Here’s How Get the Best Portable PS2 Experience

Emulating PlayStation 2 games on the go has been considered impossible for the longest time. Most modern portables struggle or are incapable to run the beloved console even today, but it has little to do with hardware power and more with software support.

This is why reliable PS2 emulation is very limited. You either have to go for a dedicated PS2 handheld, or sacrifice portability somewhat by running it on a laptop, which is not exactly a handheld. But what about smartphones?

PS2 emulation has been terrible on Android up until now. Android smartphones had only a few options for emulators in the past, and those were janky at best, and scams at worst.

But now, however, we have a brand new PS2 emulator for Android called AetherSX2 . It just came out of closed beta on the Google Play Store and is completely free to use. It lets you run your classic PS2 games on even a mid-range Android device.

This has expanded our options for a reliable solution for the portable PS2 problem. But first, lets have a look at all the viable options currently available.

Android Smartphones

samsung 1283938 960 720 Here's How Get the Best Portable PS2 Experience

Surprisingly, smartphones are now one of your best bets when it comes to portable PS2 emulation, but this was not always the case. Android smartphones have been terrible at PlayStation 2 emulation for ages due to a lack of quality emulators. But this has finally changed with the release of AetherSX2.

AetherSX2 has been in development for a while and its alpha build appeared in leaks over the past few months. It entered closed beta recently and now the open beta version is available for everyone for free on Google Play Store.

This emulator has much better performance than any previous PS2 emulator for Android. You can run most PS2 games with consistent FPS even with a mid-range Android phone. Ideally, you should have a high-end phone for the best performance (even upscaled in some cases), but cheaper phones will not disappoint either.

Chances are that you have a mid-range Android phone already. Even if you don’t, it’s quite easy to get a phone with decent hardware for cheap. Phones with high-end Snapdragon or MediaTek chips are as cheap as $400 these days. Better yet, decent mid-range phones can be grabbed for as low as $200. 

Cheap prices, reliable performance, and great portability are what make Android smartphones one of the best options for PS2 emulation.

We already have a detailed guide on how to set up your smartphone as a retro handheld. You can follow the simple steps to get started.

Dedicated PS2 Portables

portable ps2

There are a few notable handhelds dedicated exclusively to running PS2 games only. One of the most famous, is simply called the PlayStation 2 Portable and is actually based on the original PS2’s motherboard. These devices are, in fact, not emulating the PS2 since it’s literally a PlayStation 2 itself scaled down into a handheld form factor.

The upside is that it brings the perfect PS2 performance without any hitches. There will not be any frame drops or stutters and these devices are easily used as regular handhelds. Pocketability is debatable, but they can easily be carried around in a small bag. The build quality is nothing short of remarkable as well.

These consoles are made by a team of only two people at Phoenix Retro Mods. These guys have managed to fit PS2 hardware into a small handheld form factor. One of them looks like a chunky Nintendo Gameboy, while another looks like an obese PSP.

The downside is that it is only meant for those willing to spend a fortune to relive their childhood days. Both of these devices cost around $800, which is not a viable option for most.

If you’re an enthusiast with plenty of money to spare, then the PS2 Portable might be for you.

PS Vita

psvita top hero tm 20170515 Here's How Get the Best Portable PS2 Experience

The PlayStation Vita is a classic console that most people are already familiar with. It came out in 2011 as a successor to the original PlayStation Portable, better known as the PSP. The Vita has gotten a few hardware refreshes by Sony over the years and has also received a lot of new features and support for more games including, but not limited to, PS2 titles.

It can still be purchased fairly easily for cheap and it makes for quite a versatile handheld console. It is smaller than the PSP, making it very light and pocketable. As mentioned earlier, Sony has added official support for some PS2 titles, but with a bit of tech knowledge, you can sideload games yourself too.

But while the PS Vita is a great console for other games, its performance with PS2 games is just mediocre. You will not see consistent frames per second with titles like God of War and visual and audio bugs are common as well.  

This makes the PS Vita a considerable, but not the ideal option for PS2 games. A used Vita can be found on Amazon for as low as $200 these days.


laptop Here's How Get the Best Portable PS2 Experience

In terms of performance, laptops are the best option for PS2 emulation. Most laptops today have enough power to run all PS2 games seamlessly and the PCSX2 emulator is as reliable as ever in terms of performance and software support. PCSX2 is completely free and can easily be installed on a laptop. It is able to run pretty much all PlayStation 2 games without any hitches.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on a fancy gaming laptop either, as even a modern work laptop should be able to handle PS2 emulation reasonably well. The PCSX2 emulator even works on macOS so all MacBook laptops are supported.

Although laptops maximize performance, they also sacrifice portability a bit. Sure you can carry your laptop anywhere, but it is not exactly a handheld device. Most people prefer attaching a controller for console games, so portability goes down the drain. Laptops cannot replace handheld retro consoles for that reason.

In conclusion, laptops are great but still not an ideal portable PS2 solution.

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