How good is the PS1 emulation on Pandora? I guess it often boils down to that, since the PS1 game library is so huge. In this post, I will do what nobody has done so far for the Pandora, as far as I know: to compare the same games running on actual PS1 hardware versus them being executed on the Pandora – all of that on an actual TV screen. It will be interesting to see what differences one can spot and if there’s any significant advantage of one of the other solution.
For this test I used Gran Turismo 2. Why this game? Well, first, it’s a 3D-heavy game (well, at the time), and probably one of the best looking ones for the PS1 out there. Then, you can play short sessions with it and still get a good feeling of how it feels. Driving is way more relevant than clicking buttons on a RPG, for example.
My setup was fairly simple. On one side, my Japanese Playstation 1, running the actual GT2 CDs, plugged directly on the TV with the cables provided with the console. On the other, my Pandora Rebirth running PCSXReARMed using the GT2 iso images I ripped myself (on the Pandora, by the way), connected on the TV with the TV-out cable (not the official one). To be fair, I used an adapter for RCA and did not take advantage of the S-VHS connector.
Since I do not have a TV-capture card, I took an actual video with my Canon Full HD Camcorder of my TV-screen, in the dark to avoid reflections as much as possible.
What I then did was to record a few minutes with each setup on the same circuits. On the Pandora I tried both the normal resolution mode as well as the 2x resolution hack. For that mode I turned overclocking on up to 825 Mhz to ensure a good enough framerate.
Several observations to point out.
First, the TV-out on my cable does not give the exact same colors as the original Playstation. You can get away with this by modifying your TV settings a little bit (in my case, desaturating the colors a little, and adjusting the brightness level as well) and you get very similar rendering on your screen in the end. For the video below, I did some additional adjustments to get as close as possible in terms of colors, contrast and brightness.
Past that stage, using the PS1 and the normal resolution mode from PCSXReARMed on the Pandora, I was actually surprised there is not much difference between both versions in graphical terms. It’s really hard to tell one from the other just by looking at the screen. That says a lot about the quality of the emulation! The game was running at about the same speed, I did not see extra glitches or textures issues, so overall it was very much the same. By the way, playing a PS1 on a LCD screen is not a very good experience since you clearly see the pixels on the screen. The PS1 was certainly doing a lot better when we were still playing on cathodic screens. So on a big screen, GT2 looks quite ugly, honestly speaking…
While there were no graphic differences, driving was, however, somehow not exactly the same. The controls on the PS1 pad (not the dual shock analog one but the original pad) were a lot stiffer than the digital pad of the Pandora. I had to adjust my driving style when playing with one or the other. The Pandora D-pad was certainly more sensitive, and you could not play the exact same way. Now, I am not sure which one I like the best, since i only played a couple of minutes with each, but I think I could drive as well with both. So, not a big deal in the end.
Moving to the 2x resolution mode on the Pandora, this is where you notice the difference on a large screen. WOW. The game suddenly looks much, much better and feels at home on a LCD. The difference is, I think, telling in the video below. (I recommend you watch the video full screen to see all details more vividly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EuN-CyY4SY).
Almost everything benefited from the 2x resolution: the trees, the road, the car models.
The car textures are where you could still see the legacy of the PS1 limitations, no matter how better the resolution is.But still, this was a big jump in visual appearance, and I can say the game did not look ugly at all with these settings.On the contrary, it felt almost like a PS2 game.
So here you are. Here are my key take-aways:
- The TV cables are going to be available soon. Get one. Or Two. If you like emulation this is something you will enjoy tremendously on a larger screen, when at home.
- If you use PCSXReARMed together with the TV screen, turn the 2x mode on. Most 3D games will probably benefit from it and your games will look so much better on the TV. You may get some slowdowns in terms of FPS, especially if you have a Rebirth or a CC model (and you should overclock to make up for it), but if you are a lucky 1Ghz owner, it is likely to be pretty smooth.
That’s it for today. Be careful on the road, guys.