RG351V Starter Guide

Last updated: 28MAY2021 (see Changelog for details)

This two-part starter guide will get you up and running with your new Anbernic RG351V on the stock firmware that ships with your device.

This guide will cover a lot of the fundamental aspects that will set you up for success no matter what operating system you use on the RG351V. If you want to branch out to other firmwares, I suggest my RG351 Custom Firmware Guide.

Table of contents:
Before the RG351V arrives
Unboxing
Save the BIOS files from the original card
Consider custom firmware
Flash clean firmware onto a new card
Load games onto your device
Scrape media and change themes
Understanding the interface
Understanding games settings
Set RetroArch hotkeys
Screen configuration
Emulator tips and tricks
Setting the time zone

Changelog
Sandisk (left) and Samsung (right) microSD cards

Before the RG351V arrives

The RG351V will come bundled with a single microSD card, and in some cases two SD cards, but they are from a generic brand and will be prone to failure. The “TF1” slot on your device holds the system firmware, so for that card 16GB is ideal. The “TF2” slot is for your game files, so you will want a larger card for that one. Your safest bet is to replace your cards with microSD cards from a well-known brand. I recommend you store that original card somewhere safe in case you run into any issues in the future, and buy new SD cards from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.

In general, I recommend the cards listed below, in order or preference. The prices fluctuate all the time, so keep an eye out for deals. In general, I would expect to pay $7 for a 16GB card, $20 for a 128GB card, and $30 for a 256GB card. A 128GB card will allow you to load EVERY 8-bit and 16-bit game out there, all of the arcade games that work, and quite a few PS1, Dreamcast, PSP, and Sega CD games (those systems have the largest file sizes). A 256GB card will allow you to store even more of those larger games.

16GB cards: 
SanDisk Ultra  
SanDisk Industrial (more reliable but pricey)

128GB cards:
SanDisk Extreme
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

One more accessory to consider: if you don’t have a nice microSD to USB adapter, you might want to think about getting one. A nice adapter like this one from Anker will give you the fastest transfer speeds possible, and won’t cause any corruption issues with your card.

Finally, I would recommend that you build your ROM library now, if you haven’t already. The device comes with a bunch of games, but they are poorly organized, from the wrong region, or just outright buggy. Make a folder called “Retro Games” or something like it, and make distinct folders for each of the systems you would like to play on your device. I recommend naming your game folders after the “Rom Path” names found in this guide, because that’s how they’ll be organized on your device. Also be sure to load the folders with ROMs of the correct file extension, which is also found in that guide. For example, NES games can be in .7z, .fds, .nes, or .zip format. As a reminder, here are some of the many systems that play on the RG351V:

Home Consoles:

Panasonic 3DO
Atari 2600
Atari 5200 (and 800)
Atari 7800
Colecovision
PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16)
PC Engine CD (TurboGrafx-CD)
Nintendo Entertainment System
Famicom Disk System
Super Nintendo
Nintendo N64
Sega SG-1000
Sega Master System
Sega Genesis
Sega CD
Sega 32X
Sega Saturn (poorly)
Sega Dreamcast
Neo-Geo / CD
NEC PC-FX
Sony PSX
Vectrex

Handheld Consoles:

Atari Lynx
Game and Watch
Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Game Boy Color
Nintendo Game Boy Advance
Nintendo DS
Nintendo Virtual Boy
Sega Game Gear
Neo-Geo Pocket / Color
Sony PSP
Wonderswan / Color

Home Computers:

Amiga
Amstrad CPC
Atari ST
Commodore 64 (and C16/Plus4, C128)
Intellivision
MSX
PC (DOSBOX)
ScummVM
ZX Spectrum

Arcade Systems:

MAME
Final Burn Neo
Neo-Geo / CD
Atomiswave
Naomi

Unboxing

Now that your device has arrived, let’s make sure everything is working. Unbox the device, and do a quick hardware check. Confirm that all of the buttons work/click as expected, look for any noticeable damage or cracks in the screen. Power on the device, and try booting some games. Verify that you have no dead pixels (they’ll look like little dots). To power off the device, I strongly recommend you do a system shut down instead of just holding down the power button. Think of it like powering down a PC. To do a system shutdown, press START then select Quit > Shutdown System.

This device comes pre-loaded with thousands of games (here is the standard list of pre-loaded games). I’m not a fan of this, mostly because it’s illegal for anyone to distribute copyrighted media. While it may be convenient for the customer, Anbernic shouldn’t be loading their devices with dubious games. You’ll also notice that the games which are pre-loaded on the device have several issues: they are not in alphabetical order (rather, a numerical order assigned by the manufacturer), and the games are often poorly translated. For these reasons, I recommend you re-flash clean stock firmware onto a new card and load your own personal games, which we will do below.

If you still want to use the games that come with the device, there is a fix for removing the numbers at the beginning of the game, so that the games will be shown in alphabetical order. Here is a quick solution to rename the files in your folder (note that you will need to install Python on your computer in order to run this script).

Save the BIOS files from the original SD card

In the next step we’re going to flash a clean version of the stock RG351V firmware onto a new SD card. But first, we need to grab some files from the original SD card to make sure everything works as expected on the new firmware.

Remove the original SD cards from your device. Your unit may or may not have come with a second SD card — it doesn’t really matter. Inside the first (“TF1”) SD card you should find a GAMES partition, and within that will be a series of folders, and one should be named “bios”. Copy all of the contents of this folder onto your computer somewhere for safe keeping. If you do not see the GAMES partition, you may be using an older version of Windows (for example, Windows 7 or 8); in which case, you’ll want to use a program called “bootice” in order to see the GAMES partition. More info can be found in this guide.

Consider custom firmware

At the time of making my Starter Guide videos for the RG351V, custom firmwares were not yet available as an option. Well, things change, because now they are! I would encourage you to consider a custom firmware like ArkOS or 351ELEC instead of the stock firmware that comes with the device. These custom firmwares are constantly updated and have better performance for some of the hard-to-run systems like Dreamcast, PSP, and Nintendo 64. Watch the video above to get an idea as to whether this is something that you should try.

That being said, the remainder of this Starter Guide still contains relevant information no matter if you are using the stock firmware of a custom firmware. So let’s continue.

Flash clean firmware onto a new card

Now that you have your BIOS files, and if you’re not interested in a custom firmware like ArkOS or 351ELEC, let’s download the clean stock firmware image:

RG351V clean stock firmware

Once you have downloaded the firmware, unzip the file so that you have an .img file. Now, use a program such as Win32 Disk Imager, Rufus, or Balena Etcher to flash the image file onto your 16GB microSD card.

Load games onto your device

We’re going to use the second card (“TF2”) to store our games and bios files. This should be your larger card: 128GB or larger is perfect. Plug that card into your computer, then use a program called GUIformat to format the card to FAT32. This is a necessary step for the device to recognize that TF2 card.

Next plug in the TF1 card that you recently burned the system image onto; it should have a GAMES partition, and within that partition, and within that partition there should be a bunch of (empty) game folders. Copy all of those game folders (minus the one that says “System Volume Information”) and move them onto the TF2 card. This will create the folder structure you need for the system to find the game folders.

Now, your TF2 card only has empty game folders. First thing is to move the BIOS files that we saved earlier into the “bios” folder on the TF2 card. Next, move over your game files. Note that for multi-file games (like .bin and .cue files for PS1 games), you don’t want to put them in subfolders — just throw everything into the PS1 folder itself.

There’s no special trick to adding games — just make sure you’re putting them in the right folder, and that they are the correct file extension (you can check the accepted file extensions here). If there isn’t a folder for a system you want to add, like for Sega CD, simply make the folder yourself and add the games (again using this guide to determine the correct folder name).

Note that if you transfer files using a Mac, you may find mysterious files on your device that start with a “._” prefix in addition to your regular game. So for example you’ll see both Sonic.bin as well as “._Sonic.bin”. These are files created by MacOS to aid in their QuickLook function. You can delete these files from your device by pressing SELECT > Edit game metadata > Delete. Or, you can also clear them from your SD card while on your Mac, using this method:

  • Open the Terminal app and type “sudo dot_clean -mn /Volumes/SD/” where “/Volumes/SD” is the path to your SD card.

Scrape media and change themes

There are many nice features of this device that can only be accessed via WiFi. For example, you can “scrape” (download) box art and other media for all of your games, or add new themes to your EmuELEC frontend, or even get achievements for classic games.

One of the easiest ways to improve your user experience is to find a theme that works best for you. Check out my Themes Guide for information on how to scrape game media, download themes directly onto your device, find themes on the internet and load them onto your device, and how to tweak these themes so that they work perfectly with your system. Although this guide was originally written for the RG351P, it runs the same firmware as the RG351V, so the process is the same.

Understanding the interface

When you first power on the device, you will be greeted with a sleek user interface that will allow you to scroll through systems, and select games. You’ll also notice that the systems that appear on your device are only the ones that have games loaded — how convenient is that?

This main interface is actually a modified version of EmuELEC, an operating system that works on several devices. EmuELEC uses EmulationStation, which serves as a frontend interface for the user, while the games themselves are mostly loaded from an emulation system known as RetroArch. EmulationStation will allow you to navigate your menus, and make some initial settings configurations, but to really unlock the RG351V’s potential, you’ll also need to familiarize yourself with how RetroArch operates, too.

In general, the easiest way to think of this is that when you launch a game from the EmulationStation interface, it’s actually booting up into RetroArch, and everything you do within the game is within RetroArch until you quit it and go back to EmulationStation. This is important to know because there are certain settings you can only configure while in RetroArch, like our next section about hotkeys.

You can configure about 80% of everything in EmulationStation, but the rest must be done in RetroArch. Note that if you adjust a setting in EmulationStation, it’ll override any setting you make in RetroArch; so if you set something in RetroArch and it’s not working when you jump back into a game, you likely have something going on in EmulationStation that is overriding the RetroArch tweak.

Note that some emulators don’t use RetroArch at all: Nintendo DS and PSP all use standalone emulators that won’t follow the same configuration requirements as RetroArch.

Understanding games settings

Before we dive into screen configuration, I think it’s important to note that for the most part, there are SIX different ways to save settings on the RG351V when using its stock firmware. I want to break them down now, since I will refer to them later in this guide.

The three settings in EmuELEC:

  1. “Games Settings” (EmulationStation): Press START on the RG351V while in the main operating system, and the Main Menu will appear. The second setting is “Games Settings”. Here you can change overall settings across the entire device: desired aspect ratio, graphics effects, and more.
  2. “Per System Advanced Configuration” (EmulationStation). This setting is found in the “Games Settings” menu. This allows you to make the same changes as found in the “Games Settings” menu but by SYSTEM (NES, SNES, etc), as well as to choose which emulator (core) . This is helpful if you want to tweak most of your system’s settings, but it doesn’t cover everything (see the RetroArch overrides below). You can also get to this settings menu by hovering over a game and then pressing SELECT and selecting “Advanced System Options”.
  3. “Advanced Game Options” (EmulationStation): You can also adjust settings by game. To do so, navigate to the game you want to adjust, then press SELECT and go into the “Advanced Games Options” menu and make your adjustments there — they will save only for that game.

The other three settings are done in RetroArch, which is the backend system that runs most of the emulators (called “cores”) on the RG351V. This is done via the “override” settings. These are kind of confusing, but essential if you want the best settings, so let’s discuss for a moment.

To override core settings means you can set up settings for an entire core (say, FCEUMM for the NES) and those settings will be persistent for every game that launches with that core. You can also override content directories, which is handy if you have a core (like Genesis Plus GX) that emulates multiple systems, but you only want one system to have specific settings — this option will save a whole directory (like “Sega Genesis”) and not touch the other directories that use the same core (Sega CD, Game Gear, etc). Finally, you can also override game settings, so that specific games have their own settings. For example, Star Fox plays best on the SNES 9x 2010 core, but you probably don’t want to use that core for every SNES game. For more information on override hierarchy, check out this guide from RetroArch themselves. Long story short: RetroArch’s “override” settings are more robust than what you’ll find in EmuELEC, but the EmulationStation settings will override the RetroArch settings. But in order to make EmuELEC more simple, it appears the developer hid the override settings on the device, so we need to set that up.

Go into RetroArch without a core loaded. You can do this by pressing START while in EmulationStation to get to the EmuELEC main menu , then select Quit > Start RetroArch. Or you can select “Close Content” in the Quick Menu when you have a game loaded in RetroArch. Once you’re in RetroArch, go to Settings > User Interface > Menu Item Visibility > Quick Menu. Scroll down until you find “Show Save Core Overrides”, then turn that ON, as well as “Save Game Overrides”. Back out to the Main Menu (on the far left) and select Configuration File > Save Current Configuration. Now, you will have the option to save overrides that are specific to that core or game (and the content directory option also works).

The three settings in RetroArch:

  1. “Save core overrides” (RetroArch): Once you have the game settings the way you’d like, go to the game’s quick menu (on the far left of the RetroArch menu bar) and scroll down until you find Overrides > Save Core Override. Choose that and you should get a confirmation that the core override was saved. At this point, every time you open a game from that particular core/system, you will have those settings.
  2. “Save content directory overrides” (RetroArch): Follow the instructions above, but select Save Content Directory Overrides. This will save the settings for every ROM in that same folder as the ROM you’ve just adjusted.
  3. “Save game overrides” (RetroArch): Follow the instructions above, but select Save Game Overrides. This will save the settings for this specific ROM, and no others.

Set RetroArch hotkeys

Hotkeys are simple button combinations that will allow you to make certain adjustments while in RetroArch.

To access the RetroArch menu, open a game and then press L3 + the F button. From this “Quick Menu”, press B one to back out to the Main Menu. Move the cursor to the right to find the Settings menu, then scroll down to the Inputs section. Press A to enter the Inputs settings, then scroll down until you find the Hotkeys section, then press A again to enter these settings. For “Hotkey Enable”, set it to the SELECT button, and for “Restart RetroArch”, set it to the START button. Now, any time you’re in a game, you can press SELECT + START twice to exit the game and boot back to EmuELEC.

There are several other hotkeys I recommend you set while you’re in these settings. Here are some of my preferred hotkeys:

Fast-Forward (Toggle): R2 button
Rewind: L2 button
Load State: L1 button
Save state: R1 button
Show FPS: Y button
Menu (Toggle): X button
Reset Game: B button

So with those hotkeys above, I can press SELECT + any of those other buttons to enable those features. SELECT + X is one of my favorites, because it does the same thing as L3 + F button, but is much easier and more convenient to press.

After you’ve made all of your hotkey configurations, go to the main RetroArch menu (on the far left), then scroll down to Configuration File > Save Current Configuration. This will ensure that your hotkeys will work no matter which game you open.

Screen configuration

In the Part 2 Starter Guide video above, I’ll walk you through how to adjust your screen settings to get the best image possible. In a nutshell, I would recommend that you set the system aspect ratio to “Core Provided” so that the emulator can decide the best aspect ratio, with some exceptions:

  • SNES usually looks best in 4:3, but some games are designed for 8:7. There’s a whole world of debate about this, so adjust as you prefer. I use 4:3 myself. If you want to play a specific game in 8:7, you could always go into the per-game settings and adjust the ratio for only that game.
  • Game Gear is traditionally considered to be a 10:9 aspect ratio device, but the recent consensus is that 4:3 is a better aspect ratio. So you could use either “Core Provided” or 4:3 for this system.
  • I wouldn’t mess with the aspect ratio or scaling on PSP or Nintendo DS, they are fine where they are and messing with them just causes issues.

In terms of integer scaling, I recommend you turn it ON for everything except for GBA, which has bezels that are very large with integer scaling. Everything else will have thin black bezels, but a superior pixel balance. If you don’t really see the difference, and would like to fill up your whole screen, then go for it. Also, you can stretch the screen and then apply shaders to balance the pixel distortion, too. I recommend trying the GLSL > Interpolation > sharp-bilinear-2x-prescale.glslp shader, which should already be loaded on your device in the RetroArch Quick Menu > Shaders section.

I have also added a collection of overlays made by artist J.dewitz which will work with GB, GBC, Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color.

Emulator tips and tricks

I have a few emulator tips and tricks in the video above, but here is a quick summary:

  • Set the resolution for Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast to 640×480 instead of the default 320×240. This will cause a small performance hit in those games, but will look twice as good.
  • For Nintendo 64, use the default Parallel core, but experiment with the GFX plugin (Glide64, Rice, or AngryLion) to see which one works best for each game. I have found that AngryLion works best for Super Mario 64, F-Zero X, and Mario Kart 64.
  • On PSP, the START and SELECT buttons are swapped, so go into the Controls settings and remap them. In the graphics settings, change the Frameskip Type to Number of Frames, set the Frameskip to 1, and turn on Auto Frameskip.
  • For Nintendo DS, get a magnifying glass in order to adjust the settings, or just wait for custom firmware to improve the interface a bit.

Setting the time zone

Setting the system clock is not super simple on the RG351V, but it is important for games like Pokémon or Animal Crossing, which use the system clock to determine the time in the game. This process is only required for the stock EmuELEC firmware that ships with the device; all other firmwares have time zone options within their settings.

Connect to the internet to set the date and general time. You’ll notice that the time zone won’t match your current time zone — it will be set to the Shanghai time zone. Connect to your device using WiFi FTP (the same method used when connecting to your device to manually add themes), then go to /storage/.config/emuelec/configs/emuelec.conf, and open that file with a text editor. Find this text string:

------------ F - Language and keyboard ------------
 Set the language of the system (fr_FR,en_US,en_GB,de_DE,pt_BR,es_ES,it_IT,eu_ES,tr_TR,zh_CN)
 system.language=en_US
 Set you local time
 Select your timezone from : ls /usr/share/zoneinfo/ (string)
 system.timezone=Asia/Shanghai

You want to change that last line of code to whatever time zone you live in. To find the correct time zone wording, you can either open up the “tz” file found in /storage/.config/emuelec/configs/ and look it up, or you can use the listing found on this Wikipedia page. For example, I looked at the Wikipedia page and found US/Hawaii, and it worked perfectly.


Changelog

28MAY2021
– added note about RG351V overlays
– added custom firmware section

02MAY2021
– added link to Custom Firmware Guide

29MAR2021
– updated with Part Two information
– added time zone section

28MAR2021
– published guide

33 thoughts on “RG351V Starter Guide

  1. Great as always. So far I’ve used 4:3 with RGA scaling for home systems, I’ll giveva try to your recommendations.

    Like

  2. I downloaded the clean stock firmware and it boots to a console and goes black. Any idea what might be causing this? I made a clone of my boot SD card before swapping them, and am restoring that now.

    Like

    1. False alarm! Turns out – these things do not like 16GB Patriot MicroSD HC cards… I tried 3 I just bought.

      literally everything else works. Stick with SanDisk.

      Like

  3. I wrote the latest firmware image using rufus but no games folder / partition on the disk – any advice?

    Like

  4. Is there an easy way to turn on turbofire for MAME shmups? On my 350m, MAME4ALL had an option in the menu, but this is gone now.

    Like

  5. Is there any reason a Fat 32 formatted Sandisk from a mac (Disk Utility made) isn’t working for the secondary card but the same card made as a disk image from the original 2nd card works? The main issue is that my 128gb card shows a max size the same of the original 64gb secondary card.

    Like

  6. Hey, has anyone had problems getting all the consoles to load? I’m using 351elec and even though I downloaded ROMs for PSP and psx, it won’t load them or even register that they are downloaded. When I check the files they are in the correct places. Also Nintendo DS only had like 1 or 2 games that worked. The rest of the library isn’t working.

    Like

    1. I think I figured it out. My ROMs were in compressed files so I needed to extract them to get it work.

      Like

  7. Thank you for the brilliant videos and guides. For those needing to rename ROMs eg remove “001. XXXXXX” there is a really quick app on the MS Store called “File Renamer”. It’s free and works very well.

    Like

  8. Have you noticed after you put the image to a 16 GB SD, you only get about 4G total? It looks like it tells the SD card it’s not 16 GB anymore.

    Like

  9. I have a MAME romset that if I start retroarch and load the content then select ‘MAME – Current’ it works, but I can’t get it to start from its picture. I tried all the emulator choices in ‘ADVANCED GAME OPTIONS’ and none of those work and it doesn’t list the one I want.

    Any idea on how to add it to the list?

    Like

  10. Hi there!. I bought mine from Amazon. My guess is the reseller wiped the pre-loaded games and such to avoid copyright issues. The main card’s bios folder does not have all the files shown in this guide. I also do not have any of the Games folders.

    Can anyone help supplement this really helpful guide for my situation? Thanks!

    Like

  11. I just noticed that as shipped the /storage partition is too small and will fill up with time – I removed all the (J) cheats in /storage/database/cht to give mine a bit of space (6.2M) to grow.

    Like

  12. My save states would get stuck at 0% all the time and I was getting frustrated so I went into the Danger Zone! and said yes to all of the lines to Default.

    The games and emulators are still running. Do I need to do anything to return it to how it was when I first bought it? Or should I just load a different firmware with a fresh new microSD card?

    Thanks

    Like

    1. start game
      press the joypad center + middle button to go to retroarch menu
      press down until the spade icon labeled cheats is indicated – press A
      press down until ‘add new cheat to top’ or ‘add new cheat to bottom’ is indicated – press A
      press down until cheat #0 is indicated – press A
      select ‘enabled’, enter a ‘Description’, enter a ‘Code’ (I think this process is obvious)

      Like

  13. Where do I place tos.img for Atari ST emulation? The Retroarch settings for Hatari say the file is missing but I can’t find a place to put the file.

    Like

  14. i just received my rg351v unit but i am having an issue with it. when i start it up the screen would glow but there is no video, i was able to push some buttons and get some game started since i was able to hear it from the speaker.. what i have done so far is i backed up the files from both memory cards (the odd thing is that the bios folder was on the TF2 card and not on the TF1 firmware card) and i opened up the unit and re-seated the ribbon cable for the screen, and that did not change anything i still get no video just a glowing screen to show that its on.

    any ideas?

    Thanks for your help, if you can.
    C.

    Like

  15. Does this console not save games? I tried transferring a save file (both .sgm and .sav just to be safe) from a Pokemon game into the gba folder along with the ROM of the game, but kept being given a new game. When I saved the new game in an attempt to create a save file that I could then overwrite, I was met with a new game again once I restarted the game. I noticed that was one of the few things this guide did not cover, and it seems your guide on transferring files via WiFi might be out of date as WinSCP does not seem to work with the 351v.

    Like

  16. “Set the resolution for Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast to 640×480 instead of the default 320×240. This will cause a small performance hit in those games, but will look twice as good.”

    How can I change the resolution for N64 and Dreamcast games?

    Like

  17. Hey RGC!
    I have been using Lakka on my V and so far it has been a pleasant experience. I had to move to the nightly build because I had some problems with the stable build after upgrading to 3.4+, but it works very well and is very fast. A lot of fat is trimmed, so I believe it to be a good option for people that do not care about superfluous resources.

    Like

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