ZX Spectrum Emulator on the Psion 5/7 Series     last updated: August 2023

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 The ZX Spectrum Emulator, Z80, has been available for the 5 series for many years and given the relatively small catalogue of games available for the Psion the emulator adds a vast range of games to the handhelds. 

There's a great video made a few years ago by RetroGamerVX showing how to use the emulator, so I won't cover that in great detail here, but I'm interested in just how well some games perform.

The Psion 5 series isn't renown for a big clear screen, unlike the superior 3 series and Revo screens, and combined with my aging eyesight I find the 5 series increasingly more difficult to use, so how will games designed for TVs in the 1980s fair up on the 5/5mx screen? I've put a few games to the test.

A few points to note first. The emulator has a 'colour' setting. This isn't really a colour setting of course, but toggles the colour schemes used in the games to sometimes invert the colours on the Psion. Experiment for best results. You can access this from the menu or press Control-C while using the emulator. Another useful function is adjusting the screen size. From the menu you can choose Display and set between normal and large (there's also a custom option). Large fits the width of the screen which is good at times but does distort the image. One final point to note, sound is disabled by default. You can switch it on but you might find it affects the performance.


XEVIOUS


Xevious is playable on the 7 Series but the ghosting effect is still very noticeable

The classic vertical shoot-em-up is a bit of a classic on the old home computers. But how does it fair up on the humble Psion 5? Well the first thing I found was to change the colour settings in the emulator. This helped, but personally I found it extremely hard to spot the bullets, the Psion screen ghosting being the enemy here. On the 7 Series it's definitely playable but the ghosting it still very noticable. I'll give it the thumbs up but there are better games to play on the emulator.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍


FROGGY


Froggy on the ZX Spectrum

Froggy by DJL Software is a nice version of the classic Frogger game. On the Spectrum it's a beautiful feast of colour as you can see above. On the Psion monochome isn't the enemy here, it's the ghosting effect again, making it's almost impossible to see the moving objects accurately. I did try this on the Psion 7, and while the ghosting was still there it's just about playable, so worth a look.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍


BOMB JACK


Bomb Jack on the Psion 5mx 

Probably my all time favourite ZX Spectrum game. The difficulty is pitched just right in Bomb Jack, and the controls and movement are a joy. So how does it fair up on the Psion? Well on the 5mx, after tweaking the colour setting and leaving the display in normal width it produces a fairly decent display (especially with enough light on the screen). Some of the levels have more background than others, and that can make it tricky at times to see enemies, but with no tiny bullets and extremely fast moving objects Bomb Jack is a playable game here. On the 7 Series it's fantastic, bar no sound.

Verdict: 5mx 👍 Series 7 👍
 

FLYING SHARK

Flying Shark was originally an arcade hit converted to home micros with mixed success. The Spectrum conversion isn't bad, moving along at a decent speed with lots happening on the screen. One of the main problems though was the background clashing with the bullets, and the situation unfortunately is even worse on the Psion. On the 7 Series it's okay and playable, but I struggled to get anywhere on the 5mx. Others may have better success but I found there's just too much background and ghosting of the moving objects.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍

 

MANIC MINER


Manic Miner on the 5mx

The iconic platform game from 1983 is a firm favourite on the ZX Spectrum. This plays very well on the 7 Series as you might expect, while on the 5mx, after toggling the colours it wasn't bad at all. There's still the ghosting effect on fast moving objects, but I found it slightly easier to stretch the screen to large size. Playing on a 5 series might not be the greatest experience but it works. A tentative thumbs up.

Verdict: 5mx 👍 Series 7 👍

 

FOOTBALL MANAGER


Football Manager on the 5mx in large display mode
 
The strategy game that started all football management games released in 1982 is a classic to try out on the emulator. On the 7 Series it's a great experience, with full screen colour graphics that aren't adversely impacted by ghosting other games suffer. However on the 5 series it's more of a struggle. Like most Spectrum text displayed on the emulator the rows appear close together and despite toggling the colours it's difficult to find a view what's going on. The match highlights on the 5mx fair up a lot better, showing the action pretty well. So if you can cope with the difficulty in reading the text (perhaps with a decent light or good sunlight), maybe you can make this work for you.

Football Manager on the Psion 7 is a joy
Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍
 

VIRUS

Converting Virus to the ZX Spectrum was an amazing feat. Originally 'Zarch' on the Acorn Archimedes, the first commercially available 32 bit home computer, it was converted to the 16 bit Amiga and Atari ST. So it's no small miracle this game made its way on the humble Spectrum. So how does it do on the Psion? Well not too brilliant. The good news is toggling the colour settings does improve things so make the wire frame graphics quite visible, but the refresh rate is sadly too low and the bullets too small to see before you are hit. Sadly this is a thumbs down for me on the Psion emulator.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍

 

XENOBLAST

Well I had hoped this especially would work, being one of my own releases (shameless plug, you can download it from itch.io here. Sadly though on the 5 series it suffers similar problems to Xevious with ghosting and hard to see bullets, so a non-starter. It's very playable on the 7 Series however, if a little blurring on occasions.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍


THE LORDS OF MIDNIGHT


The Lords of Midnight on the Psion 5mx

On the Psion 5mx I struggled to read the text in normal indoor light levels. Outdoors or under a good spot light it becomes a lot easier, so can be playable. Changing the colours helps, and I preferred the 'large' wide view setting.

I've thumbs down the 5/5mx here but you might fair up better. No problems with the 7 Series.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍 

 

ALL HALLOWS' EVE

All Hallows' Eve is a modern text adventure by Mancave Software (also available in physical format from Cronosoft). It uses a very traditional text format so how does it fair up on the Psion?  Like The Lords of Midnight rows appear very close together but here text is more readable, using a more standard font and clear backgrounds. It's still a bit more difficult to read than native Psion fonts and your mileage will vary. Same goes for most other plain font text adventures on clear backgrounds.

Verdict: 5mx 👍 Series 7 👍
 

JET PAC


Jet Pac is one of the early classics to appear on the Spectrum, seeing you blast around the screen collecting rocket parts and avoiding baddies. The problem on the 5mx is common to many games I've tried, bullets and enemies move quickly and very hard to see. So while you can easily see the main character, it's almost impossible to play the game well. On the 7 Series the ghosting effect makes things tricky but it's definitely playable.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍
 

LOAD RUNNER

Load Runner is another early Speccy platformer that's great fun when you get the hang of it. While on the Psion 7 Series this remains fun on the 5mx the characters are tiny, making this just too hard to play for me sadly.

Verdict: 5mx 👎 Series 7 👍

 

HEAD OVER HEELS

Last but not least I put the 1987 game Head of Heels to the test. With an adjustment to the colours and  settings it produces a very playable game on the Psion 5mx. Contrast is good, characters are large and clear and ghosting is minimal thanks to the controlled speed of movement. Controls are responsive and can be customised in game. My only criticism is the text on the main menu is tricky to read but that can be overlooked given how well the game plays. Recommended for all Psions.

Verdict: 5mx 👍 Series 7 👍


What about the Revo?

Despite the smaller screen and resolution the Revo has a much better contrast than the 5/5mx, making playing Spectrum games generally easier. One downside is the lack of backlight of course, but in normal light you're sure to get better results.

Summary:

Download links:

The emulator program itself can be downloaded here: Z80 ZX Spectrum Emulator from World of Spectrum

Most of the games here are available to download from the World of Spectrum archive. Be sure to download the TAP (non tzx) formats of the file.

 



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