Best Handheld System For Retro Game Emulation?
August 22, 2017 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to get a handheld system for retro video game emulation and am wondering if anyone has any advice on what to get.

I'd like a small, portable handheld system to use on the subway, waiting in line, etc., so size and portability are key. I'm looking to emulate at least older game systems (NES/SNES/GB/maybe GBA), the original PlayStation, and MAME. I'd also like to be able to emulate Saturn or Dreamcast games if possible.

After doing some research I've narrowed it down to the PSP* or the GPD XD. The GPD XD is newer and seems superior in almost every spec, but it costs at least twice as much as what I'm seeing PSP* models for. The various PSP models are older and less powerful, but from what I've read they emulate at least up the Playstation just fine, and have a robust community around them. And, of course, are relatively cheap. I also looked at the Nvidia Shield Portable which has a lot of praise as a handheld emulation device, but it seems kind of bulky to carry around despite being called "Portable".

If the PSP is the better option, which model? The Go has 16GB of built-in storage but the screen is pretty small. Would the PSP 3000 model be better?

Finally, any thoughts on the PSP Vita as an option? It's more powerful than the PSP models but from what I've read you have to reinstall the HENkaku custom firmware every time you power off. Though I don't think I'd be fully powering off the system much, that does sound annoying.

Thanks for any advice or information anyone has!
posted by Sangermaine to Technology (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Shield is portable in the same way the Switch is portable - you can take it away with you, but mostly you're playing with it elsewhere at home, not a device you can forget in your bag for a quick game anytime.
PSOne runs almost natively on the system (I even had some fun making custom menu images), NES, SNES and Mega Drive (a bit iffy in some games, but this was back in 2013) on my 3000 model PSP. It has no storage, but a 8GB Memory Stick Duo carried most of what I'd play and it's not that expensive now.
Saturn and Dreamcast are unlikely: the first is a tough nut to crack (last I've checked, most development happened on the STV side of things), the second is too heavy for emulation. MAME, I recall simpler games ran well.

So, get a PSP 3000, a 8gb MSDuo and a screen film or carry case. It's easy to mod, it has (or had) an active community and cheap enough.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2017

I use a PSP 2000 and it works pretty well. There is no version of RetroArch for it though so it means you have to have a selection of emulators, all with different user interfaces and functionality. There is no launcher either, so no pretty artwork and descriptions of the games.

It plays all the platforms you list, but I've never tried MAME so cannot comment on that.

Finally don't buy a MS Pro Duo card, pick up a micro SD converter instead and use a micro SD card. In the UK the 32GB version of the former is £49, the latter is £12 and the converter was £4.
posted by mr_silver at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2017

There is no version of RetroArch for it though

Ignore me, turns out there is a version of RetroArch for the PSP. No prizes for guessing what I'm going to be trying tonight!
posted by mr_silver at 10:51 AM on August 22, 2017

Not sure if you'll come back to this post but, if you do, I tried RetroArch on my PSP and it wasn't very good.

The UI is the old (non-PS like) version, I couldn't get cores to be saved offline (so it insisted on downloading them each time I wanted to flip between them), there was a seriously limited number of cores available, it couldn't see any of my games despite the paths being configured, there were none of the usual options that I would have expected from RetroArch (such as shaders and storing of artwork) and several menus/options just locked the PSP up completely and necessitated holding the power button to force a power-down.

Thankfully I had created an image of my microSD before I wiped it, so I've reverted to that and will continue to use individual emulators for each of the systems.
posted by mr_silver at 4:12 AM on September 8, 2017

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