There’s been a bit of a buzz around a brand new budget device that has even seasoned emulation enthusiasts a bit excited. And that device is the Data Frog SF2000.
So why the excitement?
I would say that almost all of the hype is because the Data Frog SF2000 is so incredibly cheap and it can still play games semi-decent.
There are plenty of $10-30 ultra budget handhelds, but the quality of game play is so bad you basically wouldn’t want to bother.
Well a lot of us in the emulation community were a bit surprised to hear so many of our peers talking about a brand new budget handheld that they actually liked.
So let’s find out why the Data Frog SF2000 has some buzz.
Data Frog SF2000
The Data Frog SF2000 is a $20 handheld that can be easily found on Aliexpress.
As you should expect, the device looks like a cheap knockoff of original Nintendo hardware. The SF2000 is specifically made to emulate the SNES controller, much like Anbernic’s RG353PS.
And also as we would expect, the SF2000 is made with the cheapest possible materials and components.
The buttons are not great, but they get the job done.
The screen is a 3 inch LCD that is covered by a plastic lens. There’s no lamination like we typically see in current handhelds.
The back features a tiny attempt at ergonomics, a single speaker, and a rechargeable battery that can be swapped out if it ever goes bad.
When you know that this device only costs $20, your expectations start to align with what you will discover in the box.
There’s really no surprises with the build.
I would never describe the game play on the Data Frog SF2000 as great. But for $20, it ain’t too bad!
The SF2000 suffers from the same graphic glitches of many budget devices. A phenomena called “screen tearing”, where the device has trouble processing the graphics fast enough for the screen to display them properly.
But in most ultra budget devices, this gets so bad that you’d never wanna play it ever again.
On the Data Frog the screen tearing is there, but it’s almost bearable.
The experience of navigating the operating system is not the most intuitive or smooth, but it gets the job done.
My main complaint is that they have way too many games on the device for what it will actually play well.
6000 built in games, in fact. Less than half of those are worth the space they occupy, and you’ll probably only ever want to play about 100 of those.
To give Data Frog some credit, they did provide almost all of the best games. I only noticed one big one missing (The Legend of Zelda Minish Cap). And they also provide the game cover image for every single entry.
The operating system does allow for save states, as well. So you do have the ability to save and load your game play on the fly. This is a nice touch for a budget handheld.
My biggest complaint about playing games on the Data Frog SF2000 is that every single game will be forced to fullscreen and have a bilinear filter applied.
This results in most games being a bit soft looking, and you lose all of that pixel goodness of retro games.
If you can get past that, there are a few game consoles that play pretty well on the SF2000.
Titles for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color play well. Super Nintendo is hit or miss. And Game Boy Advance is only going to be okay (not great).
The game console that actually plays quite well and looks the absolute best on the Data Frog is the Sega Genesis. It was easily the best experience on this device.
This handheld can play all of the best Sega Genesis games and they will actually look kind of good! They look sharp, play at the right speed, and don’t seem to encounter any problems.
Keeping your expectations to the 8 bit and 16 bit generations on the SF2000 will leave you surprisingly satisfied on an ultra budget device.
The Data Frog SF2000 is quite obviously a device made for those who have never had a nicer emulation device or something to give to younger children.
And that’s why a lot of emulation enthusiasts are excited about the Data Frog… this is something you can give as a pretty cool gift to somebody.
For the price of dinner, you can give somebody the joy of retro video games in a semi-decent handheld device that looks kind of cute and actually plays games okay.
To give somebody the ability to play Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time is 100% worth the cost of the Data Frog SF2000.
My friend J.dewitz (@RetroHandheldCollection) sold me one of his over coffee, because he had purchased two. They are so cheap, why not?
It’s a device you can pick up just because you know you’ll wanna give it to somebody one day. Which is exactly what I plan on doing with mine.
So the Data Frog SF2000 falls under a really interesting category of handhelds… It’s a device that you will not want for yourself, but one you’d certainly want to share with others.
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.