Find it on: eBay, Amazon, AliExpress
The Datafrog SF2000 is the type handheld I’ve been waiting for for quite some time for a few different reasons.
The first is I’ve been in the market for an ultra-budget device (I put this in the sub-$25 category) with save states and customization. The current market is flooded with “1000-in-1” devices that play a large library of Fami-clone (NES only) devices, but once you turn off the device, your progress goes with it. The SoCs included in these low-end devices are also closed universes, meaning you’re stuck with the games that you’re provided with and not able to add any of your own. The builds are also typically very cheaply made, and it feels like it in your hands.
The SF2000 bucks this trend. For less than $25 (or as much as $40 on Amazon if you want next day shipping), this handheld features 6,000 games across a significantly wider group of systems (Genesis, GB, GBC, GBA, NES, SNES, MAME) and each emulator gives you four save states. You’re also free to drop your own ROMs into the SD card provided on the device if there’s a game you’re dying to play but isn’t preloaded.
The second reason is that I’ve been looking for an SNES handheld form factor for quite some time. Anbernic released its RG353P and PocketGo has the S30, which both resemble the classic SNES gamepad I played growing up. That said, I didn’t want to pay a premium for either device since I already have more powerful handhelds in my collection. This was just an excuse to have a handheld that resembled something from my childhood. And for the price point, the device doesn’t feel like a cheap device. Datafrog didn’t skimp, and added a functional joystick with mid-range buttons that have decent (though far from perfect) travel. The one critique I had of the buttons is that diagonal directional play on the D pad can be a bit dicey at times.
The SF2000 has other idiosyncrasies, of course. Two of the main issues I have with the device are a lack of a headphone jack and a single mono speaker despite the fact that the back of the device clearly shows room for stereo (it becomes an issue since the games are programmed to emit stereo sound). And while there is a volume wheel to turn the sound all the way down, I think Datafrog really missed a key feature here with the headphone jack. The stock firmware is also a bit of a mess. Every single emulator comes out of the box with key mapping issues. For instance, the Genesis uses the top R trigger button as the “C” key, while NES has its A and B buttons swapped. There was also a significant amount of screen tearing for SNES and GBA, and more than 50 percent of the library preloaded on the device for these two systems was simply unplayable. Datafrog also made its firmware a closed universe, which means there isn’t much under the hood tinkering available. It would’ve been nice to see what the community could’ve added on this device, and I personally would’ve loved to have seen Game Gear capability added.
To Datafrog’s credit, they’ve since released two new updates to its firmware, which solves many of the issues the community complained about. There’s now an on-board keymapper, updated BIOS files to make GBA and SNES more playable, and the SF2000 community has also been able to make several custom adjustments with the firmware. This includes the ability to replace the main menu music, boot logo and the overall menu theme. For my part, I took advantage of all three of these opportunities. In my opinion, the best update was installing a garlicOS theme that really made this device feel like a more premium product. Still, even with all of the tinkering, in order to play SNES at full speed, the end user needs to load a game and exit before going back in (so the game is cached) before it plays full speed. It’s a strange quirk, but not unduly burdensome.
That gets me to my final point, which could be a drawback of this device. If you’ve got the technical knowledge to tinker with the firmware, the end result can be a device that feels far better than the $25 it costs. But if you’re looking to give this as a gift to a novice, this may not be the best option for a plug-and-play device, and I would give this device a 5/10 rating for the casual user. On the other hand, if you are of a particular age to appreciate this form factor, want a budget device that plays up to the 16-bit generation, and have the know-how to customize it like I did, I highly recommend the Datafrog SF2000, and give it a 9/10.