Emulators VS actual hardware

Discussion in 'Other Consoles & Oldies' started by the_raging_snorlax, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. So I used to be a person who insisted on playing games on actual hardware, but now I think that was an unwise way to spent my money and I should have stuck with emulators. I have three main reasons for this (the first one is the longest by far)

    1. Actual hardware requires modding to get right.

    I'll use the SNES and Mega Drive (or Genesis for you Americans) as my examples. Let's have a quick rundown on video signals and 50/60hz settings.

    RF – This combines the video and audio signals into a single wire. Horrible quality.

    Composite – If you had a 4th or 5th gen console you probably used this. One yellow wire for video and two separate red and white cables for audio. Bad quality.

    S-video – A big improvement over composite. The best your going to get for retro consoles unless you live in Europe. Good quality.

    RGB – Almost pixel perfect. Supported by a lot of retro consoles. The problem is most Australian and American TV's don't support it. Great quality.

    Component – Same quality as RGB and quite commonly supported by displays across Australia and America. Unfortunately only 5th gen (PS2, Xbox, Gamecube) consoles and onwards support it. Great quality.

    50/60hz – Hertz is a measurement of cycles per second. Games are designed to run at 60hz, however rewind time 20 years and most European and Australian TV's only supported 50hz. 50hz runs 17% slower than 60hz and has a higher resolution. That extra resolution becomes black borders at the top and bottom of the screen giving you a squished image.

    The Mega Drive 1 has nice sounding audio, but a shitty Sony CXA 1145 video encoder. On top of that the system outputs RF composite and RGB. As mentioned above unless you live in Europe good luck finding a TV that supports RGB. For those who live elsewhere the solution is an s-video mod. If you know what your doing you'll get the job done within an hour. But if you want a REALLY nice looking picture you have to build a Sony CXA 1645 circuit which is a lot more complicated

    You could choose a model two Mega drive. It has a good quality Sony CXA 1645 video encoder, but still needs modding to support s-video. The real problem here is the audio is (apparently) terrible. I've never played a model two myself so for this point I'm relying on what I've read from posts on various websites. There is a fix. It looks pretty damn time consuming.

    Time to discuss the SNES. I'm going to simplify the motherboard revisions to just 3. The standard, the 1-chip and the mini SNES. The standard and 1-chip SNES consoles support composite, s-video and RGB right out the box. Now look into this link, it compares the video quality between the standard and 1-chip consoles. The 1-chip consoles give a sharper picture that looks a lot more pleasing. The SNES Mini looks even better as explained by JimmyCrackCorn on the Assemblergames forums. The problem with the SNES Mini is cheap Nintendo wanted to save a few cents per console and didn't add the components for s-video and RGB output. Soldering time.

    Now its time to get into 60hz modding. If you live in America or Japan you don't have to worry about this. Us who live in PAL land are not so lucky. A standard SNES has a very simple 60hz mod which requires one switch and one resistor. As mentioned previously they're not worth it. The 1-chip consoles require a slightly more complex mod where you have to solder in a second crystal. The Mega Drive 1 and 2 have a quick and simple 60hz mod if you are using RGB. If you can't run RGB then you need to do a colour fix mod.

    I can go on about other systems, but I think I've said enough.

    2. Actual hardware is costs money.

    I'm using eBay prices in this discussion and including a power adapter and controllers. If you want a SNES Mini your looking at roughly $70 + postage. The Mega drive would cost about $40 + postage for you Americans or for us Aussies around $80. 60hz and composite and s-video mods aren't difficult and can be done by someone new to soldering. If you want to buy a pre-modded console expect to pay double. Then its time to get a flash cart. Retro flash carts aren't cheap. Marshallg's explains why this is the case.

    3. The Wii emulates 8 and 16 bit consoles almost perfectly.

    Chances are you already have a Wii. Since your on GBAtemp you probably already hacked it for the sake of USB loaders. The Wii has some great emulators on it and the average user isn't going to notice or care for the emulation glitches. It also supports 60hz and component cables right out the box. If you don't have a Wii you can always hook your PC up to your TV and this approach allows you can take advantage of high res textures on N64 games and HD Gamecube and Wii games.

    With all this said actual hardware does have its advantages too. I still use a real N64 with s-video. Check out this article written by the author of bsnes (a 100% accurate SNES emulator). You can't forget the look and feel of the original hardware and controllers. The mods aren’t at all hard to perform, my point is they take time and effort. We can't forget the price either. An emulator on the other hand gives almost as good a result quickly and for free. To finish off this post I will say whichever way you choose to go a good game is still good.
    yuyuyup and jalaneme like this.
  2. DinohScene

    DinohScene Feed Dino to the Sharks

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    Oct 11, 2011
    В небо
    Actual hardware wil always beat emulators with one thing.
    Nostalgic feeling.

    Emulators are great.
    I <3 playing GBA/NES/SNES/Megadrive etc etc etc on various consoles/handhelds.
    Recently been playing lots of GBA games on me PSP.

    But they don't make it to the actual hardware.
    WiiCube_2013 and RodrigoDavy like this.
  3. Yepi69

    Yepi69 Jill-sandwiched

    Nov 29, 2010
    Behind you
    Well, on the actual hardware you don't have to worry about lags or anything at all, so I guess its the best for me, even if it implies buying more stuff and/or modding it.

    And emulators, well, emulators are fun but there's no perfect emulator, most games run almost perfect, some may run with slight lags and some don't run at all.

    Also Emulators have slight advantages to the actual hardware:

    Save States (some)
    Better cheat system
    Better multiplayer
    And so on.
    RodrigoDavy likes this.
  4. Nah3DS

    Nah3DS Madre de Dios! Es El POLLO DIABLO!!!

    Feb 9, 2010
    my rule is: just buy hardware that you can't emulate well
    Essometer, alphamule and RodrigoDavy like this.
  5. trumpet-205

    trumpet-205 Embrace the darkness within

    Jan 14, 2009
    United States
    Most retro gamers who want to game on actual console will mod their consoles and,
    * Purchase professional upscaler such as XRGB-3, OR
    * Purchase CRT screen capable of accepting RGB signal.

    Hardwares themselves are not that expensive, when you considered their launch price and factor in inflation on modern time. What is expensive is additional peripheral, whether be the video processor, flashcart, etc.

    As for 100% cycle accurate emulator, they aren't a lot of them. Even for PS1 the closest emulator to cycle accuracy, Xebra, has a lot of problems with a lot of games.
  6. Thomas83Lin

    Thomas83Lin Retro Gamer

    Jul 22, 2009
    United States
    I've normally prefer actual hardware, like my Snes\Genesis I've modded them in hopes of better video output. Snes I've component modded which display's awesome on my old 32in crt tv. The Genesis didn't fare to well modding, I've S-video\composite modded it, but it has vertical lines on the S-video which I could only slightly remedy by adding a trim pot on the chroma iirc and composite is slightly blurry.
    The only system I prefer a Emu to actual hardware is the NES, Only because I have a vendetta against it, So many times it just reset cause someone walked to hard across the floor.:hateit:
  7. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

    pip Reporter
    Sep 13, 2009
    Gaming Grotto
    Emulation can never replace the real hardware - even minor things like the occasional screen flicker or the shape of the controller matter when you want to get the genuine experience. Think back to Metal Gear Solid and the "swap your controller port to defeat the boss" mechanic - it loses its charm once you play it on an emulator.

    That's not to say that emulation is all wrong - it's just not the same as playing on the original hardware. It's something I resort to for convenience. When I have the actual system and the game I want to play, the real deal on an old CRT TV is my preferred way of playing retro stuff. :yay:
    Dork and Snailface like this.
  8. Catastrophic

    Catastrophic Perfectly Normal

    Apr 28, 2012
    As far as 8-16 bit consoles go, emulation is almost perfect. Unless you like collecting, there's little reason to spend hundreds into finding the right hardware. The Wii classic controller is great and works fine for just about anything, or if you own a TV with either a HDMI or VGA output you can connect a PC to it, buy some controller converters and play through that. I do intend on getting a flashcart for my Famicom AV though.

    N64 emulation is still quite flawed, which is why I got myself an Everdrive 64. Most PAL N64s are capable of outputting PAL60 video without mods. Some earlier NTSC models and only the French PAL model can be modded to output RGB as well.

    Any 5th generation console is worth finding hardware for. FAT PS2s are super cheap and can be modded to play games that are either burned or on an IDE HDD. Gamecube games can be played on Wii through discs or HDD too. Xboxes can be softmodded to do plenty of things.
  9. jalaneme

    jalaneme Female Gamer

    Nov 27, 2006
    hence tc it's the reason why i will always say emulation will always be better, it's way to costly to buy the hardware and games these days, plus with all the benefits emulation has with hdmi out, better sound options, filters, rom hacks and you can use wireless controllers too the positives outweigh the negatives.

    on top of that, it's easier to boot the pc up and set the controllers up instead of getting the console out and finding the game cartridge, wires e.t.c

    i wouldn't say that, project 64 emulates quite well all the games played on it, the flashcart is expensive too.

    ps2 emu and dolphin have a way to go before being perfect, but i would rather use them than to get my ps2 out and hook them up e.t.c i like the way dolphin upscales the gamecube games too if you set it up right that is, you need a lot of patience with dolphin and the ps2 emu.
  10. sandytf

    sandytf GBAtemp Regular

    May 5, 2013
    United States
    There are USB adapters for nearly every game controller ever made. Some adapters even allow the use of legacy controllers directly on modern consoles.

    I prefer emulating 8 and 16-bit systems to reduce the amount of required grinding (even though I still own all of the original systems). Save states are also a big benefit since I rarely play for more than 30 minutes at a time. I have a dedicated emulation computer connected to my tv, so once the game starts, it's generally difficult to tell the difference.
    jalaneme likes this.
  11. DarkAce0

    DarkAce0 Advanced Member

    Dec 9, 2013
    New Zealand
    At work (mostly)
    Hardware all the way because it do the job right without glitches or slow down but emulator are good playing old games that you can't find anymore or way to over price because its "Rare ":glare:.
  12. Foxi4

    Foxi4 On the hunt...

    pip Reporter
    Sep 13, 2009
    Gaming Grotto
    I like the whole "expensive" argument when retro systems aren't actually expensive unless you're looking for some particularly rare ones. All the ones I own were purchased for anywhere between "free" and $60, which is about as much as you'd pay for *1* contemporary game. ;)
  13. Rydian

    Rydian Resident Furvert™

    Feb 4, 2010
    United States
    Cave Entrance, Watching Cyan Write Letters
    Just checked out ebay and there's a lot of Sega Genesis entries for $30-$40.

    But I have to play the devil's advocate here and say "if you have to attach a dollar sign to it, then it's more expensive than a free emulator download".
    king_leo likes this.
  14. matpower

    matpower A Hero of Justice

    May 5, 2012
    For me, the best advantage of emulation is portability(If you are using a handheld system) or compactness(A single system takes less space than each system).
    But if I had money, I would love to own each system I emulate and their games, because the feel of having the system there is just amazing. :)
  15. bobmcjr

    bobmcjr GBAtemp Advanced Fan

    Apr 26, 2013
    United States
    Just did a comparison between PS3 RetroArch SNES and an actual SNES on an LED TV. While I understand that the actual hardware is as accurate as it gets and all that, it looks terrible on a modern TV. A combination of visual noise, interlacing issues, and deformed pixels make hardware in this case inferior. If you can get a proper CRT/video filtering boxes I guess the original hardware might look OK but in my opinion all that effort isn't worth it.
  16. You guys have a point. Post edited. I still think it can be expensive if your buying more than one console. My Mega Drive was $75 inc. postage and my SNES mini was $100 inc. postage to Australia. The flash carts were about $80 each. That brings the total cost up to $335. Definately not cheap.
  17. Thomas83Lin

    Thomas83Lin Retro Gamer

    Jul 22, 2009
    United States
    Recently I bought 2 Sega Genesis from Ebay little over $11 each including shipping.
    also bought a bundle of 2 Snes,2 N64,1 GC for alittle over $28 including shipping for the bundle.
    If you don't care about discoloring or having to repair them which normally is just cleaning you can get them extremely cheap.
  18. GHANMI

    GHANMI GBAtemp Advanced Fan

    Jun 10, 2012
    More and more translators/hackers for the SNES/Genesis are now inserting all sorts of stuff to complicate playing their work on real hardware, the reason being those reproduction people taking their hard work and slapping it on a cartridge (often mutilating the original cartridge if it's an import exclusive, just for an "authentic" feel) then selling it as a "LOST ENGLISH VERSION" for highly inflated prices, then racking up profits.
    I think there was one asking about how to remove intros added by translators on some forum.

    Long story short, a lot of hackers are more or less siding with emulation rather than real hardware.
  19. ResleyZ

    ResleyZ Swiggity swaggity swooty, I love my own booty

    Oct 11, 2013
    Silicon Valley
    I prefer emulation over original hardware too, but that's because when using emulation, you aren't bound to a annoying controller (I hate the SNES controller, but love the Wii Classic Controller) and playing on higher resolutions. A great example is PPSSPP (PSP emulator). They handle high resolutions very well. Playing KH:BBS and Project Diva on a 56" screen with a 360 controller works pretty well, and looks great too.

    I'm currently playing Pokemon Yellow on Google Glass with a bluetooth keyboard, because it's Pokemon, on Google Glass, and who wouldn't want that?
  20. Vipera

    Vipera Banned

    Aug 22, 2013
    United States
    Away from this shithole
    First rule of gaming: being able to play the game has the priority on everything else.

    I don't care if I am not using the original hardware, I'm still having fun with the game. And besides, sometimes emulators DO beat consoles, if we think that no one is able to play GBA games nowadays using an original Game Boy Advance unless they mod the screen.
    I am happy with my 3DS emulating all the good ol' glories, together with my Jap Micro and my Master Race PC. I am not going to get my Sega Master System II from the basement whenever I feel like playing Cloud Master if I have so many other ways to play it.
    jalaneme likes this.