Last updated: 13JAN2021
The developer who created ArkOS is not new to RK3326 chipset devices like the RG351P, as they had previously developed an operating system called TheRA-NTFS that was used on similar ODROID GO ADVANCE handheld devices (and clones). But there were enough deviations from TheRA-NTFS to warrant a new name, and now we have ArkOS (Another RK3326 OS).
What I really love about this OS is that it has a lot of quality of life features: online updating, 32-bit and 64-bit userspace, background music, and screensaver options. So let’s dive into this OS and show why I think this might be the best one yet.
ArkOS is based on UBUNTU 19.10, and being based on a full Linux build give the developer a lot of room to work with. For example, he was able to create a 32-bit and 64-bit userspace, which effectively doubles the possibilities in terms of emulators and apps that can run on the device in this OS. A good example is the fact that this OS can now run both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of RetroArch, which means that certain cores that are unique to those versions are now available across the board. Similarly, if there are 64-bit (or 32-bit) standalone emulators that can be ported over, they’ll work as well. This means there is a lot of promise for future emulator options with this OS.
Like 351ELEC, ArkOS features a separate partition for ROMs, which allows you to drag and drop game files from your PC/Mac directly onto the microSD card. However, ArkOS features the more modern exFAT file system, which is more Mac-friendly compared to 351ELEC (and EmuELEC 3.7) which use FAT32 file systems. Note that the ability to view and manipulate multiple partitions is only available in Windows 10 and MacOS; so if you don’t see the partition and you’re using Windows 7 or 8, that’s the reason.
One of my favorite aspects of this OS is that future OS updates (unless it’s something fundamentally BIG) will be provided through OTA (over-the-air) updates. In other words, you’ll just connect to WiFi and initiate firmware updates — much like you would on your phone. That’s super awesome to me. Moreover, the versions of RetroArch that are on this OS also support online core updates — so you can just jump onto the network and update your cores to the latest builds seamlessly. This is extremely beneficial to me because it means that users don’t have to remove the microSD card from their device at all, unless they want to add/delete ROMs on their computer.
Finally, the quality of life benefits on this OS are pretty impressive. You can load your own background music to play while you’re navigating the menus; I loaded up the soothing PS4 main menu drone music, and now my RG351P plays that soft music while I’m in the main menu. It’s a small touch but it really does make my experience more enjoyable. Additionally, there is a screensaver function that will cycle through the videos associated with the games you have installed on your device. It’s a very entertaining feature, but it’s also useful — you can just press START while a video is playing and launch that game right then and there. This is also a very small feature, but I have been using it constantly.
ArkOS is getting new features added all the time, so be sure to check my Firmware Comparison Guide for more info.
How to install ArkOS
Another thing I love about ArkOS is that its installation guide is quite comprehensive. So rather than re-type their guide, I am just going to say that you should go to this GitHub page to read through the installation instructions and download the necessary file. The method is simple: download the file, unzip it, flash it to a new SD card using Win32 Disk Imager (PC) or ApplePi Baker v2 (Mac), then put the card into your device to finish the installation. The video above will also walk you through the process.
After that, you can put the microSD card back into your PC/Mac and add your ROMs to their appropriate folder within the “EASYROMS” partition on the card. Note that this OS does not come with bios files, so you will need to add them yourself. If you still have your stock SD card, you can grab them from the “Games” partition on that card. Additionally, the developer created this handy guide which shows every system supported by ArkOS, what emulator it uses, what file types are supported, and what bios files are required (and where to put them).
Overall, setting up ArkOS is fundamentally similar to the other RG351P operating systems, because they all use EmulationStation as their frontend. So my RG351P Starter Guide and Screen Configuration Guide are still applicable here.
- ArkOS is frequently updated, so be sure to consult the Changelog to see what features have been recently added.
- Because there are two versions of RetroArch on this system, you will have to configure both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of RetroArch separately. This means setting up HotKeys will have to be done twice, and so on.
- Additionally, these versions of RetroArch use the RGUI menu driver (RetroArch theme) by default, so it’ll look a little different from the XMB menu driver you’re probably used to. I personally switched mine back (Settings > Drivers > Menu Driver > XMB) to the old format because that’s what I prefer, but it’s up to you. Both menu drivers have the same settings, but are organized just a bit differently.
- WiFi FTP is still possible, but you need to select “Enable Remote Access” in the Options menu every time you want to connect to your device. The address will be your IP address (192.168.86.##), username is “ark”, and password is also “ark”. You can also bypass an FTP client and use their web browser feature instead.
- To set up background music, place any .mp3 files in the home/ark/.emulationstation/music folder (if there isn’t a music folder, just make one). You will need to connect to your device via WiFi FTP (SSH) to find this folder. Once you have loaded your mp3s, go back into your device and press START then go to Sound Settings > Frontend Music > ON.
- To set the time, you will first need to connect to WiFi to set the system time, but the timezone will be stuck on UTC. To change that, you have to access Terminal using an OTG adapter and a USB keyboard — more info here. Once in Terminal, you need to adjust the timezone using a timedatectl command like in this guide. I tested it and it worked great, but it was a bit of a pain to figure out. The developer is aware of this issue and is working on a fix.
- If you’re looking for hotkeys (like how to exit a game, and so on), be sure to check out this section of the ArkOS FAQs.
If you’re looking for other tips, be sure to check out the developer’s ArkOS FAQs.