The European Samsung Galaxy S8 Can’t Run Dolphin

Thomas Wellburn
May 12, 2017

Users of a European Samsung Galaxy S8 will be disappointed to hear that Dolphin, the renowned GameCube emulator available for Android, runs terribly on the handset.

We’ve been having a lot of fun playing around with Samsung’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S8. It’s an astounding handset and an excellent piece of engineering, but there seems to be one major problem. It can’t handle the Dolphin emulator.

For those of you unaware, Dolphin is a GameCube emulator. The retro games console from 2001 was host to some of the greatest games ever made, including Super Smash Brothers Melee, F-Zero GX and Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker to name a few. Available on PC, it’s quite renowned for having excellent performance, stability and support, in addition to an excellent community. The Android version has always fell behind, largely in part because mobile gaming chips are not yet powerful enough to emulate the console at optimum performance.

The release of the Snapdragon 820 processor somewhat changed this, along with the Vulkan API. The latter is an underlying programming interface that allows developers closer access to the hardware, improving performance by anywhere between 10 and 30 percent.

The American version of the Samsung Galaxy S8 uses the newest Snapdragon 835, which is the most powerful chip Qualcomm have released to date. Numerous YouTube videos show the device running Dolphin emulator in real-time, with smooth frame-rates on even the most demanding titles. Excited by the prospect of playing Resident Evil 4 on my mobile device, I installed Dolphin on our Samsung Galaxy S8… with disappointing results.

Dolphin performance on the European Samsung Galaxy S8 is utterly terrible. The inclusion of the Exynos 8895 seems to have crippled performance, making the emulator completely unusable. Numerous posters in the Dolphin forum are reporting the same issue, with one user saying that the Samsung chip doesn’t support EXT_buffer_storage which could be the cause. This seems to be a form of pointer caching that increases performance in games using OpenGL (which Dolphin uses). Another issue seems to be the lack of Vulkan support, as our European variant refuses to work with the API.

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