovo Ideacentre i5
Laptop: HP Pavilion X360 i5
Desktop Tower: Dell Inspiron 3190
The ONYX Elite tier is any ONYX system running more than 64 Universes of DMX
All in One PC: HP All-In-One i7
Laptop: HP Envy 17T
Desktop Tower: Dell XPS 8940