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nightrnr
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by nightrnr Tue Sep 07, 2021 3:16 am

I'm getting all the modules for this (and hoping they make an N64 and Dreamcast one for it too).

The only thing I'm left wondering (aside from whether my SATA M.2 2280 SSD drive will work with it), is whether you can install some games to micro SD card and others to SSD drive, and have everything be accessed when you browse your games.

I plan to put cartridge games on SD card, and CD games on SSD.

I'll give my impressions when I get it as well.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Thu Sep 09, 2021 8:48 am

I got a tracking number in the wee hours of the morning! UPS doesn't have the package yet but it looks like Playmaji is getting prepped early at the very least.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Fri Sep 17, 2021 2:00 pm

My base unit has arrived! I've updated it to the latest firmware and I'm installing games now. I have several hundred CD based games to install so it is going to take a while. I've had two minor hiccups with it so far. I could not get it to update the firmware via WiFi. I was finally successful by using ethernet and rebooting it twice. I wonder if their update servers were a bit overloaded and it just took a few tries? Also the physical eject button for the disc drive isn't working. I can eject the disc via the operating system though so it isn't a big deal.

Expect some intial impressions this weekend. If any of you have questions regarding the base unit, please let me know and I will do my best to answer.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by nightrnr Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:51 pm

Super excited (and envious) for you!
Also looking forward to your reactions.

No word on mine yet, but I know I'll be on the tail end of the 1st wave.
I know base set orders are coming first as well, so I'll just have to wait.
October will be my month, let me tell you.

Are you using an SSD drive (and if so, which one) or just a big Micro SD card?
Super curious about option menus and what you can or can't customize.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:20 pm

I am going to post my review in parts and break it up into different posts so you can skip ahead to whatever section you want.

1. What is Polymega?
2. History of Polymega
3. Base Unit Hardware & Interface Review
4. Emulation Quality
5. Final Thoughts
Last edited by bmoc on Thu Sep 23, 2021 5:15 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:20 pm

What is Polymega?

Polymega is a modular software emulation console that lets you dump game cartridges and CDs to internal or external storage. Storage options include: internal storage (about 9GB free space after operating system files), M2 2280 NVMe SSD, microSD card, and external USB drives. The Polymega base unit is able to play disc-based games without the need for additional modules. Currently, it supports PS1, Saturn, SegaCD, NeoGeo CD, and PC Engine CD/TG16 CD (all region free). The base unit also includes 38 preinstalled games spanning NES, SNES, Genesis, PC Engine/TG16, and PS1 through deals with Piko Interactive, Masaya, and NESMaker. The base unit comes with a wireless rebranded GameSir controller that is similar in shape to a DualShock 4 controller.

There are currently 4 modules available with a 5th slated to be announced soon. The modules allow for the use of NES (Famicom via adapter), SNES/Super Famicom, Genesis/32X, and PC Engine/TG16 cartridges respectively. Each module also has native controller ports so you can use original retro controllers. After dumping your carts/CD, you can use any module to use any supported controller for any system. For example, you can use a 6 button Genesis controller to play the SNES version of Street Fighter II. Each module comes with a new Polymega branded wired controller for that system.
Last edited by bmoc on Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:21 pm

History of Polymega

The Polymega started out conceptually as an FPGA TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine console, likely similar to the upcoming Analogue Duo. However, at some point, the direction of the project changed to include many different consoles and a new modular design. In early 2017, the project was revealed to the public as Retroblox and touted a unique feature called “hybrid emulation”.

There is much confusion and misinformation about just what exactly “hybrid emulation” is. Simply put “hybrid emulation” was a method of using an FPGA inside the Retroblox modules to read cartridges in real-time. This would allow the software emulation of the base unit to interact directly with any special chips in the carts such as the SuperFX found in StarFox among others. Flash carts were also allegedly compatible with the technology. Many people mistakenly assumed that the entire console was FPGA based which was never the case and never advertised as such.

The price of the base unit was intended to be around $250 and modules around $60. This target would change over time along with the anticipated release date. It was also supported to be crowdfunded via Kickstarter but this later changed to just taking preorders instead to fund manufacturing.

The first of these delays was due to a rebranding effort. Another company claimed that “Retroblox” infringed on their trademark (probably Roblox though never officially confirmed). So Retroblox became Polymega and the company making the Polymega took the name Playmaji. The list of supported systems would also change over this time. Atari 2600 was removed and NeoGeo CD/Saturn were added.

In September of 2018, the Polymega finally became available for preorder. At the same time, Playmaji made several changes to the system with no prior notice. First and most importantly, hybrid emulation was removed. They also changed from an ARM cpu to an Intel CPU. Native Twitch streaming support was also removed. To make matters worse, polymega.com suffered from a Denial of Service attack which made communicating these changes more difficult. The price of the base unit was set at $250 and modules were $60 each.

The change to an Intel CPU proved to be the cause of another major delay. Intel famously started having shortages around this time and it lasted through 2019. Then the covid-19 pandemic happened and wrecked manufacturing and shipping times worldwide.

Playmaji also secured a distribution deal with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart took pre-orders but never delivered the capital to Playmaji which they needed to pay for manufacturing. Wal-Mart was nonresponsive to their inquiries for several months so they made the difficult decision to abandon Wal-Mart altogether and handle all preorders themselves. Wal-Mart customers were instructed to cancel their preorders and reorder direct through polymega.com. To cap things off, the factory where Polymegas were being assembled was disrupted due to the February 2021 coup in Myanmar. Playmaji seemingly could not catch a break.

However, they persevered, and finally, after years of setbacks, delays, and price increases the Polymega was officially released on September 12th, 2021 with an MSRP of $450 for the base unit and $80 per module.
Last edited by bmoc on Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:21 pm

Base Unit Hardware & Interface Review

The base unit comes in a very professional box with glossy artwork on most sides. The box is well padded. Inside the box you will find the base unit, wireless controller, 2.4ghz wireless dongle, microUSB cable, HDMI cord, and ac adapter.

As previously mentioned, the wireless controller is very similar to a DualShock 4 controller. It has roughly the same heft to it as a DualShock 3 controller so not heavy at all. The manual claims it has around an 18 hour battery life. To use it wirelessly, you have to plug in the included 2.4ghz wireless USB dongle (using up one of the two USB ports). I’m not sure why they went this route instead of including a Bluetooth controller. Probably cost savings? Allegedly the Polymega has Bluetooth capability but I have not found a way to add a Bluetooth controller. I think that may be coming in a future update.

I tried a few third party controllers via USB and none worked so far: DualShock3, Xbox One, Mayflash adapter, MC Cthulhu arcade stick. Playmaji has stated that support for more controllers is coming. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for DualShock3 support. I’m also hoping for a CD system controller port module so I can use my existing PS1 and Saturn controllers but I am not holding my breath. I may break down and buy a Retrobit Saturn controller which is currently supported.

Ok, enough about controllers. Let’s talk about storage. The base unit comes with 32GB of built-in storage but only 9GB is usable after the latest firmware update. 9GB is fine if you are only dumping carts but if you have a substantial amount of disc based games, you are going to need more storage. I’m currently using a 512GB Western Digital NVMe SSD with my base unit. After several hours of installing games, the SSD did overheat on me twice. The SSD disappeared from the Polymega’s interface and I had to power down the unit to let it cool.

To combat this, I have removed the SSD slot cover and propped up the base unit about ¼ inch to let heat dissipate better. I’m going to look into getting a heatsink for the SSD because the passive SSD cooling vents in the Polymega are not adequate. So far my workaround seems to be fine as I have installed games for many more hours without overheating. 9/13/21 EDIT: While this prevents the storage from disappearing from the interface, I think I was also encountering some thermal throttling on the SSD. Lots of FMV sequences would have stuttering audio which was not present when the SSD was cool. Since I am done installing discs, I'm running the base unit upside down - PSX model SCPH1001 style. Since doing this, I haven't had any FMV issues and the SSD stays a lot cooler. If adding a heatsink doesn't fix this, I have two options to use the unit right side up: wait for the firmware update that allows you to move games between storage device + get a larger microSD card or get a laptop cooling pad. I'm leaning toward the cooling pad.

Another big problem that I had is some PS1 discs that just would not rip correctly. These discs play fine in every other console I’ve thrown at them. Some of them had minor scratches but one (Final Fantasy IX disc 3) was immaculate and it would not rip. For these problem discs, I burned replacements to CD-Rs and those installed just fine to the Polymega. So I definitely recommend keeping a few CD-Rs handy for this purpose. For the record, here are games I had problems with: Tekken, Ridge Racer, Metal Gear Solid disc 2, and FFIX disc 3. (Edit: I spoke too soon about Ridge Racer. Even with a backup copy, it would not recognize the game for installation. Ridge Racer Bonus Turbo Mode Disc will install though.)

I’ve had a few minor issues as well. I could not get the system update to work over WiFi. It just would not see that one was available. After plugging in with Ethernet, I was able to get it to work after rebooting. It very well could have been server issues and I just got unlucky when I tried it. The other issue is my physical eject button is not working. This isn’t a big deal because you can eject via the operating system and if you are really desperate, there is a pinhole eject as well that is common with most optical disc drives. EDIT: My physical eject button started working on its own. I haven't done anything other than rebooting that should have affected it.

On a more positive note, the interface is excellent and very intuitive. I’ll go over each section of the left navigation bar.
Search – This does what you would expect. It allows you to search your entire library.
Now Playing – The game that is currently inserted. Pressing X gives you options to install or delete the game. Pressing A starts the game.
My Collection – Allows you to search your installed titles by console. By default, there is one tile per console and region. There is an option in the Database settings to condense these tiles to one per console type (ignoring region).
Playlists – There are two playlists that you cannot remove and they are at the top: “Continue Playing” which has your recently played titles and “Recently Add” which is self-explanatory.
Media – Where you can go to view your screenshots
System – Brings up the system settings menu same as pressing the Polymega button on the wireless controller while outside of a game.

In game options include:
1. Save/Load State
2. Controller management
3. Screenshot
4. Virtual Display
5. Settings
6. Console (reset the game or change installed discs for multi-disc games)
7. Exit Game

Virtual Display warrants some additional explanation. This is where you go to change display options and your configurations can be saved per console or per title. Aspect Ratio can be adjusted between Standard 4:3 Zoom (default), Standard 4:3, Square Pixels, and Wide 16:9. I agree that Standard 4:3 Zoom looks the best so it is a good choice for the default. Filters (called Virtual Display) can be changed between None (called simply HDMI), RGB, and Composite. I think that both RGB and Composite look really good. RGB has vertical and horizontal scanlines that mimic an RGB monitor. The closest thing that I have seen is the RetroTINK 5x Pro’s PVM scanline setting which I also think is phenomenal if you are into scanlines. Composite also has vertical and horizontal scanlines but the image is blurred slightly. It is a very good approximation of a composite image on a quality TV. If you press X on this screen, you get more image options including additional zoom, blurring (for smoothing out early 3D games I assume), X/Y screen position adjustment, contrast, and brightness. All in all, some very good options to dial in the image the way you want.
Last edited by bmoc on Thu Sep 23, 2021 3:43 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:21 pm

Emulation Quality

I want to start out by saying, I’m not Modern Vintage Gamer, RetroRGB, or My Life in Gaming. My emulation impressions are for the most part anecdotal. If you want a super scientific analysis with accurate input lag tests, wait for someone like the aforementioned Youtubers to get around to testing it. I have used original hardware for PS1 and Saturn extensively. I’ve used an original SegaCD infrequently and I’ve never used a real NeoGeo CD or Turbografx CD. So take anything I say about the latter 3 with a grain of salt.

Let’s get input lag out of the way first. I did a manual lag test using the SegaCD version of the 240p test suite. I ran it 5 times and ended up with an average of 1.5 frames of lag using the controller wirelessly. That’s Framemeister territory so not bad at all. It is possible that emulators other than the SegaCD emulator may have different input lag but I ran out of CD-Rs so I’m not testing each one.

Playstation
Once I got my SSD to cool properly, I had no issues with the Playstation emulation. Audio seemed accurate as did the graphics. This shouldn’t be a surprise as Playstation emulation has been mature for a very long time. I can get a sharper image using original hardware and a RetroTINK 5x Pro but it is still good. Where I noticed that the sharpness was not as good as the RetroTINK’s output was in Chrono Cross. When you go into Chrono Cross’s menu, each character has a cluster of green bars representing the number of spells they can cast. These bars are very crisp and distinct with the RetroTINK (720p with scanlines on) whereas they are not as distinct with the Polymega (1080p with scanlines on). Right now, the only resolution option for the Polymega is 1080p so I cannot make a direct apples to apples comparison.

Saturn
Saturn emulation seems pretty rock solid. I played many fighting games and shmups where accurate timing is needed. I did ok despite having to adjust to the Playstation-like controller that is included with the Polymega. I’ve got a Retrobit USB Saturn controller on order so I’ll be back in tip-top fighting form soon. There were some very very infrequent audio pauses but that could have been due to thermal throttling on my SSD. I did my Saturn testing before turning my unit upside down to cool better. Even with those few audio pauses, I was very impressed with their Saturn emulation.

SegaCD
Not much to say here. I really only putzed around in Sonic CD. It was fine. No issues to report.

Turbografx CD/ PC Engine CD
Having never used either of these consoles, everything seemed fine as well. I played some shmups and Rondo of Blood. Everything looked and sounded great but I admittedly wouldn’t know it if something was a little off.

NeoGeo CD
Good god, the load times! They are practically nonexistent. I never got into NeoGeo CD before because I’ve seen the videos of its load times even on the faster NeoGeo CDZ. I knew that wasn’t for me. On the Polymega, I played some KOF, Fatal Fury, and Metal Slug games that I have experience with on the Saturn. They play every bit as good as their Saturn counterparts. Also very impressed here.

Polymega Pack-in Games on NES, SNES, Genesis, and Turbograx 16
I have no experience with any of these games but with the brief time I spent with some of them, they all worked fine. I’m looking forward to delving into these further.

Game Patches and Fan Translations
Game patches and fan translations are quite easy to use with the Polymega. You can use either a USB drive or microSD card to store the patches. I recommend formatting the USB drive or microSD card with your Polymega and then bring it over to your computer. Create a folder called “patch” in the root of the drive and add your patches to the directory. When you launch a game, you will be able to select a patch to add. Note that it may take a few seconds for the game to launch when adding a new patch. I thought my Polymega had locked up the first time I tried it. Currently, the Polymega supports BPS, IPS, UPS, PPF, XDELTA, MSU1 and Mesen HD Packs.

It should also be noted that you have a burned copy of a game that is pre-patched, the Polymega will allow it to install – at least with the few that I tried. It worked with King’s Field, Suiko Gaiden Vol 1 &2, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, and Tobal No. 2. As a matter of fact, I could never get King’s Field to work on my soft modded PSOne but the Polymega played it flawlessly.
Last edited by bmoc on Thu Sep 23, 2021 4:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Polymega/Retroblox: New 1080p "Clone" 2600 to PCE-CD to

by bmoc Sat Sep 18, 2021 5:29 pm

Final Thoughts

Three years is a long time to wait on a preorder and I started to lose faith on multiple occasions but I am glad that I stuck it out. Playmaji has a great product on their hands that will hopefully only get better over time. My biggest concern with their longtime success is cost. $450 plus $80 per module is understandably a tough sell for a lot of people and I don't know that I can recommend it at that price to the masses. Only those with very large retro collections looking to consolidate their hardware may want to shell out for this unless you are really into fan translations and hate playing them on a PC emulator. Hopefully, Playmaji can find ways to make the product cheaper over time especially if they can sell them at cost or a loss due to their upcoming digital games store.

I'm curious what their online store is going to look like and whether they will actually get it running this holiday season as planned (I wouldn't put money on it given their history). With Playmaji's relationship with Piko Interactive, I have to wonder if Piko Interactive's upcoming Bleem digital storefront will be integrated. It seems like a perfect fit.

Pros
Easy setup
Attractive interface
Extensive database with game descriptions
Accurate emulation (to my eyes and ears)
Fantastic NeoGeo CD load times
Easy game patching (fan translations)
Easy access to import games without modding original hardware
Living room friendly if you have a non-gaming significant other

Cons
Cost
Mediocre bundled controller that requires a USB dongle
Inadequate SSD cooling. May require a heatsink and/or laptop cooling pad. Consider using a large microSD card instead.
Poor documentation of BIOS sideloading Polymega FAQ updated with instructions 9/30/21
Still some games that aren’t detected by the database and can’t be installed (yet)


Wishlist Items
Auto-rip to preselected storage
More controller options
720p integer scaling option
1440p option?
More scanline/filter options
Last edited by bmoc on Thu Sep 30, 2021 6:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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