Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

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dshadoff
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by dshadoff »

It depends on your LCD display. Some add nearly nothing in terms of lag, and some add 50 milliseconds which is beyond reason.
TimeSleuth is a device which can measure the lag of a display at various resolutions.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by grizzly »

Quasar wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 6:54 pm Thanks for everyone's input. Regarding the low latency of the Mister that everyone mentions - does this also apply if using a LCD TV via HDMI or is it really to do with viewing on a CRT? I would be using a LCD so I wonder if then the Mister would suffer just the same as a Pi would. I wouldn't be buying the analog IO. If I go for either it would be the digital IO.
Depends on the TV/Screen that is used.
If you have a fast screen then there is no lag with the mister, but would be at least some with a pi or pc running emulators.

And flatpanel TV´s do in most cases have a bit too a crapton of lag, a flat Computer screen have a higher chance of having less lag (but can off course also have a crap ton of lag).
So google your specific tv and try to find out what it has, but can sadly be impossible to find in many cases.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by caffeinekid »

I use my MiSTer on an Acer PC monitor and it works brilliantly - I think it's something like 2ms refresh.

On an LED or OLED TV things might be different - dependant on the processing of the image. If it has a "game mode" or just scan you will probably have a decent time.
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Sarge
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Sarge »

Ha, missed a bunch of responses. Still, I'll leave this up.

The input lag is additive. You'll get display lag coupled with emulation lag. The MiSTer will still have a small amount of lag from an LCD (although this highly depends on if this is a TV or monitor and the brand), but it'll be less than what you'd get with emulation + LCD. Basically, think of your display lag as a fixed cost you won't get rid of with any solution unless you use a CRT.

I'll also note that, depending on your choice of controller with MiSTer, you may get some input lag there. In general, most wired controllers are less than a frame, though, so that wouldn't be an issue.

Much like some other folks have mentioned, I think if you're looking at a Pi4, the lag is getting low enough that you won't notice in most games. I'd argue that only a few games truly need as fast a response as possible, like Punch-Out!!.
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throAU
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by throAU »

Thing is I guess cost is all relative.

A raspberry pi 4 plus decent power supply, heatsink, case, etc. - it's knocking on the door (for me when I purchased mine - I have a Pi4 as well) for the same price as a DE10-Nano (which comes in a good enough case already). I already had a spare USB hub that was compatible.

The mister, once set up is WAY nicer to use and manage.

The pi 4 does a decent job of emulating more recent hardware (e.g., dreamcast) so if that's on your radar then the Pi might be a better bet if you can have only one - but if you're looking for something that "feels" right in terms of how smooth things run, how it responds, etc.... for 1990 and earlier systems the MiSTer is just superior IMHO and the real world price isn't that different for an entry level mister setup (DE10 Nano + USB hub).

You don't need an SDRAM, IO board, USB hub board, fancy case, etc. to get started with a bunch of the cores. A base DE10-Nano has almost everything you need. In fact if you have USB ports on a monitor you could maybe even just use the USB hub in your monitor if you get an appropriate cable to hook the mister up to it with.

Yeah, the MiSTer will end up more expensive in the long run if you want to run everything it can run... but its a better experience for the older platforms.

For ~1992+ hardware emulation though the MiSTer can't really do it yet.

So ideally you want both.... Pi4 is certainly more flexible.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by elvis »

caffeinekid wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 9:01 pm When I used retropie it used to do my head in how long it took linux and the front end to load, even on a fast SD card.
The model 4 RPi hardware can boot from USB3 including things like SSDs in USB3 caddies.

Installation is identical (raw write the image to the disk, attach it and boot). Performance is dramatically better courtesy of both USB3's overall bandwidth and full duplex mode (compared to USB2).

There are plenty of cheap M.2 to USB3 converters that work fine, and turn an RPi4 boot process into about a 10 second wait. Still not the "instant on" feeling of MiSTer, but a marked improvement over sluggish RPi MicroSD boot ("fast SD cards" are still slow).

If you want leaner from there, check out distros like DietPi. Although then you're in to heavy customisation for yourself, and not the "plug and play" nature of pre-built retrogaming distros like Lakka or RetroPie.

I've got a number of RPi4 devices. Most are media players running off MicroSD cards (because they almost never reboot, and are hidden away behind TVs). But my main play device is currently hooked up to an SVGA CRT, and runs TwisterOS which does x86 emulation, and allows me to play Windows9X/2K era games, including 3D stuff, pretty well (as well as DOSBox, ScummVM, and all the usual culprits). It boots from a crappy old 120GB SATA SSD drive I've got in a USB3 caddy, and gets around 150MB/s. The RPi4 can handle a hell of a lot more, but this SSD is quite old. Still, a 10 second boot and 90s/00s era PC games that load pretty quickly are all good enough for me.

I also have a MiSTer and numerous real consoles of course. These things don't have to be "one or the other" decisions. Get one of everything and enjoy what they all uniquely have to offer.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by EmK_IronFist »

Quasar wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 6:54 pm Thanks for everyone's input. Regarding the low latency of the Mister that everyone mentions - does this also apply if using a LCD TV via HDMI or is it really to do with viewing on a CRT? I would be using a LCD so I wonder if then the Mister would suffer just the same as a Pi would. I wouldn't be buying the analog IO. If I go for either it would be the digital IO.
No, it's not just a CRT thing.

There's at least three kinds of latency at work in any emulation setup, whether FPGA or software-based.

1. Display latency - the time it takes for the screen on your TV or monitor to show what it has received.
2. Rendering/scaling latency - the time it takes for the frame to be rendered, scaled, and sent to the TV or monitor.
3. Input latency - the time it takes for a button press or input to be detected and processed accordingly

Display latency depends on your LCD and will affect your game the same way no matter what. We just accept it as a fact of life. The real problem is the other kinds of latency that stack on top of it.

The rendering latency of MiSTer is pretty much guaranteed to be lower than almost any emulation you do on a Pi. With the right settings, it's going to be less than a frame. The rendering latency for the Pi will depend on a ton of factors, including which emulator/libretro core is being used.

An decent USB controller (which is most of 'em) is going to have less than a frame of input latency as well on MiSTer, whereas on Pi it can vary from emulator to emulator and controller to controller.

There's also small audio timing differences and audio latency in software/on Raspberry Pi that don't occur on MiSTer. This is something that we don't typically discuss that often because it doesn't affect gameplay anyway, but it is a nice, small perk.

I have to emphasize, what this all *usually* adds up to is only a few frames more. Playing on a Pi might feel only slightly stiffer or clumsier than playing on MiSTer. But my favorite thing about MiSTer is how good the controls feel when I'm playing games, and how fast and fluid the experience is when starting up and picking a game. It just *feels* better. It's hard to explain because it takes playing to notice a difference.

I really think you'll be fine sticking with the Pi for now. The MiSTer will be here and the community will keep growing and the cores will keep getting better and the prices for everything will hopefully be less rough when we get past the parts shortage. You won't regret buying one later when everything is even more refined and the price of DE10 nanos is a bit cheaper.
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Newsdee
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Newsdee »

EmK_IronFist wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 6:16 am 1. Display latency - the time it takes for the screen on your TV or monitor to show what it has received.
2. Rendering/scaling latency - the time it takes for the frame to be rendered, scaled, and sent to the TV or monitor.
3. Input latency - the time it takes for a button press or input to be detected and processed accordingly
Indeed the same LCD has the same input lag regardless of input device, but there's a chance a MiSTer may work better with some screens.

The RPi will output a standard 60hz HDMI signal, but on MiSTer you have the option (INI setting) to send the frequency of the core instead,
which is sometimes slightly off spec (e.g. 59.43hz for NeoGeo or 50hz for PAL cores, etc). Not all LCDs can handle it, but on those than do the video will feel even more responsive.
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pgimeno
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by pgimeno »

Sarge wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 11:16 pm Much like some other folks have mentioned, I think if you're looking at a Pi4, the lag is getting low enough that you won't notice in most games. I'd argue that only a few games truly need as fast a response as possible, like Punch-Out!!.
See also viewtopic.php?f=29&t=2425
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aberu
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by aberu »

dshadoff wrote: Sat May 01, 2021 3:22 pm On the subject of lag: this ends up being a very individual thing. Some people are less sensitive to it, and I'm not going to make any assumptions about any individuals on this point. I can say that I didn't notice it at the dawn of emulation (although it was definitely there) because I was simply impressed that emulation could implement so much of the underlying games. As time passed, I noticed more and more differences between emulation and the originals, and searched for a way to eliminate these differences.
On the subject of lag, then versus now... I wonder if the early days of Emulation being done on CRT's combined with lower overhead operating systems and less complex hardware (even Genecyst, NESticle, and no$gmb, etc... in MS-DOS on a 486DX4 for my first emulators) actually might have shown reduced lag. Maybe that's why we didn't notice it as much? Doubtful that it was significant, but just something I thought about.
dshadoff
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by dshadoff »

Nah, I think back then, there were enough other problems with emulation that lag didn't stand out.
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EmK_IronFist
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by EmK_IronFist »

aberu wrote: Mon May 03, 2021 2:01 pm On the subject of lag, then versus now... I wonder if the early days of Emulation being done on CRT's combined with lower overhead operating systems and less complex hardware (even Genecyst, NESticle, and no$gmb, etc... in MS-DOS on a 486DX4 for my first emulators) actually might have shown reduced lag. Maybe that's why we didn't notice it as much? Doubtful that it was significant, but just something I thought about.
That's a good question! I think it's totally possible. Considering most of us were also using a PS/2 keyboard (that's direct hardware interrupts with every button press!) on emulators designed around eking out optimal performance at all costs? We had fewer compounding factors for lag in that situation, so it wouldn't be crazy if that was the case. But idk. I think the more likely case is that it just wasn't popular to know or care about; the excitement of playing console games on our computers was beyond that kind of scrutiny when it was so new.

Would be a really cool thing for someone to test/experiment with to try and get actual numbers for tho
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by grizzly »

Does any old emulators run on the ao 486 core?
Maybe can use that for testing :D
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by softtest9 »

You can look up which emulators you would use on a Pi, and test them out on your PC first. If you like the experience, a Pi might be fine for your needs.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Fuzzball »

Well I've now ordered the parts for a Mister FPGA. The DE10 seems to have gone up significantly in price recently but I've been reading that there could be a general chip shortage well into 2022 so that might mean waiting a very long time for those prices to come down again. So I just decided to take the hit.

I've gone a bit overboard by ordering a digital IO board which is largely unneccessary for my needs but it has a fan already and I couldn't find a decent case in the UK that was just for the USB hub and DE10 anyway. I nearly got the analog board just on the off chance I ever get to try it on a CRT but that is highly unlikely
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Newsdee »

I'd think emulators work better on a PC than a RPi, though.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by keilmillerjr »

Newsdee wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 9:02 am I'd think emulators work better on a PC than a RPi, though.
100%. MAME made a huge video change in 0.106u2. this version and newer is too much for a pi. I have compiled newer mame versions on the pi, and they are unusable. You should stick to advmame which uses 0.106.

In the end, I wasn't happy with the pi. My kids kept getting frustrated with the 8bitdo controllers constantly doing weird things. I was in the preorder for m30. That's when I scrapped the pi and went to gamecube and sp2sd. I use CRT's. Zero lag, 180deg screen viewability.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by elvis »

keilmillerjr wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 9:30 am 100%. MAME made a huge video change in 0.106u2. this version and newer is too much for a pi. I have compiled newer mame versions on the pi, and they are unusable. You should stick to advmame which uses 0.106.
I spent about 2 weeks compiling and benchmarking MAME on 8 different configurations across 2 models of RPi, stock and overclocked, 32bit vs 64bit, using 650 different games.

Games vary wildly. It's impossible to say it's globally "unusable" when some games run at over 1000% the speed required, and some don't even make 10%. It depends very much on the individual title.

Data, results and stats here, for those interested:
https://stickfreaks.com/misc/raspberry- ... benchmarks

But please, investigate the specific games you care about for yourself. There are no blanket statements that can be made on this topic. If anyone wants a specific game benchmarked that's not listed, let me know and I'll happily do so.

Yes, a powerful desktop PC will be much faster. See John IV's benchmarks I link to from my page above. But there are absolutely a large number of games that a current generation RPi is fast enough to run.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by keilmillerjr »

@elvis you only proved my point.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by elvis »

keilmillerjr wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 12:17 pm @elvis you only proved my point.
If your point is that some games work and some don't, a PC is not perfect but that metric alone. Again, see John IV's benchmarks for a list of games that won't run even on a 4.5GHz i7.

MAME's coverage is enormous, and performance of certain titles, especially 3D systems or ones with high concurrency (Sega Saturn and ST-V is a great example for titles that used both CPUs with complex gameplay, ditto for Model 3 games) isn't great under MAME's software-only approach to emulation, no matter that the system.

So again, if your point that a computer is flawed because it doesn't run all 43,308 emulated machines under MAME (number accurate as of 0.230), then there's not a computer on Earth worth your time. But I repeat, there are still THOUSANDS of games that will run fine on plenty of computers, whether it's your desktop, or a Pi. And I'm perfectly happy to help people with questions on whether the specific games that enjoy are on that list, or whether they're better off looking at different solutions. If the game isn't in my list of 650, let me know and I'll post the benchmark here.

And again, none of that takes away from MiSTer, or original hardware collecting, or any other solution. I use a combination of all of these, and each has its own extensive and subjective list of pros and cons depending on the game and the player. Blanket statements really aren't viable in a topic so complex. These can all be complementary, and there's certainly no need for conflict or false dichotomies.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by keilmillerjr »

Do the same test with mame 0.106, and my statement will hold true. Your only testing with a single newer version.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Blitzwing »

pgimeno wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 1:06 am With the MiSTer, I'm very impressed with the low latency ("lag") and the fact that the screen refresh rate matches that of the system being emulated, e.g. 50 Hz for the Spectrum core (one of my favourites). This eliminates tearing and stuttering.

I'm not so impressed about accuracy in general, though. It depends on the core, but in many cases the implementation of certain parts of the machine is purely based on guesswork, and on making an FPGA configuration that matches the observed behaviour up to the FPGA programmer's ability, but lacking detail on the handling of special cases.

I mention this because I was sold that the MiSTer cores had basically the maximum accuracy possible, and this turned out to be true in some cases, but false in others.
That's one of those simple misunderstandings of FPGA, they really are no more or less accurate than the best of software emulation, as long as there is enough CPU headroom to get the timings accurate in software emulators then there really is no difference outside of the implementation.

For me it was the display output, ease of linking to an analogue display, the minimised lag and the speed of start-up (destroys fast PC's and pi's) that was the selling point.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Blitzwing »

LamerDeluxe wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 10:54 am I thought I was just getting a bit rusty with playing old games, until I connected my MiSTer to a CRT. All of a sudden games that require fast reaction were so much easier (I first noticed that playing Shadow of the Beast on the Amiga core).
My first one I started was Mega Turrican on the megadrive and it just felt so good to play... For those of us who notice lag and input latency the difference is night and day.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by Blitzwing »

Quasar wrote: Sun May 02, 2021 6:54 pm Thanks for everyone's input. Regarding the low latency of the Mister that everyone mentions - does this also apply if using a LCD TV via HDMI or is it really to do with viewing on a CRT? I would be using a LCD so I wonder if then the Mister would suffer just the same as a Pi would. I wouldn't be buying the analog IO. If I go for either it would be the digital IO.
I'll add too. Having used emulation boxes be it PC's, Android boxes or Rpi's on an old 1080p LCD TV (2014 vintage) the lag used to be so bad that games would feel awful to play, with the MiSTer it is actually somewhat tolerable, a testament to how low latency a device it is perhaps?

On the other side a fast gaming monitor is essentially indistinguishable from a CRT, in my own testing it barely comes in at a single frame difference, how that compares to modern TVs I'm not sure... A CRT is just for those of us who are a little crazy I guess 🤣 people who long for all aspects of nostalgia.

CRTs are a useable commodity and eventually the last one will die so we better get used to flat panels for our retro needs lol.
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Re: Is MiSTer FPGA Overkill For My Needs?

Unread post by grizzly »

Quasar wrote: Tue May 04, 2021 8:25 am Well I've now ordered the parts for a Mister FPGA.

I've gone a bit overboard by ordering a digital IO board which is largely unneccessary for my needs but it has a fan already
I can´t say for sure but the heatsink does not come with the io board/fan in most "mister stores".
So make sure to buy that separately if it is not included in th ioboard/fan package.

Made that mistake my self, but luckily i did have an unused heatsink that was a bit too big that i could saw/grind a little bit smaller so it could fit.
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