Anbernic RG503 Review and Initial Setup Guide

The new Anbernic RG503 has a few neat features, such as the PS Vita’s OLED panel, 5GHz WiFi, and Bluetooth connectivity — and it comes in at a very decent $135 price point. So is it worth picking up?

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Anbernic.com

Recommended settings

The firmware that ships with the RG503 has some minor and major issues, and so here are some workarounds.

Some issues:

  • Because the RK3566 is a new chip, distribution limitations prevent Anbernic from releasing sources to custom firmware developers for a certain period of time. This means that custom firmware may be delayed by several months for this device.
  • The “Genesis” folder is not read by the firmware, you need to put Genesis games in the Mega Drive folder instead.
  • The PSP standalone emulator does not respond to the volume buttons, and will default to 10/10 volume. Press the Function + B button to bring up the menu, and then go to Settings > Audio to adjust the global volume.
  • The standalone DraStic (Nintendo DS) emulator is wonky, when you press up or down in the menu it won’t show that your cursor has moved except for every five button presses (can vary). So you will need to look at the menu and count your button presses to know where the cursor actually is.
  • The Sega Saturn emulator does not respond to hotkeys, so the only way to exit the game is to RESET the system itself, which is not recommended due to potential issues with corrupting the SD cards. Saturn performance is abysmal anyway, so I would recommend skipping this system altogether for now.
  • Some of the cores that would be very fitting for this device aren’t bundled with the stock operating system. For example, Duckstation or Swanstation for PSX, BSNES HD Beta for SNES, and Genesis Plus GX Wide for Sega Genesis would all allow for widescreen hacks that would fill out the OLED display nicely. But we will have to wait on custom firmware to test those cores.
  • The shaders settings are limited in Batocera. If you go into Main Menu > Games Settings you can see a few “Shaders Set” options, but they do not encompass the full spectrum of glsl or slang shaders that are available in RetroArch. Instead, they would need to be manually added to the Batocera configuration file on a per-game or per-system basis. This is far beyond the scope of what should be expected of a general user, but here is the information if you want to try it yourself. Luckily, custom firmware solutions like JELOS or AmberELEC will provide the opportunity to add more robust shader options….if and when they arrive for this device.

Scaling: the image scaling on the device is sub-optimal, to include full-screen aspect ratio on systems that can stretch out the image. Additionally, the relatively low-res (960 × 544) only allows for scaling that is slightly above the standard 480p screens found in 3.5″ devices like the RG351MP or RG351V. For that reason, there is some image scaling optimization that you may want to consider.

  • Go to Main Menu > Games Settings and make the following changes:
    • Game Ratio: Core Provided
    • Smooth Games : ON
    • Rewind: OFF
    • Auto Save/Load: ON
    • Integer Scale (Pixel Perfect): OFF
  • For certain systems, you want to go into Main Menu > Games Settings > Per System Advanced Configuration and make the following changes:
    • Game Boy Advance: Smooth Games: OFF / Integer Scale: ON
    • You will want to do the same for any other system where you want to use integer scaling.
  • Next, open any game that runs via RetroArch (like NES, for example), then press Function + B to bring up the Quick Menu, and select “Close Content”. Now, go to Settings > Video > Video Filter and choose “Normal 2x”, then go to Main Menu > Configuration File > Save Current Configuration.
    • There may be some SNES games that will have performance issues when trying to run the Normal2x filter (Star Fox, Yoshi’s Island, etc.).
      • If that happens, open the game, go to Main Menu > Games Settings > Per System Advanced Configuration and turn Smooth Games OFF, then open a game and enter the RetroArch Quick Menu, and go to Settings > Video > Remove Video Filter, and then go to Quick Menu > Overrides > Save Game Override.
      • This will give you better gameplay at the expense of unbalanced pixel scaling. And because Batocera’s shaders are overriden by the OS, you cannot set a RetroArch shader to rebalance the pixels.
      • At that point you can either use integer scaling to have a much smaller (but balanced) picture, just use “Smooth Games” (bilinear filtering) for a softer but balanced picture, or live with unbalanced pixels.
    • For systems more advanced than SNES that can run on RetroArch (PS1, N64, Dreamcast), go to Main Menu > Games Settings > Per System Advanced Configuration and turn Smooth Games OFF, then open a game and enter the RetroArch Quick Menu, and go to Settings > Video > Remove Video Filter, and then go to Quick Menu > Overrides > Save Content Directory Override.

In case you missed it, here is my impressions video:

6 thoughts on “Anbernic RG503 Review and Initial Setup Guide

  1. Hi, Russ. Steve at TechToyTinker now has a version of RetroArena designed for this unit. 1.8 apparently takes advantage of the rumble feature.
    https://techtoytinker.com/handheld-corner
    Any chance you could give it a test? Based on what he’s show us, this may be the upgrade that puts this system into a higher tier.
    Thanks, and keep up your informative reviews!

    Like

  2. I’m interested to see a follow up to this guide focusing on the CFW and getting the most out of the screen with shaders/filters. Especially referring to JELOS.

    Like

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