Emulationatron

Emulation has been something I’ve been interested in for years… getting super excited about trying to run Sega Megadrive games on a 7200/90 PowerMac when I first learned about emulation. This was all quickly killed by the frustration of seeing the game stutter and jerk about like about like a bad strobe attack.

It took many years for things to improve, but even then I felt cheated, using a £1,200 laptop to play a 20 year old game that I had in the attic that would run without the problems… but with recent handhelds, thankfully, there’s been a better way.

I have a PSP with hacked firmware so I don’t need to carry about 6-7 UMDs with me when travelling to Spain, and have tried the Megadrive emulator, PicoDrive on that. Works ok, but still stutters and jumps at times.

I tried a GamePark GP2X. Getting better, open source community was pretty good, lots of emulators, ran on two standard AA batteries, was about the same size as a PSP in overall dimensions, looked and felt a bit cheap to be honest. Also only used a 2GB SD card, so it got cramped on there quick.

The GP2X was second in a series of small, portable, open source software powered PMPs, or Personal Media Player (I think), which has originated in the East in places like China and Korea. Following the GP2X was the Wiz and Dingoo, aiming to improve on the hardware and offering more options for media consumption.

After reading a lot of reviews, forums and watching of YouTube videos, I went for a Dingoo. As standard, it comes with 4GB built in memory, and a microSD slot, of which I’ve got a 2GB card in currently. It packs a 2.8″ screen, FM Radio, headphone socket, video out, standard button set up of 4 directions and 4 buttons, plus start/select and shoulder buttons, so it’s gagging for some SNES action.

The form factor is great, a nice small slab of plastic. Battery life is amazing, recharged by USB, and the unit doesn’t feel too cheap, they haven’t tried to be clever with the design. Flat face, available in black or white. Someone’s learning…

So onto the emulation. The standard pre-loaded emulators do a good job. Neo Geo, Megadrive, SNES and more are all available out of the box, you just need to add your own, legally owned, ROMs to via USB and you’re away. However, there’s been an amazing push by the open source hacking community to open the Dingoo up even further. This has lead to a whole Unix based OS, Dingux, that means a *lot* of emulators can be ported instantly. This is brilliant. For example, PicoDrive runs much faster, and doesn’t suffer from the same graphic tearing that the included Megadrive emulator does.

Yes, the Dingoo runs plenty of other emulators well, and I’ve played some of the JAMMA and Neo Geo games I used to own via MAME, but for me, I’m only really interested in Megadrive emulation at this moment, as that’s my favourite retro system, and the Dingoo seems made for it. Certainly saves me trekking to the loft and digging out the big plastic boxes containing all my old Megadrive games!

Looks like I have to make room for a permanent addition to the travel entourage!