AYN Odin Starter Guide

Last updated: 06NOV2022 (see Changelog for details)

The AYN Odin is a device that has caught the handheld gaming world by storm — it is relatively affordable, has excellent build quality, and provides performance that surpasses its peers in the same price range. Shipping delays have plagued its launch, but as more units are finally reaching their owners, let’s do a Starter Guide to walk you through the setup process.

This guide will work on the AYN Odin Pro, Base, or Lite model.

The Odin is at a strange junction in the gaming world: its price and performance have drawn interest from those who are not veterans of the emulation community, and some reviews fail to emphasize that this device is not plug-and-play out of the box. This guide is meant to help you along in that initial setup and configuration, so that you can get to gaming.

Android Starter Guide
RetroArch Starter Guide

Because the AYN Odin runs on an Android platform, setting up the device is similar to setting up any other Android device for the purpose of game emulation. I already have complete Android and RetroArch guides on this website, which will serve as the foundation of setting up your Odin. There are some unique setup aspects for the Odin which we’ll cover in this guide, to complement the two guides above, but I would highly encourage you to check out those two guides as well.

Table of Contents

Choose your model
Dual boot mode for Odin Base/Pro
Recommended accessories
Build your ROM (and BIOS) library
Startup and orientation
Recommended emulators
Button mapping
Increase rendering resolution in 3D-based games
Adjust the screen refresh rate in RetroArch
Recommended streaming apps
Android frontends

Changelog

Choose your model

Comparison of Odin models (click to enlarge)

There are two standard models for the Odin: Lite and Base/Pro. The difference between the Base and Pro models is the amount of RAM (4GB and 8GB, respectively). The Lite and Base/Pro models differ by CPU/GPU, video output capability, WiFi, and Android version. And of course, the price varies too, which is currently $238 USD for the Lite and $243 for the Base, or $293 for the Pro (with an option to increase the internal storage on the Pro to 256GB for a total of $335).

To purchase an Odin, the Base/Pro models are sold directly via AYN’s website, and the Lite model is sold via their IndieGoGo page.

Surprisingly, performance between the two models is actually not too far off. The Lite’s Dimensity D900 chip was a relatively unknown commodity when it was first released, but in reality the two models are nearly neck-and-neck when it comes to emulation performance. For more detail specs about the two units, here is a great guide made by the Odin community.

These first two videos demonstrate the performance of the Odin Base/Pro models:

And here is my review of the Odin Lite:

Dual boot mode for Odin Base/Pro

The Base/Pro models have the advantage of booting into Windows 11 for those who are interested, although real-world results are mixed (see the video below for a demonstration). Between the two, I recommend the Pro model because its 8GB of RAM will make it snappier in Windows. There is also a community-driven compatibility sheet so you can get an idea of what Windows/PC games play on the device.

Here is the full guide, and you can watch the video below to get an idea of Windows 11 game performance:

The Odin Base/Pro are also capable of dual-booting Linux, but development is less mature as it is on Windows. There are teams working on Linux distributions for the device, and so we may see updates in the future.

Recommended accessories

There are many accessories that work with the Odin, but here are some of my favorites. For even more options, check out the community-driven accessories sheet.

The AYN Odin will not come bundled with a microSD card, but it will have at least 64GB of internal storage, or up to 256GB if you pay for an upgrade. However, it also has an SD card slot for cheaper storage. What I typically will do is use the SD card for storing my ROMs, and the internal storage for Android games (some of them can take up a lot of space). I recommend using a card from reputable brands 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 $20 for a 128GB card, $30 for a 256GB card, and $60 for a 512GB. A 128GB card will allow you to load EVERY 8-bit and 16-bit game out there, just all of the arcade games that work, and quite a few PS1, Dreamcast, PSP, GameCube, PS2, and Sega CD games (those systems have the largest file sizes). A 256GB or 512GB card will allow you to store even more of those larger games. You can use a larger card than these but then you’ll have a card that costs quite a lot of money, and are you really going to play more than 512GB of games at once?

128GB cards:
SanDisk Extreme
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

512GB cards:
Samsung Evo Select
SanDisk Ultra

Another 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.

Additionally, the Odin doubles as a pseudo home console, thanks to its HDMI output function as well as the ability to connect to controllers via bluetooth or USB. The HDMI adapter is smaller than the standard size, so you will either want to grab a micro HDMI cable like this one from Amazon Basics, or a micro HDMI adapter to use with an existing cable.

Speaking of controllers, there are plenty of options out there, but I prefer to use something that’s somewhat retro-friendly. You could use a bluetooth controller like the 8BitDo SN30 Pro, or a wired controller like the Betop BD2E. Note that in order to use a USB controller, you will also need an OTG adapter to plug the controller into the device’s USB-C port (you could also use a USB hub to plug in multiple controllers at once!).

Or to simplify things, you could buy AYN’s Super Dock for $68, which functions as a USB-C hub that is capable of video output, charging, external controller connection (to include GameCube and N64 controllers), and has a slot for a 2.5″ SATA HDD/SSD for even more storage when docked. This may sound too good to be true, and it kind of is, because the Android platform isn’t well attuned to using a device with a hub like this. The end result is mixed, since you will have to toggle or re-map your controls as you plug in the Dock (or unplug it). Here is a roundup of my experience with the SuperDock:

Finally, I tested out quite a few cases for the AYN Odin, and here were the results:

Odin-friendly cases featured in this video:
Switch case (Black and White)
Wool case ($12)
Wool & leather case ($9)
Waterfield slip case

Build your ROM (and BIOS) library

If you haven’t already, you will want to build a ROM library for all of your favorite games. I can’t share where to get these files, but my Android guide has a list of common systems and any system files (called BIOS) that you may want to grab as well.

Also check out the section below the ROMs section in the Android guide, where I show how to convert common CD-based file types (like ISO or BIN/CUE) to the CHD format, which will save you storage space and simplify your catalog, too.

Top and Side Menu Bars (click to enlarge)

Startup and orientation

When first booting up the Odin, it will take you through a series of prompts to choose your language, time zone, and WiFi connection. You will have a choice of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) or the Odin Launcher layouts for your home screen, I recommend AOSP so that you can get the device set up first before using a frontend.

From there, I recommend going to Settings > System > Updates and run a system update so you are using the most recent version of the Odin image. Then, you can go into Settings > Odin Settings and adjust them as show in the guide video above. I recommend the Xbox ABXY button layout if you plan on playing Android games or streaming game content (Xbox, PS, etc). While in the Settings menu, also go to Display > Screen timeout and change the timeout from 1 minute of inactivity to something more reasonable (I personally set mine to 30 minutes).

After you have the system settings tweaked, the next step would be to orient yourself to the top and side menu bars.

To get to the top menu bar, swipe down from the top. This will look similar to any other smart phone or tablet, especially if you’re familiar with Android. Here you can make adjustments to the Performance Mode and Fan settings. I personally set my device ti “High Performance” mode, and the Fan to “Smart”, so that it will overclock the CPU and speed up the fan when needed. If you plan on playing a long session of something that isn’t CPU-intensive (like SNES), then you can turn off High Performance mode to potentially save on battery life. Also within the top menu bar you can adjust the ambient LEDs, and the remove the floating icon (side bar). There is a second page of options within the top menu, which is more focused on smartphone functions like night mode.

In the side bar, you can set up screen mapping for Android games, turn on system alerts, browse AYN’s guide, monitor performance, and more. To access it, swipe from the right side towards the left.

SD card storage options: Note that when first adding the SD card to the device, you will be prompted to use the card for Portable or Internal storage. Portable allows you to transfer the card back and forth between your PC and Odin, while Internal storage will require you to use a USB connection between your PC and Odin. I recommend Portable for the Odin Pro and Base models, but because the Odin Lite runs Android 11, some apps may have issues accessing content stored on the card when using Portable storage. Here is more information about how storage works on Android.

Recommended emulators

Now comes the fun part, we’re going to install all the apps we want to run on the Odin. To start, I would focus on the emulators, since those are fundamental to running your retro games. The apps I recommend are the same as the ones featured in my Android guide, so I recommend browsing that list because it will also dive into the recommended tweaks and settings for each app, too. Additionally, check out the community-driven Odin Game Compatibility Sheet so you can see expected performance (and tweaks) for your favorite systems and games.

When emulating on an Android device, I prefer to use RetroArch whenever possible, to take advantage of universal hotkeys, cheats, and Retro Achievements. However, performance on RetroArch can sometimes be less optimized than on standalone emulators. For the Odin in particular, I recommend using RetroArch for everything up through PS1. There are some systems that will perform well enough on RetroArch (Saturn, NDS, PSP, N64, and Dreamcast) for many games, but in general the standalone emulators are preferred.

Some apps, like RetroArch, Dolphin MMJR, and Citra MMJR (the ones inside the orange box above), are not available in the Google Play Store, or their Play Store counterparts perform worse. So for those, I recommend downloading them directly from the website and then side-loading the APK. This can be done by either browsing and downloading the APK file directly on the device (like by navigating to this page on the Odin itself), or by downloading the APK, putting it on an SD card, then inserting the SD card and navigating to that APK via a file manager app on the Odin.

Recommended emulators:

On Play Store:
Duckstation (free) -- PS1
Mupen64Plus FZ (Pro version available) -- N64
Yaba Sanshiro 2 (Pro version available) -- Saturn
Redream (free, in-app upgrade available) -- Dreamcast
DraStic (paid) -- Nintendo DS
PPSSPP (Gold version available) -- PSP
AetherSX2 (free) -- PS2

Not on Play Store (free):
RetroArch (latest nightly build) -- classic systems
Dolphin MMJR -- GameCube & Wii
Citra MMJ -- 3DS
Skyline -- Nintendo Switch

For RetroArch, I recommend using the nightly build (directly linked above). Once you have installed the app, I strongly recommend going through my RetroArch Starter Guide to orient you to the platform itself. I consider this to be a necessary part of the process when it comes to mastering emulation on an Android device, particularly for retro games. It has a learning curve to it, but once you get the hang of it, you can use these skills for a variety of devices that use RetroArch.

Recommended RetroArch cores:

Arcade (FinalBurn Neo) -- fighting games and beat'em ups
Arcade (MAME 2003-Plus) -- all-around arcade emulation
Commodore Amiga (PUAE)
DOS (DosBox-Pure)
NEC PCE/TG-16/PCE-CD/TG-CD (Beetle PCE)
Nintendo GB/GBC (Gambatte)
Nintendo GBA (mGBA)
Nintendo Virtual Boy (Beetle VB)
Nintendo DS (melonDS) *
Nintendo NES (fceumm or QuickNES)
Nintendo SNES (BSNES or Snes9x Current)
Nintendo 64 (ParaLLEl or Mupen64Plus) *
ScummVM -- point-and-click PC games
Sega Master System/Genesis/CD (Genesis Plus GX)
Sega 32x (PicoDrive)
Sega Saturn (YabaSanshiro or Beetle Saturn) *
Sega Dreamcast (Flycast) *
SNK Neo Geo (FinalBurn Neo)
Sony PlayStation (SwanStation)
Sony Playstation Portable (PPSSPP) *

* = won't play every game at full speed, standalone emulator is preferred

When it comes to setting up hotkeys, these are the keys I recommend in RetroArch. Be sure to check out the RetroArch starter guide (video linked above) to learn how to set up hotkeys in RetroArch.

Reduce Input Latency: Another note specific to RetroArch is that you may experience some input delay with the Odin’s built-in controller. Some people may experience this more than others, especially when it comes to retro games. If it bothers you, then you will want to make the following adjustment in RetroArch:

Settings > Latency > Run-Ahead to Reduce Latency > ON
Main Menu > Configuration File > Save Current Configuration (to save the setting)

Button mapping

One of the biggest challenges in setting up the Odin is mapping the controls to mimic the original controllers from retro systems. For many, the control setup will be intuitive: it’s easy to figure out how SNES, PS1, PS2, or Dreamcast games should be mapped, since their control schemes are not too different from the Odin’s. The rub comes with Nintendo systems like the Wii, or six-button layouts like the Sega Saturn.

One note when mapping Dolphin: go into Settings > Interface > System Back and map a seldom-used button to that command (like R3). Now when in a GameCube or Wii game, you can press R3 once to bring up the menu, or you can press it twice to exit the game. Super handy!

The images above are what I personally use for mapping, but there are many ways to do this depending on personal preference. Here are some great alternative examples:

  • YouTuber A Very Large Object made a compelling video showing how the ABXY on GameCube may be better suited with B and X swapped from my configuration.
  • Some users have (correctly) pointed out that it makes more sense to map the Nunchuck C and Z buttons to L1 and L2 instead of R1 and R2, and I agree. I’m left-handed so I naturally hold the nunchuck in my right hand, which is probably way I map it differently. Here is a user-submitted Wii setup, credit to discord user Locutus73 for the graphic.
  • For N64, go into Profiles > Controller > Android Gamepad and select Copy and then rename it to Odin Gamepad. Then, map your buttons as you see fit (I’ve made a diagram above). I recommend putting the Z button on both triggers and one of the face buttons, since that button can be used in a variety of contexts. I also map the L3 and R3 buttons to load and save state hotkeys, and fast forward to M2 (back paddle). I have found that the Load State hotkey doesn’t actually work in the emulator, so you may need to go into the Menu (using the hotkey) to manually tap the Load State option. Note that for the Menu, Back, and Exit hotkeys, you must hold them down for a couple seconds. Once you have mapped everything to your liking, go to Profiles > Select Profiles > Controller 1 profile > Odin gamepad to make it the default control scheme for your device.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
480p (left) vs 1080p (right)

Increase rendering resolution in 3D-based games

Because the Odin is so powerful, you can increase the rendering resolution for 3D-based systems to improve the sharpness and overall fidelity of your games. For best results, consult the Odin community spreadsheet where you can check to see if certain games have specific recommended tweaks. Here are some quick general recommended settings for systems:

  • Sony PlayStation 1 (DuckStation or SwanStation RA core): Increase resolution to 5x (1080p) and turn on Geometry Correction to reduce pixel wobble. You may need to reduce the resolution to 4x in order to get some games to play in full speed.
  • Nintendo 64 (Mupen64Plus-FZ): Display > Rendering Resolution > 1080p. Some games will need to be set to 720p (like Goldeneye).
  • Sega Saturn (YabaSanshiro 2): You can increase rendering resolution up to 1080p but I don’t recommend it for some games as it will sometimes look too crisp and results in a poor gameplay experience. I prefer the original rendering or 2x instead. See here for a guide from the app developer specific to the Odin.
  • Sega Dreamcast (ReDream): Upscale to 960p or 1440p (must pay for in-app upgrade). After launching a game, tap the three-dot pause button on the top-right, then select “EDIT CHEATS”; most games will have the ability to toggle ON widescreen hacks.
  • PlayStation Portable (PPSSPP): Upscale to 4x resolution (1080p), keep graphics backend on OpenGL, toggle off the touchscreen controls, and reduce the rendering resolution for games that struggle with 4x
  • Nintendo DS (DraStic): Video > High Resolution 3D Rendering > ON (will provide a 2x upscale)
  • Nintendo GameCube/Wii (Dolphin MMJR): Some games may run at 2x resolution, but most will be best at 1x. Also, try toggling the hardware renderer from the default OpenGL to Vulkan backend, since that will improve performance on some games.
  • Sony PlayStation 2 (AetherSX2): Some games may run at 2x resolution, but most will be best at 1x.
  • Nintendo 3DS (Citra MMJ): Don’t expect any games to run at an upscaled rendering resolution

Adjust the screen refresh rate in RetroArch

The original AYN Odin screen (those shipped before August of 2022) ran at a default ~61 frames per second, which results in microstutters when playing 60fps content. This is often indiscernible to most users, but those who do notice it can’t unsee it, and have become a vocal minority within the Odin community. Luckily, there is a fix within RetroArch to adjust the screen refresh rate to resolve this issue for the games running on that system. Sadly, there is no fix for the more modern games, but I have personally found that the microstutters are much less apparent on more modern systems anyway.

To start, go to the website VSyncTester.com on your Odin and let it run for a couple minutes. Over time, it will resolve into a stable FPS value (for my Black Pro unit, it was 61.004, and on my Transparent Purple unit, it was 60.963) — make note of that value. If the value is close to 60Hz (for example, my Odin Lite is 59.77Hz), then you don’t need to do anything. If it’s near 61Hz, then open RetroArch and make the following changes:

Settings > Video > Threaded Video > OFF
Settings > Video > Output > Vertical Refresh Rate > (your value)
Main Menu > Configuration File > Save Current Configuration (to save the setting)

Another way to test whether your device is experiencing stutters is by using the 240p test suite ROMs from Artemio Urbina. For example, you can download and load the SNES test ROM and then run the Video Tests > Grid Scroll Test and see if you can discern stuttering in the scroll. If so, then you can make the adjustments as highlighted above, and determine whether you can see an improvement.

Recommended streaming apps

In addition to being a capable emulation device, the Odin is well-suited for streaming apps, too. The Odin has analog trigger inputs, which will make a big difference in streaming racing games like Forza Horizon 5. Moreover, the Odin Lite features WiFi-6, which will provide a more stable wireless connection (provided you use a router that supports it).

Recommended streaming apps:

NVIDIA GeForce Now (PC & cloud streaming)
Moonlight (PC streaming)
AMD Link (PC streaming)
Steam Link (PC streaming)
Parsec (PC streaming)
Google Stadia (cloud gaming)
PSPlay or Chiaki (PS4 & PS5 remote play)
Xbox (Xbox One/Series remote play)
Xbox Game Pass (Xbox/PC cloud streaming)

In the table above, the apps are organized into three columns.

  1. On the left are apps that will allow you to access remote gaming without having a PC or gaming console. Stadia and GeForce Now have free (but limited) tiers, and will improve if you pay for their premium levels, while Shadow and Xbox Game Pass require a monthly fee regardless.
  2. The middle tier are remote play apps, that will allow you to play your PS4/5 or Xbox One/Series games on the same network (or if you configure it, from elsewhere). These obviously require you to have a corresponding game console. For PS Remote Play, the official app only supports PS controllers, so the only way you could use it would be to connect your PS controller to the Odin (which kind of defeats the purpose). Instead, you can use Chiaki (free and open source) or PSPlay (paid app) to remote play with your PS console. Between the two, I have found that PSPlay is the easiest to configure.
  3. On the first right tier are PC streaming apps. These require a PC to stream from, and some configuration. In general, Moonlight is designed for computers with NVIDIA GPUs (but you can work around that by using an app called Sunshine), and AMD Link is for PCs with AMD GPUs. Steam Link and Parsec can work with either type of GPU

If you plan on streaming from your PC or console to the Odin, I recommend connecting your PC/console to your router via wired ethernet for the most stable connection.

Android frontends

Once you have your emulators, streaming apps, and Android games set up, you may want to consider a frontend to organize your collection and simplify the browsing experience. I have an extensive writeup on Android frontends in my Android guide, and I recommend checking that out. In particular, I prefer to use Daijisho as my frontend on the Odin, due to its simplicity and ease of use — plus it’s 100% free!

The Odin also comes with its own “Odin Launcher”, which basically just organizes your apps in an easy-to-navigate interface. One strength of this launcher is that it has unique sidebars on both the left and the right. The left side menu bar allows you to alter the performance mode and LEDs, and organize your apps into four drawers: Games, Entertainment, Productivity, and System Apps. The right menu bar gives you quick access to brightness, storage, TV settings, and sleep. Note that the top menu bar is disabled when using this launcher.


Changelog

06NOV2022
– added Daijisho frontend video guide

27AUG2022
– added Odin Lite guide
– updated starter guide to account for Odin Lite factors (like updated screen)

13AUG2022
– added link to Skyline (Nintendo Switch) emulator. For the full guide, check out the Android Starter Guide.

15JUN2022
– added Windows 11 dual boot guide

29MAY2022
– added user-submitted Wii controller setup
– added N64 mapping notes and diagram
– added instructions for Dreamcast widescreen

28MAY2022
– published guide

16 thoughts on “AYN Odin Starter Guide

  1. Thanks for the fantastic guide Russ!
    I have the initial Waterfield pouch for my Switch (all leather) and it is and feels amazing.
    I have seen that they sell a pouch for the Analog Pocket. Do you think the RG351V would fit? I ask just in the case you have an Analog (not the price tag of the usual devices you test, I know)…

    Like

  2. I’d like to ask a small favor: in the button mapping overview, it is very hard to figure out what is supposed to be mapped to L1/L2/R1/R2 due to the buttons not being (fully) visible. Could you update that to clarify, e.g. by putting ‘L1 = X’ and similar in the pictures or by using a tilted depiction of the Odin?

    Your guide is awesome, thank you very much!

    Like

  3. Why use the Retroarch 64 apk, instead of the Retroarch plus from the play store?
    is there a benefit to using one over the other?

    Like

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but yes the one in the Play Store is badly outdated, the Libretro team has had a hard time getting their updates approved by Google. So it’s much more efficient to grab the latest version directly from their site.

      Like

      1. Grest guide Russ! I’ve been reading it a couple of times (kinda when you used to read games magazines and imagine you’re playing) since my Lite is arriving soon.

        Big question: is there any particular reason to use fceumm/QuickNES vs Nestopia?

        Like

  4. When setting up aethersx2 it gets to part where it tries to scan games in the ps2 folder (20:16) but the app just keeps closing. I tried deleting the app, re-downloading and starting over but it keeps happening.

    I also noticed that the bios listed for PS2 in the android starter guide is “SCPH-90001_BIOS_V18_USA_230.ROM0” but in the video (19:56) it looks like it starts “scph39001”. Are these different? From what I’ve read the bios names sometimes need to be case sensitive as well so I’m wondering if I have the right one.

    Like

  5. Anyone tried playing F-Zero Maximum Velocity (mGBA) in retroarch on the Odin? It’s like the button mapping is weird and stuck on turbo fire mode or something. Accelerate is “X” instead of “A” and the engine flickers like I’m pressing the button really fast. The car never gets up to full speed as a consequence.

    Like

  6. Hi Russ,
    I’m totally new to the emulator world and have no idea what to do. I love how detailed your tutorials are but I don’t understand the terminology and what everything is. I really want to get the lite but I’m a bit intimated because it maybe too advanced for me. Any help is appreciated. Thank you!!

    Like

  7. Hi Melanie,

    I was exactly the same, it blows your mind at first!

    But I took a chance, brought a lite and with following this guide was playing rachet and clank (ps2) etc on the odin this morning 🙂

    Just be patient, and take your time going through each step, it’s worth it!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for answering my question. I do have another, I wanted to use a laptop for bios, roms and any other files needed. Is that possible? Can it be a chromebook or what are the basic requirements needed in a laptop to be able to do so. You’ve been awesome!

      Like

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