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PPSSPP Now Supports Vulkan Graphics API for Smoother PSP Emulation

PPSSPP, a Sony PlayStation Portable emulator for Android devices, is one of the most robust around. Not only does it let you play your favorite PSP games on any Android-based smartphone or tablet, but it supports the Vulkan Graphics API, which means it performs well on older system-on-chips.

If you haven’t heard of the Khronos Group’s Vulkan Graphics API, think of it as a low-overhead alternative to graphics APIs like OpenGL or OpenGL ES. It’s backed by companies like Nvidia and Intel, and it’s intended to give developers more options when they’re programming cross-platform games. (In theory, Vulkan graphics development on Android should pretty much work on a Vulkan-supported PC hardware.) It’s relatively new, but it’s already been implemented in games such as Codemasters’s GRID and EA’s Need for Speed.

Vulkan requires a “hands-on” approach to graphics development; there’s generally more work involved in the development of things. But the result is a lower CPU overhead, which generally increases overall performance. That’s hugely beneficial for platforms like PPSSPP, where every freed-up processing cycle can result in speedups on difficult-to-emulate games.

The full changelog is below.

  • Full Vulkan support, also for Android now. Very fast on supported devices. (#10033, #10049)
  • Smarter graphics state management, reduced CPU consumption on all backends (#9899)
  • Android: Support for Arabic and other scripts we couldn’t support before
  • Fix Android widgets, screen scaling (#10145)
  • Fixes to video dumping
  • Geometry problems fixed in Medal of Honor
  • Implement immediate draws, fixing Thrillville (#7459)
  • Software rendering improvements, speed and accuracy
  • Hardware tesselation of PSP Beziers and Splines (used by a few games)
  • Partial sceUsbGps and sceUsbCam support (Android)
  • Android “Sustained performance mode” to avoid thermal throttling (#9901)
  • Linux controller mapping fixes (#9997)
  • Assorted bugfixes and compatibility improvements

Since the update last week, a subsequent patch — PPSSPP 1.5.2 — fixed some instability and crashes caused by Vulkan. If you tried PPSSPP in the past but were disappointed by the performance, it’s worth giving it another go. You might be impressed.