Emulation is a tough job to pull off since you’re creating an entire computer system via software. It’s generally theorized that the emulating system needs to be around 5 to 15 times more powerful than the original hardware. Today’s computers aren’t 15 times more powerful than a PS1, they are hundreds of times more powerful.
Based on this information, how much RAM do you need to emulate a PS1? As long as you have a computer manufactured in the last 15 years, you should have no issues emulating a PS1 game. Even 1GB of RAM is more than enough to emulate a PS1, as long as you’re running a lightweight OS (PS1 emulation on Raspberry Pi is a thing).
The initial ePSXe version was released in October of 2000. And back then, the average gaming PC had a Pentium III or Athlon combined with a Riva TNT or 3DFX Voodoo. Today, PS1 emulation can be done entirely via the built-in HD graphics on any Intel processor designed in the last decade.
How Much RAM Do You Need To Emulate A PS1?
If you have 1GB or more of memory in your computer, you can comfortably emulate a PlayStation 1 console using any of the popular emulators such as ePSXe or PCSX. The PlayStation was cutting-edge technology back in 1994, marking the transition from 2D console gaming to 3D. It was equipped with a 32-bit MIPS R3000 processor running at 33MHz.
A lot of the vector instructions for 3D graphics were computed by a Geometry Transform Engine coprocessor within the main CPU. This handled lighting, polygons, coordinate transforms, matrix calculations, etc. The R3000 processor could handle 30 million instructions per second (MIPS).
Seems like a lot, until you compare it to a modern processor. These days with superscalar architecture, we don’t use MIPS to compare processing power (because CPUs can execute more than one instruction per clock cycle). But just for reference, an i7-3770k quad-core from 2012 can do over 106,000 MIPS.
That is a decade-old mainstream CPU. So you can only imagine what newer CPUs can do with PS1 emulation. These days, it is even possible to emulate the insanely complicated Cell CPU used in the PS3.
Sure, comparing MIPS between different instruction sets and architectures isn’t exactly scientific. But it is enough to give us a rough idea of how much more powerful current hardware is compared to stuff from the mid-1990s. So it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t worry about your PC hardware being a bottleneck while emulating PS1 games- you have more than enough.
How Much RAM Is Needed To Emulate PS2?
The PS1 has 2MB of EDO DRAM as main memory, along with 1MB of VRAM and 512KB of memory for the sound processing unit. Compared to the PS1, the PS2 includes a lot more RAM. It is equipped with 32MB of RDRAM for the main processor, and 4MB of embedded DRAM for the GPU.
Now, let’s talk about a somewhat modern PC and how much memory it has. A $120 Lenovo Chromebook with an Intel Celeron N4020 dual-core has 4GB of RAM. That’s 125 times more memory than a PS2.
Even with 1GB of RAM, you will have no trouble emulating a PS2. When PCSX2 launched in 2002, the average computer was running 256MB to 512MB of DDR RAM. And PS2 emulation was not an issue back then either.
Can 4GB Of RAM Run RPCS3?
The emulator’s developers have published system requirements that list a minimum of 4GB RAM, but 8GB is recommended. You also need a GPU that supports Vulkan or OpenGL 4.3 (and greater). Vulkan is recommended as it provides a significant performance boost through reduced overhead.
RPCS3 is a PS3 emulator and the only one that works for that console. It wasn’t until the late 2010s that PS3 emulation was deemed possible, owing to the complexity of the Cell processor. While the PS3 itself has a combined memory of 512MB (split between the CPU and GPU), emulating it requires a lot more.
That’s because you’re creating a copy of the entire PS3 board in software, and running it on top of your OS. Virtual copies of the Cell processor, NVIDIA RSX GPU, I/O chips, sound processors, etc. have to be created. The Cell uses an entirely different architecture and instruction set compared to an x86-64 processor, like the ones you find in every PC.
The PS3’s CPU runs RISC instructions on an IBM PowerPC architecture and has 8 Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). Each SPE is a specialized processing core with no independent cache. It also has 7 execution units to perform both integer and floating-point calculations.
Programming code for the SPEs is an immensely complicated task, and emulating these things in software to run game code is even tougher. Hence, emulating PS3 games via RPCS3 requires you to have a relatively powerful CPU.
You need a modern 6-core to properly emulate every PS3 game on RPCS3. Games like Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us require a fast octacore as they also utilize SPE cores in addition to the Cell’s general-purpose PPE core.
Do You Need A Strong PC For Emulation?
It depends entirely on the system you’re trying to emulate. Consoles like Gameboy and DS can be emulated on an old Android phone without any issues. The PS1 and PS2 can be emulated on PC hardware that is over 10 years old.
But if you’re trying to emulate the Xbox 360 or PS3, you’ll need a lot more muscle. Especially for the PS3, thanks to its Cell processor. A modern system with a fast hexacore or octacore and 8+GB of RAM becomes a necessity.
Then again, not all PS3 games are the same. For instance, Red Dead Redemption at 4K is pretty tough, even with an i7 and 16GB of fast DDR4 memory. But you can easily run “lighter” games like Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition at a locked 60FPS using a more modest system.
Do PS1 Games Run At 60FPS?
You might find this funny, but the PS1 has more 60FPS titles than both the PS2 and PS3. This is partly due to how old consoles rendered games for analog television standards (NTSC and PAL). Some used progressive scans at a lower resolution (240p) while others used interlaced at a higher resolution (480i).
But more importantly, 60FPS was pretty standard for fighting and platformer games. Developers back then used the limited processing power they had to focus on gameplay rather than realistic graphics. That’s the primary reason why old consoles like the PS1 and PS2 had so many games running at 60FPS.
The Legality Of Using Emulation
Downloading the emulator itself isn’t a crime or infringement of copyrights. As emulators are often built with openly sourced information on system hardware, or through reverse engineering. However, the issue of legality comes into play once you start acquiring game ROMs.
As long as you’re using backup discs of your own games there should be no trouble. Even downloading ROMs for decades-old games shouldn’t get you into court. Because game developers aren’t looking out for individuals downloading old games from a ROM site.
However, commercializing the downloads and selling your ROMs for profit can get you into trouble. Downloading ROMs is a legal grey area. Because the rights holder for an old game might be out of business or part of a different company.
Plus, they don’t exactly make money from selling that game anymore. If the game is already out of print, then you aren’t exactly hurting their revenue stream. The cost of taking an individual to court over an illegal download is always higher than the revenue they would have made from a legal game sale.
I hope this article gave you an idea of how much RAM you need to emulate a PS1 game. In short- you don’t have to think about it. Unless you’re running a retro system from over 20 years ago. Anything with 1GB or more of RAM will easily emulate PS1 and even PS2 games.You could grab a netbook with a dual-core Celeron or Athlon CPU, and it would still have no issue emulating PS1 games. Dedicated graphics aren’t needed either. Because integrated GPUs from the last decade are more than powerful enough to run PS1 or PS2 games.