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Turn your cheap Android box into an emulation machine.


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My £35 HDMI Android box with 4GB of RAM has made a great emulation machine with a wired controller.  

 

Bluetooth will probably work on other boxes - but my box has the Bluetooth disabled. 

 

The one I have runs all the 16 bit consoles, the MAME 2003 ROM set and the GBA perfectly. The same latency/lag as the Wii and Wii U. It struggles with the snazzy CRT filters but the ones labelled FAST run just fine. 

 

It's well worth digging out any unused Kodi boxes and the like you may have collecting dust in a drawer and giving it a go. Being Android, having Chrome and torrent clients installed removes a lot of the steps in the chain of getting content onto a box connected to the TV. 

 

Retroarch downloads the box covers automatically when you add a game to a playlist when using the XMB style menu. And by adding only the games I've owned or really played on the past I've created a lovely, easily accessible, little virtual shelf of games I've owned or been really tickled by in the arcades. 

 

It's made a great little stop gap to play around with until then Pi4 retro scene matures. 

 

My Wii and Wii U can now be retired. (well not the Wii U - BOTW Hyrule exists in there)

 

The only disappointment I've had so far is not being able to emulate realtime loading on the Spectrum emulator. I need my fix of the  blue and yellow loading bars. It's been a while. 

 

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4 hours ago, Rex Grossman said:

What’s the benefit of this over a Pi box?

 

You have access to all the Google play Android apps at a touch of the home button on the remote. Things like Spotify, Netflix, YouTube and emulation all through the one HDMI connection. 

 

It's easy to setup once you learn to navigate Retroarch. And once you've created a playlist for each machine you can enable Kiosk mode in Retroarch that hides all the settings away which makes it family friendly. 

 

It's like an Nvidia Shield but not as beastly - I'm going to test some N64 and PS1 staples this evening to see how they run. 

 

It's not going to beat a fully stocked 256GB ready made RetroPi image. But it's very convenient and a good use of something that someone couldn't keep Kodi updated on their cheap 'kodi box'.

 

And your mileage may vary regarding performance as there are a lot of different boxes out there. 

 

But my Wonderboy responsiveness and smooth scrolling check, that I've used to test anything that I've installed MAME on since 1997, passes with flying colours. (And the first level in Mario World where you smash the line of Koopa Troopers with a shell passes as well)

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Just bought a T95 Max Plus after watching ETA Prime set his up on YouTube. Made sure I read some of the comments before diving in, as you can be sure people will uncover some issues that he might not have touched on. And sure enough it seems they have. Some WiFi problems being reported and the box needing to be reset on first boot with the SD card. One or two other small things to keep an eye on. I have Ethernet available though if I need it.

 

It's a bit of a gamble but for £37 on Amazon I'm up for a project. I like the idea of EmuElec very much and would prefer to run that than the default Android, so hopefully I'll get it going. I had one of these boxes a couple of years ago and tried to re-flash it with an OS off XDA developers, but it ended in disaster and I bricked the device. The software they recommend to flash the device isn't very good and the procedure was awful. I swore I wouldn't bother with "Android" ever again for emulation. Lol. Still, this looks much better.

 

I'll be sure and post back with lols. It comes on Wednesday.

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Well, rather neatly the box has arrived today instead of Wednesday. Cool, because I have a bit of free time to spare.

 

Straight away - the default OS installed seems next to useless to me. I tried to sideload a few apps using the AppInstaller on the main page as I don't wish to sign into the Play Store, and none of them worked, even after a reboot. Correction - Retroarch started but I couldn't get my controller to work. So, onwards to the main attractions.

 

EmuELEC seems absolutely brilliant - so far. I haven't actually put any roms on yet! However, it boots neatly without any fuss. I had to press the reset button the AV jack but then it was in like Flynn. Booted up, connected to WiFi, and grabbed some themes and a poke around. Nice, fast UI, gonna do a new SD card and get serious so will post back.

 

Tried CoreELEC also without any problems either. This seem absolutely fantastic and I intend to use it as my file player.

 

The sad thing in this is that I can't have both on one card. You can install an EmuELEC addon for CoreELEC, but it is not as full featured as the standalone OS, so it's not an option for me. And you can't get CoreELEC as part of EmuELEC, so that's not an option. You have to have two SD cards and swap between them. But I'm fine with this as long as it works. I was a bit worried about it too as I'd read one or two had experienced some corruption swapping out the EmuELEC card and putting it back in again, but I haven't seen this so far so for now will assume they had bad SD cards. But I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for this in case it rears its head.

 

As ever, will post back with more lols. Might take a couple of days, or hopefully quicker all being well. :)

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Sorry, don't mean to eat up the thread. Only posting in case anyone finds it useful. I'll stop soon. :lol:  Huge post, in spoilers to save space ffs!

Spoiler

 

So, I've copied a few roms over. I simply don't have to time to do it all today, and the missus uses my desk for working from home next week again so I'll need to come up with a better plan for doing this. However, I dropped over quite a few SNES, MD, FBA, N64 and DC games to get me off to a start.

 

So far, of course the 16 bit stuff is perfect. No problems at all, as you'd expect. N64 is the trickiest of the lot, but it seems brilliant at this stage. I've set the resolution of the box itself to 720p/60hz as I think that helps performance, and the N64 I've set via Retroarch to 480p, which looks great and performs very well. There are still stutters here and there, but nothing game killing and I was really pleased to be able to play Smash Brothers to a very good standard after years of my Pi 3 struggling with it. Haven't tried Goldeneye yet, but I imagine going on the games I have tried that it simply must be better than my Pi 3.

 

DC is also brilliant imho. Again, there are one or two stutters, but a quick bob into settings fixed some of it. Thrilled to be able to play Soul Calibur on the big living room screen again instead of sitting at the PC. Tried also Rez and Crazy Taxi 2 so far - both fairly solid. Rez had a couple of slowdown bits but this was before I did my tweaks. This is the Flycast core btw. I like this core very much indeed.

 

Note 1: The box doesn't seem to get too hot, but I have decent thermal paste on standby in case it does. These boxes always skimp on this stuff.

 

Note 2: For some reason I have to plug in my pad each time when the unit is booted afresh for it to see it. It works though and isn't a problem.

 

Note 3: Have had no problem swapping out the card, taking it to the PC, putting roms on, sticking back in box. HOWEVER - PROVISO - I use Ubuntu Linux and a Kingston card reader. I know my SD card is absolutely fine but file copy seemed to be very slow. PLUS, once it completed the copy I could see the card reader still active as if it was still copying files. I COULD NOT eject the card as the OS determined there was still activity, despite the copy having completed. Once this activity stopped, the card could be ejected fine and was fine in the unit. I wonder if this was the problem with SD card corruption some were seeing. If the OS (Windows?) says take the card out we're done, but it isn't really and you yank it out, then yes you're going to get corruption. Luckily my reader keeps flashing if there's activity, so I could see it was busy, plus the computer said no. I can't say how another OS might work here.

 

Note 4: EDIT - Thought it worth mentioning that I could not get the remote control that came with the unit working with CoreELEC at all. I'll give it another go tomorrow, but luckily I had an available alternative that did work. It's just a cheap wireless air mouse thing, similar to what came with the box really, but it has a dongle. It worked immediately.

 

 

So, next plan is to start aaaall over again, and copy all my stuff over "properly" - images included, and try to make a good showing of it. Apologies for the epic post, but hope it helps someone. I really like it tbh and am definitely going to be using it over the Pi 3B+ for the foreseeable, providing it doesn't screw up!

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22 minutes ago, Barnard said:

Don't be sorry @Lumpy your pioneering work in the cheap Android as an emulation box field will hopefully bring joy to a few fellow mukkers. 

 

Lol! Well I figure if I don't just crack on and do it, we won't know. And I must know!

 

Had some fun with it today. Quite nicely it recognises my already scraped games and images, which saves a ton of work. I'm not so fussed about video snaps as they take a lot of space up, but might give it a go at another time. N64 has really surprised me. Not that it's perfect, but it is most definitely better than the Pi 3B+ I've been using. The only real no-go game so far has been Killer Instinct Gold which is pretty slow. But I got Bangaioh working and Snowboard Kids! Sin and Punishment works! Goldeneye isn't too bad but still struggles. I can play it though.

 

Tbh it's much easier than a Pi to set up, and this is largely down to the Batocera/Recalbox version of Emulationstation. It centralises so much of the configuring that you need to get started. The main thing I worry about with these boxes is build quality/longevity. I don't want to plough time and SD cards into a box only to watch it fail in a few short months. But, well, that's part of the experiment!

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i have an H96 Max that i got for £20 of ebay and its a fatastic emu box - loaded a 64gb sd card up with every sega/nintendo 8 and 6 bit game as well as N64 and ps1 games plays them all well.  I also have Xbox cloud streaming set up and again runs great. I use launch box as my front ened which is nice as its displays the box art (though run  the ps1 game through there own seperate emulator)   - some vids of it action (spoliered tag to cut down size of this post) 

Spoiler

Mega drive:

 

Snes:

 

N64:

 

Ps1:

 

 

Xbox cloud:

 

 

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On 13/05/2020 at 16:53, papalazarou said:

i have an H96 Max that i got for £20 of ebay and its a fatastic emu box - loaded a 64gb sd card up with every sega/nintendo 8 and 6 bit game as well as N64 and ps1 games plays them all well.  I also have Xbox cloud streaming set up and again runs great. I use launch box as my front ened which is nice as its displays the box art (though run  the ps1 game through there own seperate emulator)   - some vids of it action (spoliered tag to cut down size of this post) 

  Reveal hidden contents

Mega drive:

 

Snes:

 

N64:

 

Ps1:

 

 

Xbox cloud:

 

 

 

That all looks fantastic! Wish mine did this but I couldn't install a damn thing on the default OS. Tried a load of apk's but nothing worked. Not Mupen FZ, not MD.EMU, not Drastic or ePSXe. I couldn't even get the latest Kodi to install.

 

That said, I'm extremely happy with my EmuELEC/CoreELEC double act right now. Got them proper bang on! I'm much happier running Linux anyway over Android. Really recommended for £37, but only if you are willing to ignore the Android part of it and use the SD card for these Linux based OS's instead.

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17 hours ago, Lumpy said:

@Barnard - meant to ask you - which box is it you are using out of interest? Did you give EmuELEC a go?

 

My box is based on the Allwinner H6 system on a chip which isn't supported by the OpenElec/OpenEmu things. 

 

So I'm having to run the emulation on top of Android, which so so far has been great for 2D stuff - SF3 3rd Strike runs at 59.4fps. 

 

The Mednafen PlayStation core on Retroarch is playing Final Fantasy 7 with no problems, albeit with no upscaling or snazzy filters. 

 

I managed to get Mario 64 to run at about 35fps, which isn't too good. I'll try a standalone emulator to see if it runs any better. 

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Ah I see. Hopefully EmuELEC will take off a bit more now and start to support more boxes/chipsets. It's only one guy at the moment but it does look like he has some help, if the wiki is anything to go by.

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Quick update just to cover some of my earlier points from my post up the page. Have been using this for a week now so have a better idea of it.

Spoiler

 

1) It doesn't really get crazy hot, but it does go up to about 63-68 degrees when running Dreamcast games. Instead of opening the box and re-applying the thermal paste, I've bought a 80mm Infinity S1 USB powered fan from Amazon which basically sits under the box blowing cool air in. I have it set to medium and it is incredibly quiet. Much quieter than my Mega Pi case with fan. The box only rarely gets above 49 degrees now. The nice thing is the fan can be used for anything at all.

 

2) I re-did my image all over using two 64GB SD cards. I had one that was the test bed, and the other to mirror the test card so that I could create a backup image when complete and be confident that A) it works and B) isn't corrupted in any way. This has worked extremely well and I now have a nice 64GB image with all my favourite stuff, safely backed up. I haven't seen any corruption though since my initial play-test, and no slow file transfer either. I swap the card out all the time for my other CoreELEC SD card, and have had no problems with this.

 

3) The pad is recognised fine each boot with no problems. Dunno what that was about.

 

4) I need to try that remote control again with CoreELEC as I haven't done yet. This is because my wireless gamepad works fine with CoreELEC too and I tend to use that instead of a proper remote.

 

5) Sega Saturn runs! OK, let's be clear - I wouldn't be trying Quake or Exhumed on it. I don't think it could handle it. The games on my image are a little slow but are playable and glitch free. This is amazing to me after years of nothing. They feel like 50Hz PAL games rather than NTSC, but you can play them fine and the audio doesn't glitch so they feel OK. I only have NiGHTS, Golden Axe The Duel, Hyper Duel and Guardian Heroes, but it's a start!

 

6) N64 is indeed better than the Pi 3. I'm really pleased with it tbh. It's not perfect but then it never is and I'll take what we have here any day. Thrilled to be playing many games which now work much better, though there are still one or two sticking points of course - the aforementioned Killer Instinct being one. Goldeneye fares better than the Pi 3B+, but not massively so. You can play it, but it will stutter. I'm currently playing through Ocarina of Time and this is the best I've played it in the living room since having the console imho. I'm loving it.

 

7) Some of my MAME 2003 stuff that didn't run that great on the Pi run fine here. I love that you can select AdvanceMAME too, so Golden Axe Revenge of Death Adder will finally work with this. Lovely to see Layer Section/Gunlock running with this too. I tailored my MAME right down to about 1630 working games. Took a while but can't be doing with full sets rammed with duplicates.

 

8) Ooh another thing to add - I don't use the provided PSU. I have a MyVolts replacement unit, which I bought a long time ago for another system but is fully compatible with this one. I don't know how reliable the provided PSU's are with these boxes nowadays (they used to be notoriously terrible) but as I had the MyVolts unit doing nothing else I thought I ought to use it on this box and be sure it was safe.

 

9) I haven't had any glitches or bugs with it at all, and I've really been putting it through the mill this week! It's been on quite a bit, and tbh I have been massively enjoying my time with it. Much more than the Pi 3B+, which kinda makes me a bit sad but it's true. This just feels more right and I don't know why. Maybe if I got a Pi 4 it could chase those blues away, but for now I think that this is well worth the money for any budding tinkerer.

 

10) I notice not a lot of documentation on the wiki for certain things like the ports section and what you have to do to get them working. It's not completely straightforward so if you need a little help here I might be able to assist.

 

 

Bleedin' hell, epic post again. Sorry folks. Hopefully it gives you a better idea anyway.

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