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Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Pi builds, FPGAs devices, clone consoles/flash carts, those open Dingux handhelds that exploded in the past year or so, and Android handhelds/microconsoles are all good examples of what I’m talking about. The primary purpose of many of these is retro gaming and emulation, so being able to compare their pros and cons in one thread would be useful.

Retroid Pocket 2, for instance, has caught my eye. It’s Android based, but with a 480p 4:3 screen and a generally better build quality over most of those Dingux handhelds from what I heard, and apparently the Android build of AM2R works well with it.
 

Paul le Fou

AAAAAAAA
(He)
A coworker just told me that she and her husband got a Retron recently, which is the first I'd heard of it. How many of these things are out there??

On the one hand, I feel like I'd like to have one of these around - but on the other, even with (S)NESflix, and some others on my PC, I never really touch retro games as it is (I barely manage to touch my new games). Maybe I'll see just how many retro carts my girlfriend has in her garage...
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
I tried a 6X and a 9X-S, then a hacked PSP, and finally got my hands on a Anbernic RG350, and it's definitely the best of the lot. It's the only one I tried that managed SNES emulation without weird speed and sound issues. That said, it doesn't support cheat codes and I've had a hard time updating anything on it. I'd be eager to hear about the Retroid Pocket 2 from anyone who's tried it.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
Retroid Pocket 2, for instance, has caught my eye. It’s Android based, but with a 480p 4:3 screen and a generally better build quality over most of those Dingux handhelds from what I heard, and apparently the Android build of AM2R works well with it.
I'm curious about this as well - if you end up getting one, let us know. Apparently it has pretty good N64 emulation, which I'm looking for a good portable solution for.
 

Tiers in Rain

Gaming Replicant!
I just ordered one of these:


Nothing fancy, I'm getting it mainly to explore the weird world of Rom Hacks and Homebrew games like the cool looking Project Blue that came out not too long ago.
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
I can't stop playing stuff on MiSTer. It's become my go-to platform for playing SNES games, and supports just enough Super Game Boy features that I've been playing some of my Game Boy games that way too (typically I use my GBA for that -- and except in specific use cases use my DS for GBA games). It's very nice. Even picked up one of those PDP X360 microswitch controllers to play with, which will surely be a lot of fun for Neo Geo games and will help relieve a lot of stress on my aging USB Saturn pad.
 

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
These are pretty sweet for quick fixes on the go.

If you'd told me in 1984, I'd be able to play Pac-Man on something the size of a business card... Well I would have believed you. I was an optimistic child.
 

Tiers in Rain

Gaming Replicant!
These are pretty sweet for quick fixes on the go.

If you'd told me in 1984, I'd be able to play Pac-Man on something the size of a business card... Well I would have believed you. I was an optimistic child.
Neat! And pretty decently priced too.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
I'm going to repost these from several older threads, to encourage people to review the devices they have for all of us to enjoy:

1. X6 8GB 4.3" 32 Bit Built-In 10000 Game Portable Handheld Video Game Console Player ($30). This is using a PSP housing. The 10,000 games are an utter lie, as it's about 100 roms that they then repeat endlessly, but you can download your own roms onto it, so it doesn't really matter. The biggest problem with this is that the "exit game" button is mapped to Select, so you can't play games where you need the Select key and also all of the other buttons. But then again, that mostly applies to SNES games, and the SNES emulator is really rather terrible.

2. X9S 5.1 inch 8G 128Bit Retro Handheld Game Console ($38). This uses the Vita form-factor and has a dedicated "exit game" button, which solves that problem. It's running the same OS and has most of the same emulators and preloaded roms. I found it perfectly pleasant to play GBA games on, even though it is rather piecemeal about which in-game saves it'll recognize, because the save state system works just fine. There's no support for cheat codes, though. I actually got this to run Symphony of the Night...and that amusingly still ran better than any SNES game I tried.

(There's also an X16 / 7" model that uses the Switch form-factor that shows up a bunch and seems to be in the same series.)

3. 4.3 For PSP Portable Handheld Video 1000 Gaming Console Player Game Built-in 8GB ($14). PSP size, but with a GBA port. This is a piece of crap that uses knockoff GBA carts instead of internal memory, so you're limited to a couple dozen endlessly-repeating roms. If I could get the battery to actually charge, I suspect it would run actual GBA carts too, but that's unclear. [Follow-up: No, it isn't compatible with GBA carts; the cart slot is a different size. And I figured out why the battery won't charge: There is no battery, the slot is empty.]
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
4. A Hacked Playstation Portable as an Emulator Device ($80 used)

The word on Talking Time was that one of the best emulator handheld devices you could get was actually a hacked PSP, so I bought a secondhand hacked PSP 2000 and tested it out. I played through two PS1 games, a GBA game using the TempGBA emulator, and a SNES game using the SNES9X LME emulator.

The PS1 performance was great, which makes sense, as the system was designed to play those games natively. (The only problem was the lack of R2/L2 buttons, which somehow mapped to the analog stick?) The GBA performance was perfectly fine, and had the advantage over the 9X-S of actually maintaining save files and being able to use cheats. The SNES performance was still iffy: Apparently it was running overclocked (which may have contributed to my battery issue, see below), but I still had slowdown issues (particularly with the music) and some weirdness. At one point, the system froze while sleeping and it somehow regressed to an earlier save file when I restarted? (Fortunately, I’d also been keeping save states.) It also had an N64 emulator, which I didn’t bother with, and a NES emulator which was perfectly fine (though I’ve never seen anything modern fail to emulate the NES. I had a cell phone in 2006 that could emulate the NES.)

So yeah, it's decently set up, has all the emulators I want, runs things reasonably well...except it consistently has about an hour of battery life. I figured, oh, the battery is dying, so I'll replace it. The new battery not only has a similar life, the PSP can't seem to make heads or tails of how full it is, jumping all over the place. It claimed to be full (after charging it overnight!) but then blinked out without warning after an hour. The best solution I was offered was to charge the battery to full, then run it to zero, and repeat a few times to “remind” the system what it was doing. Playing only PS1 games (rather than running overclocked emulators) I got about two hours per charge, though the new battery wouldn’t give me the flashing-light warning when it was low. (The battery I bought was smaller than the original; I’m going to guess that a fresh 3600 MaH battery would get me closer to 3 hours, but that’s still not enough to take traveling, especially for a system that can’t charge from USB reliably.) I don’t know if the issue was the system or the hacking job, but this was the biggest problem I had.

So I broke down and bought a RG350 system. And, when I was satisfied by the tradeoffs that offered, I went back to eBay and sold the hacked PSP to somebody else, for the same price I paid.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
5. Anbernic Retro Game 350 ($90)

It actually emulates SNES well! The SNES and GBA emulators save sram properly! The PS1 emulation also runs really well! It gets 4-5 hours of battery life like a proper portable should! I like that this is small and light, compact but with a decent size screen.

The emulators are all different programs, which makes saves and things inconsistent but makes things run better. None of the programs have a "most recent" option, which is irritating. Didn't realize how nice being able to quickly pick things back up is (PSP equivalent is sleep mode). Also, virtually everything has start+select to bring up the emulator menu, which I can't seem to change, which is annoying when L2/R2 is sitting unused. Actually, most of the emulators don't allow you to change key mapping. Every emulator has save state support (though it's more accessible in some than others), a few have fast forward, but none seem to support cheats, which I'm disappointed by.

This is the best I've tried so far, but I suspect there's still better out there.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
GPD XD (~$200 depending on seller)

I used to use this quite a bit while traveling a couple of years ago. It’s an Android based handheld in a 3ds like shell design. I wouldn’t recommend it or the newer plus version anymore for a few reasons:

  1. The face buttons were mushy, especially the dpad, which for a retro gaming device is a big issue.
  2. The built in emulators aren’t particularly good, as they have input lag and weird button configurations if I recall. You can install your own with Google play pretty easily, but one of the selling points of this was a custom UI that would lad your roms directly, which was hard wired to those bad emulators.
  3. Outdated Android version/security flaws inherent in that.
  4. The price compared to other options. These days if you want a full Android device that can also play games, you can probably find an actually Android phone with better specs and a Razer Kishi together for roughly the same price, and other retro game devices are much cheaper.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
PocketGo v2 - ostensibly improved over the first one Tiers in Rain ordered above (I guess the first one had a screen tearing problem?), this was great value imo at $60 USD. It's OpenDingux, which takes some getting used to if you've never used it before, but once you have it up and running it works great. I've heard some have had issues with the d-pad, but mine feels really good. You have to manually update/install the GBA emulator to get fullscreen, but GBA runs very well either way. Plays pretty much anything from the 90s besides N64 and Saturn (there's probably some obscure hardware I haven't tested, but you get the idea). PS1 plays great, though despite there being four shoulder buttons, for some reason R2 and L2 aren't mappable/don't work. Not much slowdown on SNES which apparently can be a problem sometimes, but the only game I could detect that wasn't running perfect was Yoshi's Island, which still played pretty well, just had some weird artifacts around the screen edge and was maybe a touch too slow.

Still, for $60, I recommend it.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
I've gotta second the MiSTer here, I think it's probably the most fun I've had with games this year. Putting one together requires a modest time investment, but the payoff is incredible: dozens of retro consoles, computers and arcade games, all generally emulated to near-perfect quality. What's really fun is that new cores comes out every few weeks, so you're constantly getting new things to try. The DE-10 board that powers the MiSTer is strong enough to handle everything up to around the 32-bit generation of consoles, and currently the entire spectrum of 16-bit consoles is available, generally with their CD add-ons when applicable. Work is being done on the PlayStation, and we might even see stuff like the Jaguar or 3DO (??) if coders are motivated enough to put in the hours. But since the majority of the big-name consoles are already in good shape, core development seems to be shifting toward arcade titles, and the last few months have seen a ton of activity on that front. The biggest release so far for me has been Jotego's CPS1 core, which brought stuff like Final Fight and Street Fighter II to the system, but it looks like CPS2 will probably be ready before the end of the year. I can't recommend this system highly enough, it's really fun to see the constant updates that are happening - and playing the games is pretty fun, too!

Of course, the other big player in the FPGA space is Analogue and I certainly can't knock the quality of their products (although the prices can be another matter). I've been using an 8bitDo Bluetooth Super Famicom-style controller with mine, which has been nice, but recently I upgraded to the new 2.4GHz version and it's even better. I was playing some kaizo SMW hacks last night and the whole thing felt perfectly responsive, which is impressive for playing on an HDTV with a wireless controller! I got the Super Nt before I built my MiSTer and there's an argument to be made that I really don't need both, but since the Super Nintendo is my favorite console of all time I can't say I really regret having it. I have a pretty large cartridge collection for the SNES and the Super Nt lets me rip my original carts, which I love. I actually made a bunch of SMW ROMhacks using my own, legal ROM of the game, so take that, Nintendo lawyers!
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
The mister is relatively expensive but compares quite favorably even with some expansions (including the largest SDRAM upgrade) against a suitable SNES flash card, and can replicate many other systems beyond it.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
It's not that bad. The wiki is pretty good and there's a bunch of us who have one who can help you do it.
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
Also the retro driven updater suite means you don't have to do much of anything to update the cores
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
So, I had complained about the RG350 not supporting cheats. I need to update that assessment!

I found this guide, which was critically helpful. The fact that my RG350 won't connect to my PC (I need to remove the SD card and plug it into my PC in order to maneuver files) made things a bit more complicated; I don't know if that's a common problem or specific to my device. But I was able to install the GPSP GBA emulator, then copy a number of .cht files onto the SD card, then use the internal file utility to move them to the correct directories so that GPSP and PSX4ALL would associate them with the right games. But it worked! (Also, I had been dumb and hadn't realized that one of the two versions of Gambatte I had installed was the newer one that natively supports cheat codes.) I'm not going to recommend GPSP for general gaming purposes because it handles scaling badly, so the games don't look nearly as good as ReGBA, but I was happy to be able to add the option!
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Analogue just announced a new system that plays TG-16 games, along with basically all related systems (TG-CD, Supergrafx, and so on and so forth). This isn't of much use to me because I don't own a single TG game, but it's a nice-looking console and it's notably the first Analogue product to feature a CD drive. It also has Bluetooth built-in, which is a nice quality of life upgrade (even if I prefer 2.4GHz controllers). But maybe the coolest part is that there will be a HuCard adapter available for those lucky souls who managed to snag a Pocket preorder. Anyway, I'm curious to see what they come up with next! Even though it all costs too much money and I probably won't buy it.

Really love my Super Nt but boy howdy did that thing end up costing an arm and a leg to ship to Canada.
 

Klatrymadon

Twilight Rascal
(he/him)
I've replaced an ailing Duo R with a CoreGrafx II (with the aim of saving up for the SSDS3), so I might be kicking myself if this turns out to be good. :p
 
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