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Single-board computers (SBCs) have numerous uses. However, the use for emulation of retro gaming remains its most popular function. Emulation remains a relevant venture as running games like Retropie, Lakka, and Recalbox remains rewarding projects perfect for beginners and seasoned makers alike.
Also, the nostalgia of playing retro games in a modern set up is unmatched. There are many options for your modification needs, ranging from an arcade cabinet replica to simply a basic board.
However, you definitely want to be sure that you have the proper computer hardware for the stimulation job you’ve set out to do.
Our Top Three Picks For The Best Single-Board Computer For Emulation
The Raspberry Pi 4
Multifeatured Board For Emulation
This is arguably the biggest name in the maker board market for as much as retro gaming stimulation goes. The Raspberry Pi 4 features outstanding community support with a ton of operating systems available. It has official apps and accessories, a slew of third-party resources, and it is an outrageously well-backed device.
The operating systems and apps are optimized for the underlying hardware, and a plethora of forums, books, websites, and podcasts are available to provide troubleshooting and getting started information.
The Raspberry Pi 4 spots a choice of 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB of RAM, a revamped system-on-a-chip, dual micro-HDMI output with 4K compatibility, and a switch from micro USB to USB-C power supplies.
With its wide-ranging features, it can handle systems like the PSP, PSP ROMs, and N64 far better than other SBC options.
These amazing features make the Pi 4 more than capable for a retro gaming SBC emulation and make it arguably the best SBC for emulation.
Pros and Cons
- It has an array of compatible operating systems
- The community and software support is extensive
- It is affordable.
- It is not suitable for emulating some newer titles
ASUS SBC Tinker Board
Quadcore Board For Emulation
The ASUS tinker board is another mover in the SBC PC space. However, the key is knowing how to get the best emulation out of your ASUS tinker board. When paired with its Rockchip RK288 GPU, the emulation process goes a lot more smoothly resulting in a pure master performance since it comes with a Quadcore ARM SOC @ 1.8GHz and a strong lineup with 2GB of RAM.
For community support online, it is not entirely on the same level as the Raspberry Pi, but its high-performing QuadCore ARM SOC 1.8GHz with 2GB of RAM, Rockchip RK3288 Soc with Mali – T764 GPU, and 2GB of Dual Channel DDR3 memory.
The non shared GBit LAN port for improved performance along with an upgradable integrated shielded Wi-Fi for robust IoT & network connectivity and the highly compatible PCB & Topology with HD Audio-192/24bit audio & HD & UHD of an accelerated ( 4K ) video playback support makes it a formidable contender in the SBC space.
Also, the DIY friendly design all work together to make this maker board one of the best SBC for emulation.
Pros and Cons
- It’s relatively cheap
- It comes with 4K Video Playback
- It has Bluetooth and WiFi support
- It doesn’t have software support
- It lacks external display ports (e.g HDMI)
2.4GHZ Board For Emulation
The ODROID-N2 Plus is one of the latest single board computer released by Hardkernel. It is equipped with the new Amlogic S922X processor and up to 4 GB of RAM. This SBC is said to perform twice better than the Raspberry Pi.
Spotting a new chipset that offers a 400 MHz clock speed boost over the one in the ODROID-N2 represents a 22% performance increase over the earlier version.
Additionally, the ODROID-N2 Plus comes with about four of the SoCs cores capable of being overclocked to 2.4 GHz and an ARM Mali-G52 GPU on board for handling graphics tasks.
Also, it supports multiple operating systems, including Android 9.0 Pie and Ubuntu 20.04. It has also been shown to smoothly run the Dolphin emulator amongst other newer, high-end emulation sets.
This all works to make the ODROID-N2 Plus a more than capable contender in our list of best single board computer for emulation.
Pros and Cons
- It has a good OS support
- It runs high-end systems like the Dreamcast, PSP, and N64
- It is affordable
- It requires an additional cooling fan to prevent overheating.
- There may be reduced speed if overclocked.
Settling for the Single Board Computer option may come as an easy choice as most people would likely want the nostalgia of playing retro games. Still, the rigor of setting up a retro console, which most times would require television and not forgetting the high antique cost of these consoles, maybe a little daunting for even the most enthusiastic gamer, hence the need to build a DIY console using the most adaptive hardware one can find.
Many development boards of the SBC variety are regularly used for retro gaming console emulation. However, a laptop and even a desktop often outperform these maker boards regardless of how advanced it may be.
This is because emulators are usually CPU bound and the majority of SBCs are unable to handle the emulation of newer gaming systems like the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Game Cube, and Wii. A lot of these development boards have been known to underperform when dealing with systems like Nintendo 64 and PlayStation Portable ROMs.
Although a GTX 1060, Ryzen 5 powered desktop can easily work on the Wii, PS 2, and sometimes the PS3 emulation a tad gracefully, this makes the Ryzen 5 somewhat of a sensation amongst users.
Regardless, single-board computers are cheaper and smaller hence they provide the best affordable entryway into the fascinating world of emulation. We have compiled a list of our best Single Board computers for Emulation to help you make the right choice for your emulation endeavors.
Using a single board computer for emulation may sometimes appear daunting because of the usual lack of broad-spectrum functionality for different emulators as may be easily accessible using a desktop or laptop.
However, the DIY experience, community support, and affordability of the maker boards make for a very viable option. More so, with the help of our list of best single-board computers for emulation and the quality of products that made our list, you’re surely in for a worthy emulation experience using an SBC. You can check out the best SBCs for emulation here on Amazon.