Wrong Time To Buy A Handheld For Emulators?


HunterZ

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After being sorely disappointed with the type and quality of emulators available for my iPod Touch 2g, I've been thinking of buying a gaming handheld for the sole purpose of running 8- and 16-bit console emulators (specifically NES, SNES, Genesis at a minimum). I've been looking around this morning and my impression is that this is just a bad time due to the current state of things:

  • Wiz seems like a really well-liked device, but I'd be deathly afraid of getting bit by OLED screen-rot.
  • Caanoo has an analog nub instead of a D-pad, which I'm concerned will not work well for games like Super Metroid (which isn't even forgiving of circle-shaped D-pads, let alone analog sticks/nubs!). It also appears to have a much younger emulator scene than Wiz, which may be frustrating since it costs 50% more than the Wiz.
  • Pandora is expensive and hard to get.
  • Other devices are fragile and/or underpowered.

I'm thinking that if I do anything right now, it should be to pick up a Wiz for $100 and hope it lasts long enough that some better options become available down the road... Would appreciate thoughts from people who have experience with these devices.

Also, there doesn't seem to be a good forum for discussing multiple devices, so I just picked one; I'll understand if moderators decide to move it to another subforum :)
 

Dunny

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You've answered your own question. Of all the devices, only the Wiz has a "maybe" - The Canoe does indeed have an analog stick, despite the community's derision heaped upon GPH for the abortion that was the GP2X stick. The Pandora is expensive - you'd not say that if it was within your price range. Other devices are indeed crap, with one possible exception.

Have you considered a Dingoo? No OLED screen, and as a bonus it's not manufactured by GPH. Other than that, I'd get the Wiz but you do have to bear in mind that if even the tiniest gap appears in the screen housing, the display will rot.

So, a Dingoo?

D.
 

StarG

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Of my 2 Wiz'es i still do have to encounter the screen rot. Maybe the origin was bad manufacture with the earlier revisions. The Wiz OLED makes a real good impression with me. Actually alot of my personal dislike is based upon that the Cannoo just has a bread and butter TFT display. The lesser black-saturation levels and the image quality based on visibility angle disgruntles me.

I haven't tried the Cannoo yet but i heard quite good things about its stick - so this shouldn't be the point to blame it. More like it has a worse layout (who was the idiot to put the speakers on the backside, it would be clearly the place to put 2 Z-buttons instead of), non-switchable (afaik) battery, the lacking built-in network capabilities (while still boasting: *the network player*) and the blatant incompatibility with with Wiz software base (more or less unnecessary).

If the stick is your main concern only, then have a short thought about the iControlPad. It is costy but adds a complete set of controls to your console. No reports about attempts to get it working yet but with an external bluetooth adapter and if mechanically mountable it should be little of a problem with emulators / games supporting gamepads.

Size matters too imho, the wiz is ideally compact. While not offering the larger screen estate of the canoo the shell fits easily into my jacket.

No opinion about Pandora here, its just badly available as you pointed out.

As Dunny pointed out the Dingoo would be a viable option too. I do like the compact shell and the large built-in media support :)

[edit: cleanups]
 

Fishbong

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You could get a PSP. It is not without flaws, but it has good emulators and decent controls. You have to inform yourself about unlocking it for Homebrew first, a process which can be quite a hassle. I haven't been following the PSP Homebrew scene for years though, so i wouldn't know about the current state of things.
 

ozzuneoj

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I haven't had any control issues with my Caanoo personally. I've played a ton of NES, Genesis, SMS and Super Nintendo games.

I just played through Cave Story for the first time on Caanoo, and the controls are very similar to Metroid. I didn't have any issues with the controls at any point. In fact, a properly done port or emulator can set the dead-zones on the analog stick in a way that makes it better than most d-pads.

I'm the kind of guy who has stuck to using 13 year old Playstation controllers for emulators on PC because I prefer the precise button-style D-pad. If the Caanoo's analog stick can satisfy my emulator needs, it must be pretty solid. :)
 

CKeichel

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I second the Dingoo, it has a big emulator library, and almost every emulator for a major system is in a very stable and advanced state. The support for the Dingoo is much better, then for the Caanoo and in my opinion, it is even better, then for the Wiz, if it comes to emulation. The device itself is often considered as cheap and not well build, something I can't confirm, I have 2 Dingoos (black and white), both are well build and reliable. Additionally the device is the cheapest on the market. SuperNES runs fine on this machine, if you don't expect an emulation of the special chips, but I don't think any of the available handhelds will succeed here. Genesis emulation is perfect, as well as all 8 Bit emulations.

If it comes down to the Caanoo, it has a bigger screen, then the Wiz and Dingoo, which is a major Plus for me. The analogue nub is very good for most games, maybe not, if you are into Beat Em Ups, but for your average 8 and 16 Bit Action game (Shooter and surprisingly even Jump'n'Run) it's fine.

The Caanoo needs some more emulators, which will pop up in the coming 12 months, I am sure, but right now, it has the weakest library of all (expect the phantom handheld Pandora, which hasn't a so big library either).
 

DaveC

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HunterZ said:
I'm thinking that if I do anything right now, it should be to pick up a Wiz for $100 and hope it lasts long enough that some better options become available down the road... Would appreciate thoughts from people who have experience with these devices.
The Wiz would still be a good choice. The OLED screen looks nice when it is working. Most of them don't get the "pixel plague" only some do. I think that is a case of units being exposed to harsh temperature changes like bringing out to a cold car and leaving in freezing temps, or being dropped etc. If you bought one and it works you should get enough time from it until something better comes by. The Caanoo is bigger and more expensive has an unevenly lit LCD and has an analog stick making some emus not as good to play.
 
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007jaws

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DaveC said:
HunterZ said:
I'm thinking that if I do anything right now, it should be to pick up a Wiz for $100 and hope it lasts long enough that some better options become available down the road... Would appreciate thoughts from people who have experience with these devices.
The Wiz would still be a good choice. The OLED screen looks nice when it is working. Most of them don't get the "pixel plague" only some do. I think that is a case of units being exposed to harsh temperature changes like bringing out to a cold car and leaving in freezing temps, or being dropped etc. If you bought one and it works you should get enough time from it until something better comes by. The Caanoo is bigger and more expensive has an unevenly lit LCD and has an analog stick making some emus not as good to play.
I totally agree with DaveC the wiz is the best choice considering your circumstances, this is just my opinion, i have owned all the console you mentioned including the pandora and i think out of the lot the wiz is the best thats taking into account money, size, faults, emulation avaialbility, d-pad rocks on wiz, so i would recommend a wiz but this is upto you to decide which one?
 
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HunterZ

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Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions so far, it was exactly the type of discussion I was hoping for!

Dunny: The comments from you and others in this thread have definitely placed the Dingoo on my radar, but I've heard a couple of negatives:
  • It seems to be weaker than the other systems being discussed, to the point that it may choke on some SNES games that the Wiz can handle (even if you jump through hoops like installing Linux and overclocking it apparently?)
  • Several people have mentioned that it seems to have some build quality issues, which may put it at risk of having as short a lifespan as the Wiz. I guess being cheaper might offset that a little though.
  • I can find the Wiz for $100 USD now, and Dingoo is at least $80, so price isn't really a plus.
StarG: Sounds like the Caanoo might have a lot of little negative quirks :( I did also notice that they are marketing it as network-capable, but that you have to buy a separate adapter kit to get wi-fi support. I find that disingenuous marketing to be a bit of a put-off.

Fishbong: I thought about the PSP, but I like the idea of buying a handheld that is more open to begin with (and as we all know, Sony is the opposite of open with their gaming hardware!).

ozzuneoj: It's good to hear that someone as picky as me about d-pads was not disappointed with the Caanoo's analog nub. A specific example I can give of where a good, plus-shaped d-pad matters though is when doing super jumps in Super Metroid: you have to hold right to dash, then press down; if you accidentally press right+down in the process of doing this, it will screw everything up. This makes it very hard for me to do on gamepads with circular d-pads, so I'm concerned that anything other than a plus-shaped d-pad is going to be potentially problematic.

CKeichel: Good to know that you've found the Dingoo to be more well-built than some have mentioned. I'm not too concerned with price, as even $150 for the Caanoo sounds like a reasonable value to me. I could afford the $500 (or whatever it is) for the Pandora, but I don't feel that it's worth paying that much for a handheld emulator console. The lack of emulators for Caanoo is also a concern, as I'd really like to have something that works now since I've already tried emulators on two handheld platforms (GBA and iPod Touch 2g) and found them lacking.

DaveC: If careful handling of the Wiz would help reduce risk of OLED screen rot, then I think I could live with that.

007jaws: I think we're on the same page in terms of taking all those factors into account to try to find the best overall value.
 

ozzuneoj

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HunterZ said:
ozzuneoj: It's good to hear that someone as picky as me about d-pads was not disappointed with the Caanoo's analog nub. A specific example I can give of where a good, plus-shaped d-pad matters though is when doing super jumps in Super Metroid: you have to hold right to dash, then press down; if you accidentally press right+down in the process of doing this, it will screw everything up. This makes it very hard for me to do on gamepads with circular d-pads, so I'm concerned that anything other than a plus-shaped d-pad is going to be potentially problematic.
I haven't played Metroid enough on the Caanoo to really experience that yet, so I'm not really sure on that one.

One thing to keep in mind is that while analog sticks may not be quite as "fast" for button mashing games like Street Fighter that require you to tap lots of directions quickly, they can potentially be excellent for games that require precision, because the programming of the software determines how sensitive they are to directional changes. Compare this to a poor d-pad that will be terrible, no matter what the software developers want to do with it.
 
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sehs33

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GP32/GP2X/PANDORA owner here:
I would still reconsider the PSP specially with the latest price drop to $130 from $160, it can emulate up to N64, has its own games, Sony's hardware quality is remarkable and you can easily have it fixed anywhere in the world (damn I might buy one to add it to my collection)

Sony's close hardware is no problem, you mod it once and then stop upgrading, that's all you have to do.
 

vampire8bit

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This might not be a popular choice but a used GP2X in good condition is quite cheap these days. A lot of users hated it but many loved and use it as I do. It's still got the best software library of any other open source handheld at the moment and many of the great handheld emu's were developed on it like Picodrive, Gpfce, and temper. Its also got excellent emu's like the atari lynx one which other handhelds don't have.
 

StarG

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Speaking of the Dingoo.. there seem to be 2 new models around.

Dingeoo Website

* The A320 and close relative A330 - classic dingoo's as i would dub it.
* Dingoo A360 - a GBA SP clone (who cares)
* and finally the Dingoo A380, which seems a spec-wise improved A320... hope they were wise enough to keep it compatible with A320 software

Just as Hirolaser put an used GP2x into the mix: GP2x is a very fine device but keep in mind that it has a poor power management (running on 2 aa batterys which power it for at most 4h) also: TFT only.
 

HunterZ

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Latest thoughts:

Wiz:
I'm a bit concerned about buying the Wiz from ThinkGeek after hearing that some people are having trouble running SNES emulators on some of them, indicating a possible hardware or firmware problem. The buttons on the Wiz also look like they might be as annoying as the analog nub on the Caanoo.

Caanoo:
  • After watching some youtube videos on the Caanoo, I think the analog nub might be okay.
  • I also heard that Caanoo recently got a port of GinGE, which may allow the Caanoo to run some GP2X and possibly Wiz applications. Anyone have any comments on this?
  • I've seen a couple of people mention that the Caanoo is more comfortable to hold for extended periods of time than the Wiz.
PSP:
$130 does put it between the Wiz and Caanoo in price, but the extra hassle required makes it kind of a wash. It also looks like there's a big minefield of which versions can and can't be hacked, and not being able to upgrade the firmware would kill me (it already does on my iPod).

GP2X:
How well does it handle SNES emulation? I know some people are huge on replaceable batteries, but I've found that integrated lithium-ion batteries work quite well.

Dingoo:
The a380 sounds like too much of a wildcard at this point.

General:
I'm also strongly attracted to the Wiz and Caanoo over all others because they are available from ThinkGeek. They also have a listing for the a320, but it's currently out of stock and costs more than the Wiz ($120 versus $100).
 

HunterZ

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Update: Bit the bullet and ordered a Wiz. Seems like the best deal for me right now, and a good way to get my feet wet while I wait for newer products to mature (and maybe lower in price too).
 

007jaws

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HunterZ said:
Update: Bit the bullet and ordered a Wiz. Seems like the best deal for me right now, and a good way to get my feet wet while I wait for newer products to mature (and maybe lower in price too).
Great choice enjoy, need any help ask me or anyone at the forum glad to be of help and part of this team in your final decision making mind

long live the wiz with you
 
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