Retron 5 vs SNES – you might be wondering what the advantages to upgrading would be if your original hardware works fine. There is a definite appeal to playing on original hardware – the design & build quality of the device, the feel of the original controllers – which contributes to overall feeling of a “pure” retro experience that might previously have outweighed the necessity for a new device in the early days of clone hardware development. But times have changed, and clone consoles have drastically improved.
Our user guide weighs the Retron 5 against the SNES in the areas that really matter, examining the core features of the Retron’s SNES functionality against the original hardware.
Most SNES games output at a resolution of 256×224, whilst the Retron 5’s upscaler outputs the same games at 1080×720. The drastically higher resolution of the Retron 5 has an obvious advantage – the image is much clearer, sharper and won’t look this good outside of PC emulation. If you are currently running your original SNES to an HD TV with composite cables, the Retron 5 will dramatically increase the visual fidelity of your games.
Take a look at this footage we captured live from a Retron 5 – make sure you’re watching in 720p to get a better idea of how good it looks on an HD TV:
Purists might lament the forced 16:9 and lack of scanlines in defence of original SNES hardware – however, aspect ratio, scanlines and additional filters are all adjustable display options that can be accessed at any time.
The only downside to upscaled HD is that the Retron 5 outputs via HDMI only – so if your old CRT doesn’t have an HDMI-in, it can’t take a Retron 5. The Super Retro TRIO and other clone consoles will work on a CRT, though.
It’s also worth noting that the Retron 5 does not have trouble with the more graphically demanding SNES games, either:
The HDMI is also especially handy for capturing game footage to your PC – compare the above to this footage captured from an original SNES:
Gameplay with scanlines and 4:3 display:
The Retron 5 uses software emulation, dumping an image of the game file from the cart when the console boots. Although compatibility with cartridges designed for the SNES is guaranteed in the vast majority of cases, there may be some issues with unlicensed carts, and Super Everdrive carts are not currently compatible.
Conversely, the Retron 5 can boast region-free compatibility with SNES carts worldwide – this includes Super Famicom carts, which can be played without the need for modding the console or use of a third-party adapter. There isn’t even a region switch – just pop in the cart and you’re good to go. You can even patch Japanese games into English via the SD card slot where fan translations have been distributed.
The Retron also has the major advantage of playing games for many other consoles, including NES, Game Boy Advance, and Mega Drive.
The SNES enjoyed a much-heralded controller design – purists may balk at the idea of playing classic SNES games with anything other than original Nintendo-designed pads. The Retron comes with its own wireless controller, quite unlike the SNES one – it’s been designed with compatibility with the other consoles in mind, too, and features an eight-way “analogue” stick for movement instead of a D-pad.
Easy solution, though – the Retron has SNES ports for original controllers, multitap devices, and other peripherals. Even if you don’t have SNES controllers, you can use NES and Mega Drive game pads to play with instead.
The Super Nintendo saves direct to carts where the functionality is supported; the Retron saves direct to the console’s internal memory. Saving to console memory is advantageous where internal batteries no longer function and games can’t be saved, or with games which were not designed to save at all. Retron 5 uses save states – much like a PC emulator – and games can be paused at any time as a result.
Original hardware does give you the advantage of saving to a cart for use on another console – the Retron 5 does support console-to-cart save transfers, but in the event of an error, you lose the save – so we recommend keeping your saves on the console.
If you’re looking to dive into the SNES back catalogue and want a convenient, hassle-free way of playing the games, the Retron 5 is tough to beat – it’s certainly the better option for modern TVs. Being region-free with a multitude of other cart slots for other retro platforms, it’d probably be impossible to amass all 9 included consoles (plus region variants and necessary controllers) for less than the price of a Retron. Original hardware does retain some advantages, especially for retro purists, but there’s no reason you can’t use your Retron for regular gaming while keep the SNES reserved for some “classic” retro gaming.
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