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Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
It's never going to be fantastic, but the SF2000 has potential, depending on the amount of support it receives from homebrew developers. And we've already seen at least a little, so that's encouraging.
I'm really entertained that the homebrew community has hooked into this $20 thing (and that it's made a splash at all--it doesn't sound that different from 90% of PowKiddy's low-end output). I feel like the Anbernic RG353PS is the "good" version of that form-factor...it's just five times the price.
 

ArugulaZ

Fearful asymmetry
Because nobody reads this stuff unless I promote it...


A more full-bodied review of the Data Frog SF 2000. It takes some babying to get this thing to the point where it's comfortable to play (pro tip: change the key mapping with a web tool so you don't have to press R to jump, preserving your sanity), but once you get it to that point, it's actually not bad. It's a twenty dollar handheld that plays Alien vs. Predator and Darkstalkers! Like, pretty well! If you handed this to me when I was twenty four, I would have been so deliriously happy I'd have bounced around the room on my head like Scrooge McDuck in that episode of DuckTales where a sea monster eats his ice cream.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
A more full-bodied review of the Data Frog SF 2000. It takes some babying to get this thing to the point where it's comfortable to play (pro tip: change the key mapping with a web tool so you don't have to press R to jump, preserving your sanity), but once you get it to that point, it's actually not bad. It's a twenty dollar handheld that plays Alien vs. Predator and Darkstalkers! Like, pretty well! If you handed this to me when I was twenty four, I would have been so deliriously happy I'd have bounced around the room on my head like Scrooge McDuck in that episode of DuckTales where a sea monster eats his ice cream.
Okay, now I'm going to ask you to keep an eye on the homebrew scene, because I'm very curious where that gets this. I wonder if they can get it up to snuff with the PowKiddy Q90/V90, which are smaller but run $30-$35 and were my previous winner for "cheapest that's still good for many things."
 

ArugulaZ

Fearful asymmetry
Have any suggestions for sites? I've been reading Reddit for this information but news is scarce. GBAtemp doesn't even seem to know of its existence, or care.

I've heard the FC3000 (looks like a mutant Game Boy Micro) is slightly more expensive than the Data Frog but offers slightly better performance/more systems. No analog thumbstick, though.
 
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Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Have any suggestions for sites? I've been reading Reddit for this information but news is scarce. GBAtemp doesn't even seem to know of its existence, or care.

I've heard the FC3000 (looks like a mutant Game Boy Micro) is slightly more expensive than the Data Frog but offers slightly better performance/more systems. No analog thumbstick, though.
Honestly, I suspect that if somebody random puts up new firmware or something, the first place it'll get widely noted is on Youtube. Blog posts trickle in, but everybody's in a rush to make a video when something new hits.
 

muteKi

Geno Cidecity
they got saving working for 32X on mister a couple weeks ago so it's now the ideal way to play 32x games on just about any hardware except the rather cumbersome original circuitry.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Speaking of the original circuitry, if anyone has issues with their 32X, pop it open and check the ribbon cables. Those pop loose pretty easily, it seems. I had one that didn't work at all and one that was really flaky, but reseating them did the trick.

(And yes, cumbersome is the right word.)
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Help me, an Amazon seller is selling new Surface Duos at clearance prices (relatively speaking, still like $300), and I'm tempted to buy one and a telescoping controller to make into HD OLED DS/3DS emulation machine.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Help me, an Amazon seller is selling new Surface Duos at clearance prices (relatively speaking, still like $300), and I'm tempted to buy one and a telescoping controller to make into HD OLED DS/3DS emulation machine.
...You expect us to talk you out of this? I mean, if it works, I want one too.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Well there were only 5 left, and my wife and kids are leaving the country to visit her parents for a month, so I can use a project...
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Looking at skins for the duo, since it and the controller I picked out don't match colorwise:

https://a.co/d/9nsmbdu SNES themed, but still doesn't match the controller.

https://a.co/d/4sDnxBY NES themed and closer to the controller, but meant for the Duo 2, which has a camera block on the back. I mean I can just place it so the controller hides the camera cutout, maybe...

https://a.co/d/4lQ2eiK Just a plain old black one.

https://a.co/d/0N21YmH Wood grain

Thoughts?
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Got the main two pieces of Franken-DS a lot earlier than expected, so working on setting it up now.
 

ArugulaZ

Fearful asymmetry
Beowulf, you got any thoughts about the recent handheld game sales advertised on SlickDeals? They've got the Miyoo Mini Plus and the Anbernic 35xx for reasonable prices ($60 for one, $70 for other). Is it the right time to bite on a deal? Should I hold off for something more powerful? Dreamcast would admittedly be nice, but I can live without it as long as it supports older systems the Data Frog doesn't.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Beowulf, you got any thoughts about the recent handheld game sales advertised on SlickDeals? They've got the Miyoo Mini Plus and the Anbernic 35xx for reasonable prices ($60 for one, $70 for other). Is it the right time to bite on a deal? Should I hold off for something more powerful? Dreamcast would admittedly be nice, but I can live without it as long as it supports older systems the Data Frog doesn't.
Well, those prices are right in line with what you'd already be paying on AliExpress, and I think they're pretty reasonable for what you get. Is Dreamcast the only thing above PS1 you care about? Do things like N64, DS or PSP matter to you? And do you already have a rom collection, or is getting a system that's loaded-up important to you?
 

ArugulaZ

Fearful asymmetry
Oh, I got ROMs. I've had ROMs since the 1990s, and I'll likely have ROMs for the foreseeable future, at least until Internet Archive shuts down. Pre-installed ROMs are great and everything, especially when special formatting is necessary to make them work with the handheld, but I would likely just swap out the SD card with a better one anyway. The default SD cards are supposed to be crap, which is why one of the first things I did when I bought the Data Frog is copy all the data to a Samsung.

Nintendo 64 is not a high priority, nor is the Nintendo DS. PSP would be nice to have, but I do have a buttload of PSPs and Vitae, so it's not totally necessary. In fact, I would probably be happy with the PSP for emulation if it was a bit peppier. It has a HUGE variety of emulators, with new ones coming out as recently as 2019 (!!!). You'd think the Vita would be just as good for emulation, but it... kind of isn't? It's more powerful hardware, but also DIFFERENT hardware, so while it can emulate the PSP emulations of other game systems, emulators designed specifically for the Vita tend to suck ass. Maybe while you guys are porting Android games like Shadowgun to this thing, maybe you could port a few Android emulators, because they'd likely be way better than what the Vita currently has. You get toaster-riffic performance out of pFBA... it's just shameful. And MAME/FBA is pretty lousy across the board on the PSP... it's not powerful enough to handle an emulator that supports thousands of disparate machines, and it really shows in the performance.
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Oh, I got ROMs. I've had ROMs since the 1990s, and I'll likely have ROMs for the foreseeable future, at least until Internet Archive shuts down. Pre-installed ROMs are great and everything, especially when special formatting is necessary to make them work with the handheld, but I would likely just swap out the SD card with a better one anyway. The default SD cards are supposed to be crap, which is why one of the first things I did when I bought the Data Frog is copy all the data to a Samsung.
Honestly, you're savvy enough that I'm thinking you might be better off saving up for a Retroid Pocket. That takes a lot more work to set up (it's running Android and doesn't come with any preinstalled games), but it's got the juice to do pretty much anything you'll want and it has the entire Android development community effectively behind it. Both the RG35XX and the Miyoo Mini+ are great out of the box, but neither is particularly easy to upgrade (you're pretty much beholden to OnionOS/GarlicOS, and they're both just on top of RetroArch). Of the two, the Miyoo Mini+ is the better device from a technical standpoint, but it's also less comfortable to adult hands.
 

Kazin

debased Chaotix enjoyer
(he/him)
Whoa, that's rad. Looking forward to your write up to see how difficult setup was!
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Franken DS (part one: components)

Disclaimer: I didn't come up with this wholely on my own. See here for where I got the idea and the controller choice:


This video kind of evangelizes the build, so I'm going to try and give more realistic impressions in these posts in case anyone wants to go eBay hunting after this post.

So the three main pieces are:
  1. Surface Duo 1 256GB: This weird attempt at a Microsoft flagship phone/tablet/foldable originally went for around $1400, but I found what was possibly the last retailer with still new stock of these selling them at a clearance price of around $300 (and they're sold out now last I checked). It's got a Snapdragon 855, which is good at the price point, as it puts it in the same ballpark as similarly priced retro handhelds like the AYN Odin. On the downside it has no expandable storage, but I only had a 128GB card in my modded 3DS XL, so 256GB should be plenty for a retro handheld. The big appeal here is the two big, 4:3 OLED panels this phone uses. They're pretty unique to this line of devices.
  2. The RIG Nacon MG-X is the controller. It was about $10 off I think when I bought it around $70. It's a Bluetooth telescoping controller. Now my previous experience with telescoping controllers is they're usually poor quality and make the joycon connection feel good by comparison. This is actually a good feeling controller, and has a good grip on the Surface thanks to respective dimensions lining up just right for this. There is a visible gap between the back of the Surface and the controller, but it's honestly more cosmetically unappealing more than anything, and you have to look at it from the right angle to notice it anyway. The analog shoulder triggers were REALLY STIFF when I first tried them, but they seemed to have broken in now that I've used them some. The main drawback is it isn't a wired connection to the Surface, so they have there own separate batteries that need charged, gotta remember to turn them on and off, etc.
  3. Another advantage of the Surface Duo is it's compatible with Surface pen, which are a lot better a match for how the (3)DSes pressure based touch screen/stylus combination feel than those cheapo conductive rubber styluses. Official Surface pens are hella expensive though, so I went with an off brand model: The Renaisser Raphael 520C. It doesn't have the extra function buttons the official Surface pens do, but it was only $30, and has a built in rechargeable battery over needing to find those super skinny AAAA batteries. It also clings onto the Surface with a magnet. I wouldn't really on it keeping in place while traveling, but it gets the job done while carrying it around the house.
Beowolf and I were discussing the skin choice earlier in the thread. Like I said there is hole in for the Duo 2's camera bump, but you don't see that with the controller covering it.

Software wise this runs a Microsoft modded Android build. I still have access to Google Play, but some of services and basic apps have been replaced with Microsoft's, and there some minor UI changes in line with that and it being a dual screen device. One big annoyance with this is Microsoft REALLY wanted people to use OneDrive for file transferring, and the usb-c drivers for file transferring are kind of incomplete as a result and don't work with everything. I ended up using a FTP server built into the file explorer app I normally use and Filezilla on my computers end to move files over.

That's the build details. In the next post I'll give gaming/emulation impressions.
 
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Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Franken DS (part two: emulation)

One key factor here is that the Surface can be easily setup to treat the screens as separate or as one big screen with a couple of screen swaps. You can also set apps to automatically use both screens, but they'll only do that if both screens aren't currently in use, so booting a game from a launcher will still require manual setup often.
  • DS: This is the star attraction here. I'm using Drastic for the most part, and configuring the two screens is relatively easy with it. Once setup it is just chef's kiss. DS content fits the two big OLED screens perfectly, and there is plenty of horse power to both run pretty much everything I've thrown at it with upscaling the 3D rendering to boot. This is significantly better than trying to play DS on a modded 3DS XL and the weird resolution scaling issues there.
  • The exception for DS is DSiware, which is AN ORDEAL to get running, let me tell you. Drastic just flat out doesn't as far as I know, so I had to rely on the other major Android DS emulator, MelonDS, which is clunkier to say the least. It requires 4 separate BIOS files for the DSi in order to emulate the DSi menu and be able to install the DSiware titles on it. It also require 3 other BIOS file from just the regular DS because MelonDS is buggy as far as I can tell and needs both sets before it will let you proceed to use one or the other. The 3 DS bios files are named the same as 3 of the DSi bios files, but they are different and can't be the same copies so you'll need two separate directories for MelonDS to keep it straight. Finding an appropriate combination of all 7 of Bios files online was a task in of itself. If Nintendo wants to curb emulation in the future, they should just make the Switch 2 need 16+ BIOS files to emulate and premptively flood Internet Archive with bad copies of them, because even 7 was almost enough to make me give up. Eventually I got it working though. Even then installing DSiware is tricky. I got the essentials installed: Shantae 2, X-Scape, Four Swords, the two Mighty games, and the two Art Style games I remember liking, but anything else and the whole DSi menu crashes. I'm not sure if there is a hard limit on total app storage space the DSi bios will allow, or if my copies are just bad. Like I said MelonDS is clunky.
  • 3DS: For 3DS I'm using Citra MMJ, which is fork of Citra that is supposed to be more optimized even if it lacks some of the main builds features. Compared to DSiware though it's a fairly easy to setup. Unfortunately, 3DS emulation isn't quite as amazing as with the DS. For starters there is the most obvious issue: The 3DS'es top screen was 16:9, and well... 3D. With the resulting letter boxing needed the Surface's top screen isn't fully utilized, and the resulting image is only slightly bigger than what you get with a 3DS XL. Thankfully with the OLED screen the letterboxing blends in with bezels, so you don't really notice it. The bottom screen fits better, but I don't like it being that much larger than the top screen, as on the 3DS the bottom screen is almost always the secondary content, so I set on mine device to be a little bit smaller to balance out the overall image. In terms of performance from my experience so far most games (around 75% I'd guess) run pefectly fine (upscaled even) or with a teensy bit of shader stuttering here and there. Another 15% runs, but it's not the best. Planet Robobot for example runs fine once it's done caching shaders, but there are like over a 1000 shaders, so it's never fully done caching shaders while you're playing through it. Then the remaining 10% don't run at all due to a combination of not enough horse power (see Kid Icarus Uprising once you get past the first flight section), or just the emulation still not being complete (VVVVVV and Crimson Shroud both just outright crashed on me). Long story short I wouldn't go into this thinking it will totally replace your 3DS, but a good chunk of the library is perfectly cromulent on here.
  • 8-bit/16-bit systems: While not what you'd primarily think of as a good fit for this dual screen device, the 4:3 panels work well here. Based on relative screen sizes, playing old retro games on this is a comparable experience to playing them on a Switch OLED. You can take Surface out of the controller, fold the second screen all the way back, and put it back in the controller if you want it completely out of the way, but you can still fold the top screen back into tent mode with the controller on, which is what I've been doing. It will go black after a couple of seconds in that mode, it's still stays out of the way of my hands, and I can prop it on my lap that way if I need my hands free for a minute.
  • 32-bit/64-bit/128-bit. These systems are generally 4:3 too, but I haven't fully played with these yet. What little of PS1 and Dreamcast I've played run good at least. N64 and Saturn are notoriously trickier to emulate, and PS2 and Gamecube haven't been top priorities of mine given their relatively larger file sizes. I imagine the latter two would have similar performance issues to 3DS in any case due to relatively comparable horse power.
  • Tate Mode still need to play around with vertically aligned arcade games too. I will say the Dreamcast version of Ikuraga is playable in Tate mode across both screens.
 
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Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
One other advantage over a regular 3/DS is I can have multiple copies of the same game just named different with different save files. In particular Warioware DIY and these 26 save files encompassing all the different theme event showcase microgames I found online.

That's a lot Warioware!
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
Thanks for the walkthrough, @Becksworth! (I just got back home from vacation and have been catching up on posts.)

Random questions that come to mind: What's the battery life, in terms of playtime? How big/heavy does the final thing end up, and do you think any standard carrying cases (like a Switch case?) would fit it for travel? How's the touchscreen responsiveness for heavily touch-based games (like WarioWare Touched, for instane)? Does Citra support cheats?
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
So far I've been playing DS mostly and haven't delve into extended playthroughs with other emulators yet, but I'd estimate around 5-6 hours playing DS games. I'm guessing 3DS is probably closer to 3-4 based on that.

Weight isn't significantly different from a Switch, at least as far as I can tell from just holding them. No obvious weight difference like with the Steamdeck at least. While not as wide it is thicker than a Switch, so I'm not sure how any Switch travel cases would handle it.

Touch responsiveness for the Duo's UI can be finicky at times, but responsiveness within Drastic and Citra seem perfectly fine if that makes sense. I assume the OS touch screen fussiness is software related, not hardware.

I think Citra and Drastic supports cheats? I haven't tried them. Drastic supports Lua scripts, so you can do things like hot wire analog stick support for Super Mario 64 DS, which is what I've been playing mostly so far.
 
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