RG350 & RG280 Series Starter Guide

Last updated: 15JUN2022

At long last, we have a definitive firmware image for Anbernic RG350 and RG280 series retro handheld devices. This “Adam” image will allow you to create the ultimate SD card image that runs OpenDingux Beta firmware, RetroArch and standalone emulators, and the SimpleMenu frontend all in one seamless experience. No FTPing, tweaking, or headaches required.

This starter guide will work on the following devices: Anbernic RG350, RG350P, RG350M, RG280M, RG280V, RG300X, PlayGo, PocketGo 2, PowKiddy Q80, GCW-Zero, and probably a few others not on my radar.

Table of Contents

Recommended tools
Required software
Setup process
Remove the "Format this Disk" error
Updating Adam
Updating SimpleMenu
Adding themes to SimpleMenu
RetroArch cheats
Super Mario 64 port
DOOM mods
ScummVM setup

Changelog

Recommended tools

128GB SanDisk Ultra and Samsung EVO Select microSD cards

Most devices come with a generic microSD card, and they are often prone to failure. Your safest bet is to replace it with a microSD card from a well-known brand (don’t worry, I’ll show you how to do that below). I recommend you store that original card somewhere safe in case you run into any issues in the future, and buy a new SD card from a reputable brand like SanDisk or Samsung to use in your device.

For these devices, you will need two cards: a smaller (4GB to 16GB) card to hold your operating system, and a larger card for your game files.

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 $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 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
Samsung Pro Endurance (more reliable but pricey)
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

Many retro devices come with a cheap USB SD card reader. I have about half a dozen of them, and only a couple of them actually work. So I think it’s worth it to invest in a solid, fast USB 3.0 SD card reader for your computer. You’ll be able to transfer your game files onto your SD card that much fast, and you don’t have to worry about corrupting your card.

I recommend this USB 3.0 SD card reader from Anker.

Required software

  • Adam image — this is the image you will flash to the SD1 (internal) card. Head to the link and download the latest release. The file will be in a .img.gz format. While there, check out the developer’s extremely helpful guide on this image.
  • Balena Etcher — this software will flash the Adam image you just downloaded onto your SD1 card. Etcher can flash compressed files, which means you won’t need to unzip/extract the Adam image once you download it, saving you hard drive space and time. This app is available for both Mac and Windows machines.
  • guiformat — guiformat (or FAT32 Format) is a lightweight Windows tool that will format your SD2 (external) card to the FAT32 file system, which is necessary for the device to read. For Mac, use Disk Utility to format (“erase”) the card, with MS-DOS (FAT) as the format. When formatting your card, make sure that the card does not have a name/label. Here is more info on the subject.

Setup process

For a comprehensive guide on the installation and setup process, I encourage you to use eduardofilo’s excellent guide. This is the guide I used to create the video you see above. Some simple steps:

  • Download the latest Adam image and flash it to your SD1 (internal) card using Balena Etcher.
  • Once flashed, Etcher will eject the card. Re-insert the card and you will see a bunch of pop-ups and warnings to format the disk — cancel all of those, and you’ll be left with a single partition that is readable in Windows. Open the “select_kernel.bat” file and in the window that pops up, select your device number and press ENTER. This will create the boot files needed for your device. If you are using a Mac, follow these instructions for this step instead. Once complete, eject the SD1 card.
  • Format the SD2 (external) card to FAT32
    • Is using Windows, use the guiformat tool to format the card to FAT32. It is critical that your SD2 card is unlabeled — it should have no name at all.
    • If you have a Mac, “Erase” the disk using the Mac’s built-in Disk Utility app, with the format MS-DOS (FAT), name it whatever you want. Then, on the left side of the Disk Utility app you should see the SD card. Right-click on it and select “Rename” and now delete the name and just press the SPACE bar once so that the name looks blank. On the device, it will register as being blank and work appropriately.

Once both cards are good to go:

  • Place both cards into your device, then turn it on. Press START and then A to shut down the device, and remove the SD2 (external) card and re-insert it into your computer. The SD2 card should now have a file directory added.

If you find that the SD2 card doesn’t have a file directory added, you likely have an issue with the SD2 card — either it wasn’t properly formatted to FAT32, or the SD card has a name. I recommend re-formatting the SD2 card and trying the previous step again.

Note: when first starting up the ADAM image, it will default to the “Apps” part of the “Apps & Games” section. This is normal, and you just need to press the B button a couple times to get to the actual system navigation.

Press the B button to back out into the Apps & Games section, and then B again to get to the Section Group section. Here you can navigate among your Home Consoles, Handhelds, Arcades, Home Computers, and so on. Press A to enter any of those Section Groups, navigate to your preferred system/console, and then press A to browse the games list. Every time you shut down the system (press START then A to shut down), SimpleMenu will remember where you were last time. If you have any questions about what each button does within SimpleMenu, press START > Help to see a button map.

Remove the “Format this Disk” error

When inserting your SD1 card into a Windows machine, you will usually get a “Format this Disk” error every time, which can be quite annoying. It’s because your PC is trying to read a Linux partition. There’s an easy fix to this, which I demonstrate in the video above. You will need the DiskGenius software for this step.

Updating Adam

As Adam releases updates, it’s easy to flash the latest image to your SD1 card (well, unless you have an RG350, since you’ll need a screwdriver!). To update, follow these steps:

  • On your current image, use the Py Backup tool to back up your saves and configurations.
  • Note: if updating from v1.1 or lower to v1.2 or higher, you should update the PyBackup config file, which is found in the v1.2 release files. For more information, check out the video above.
  • Download the latest Adam image and flash it to your SD1 card. If you have a spare card, you could always flash the new image to that card so that you’re not overwriting your old card and taking the risk that something could go wrong.
  • Use the Py Backup tool again to restore your saves and configurations.
  • Note: unless you made some specific changes to the SimpleMenu configuration (.ini) files manually, I would recommend *not* restoring SimpleMenu section_groups, since it will overwrite the updates contained in that Adam image (like new emulator options, for example). So when restoring your configurations, I would just uncheck the SimpleMenu box and enjoy the fresh new setup. Similarly, I would also not backup the RetroArch config or PyBackup backups either, since those can negatively affect your update.

Updating SimpleMenu

SimpleMenu will periodically release updates and so it may be that you want to update the interface without re-flashing a new Adam image. Here’s how to update SimpleMenu on its own:

  • Download the latest SimpleMenu release opk
  • Put the SD2 card into your computer and place the opk anywhere in the SD2 card
  • Open the Commander app (in “Apps & Games” section) and copy the new opk from your SD2 card into the /media/data/apps folder of your SD1 card (it will ask you to confirm the overwrite, select YES). While still in Commander, navigate to /media/data/home/.simplemenu on your SD1 card and delete the last_state.sav file.
  • You’ll need to re-set your theme and SimpleMenu options once you’ve updated the interface, and rebooting your device will sometimes help, too.

Adding themes to SimpleMenu

If you would like to add additional SimpleMenu themes, follow these steps:

  • Download the theme and unzip it (if applicable).
  • Place the theme folder in the root directory of your external SD card.
  • Using the Commander app on your device, on the left menu navigate to where that theme folder is saved (media/sdcard/)
  • On the right menu, navigate to /media/data/local/home/.simplemenu/themes
  • There will be two theme folders: 320×240 and 640×480. Place the theme(s) in the applicable folder by navigating inside the 320×240 or 640×480 folder, then on the left side hover over the theme folder then press X and select “Copy” or “Move”. When all else fails, just follow the structure of the two themes already in the folder.
  • Exit Commander then apply the new theme

Themes that are working with this image:

ComicBook (320×240 version and 640×480 version)
SimUI (made for 320×240 but works with 640×480)
Epic Noir
Unified (use without preview images)
Megapixels

Adam image hotkeys

GitHub user ianmeat created this handy hotkey cheatsheet that shows all working hotkeys for OD Beta, SimpleMenu, and RetroArch.

RetroArch cheats

Within Adam, most games run on the RetroArch emulation backend. Luckily, that means we can take advantage of RetroArch’s cheat database to implement cheats in a variety of games.

  • Download the RetroArch master database file here.
  • Unzip the master file, and open the “cht” folder inside. Within this cht folder, you should see a listing of systems that have cheat files. Grab whatever systems you want and move these folders to the SD2 (external) card, in a folder named “cheats” in the card’s root directory. There will likely already be a folder named cheats there, but if there isn’t one, just create it.
  • When playing a game that is using RetroArch as its backend, press the POWER button to open the RetroArch quick menu. Navigate to Cheats > Load Cheat File (Replace) and open the folder that corresponds to the system you are playing (NES, SNES, etc).
  • Navigate to the game you are playing (not all games will be listed, but most are). To aid in navigating, you can press the shoulder buttons to skip to the next letter of the alphabet. Once you have found the game you are playing, press A. This will reset you to the main Cheats menu.
  • Near the bottom of the Cheats menu, you should now see a series of cheats that you can enable. Hover over a cheat and press RIGHT on the d-pad to turn it on. Once you have turned on all the cheats you want to use, navigate to Apply Changes and press A. Back out to the main Quick Menu and select Resume to return to your game, with cheats implemented.
  • To remove cheats, just head back to the Cheats menu, toggle the cheat off, and select Apply Changes.

Super Mario 64 port

Here is my guide on how to get the Super Mario 64 ports working on these devices. Note that if you want to adjust the button mapping in the sm64config.txt file, the easiest way to do that is directly in the Commander app (found in the “Apps & Games” section).

DOOM mods

IWADS (total conversion mods) for DOOM work just fine in this setup, thanks to the fact that the Adam image runs the RetroArch PRBoom core. To get them set up, follow these instructions:

  • In the roms/doom folder, make sure that there is are distinct subfolders for doom and doom2. Inside each of these subfolders, make sure there is a .previews folder if you want to add box art.
  • In each subfolder, put each of the retail DOOM wads, respectively. I used the names “Doom.wad” and “Doom2.wad” for mine. I recommend using the Ultimate Doom retail wad file for the widest compatibility.
  • Place the mod file (it must be a .wad file) into its corresponding subfolder. For example, REKKR uses Doom.wad as its backend, so place the REKKR.wad file in the doom folder (and not the doom2 folder). Most total conversion mods use the Doom2.wad as its backend, but a few (like REKKR, SIGIL, Doom the way id Did, and Wonderful DOOM) use the Doom.wad instead.
  • Place preview images in the respective .previews folder, make sure that its name matches the name of the IWAD.

Note that it is possible to run multi-file IWADS, but will require some tweaking in RetroArch system files to get working. More info can be found in my RG351P Doom Mods Guide.

One of my favorite mods, Going Down, doesn’t really work — it gets too bogged down. But REKKR, SIGIL, and Claustrophobia 1024 are some of my other favorites, and they work wonderfully, with minimal slowdown.

ScummVM setup

ScummVM games are wonderful on these devices, but take some configuration.

  • Place the game files in the roms/SCUMMVM folder on your SD2 card, in their own folders. Here is a list of the required game files for each game. The folders can be named whatever you want. For a list of where to get the games (either freeware or commercially), check out this wiki page.
  • Within each folder, place an empty text file, with the “Short Name” of the game and the file extension .svm instead of .txt. If you don’t see an option to remove the .txt file extension, you may need to enable file extensions in your File Explorer view options. To find a list of game Short Names, consult this list.
  • When running Skraper, the images will be stored in their own subfolders within the roms/SCUMMVM/.previews folder. Simply move those png files from the subfolder into the main .previews folder instead (you can then delete the subfolders). The image names need to match the .svm filenames.
  • From there, SimpleMenu will recognize your .svm files and boot them accordingly. Note that the “Talkie” editions of the first two Monkey Island games don’t work with this RetroArch core.

For more tips and tricks for these devices, check out my RG350 guide.


Changelog

15JUN2022
– updated Adam links to new wiki

21JAN2022
– added SimpleMenu navigation tips

26NOV2021
– removed Mac SD2 card instructions because GitHub user Asppire found an even easier method for Mac users. It’s now been integrated into the guide.

20NOV2021
– added Mac SD2 card instructions

16SEP2021
-added ScummVM section

13SEP2021
– added Adam v1.2 video and instructions
– added “Format this Disk” fix

05SEP2021
– updated flashing instructions
– added ianmeat’s hotkey cheatsheet

04SEP2021
– added info about setting the bootloader

28AUG2021
– added Adam update instructions
– added Table of Contents
– added Cheats section

21AUG2021
– added new themes
– added DOOM mod instructions

20AUG2021
– published guide
– added SimpleMenu theme instructions

86 thoughts on “RG350 & RG280 Series Starter Guide

  1. I was trying to update ADAM from 1.3 to 1.4.2. But the link to MAC instructions on this written guide is now outdated and it points to an irrelevant link. I’m unable to proceed with installation at this point. Can you please tell us how to set the device model on a MAC? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Like

  2. Thanks a LOT for all this hard work. For a newbie it’s really appreciable to have all these tutos.
    I just have an issue on my RG280V with the finalisation of the installation. The screen seems to freeze on the final step with the whole charging bar full and with “setup premissions…” message on the screen.
    For information I directly try to install the uptodate Adam image (1.4.2). If you have any clue I’m intersting.

    Thanks again !

    Like

    1. I’m having similar issues, booting seems to freeze, resetting shows different error messages each time, I have tried to 1.4.2 and 1.0.3, reflashing back to stock firmware works fine so I don’t think it is an SD card problem 😦

      Like

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