The RG552 finally has custom firmware! – The Best RG552 Custom Firmware

Find that the default firmware isn’t quite cutting it? Perhaps you might be interested in custom firmware. We at DroiX will be cataloguing all firmware that reaches our ears here in this handy guide!

What is custom firmware?

If you’re finding that the features and performance of a device’s default firmware aren’t quite up to scratch, there are usually one of two things you can do.

The first of these is giving up. Locking up the device or even sending it back to the seller.

Meanwhile, the second method, is installing different (i.e., custom) firmware on the device.

Custom firmware is essentially an alternative operating system developed by the community, for the community. Numerous talented developers, hobbyists, and more come together to produce a firmware distribution with any manner of tweaks, fixes, and optimizations.

In our opinion, “good” retro gaming handheld firmware conforms to the following properties:

  • It is FREE.
    • Paid firmware for emulation handhelds is at best, morally dubious. If features are ever withheld behind some kind of paywall, we’d advise steering clear.
  • It’s open-source
    • There are valid reasons to make sure that source code is kept away from the general public. However, if a firmware distribution is just a tweak of existing open-source software, we don’t believe that warrants hiding the source code, as it may hinder additional contribution to the project.

How do I install custom firmware on the RG552?

At the time of writing, there are only Linux-based custom firmware builds that run off of external microSD cards available. And the process for updating is the same as can be seen in our earlier RG552 firmware update guide.

If you dislike balenaEtcher, there are alternative tools you can use to flash the microSD card as well. Including Rufus and Win32 Disk Imager.

We highly advise that you attempt any firmware installs on a separate microSD card, instead of the stock one. Unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

The RG552 Firmware Problem

Compared to the RG351 family, the RG552 encounters a unique problem when it comes to emulation. Simply put, Android already has a bevvy of matured, optimized emulators available to download.

Therefore, at this early stage in the device’s lifecycle, it is unlikely that you will actually see any significant performance bumps for running a linux-based operating system over Android. In some cases, the more advanced platforms (N64, PSP, etc.) may actually see slight performance drops.

As the firmware is given time to mature and the developers find ways to optimize the emulators, this is sure to change in the future. But close to launch, we would personally wait a while before committing to any particular firmware just yet.

RG552 Custom Firmware To Keep an Eye On

As firmware is developed/updated for this device, we’ll come back to this article once in a while to add more information/update existing information.

Some of these firmware releases may currently be in BETA or even ALPHA status. Meaning that they are not stable. While there is always the risks that bugs may occur in any kind of software, the risks of critical bugs in non-stable releases are significantly higher. Use them at your own risk.

351ELEC

Type: External/Linux

If you’re familiar with the RG351 custom firmware scene, it is likely you are already familiar with 351ELEC.

351ELEC is custom firmware that focuses on making the user experience as feature-rich and streamlined as possible, without sacrificing ease of use or functionality. If this firmware follows the path of the 351s’ versions, you can expect a myriad of improvements such as pre-optimized games, additional features (such as PortMaster), performance enhancements, and more!

Currently, 351ELEC for the RG552 is in beta status, and can be downloaded from the 351ELEC github page.

More information on 351ELEC can be found on the team’s official website.

JELOS

Type: External/Linux

JELOS (Just Enough Linux Operating System) is a small custom firmware project from the original lead developer of 351ELEC, Fewtarius.

While initially a private project, interest from the wider community spurred them on to develop the firmware as a distribution rather than just keep it private.

Forked from 351ELEC, JelOS will contain a number of QoL changes such as automatic fan control, but will also be smaller in scope as far as features go (i.e., no online updating, some unnecessary emulators removed due to poor performance).

The latest versions of JELOS can be downloaded from the official JELOS website.

[2022/01/19 Update] Due to personal reasons, the developer of JELOS will no longer be openly publishing this firmware, and has taken their website offline as a part of this decision.

The last public release of JELOS can be found at this mirror: https://go.droix.co.uk/RG552-JELOS

LineageOS

Type: ???/Android

LineageOS is a free, open-source distribution of the Android operating system that intends to “free” the system from the shackles of Google’s ecosystem. Including the removal of baked in Google Play Store and other proprietary Google applications.

Unlike the “proof-of-concept” 351Droid operating system from the RG351s, the increased performance of the RG552 should enable it to leverage the reduced overhead of LineageOS into faster all-around performance.

It is rumoured that independent developer BlackSeraph has plans to develop a port of LineageOS to the RG552 – as they have ported LineageOS to other recent handhelds as well, such as the GPD XP, and the PowKiddy X18S. At the moment, this is entirely hearsay, but we think they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on!

benjamin
Mild-mannered support agent by daylight; even milder-mannered tech blogger under cover of night. Fond of gaming, virtual reality, and sleeping; not necessarily in that order.

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  1. Pingback: The Best Handheld Retro Console in 2022 [January Update] - DroiX 14 January 2022

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