> > The Raspberry Pi was cheap, easy to set up, fits in my small cab, requires no
> > cooling, and plays all of the games I'm interested in with aplomb.
> You mean it's cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, and cheap. There are two kinds of Pi
> emulator users: those who have realized they wasted their time and money and gone
> back to PC/Mac/Linux, and those who will in the future.
I'll add a third type to the list: those who tried it just to see how bad it could be knowing full well it wouldn't be good going in, and subsequently found out just how crap it is. I'm in that category.
My use case: a generic cabinet being dedicated to laserdisc emulation. DAPHNE doesn't require a ton of horsepower to run, so is a good candidate for RasPi emulation.
How it turned out: poorly.
DAPHNE on the RasPi is an unmaintained, broken mess, as is its fork, Hypseus. A few things ran, but many didn't, including games that have been supported for 15-plus years on DAPHNE's original target platforms. Interfacing controls to the RasPi in any sort of useful way meant adding a rather expensive JAMMA adapter to the mix. Storage was at least adequate for this scenario using a 64GB SD card, which is about the best thing I can say for the experiment.
(Note: the RasPi ports of DAPHNE are maintained by people other than Matt Ownby. Don't bug Matt about the problems on that platform; they're neither his fault nor responsibility as ARM is not an architecture that DAPHNE was ever intended to run on in the first place.)
Moving on, I decided to see what the state of MAME was. Frankly, not much better. Trying both RetroPie and PiMame confirmed my suspicions that 68000-based games are a stretch for the system - and even some 8-bit ones (depending on hardware complexity) were problematic. It also doesn't help that these projects are basing their MAME derivatives around what can only be charitably described as less-than-recent versions of MAME, in some cases going as far back as 0.37b5 for their codebase.
The conclusion that I came to was that the real purpose of attempting arcade emulation on the RasPi was to make crappy x-in-1 boards look good by comparison and nothing else. If the DAPHNE variants had actually functioned in line with the other major ports of that emulator I could make a credible defence for using a RasPi in that specific instance, but only really in that specific instance. Until their maintainers get them into a usefully-working state, however, that's not going to be the case.
As for non-arcade (meaning console or home computer) emulation... I didn't bother. There was no reason to; tying up an entire computer (even a low-powered one like the RasPi) with something like running an Atari 800 emulator is pointless when the same result can more effectively be accomplished on a desktop machine. In an instance where someone is hacking up yet another case to make something oh-so-retro and needs a way to power whatever it is they want to give the illusion of recreating, sure, this could work. But... Ehhh. There's a billion ways to do this anymore, and unless you're going for the reward of being able to say that you did it, most of those other ways are going to be a lot less painful.
Overall, I'm just glad that I had an exit strategy up front (if it didn't work out, I'd repurpose the RasPi for running some supporting services that were using VM resources I'd rather have back, which is exactly what ended up happening) and that my expectations were very low going in.
Note that none of this is to knock the RasPi: it definitely has its uses, and can be a handy little low-powered machine in the right circumstances. Emulation is not a category in which it excels, however.
> (Yeah, it's a necrothread, who cares).
Totally worth resurrecting; there are plenty of people out there who won't equate '$35 computer' with 'you get what you pay for'.