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Minimum hardware specs for decent emulation



  • Hi there,

    first off I know that this forum is mainly about the Raspberry Pi, but I was wondering...
    Now with the Pi 4 being released, benchmarks show improvements, but what hardware does it really take to easily emulate systems up to the game cube (which is already off the table with any Raspberry Pi)? I also know that the emulation software is still not perfect and even the most powerful computer might not remedy "poor coding", but you know.

    I'm asking because I wanted to gift my parents an upgrade to their current Pi 3B+, especially because my dad was a bit disappointed in how poor his favourite N64 games ran on the Pi. I was happy to hear the Pi 4 being announced, but after all it's still not a powerhouse. Now I'm looking to build a small "console-like" computer (with a small enough case) with just the right specs for decent N64 to GameCube emulation.

    Anyone have any ideas on what CPU/GPU to get for this? I certainly won't need high end harware for this, so I don't wanna spend more than I have to. It's supposed to run a Debian based Linux distro to install RetroPie on.

    Oh and btw I don't want to improve image quality to much, like higher res or anti aliasing and the like, just plain old graphics output as it was back then is enough.



  • @Wolf64 This isn't what you're asking, but if you're looking to gift a machine specifically for the N64 and Gamecube emulation. I'd recommend modifying a Wii.

    Gamecube runs natively, the N64 emulator isn't too shabby (few games won't run but its fine with all the famous ones, especially given 20 of them were officially released on the VC)

    You can find them super cheap on ebay, plug in a gamecube controller, modify them to boot straight into usbloader gx. The N64 emulator isn't perfect 100% compatibility, but a lot of the games run very well.



  • @Wolf64 said in Minimum hardware specs for decent emulation:

    what hardware does it really take to easily emulate systems up to the game cube

    If you include saturn emulation through beetle-saturn (aka mednafen) which offers the best experience for now, a cpu above 3.6Ghz is recommended. For gpu, a mid-end nvidia gpu with proprietary drivers would give fairly good results except on a few edge cases (ex. dc games requiring per pixel alpha sorting).



  • @retropieuser555 Appreciate the recommendation, but yea that ain't exactly what I'm look for, sorry. It's not only N64 and GC, it's still the whole package Retro Pie/RetroArch has to offer.

    @barbudreadmon Whoa already starting at 3.6Ghz, didn't expect that. I assume CPU core count is not that important as of most emulator's single threaded nature?
    Although the Saturn is not among my target systems, the Dreamcast is. So that'd require a more capable GPU already?



  • @Wolf64 said in Minimum hardware specs for decent emulation:

    So that'd require a more capable GPU already?

    Yes, my gtx960 is unable to render all games at full speed, however that's just some edge cases.

    If you don't target saturn, a cpu around 3-3.2 Ghz should be fine. CPU core count generally doesn't matter.


  • Global Moderator

    @Wolf64 said in Minimum hardware specs for decent emulation:

    the game cube (which is already off the table with any Raspberry Pi)

    don't be so sure...

    (needs a 64-bit os so wouldn't work with retropie at present, but something to keep an eye on)



  • @dankcushions well, they are OCing the pi4 to 2.16Ghz (cooling tower ? maybe water cooling ?), downclocking the emulated cpu to 30% (so any game that used more than 30% of gamecube's cpu speed is out of reach), and that's still far from perfect. The situation will probably improve when we get affordable SBCs at the level of a snapdragon 845, but we are still probably 2-3 years away from that.



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