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.