Homebrew Emulator input lag on the 3ds - surprising results

r0achtheunsavory

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My wife's boyfriend just bought me a new 2ds XL the other day, so I haven't had time to thoroughly test everything to the max, but as the unofficial king of detecting input lag, the 3ds gave me surprising results.

1) SNES - To start with, I excepted Nintendo's proprietary SNES VC emulator to actually be useful for something, but it's not. Retroarch SNES 9x 2005+ core seems to have lower input lag than the SNES VC and SNES 9x 2002 core. The "bubble2k16" SNES 9x standalone emulators all have higher input lag than the Retroarch one as well.

2) Genesis - Just like Picodrive vs Genesis Plus GX on my desktop, Picodrive on the 3ds has less input lag making it so there's not much reason to use Genesis Plus GX. Also, you can change the Picodrive renderer from "accurate" to "fast" to lower input lag even further where it just about feels the same as the real hardware. Just like the SNES, the Bubble2k16 standalone Picodrive emulator has higher input lag than the Retroarch one, making it so there's no reason to use it.

3) Gameboy Advance - Tried the Gameboy Advance "VC" which should theoretically not have any input lag at all since they can use the actual hardware itself, but it seemed like just launching a GBA game through Twilight Menu++ had lower input lag the way he implements acess to the GBA hardware.

4) Turbografx - Same story as the Genesis and everything else. The Retroarch emulator has the lowest input lag and no reason to use the Bubble2k16 standalone one.

5) PSX - Beetle PSX software emulation on desktop Retroarch is GODLIKE good for input lag compared to every other emulator. The only thing remotely comparable is Picodrive. The PCSX Re-armed Retroarch core on 3ds isn't as good input lag-wise, but it's 'okay'. If Beetle PSX software emulation could ever run on 3ds, it would really take it to the next level (don't think it has the power to do so). I think Beetle PSX in hardware mode instead of software emulation is higher input lag on desktop, so porting Beetle hardware mode to 3ds might not even be an improvement on what exists now, but who knows.
 
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TheUltimaXtreme

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Great post, I like the comparisons, but there's a few hurdles in general with the whole argument of input lag, specifically in... the value.

Bubble2k16's emulators have the best UI for navigating ROMs hands down. Some may argue that Retroarch is just as good, but with the amount of fiddling around with Retroarch (I've used it for multiple years now on PC and consoles and still can't reliably get collections and home folders set up) and the instability with Retroarch on 3DS, I can't stand trying to fight it.

Plus, it's a handheld and we're testing the limits of entire game catalogs for NES, SNES, Genesis, GBA, etc. I'm not playing anything competitively on 3DS, I don't know about everyone else, but if I'm able to blast through 4-1 of Super Mario Bros or the Boo castles, or just run through Sonic 2 like a dream, input latency means nothing.

For GBA, the same convenience regarding VC titles is there. mGBA would be my goto if the performance there wasn't... bad. It does the job for GB and GBC though. As far as running GBA games with nds-bootstrap, it's performed terribly from my experience in general, worse than mGBA, so lower input lag is a moot point to me.

Finally, regarding PSX, PCSX-Rearmed is still not to a level that I'd consider satisfactory. If I'm hankering to play FF7, sure. It's more about the charm than anything else.

With a portable system like the 3DS, convenience trumps most other things. Glad to see someone's investigating it, and if that leads to an effort in improving said latency, that'll be fantastic. Until then, I'm still playing all of it in bubble2k16's emulators.
 

r0achtheunsavory

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Finally, regarding PSX, PCSX-Rearmed is still not to a level that I'd consider satisfactory. If I'm hankering to play FF7, sure. It's more about the charm than anything else.

PCSX Re-armed works extremely well now. Download the latest Retroarch nightly build then change the following settings:

- Vsync off
- Bilinear filtering off
- I turn frameskip and frame duping off because I don't want any dropped or duplicated frames for input lag purposes
- Vibration off
- Dithering off
- Sound reverb and sound interpolation off (from memory, think these actually do affect performance)
- CD access method asynchronous

Games like Strider 2, Gran Turismo 1, and tons of others run 100% full speed with these settings. If you need additional performance, download the "JustinWeiss" PCSX core and changed audio to "dsp_threaded" and restart the app:

https://gofile.io/d/vvrhAn

This seemed to make input lag a little worse but changes more demanding games like Soul Reaver from a low of 50 FPS or so in the first room of the game to basically full speed. I think the vast majority of the PS1 library is fully playable now.
 

Rahkeesh

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We know the normal pros and cons of emulators, as someone who's getting a little more sensitive to input lag I appreciate this research. Been playing with runahead=1 on PC and Switch where I can and its night and day. Not sure if the 3DS can manage that on any of its cores.
 

kid sampson

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Thanks for sharing your results. I love this sort of analysis; however, I find SNES 9x 2005+ unplayable due to the low FPS. As much as I love low latency, I value full speed more.
 
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