by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D. tags: games - console - 8 bit - handhelds - review
During Amazon Prime day 2021, the lure of handheld game consoles captured my attention. I use a RetroFlag RPi Case for handheld retro-gaming and enjoyed the process of assembly and configuration. You can see this process on my Install Super RetroPie on the Retroflag GPi Case blog post and companion video. It’s a great unit when paired with the Super RetroPie distribution.
I want to try something different; one of the many available out-of-the-box handheld retro-gaming experiences. During Amazon Prime day, these handheld units ranged in price from $10 to $50. I had affiliate funds available (thanks to my supporters!!!), threw caution to the wind, and made the decision to purchase a four of these little handheld retro-gaming devices.
In this blog post, I will share each system and include a FAST LOAD companion video. Bookmark this page and come back throughout the four-part series as I work my way through these systems. It will be fun as we discover the capabilities and quirks of these handheld units.
Table of Contents
I chose four different handheld game units that range in price from $10 to $50. I had ≈$120 of affiliate funds that became my budget for this experiment (Thanks to everyone who supports the blog and the YouTube channel!). Selecting the models to purchase was difficult. Variety was a concern. There appear to be 100s of options with varying configurations. Many units are identical hardware with different seller branding.
I chose models with game counts from 380 to 4000+; similar to the options the GPi Case provides. After hours of page swapping throughout the Amazon Prime twenty-four hour period, I chose the following models to purchase and compare to the RetroFlag GPi Case (These are the Amazon listing titles):
🕹️ Want to extend your gameplay for items 1 through 4? Purchase additional BL-5C 3.7V 1020mAh Rechargeable Batteries.
🕹️ Items 1 to 3 include RCA out. If your TV doesn’t support RCA out, use this RCA to HDMI Convertor.
NOTE: This page uses Amazon Affiliate Links. Thanks for your continued support of this blog and companion videos.
Each unit has unique features and I found it difficult to compare them without a table. My table is in the embedded Google Sheet below or view directly by clicking here.
I purchased the RetroFlag GPi in January of 2020 at the height of COVID. It was a project to take my mind off the world. I fired up YouTube Live and shared the process with a couple of viewers (my subscriber count was ≈ 400). Later I made an edit of the live video. You can view it below.
If I look back, it was this project and video that reinvigorated my interest in retro computing and gaming and look at me now! 1700+ of you find time to watch a video or two. Thank you!!!
The GPi Case includes these unique features:
The first unique feature is the Gameboy form factor. This is common with many handheld systems. Problem is, I am not a fan of that form factor. Since the original GameBoy, The shape of the unit and the controller placement make my hands and fingers hurt. For casual games, the layout is okay; however for action games it is a horribly frustrating and painful experience. I suspect that other systems that use this form factor will not be different. We’ll find out as we look at the four units I selected.
As of this writing, this is the pinnacle of retro-gaming handheld gaming goodness. Not for the form factor, as I mention earlier in the article, but for the sheer number of possible emulator configurations and game system compatibility.
This is the only unit I consider a true retro gaming experience because it is the only system here that can emulate Atari, Commodore, ZX Spectrum, and other retro-computing computers from the 1980s. Other units on my 8-bit list end on our gaming timeline with the NES, and while technically those are 8-bit and worthy of their retro title, that excludes a whole inventory of amazing games. Not one of the options below emulates an Atari 2600. That’s unacceptable! Notwithstanding, there is fun to be had from these devices.
Using a Raspberry Pi Zero for hardware in the GPi case is genius. As long as there are no changes to the RPi Zero’s form factor, updates to the hardware in our GPi case cost ≈$25. No other unit on this page has that capability.
The RPi Zero emulation software receives updates to security, features, and emulators. This device is the benchmark for other handheld retro-gaming platforms even though I would prefer a Playstation PSP or Nintendo Switch form factor.
Time to compare the first unit to the RetroFlag GPi Case.
The first unit out of the box is the Great Boy. It was opened on 2021-07-04 as part of the original series open the box segment. The Amazon Prime Day price as $26.38 compared to the normal price of $32.98. I started with this one because is has the least number of games at 380.
Watch the companion video below and then continue to read my thoughts on this device.
|00:00||GPi Case battery install introduction|
|00:25||FAST LOAD bumper|
|00:35||RetroFlag GPi case overview|
|02:15||Amazon Prime Day 2021 purchase unboxing|
|08:29||Power on and demo|
|16:33||Donkey Kong demo|
|19:37||Dig Dug demo|
|22:14||Defender II demo|
The first unit’s features set the standard for what’s to come. Here’s a list of the main features that highlight this handheld console.
As shown in the video, the Great Boy uses a STMicroelectronics–M36L0T7050BZAQ Processor that includes a: 128Mbit (Multiple Bank, Multi-Level, Burst) Flash Memory 32Mbit (2M x16) PSRAM, Multi-Chip Package. The link above is to the specification sheet. I’d love someone with more processor smarts than me to provide info about this processor. Can we look inside? Can we reprogram? Can we overclock? Leave a comment below and share your knowledge.
Below is a table of my favorite retro game titles on the Great Boy. This list includes the game number to locate each game since they are not in alphabetical order. An
* next to a menu number (#) indicates a game I game I demonstrate in the companion video.
|01*||Contra 1 and 2|
|07||Super Mario Brothers|
|58*||Donkey Kong 1,2,3|
|263||The Legend of Kage|
* Demo included in companion video.
Things to like about the Great Boy include:
Things to improve the Great Boy include:
NOTE: I understand this is a $30 device and improvements may not be possible at that price point.
→are faster than moves backward with
That concludes the look at the Great Boy. Up next is the LiNKFOR Retro Mini Game Player.
I’ll compare all four of the handhelds and make a final recommendation in the final video (link coming soon). For now, I hope you enjoy this fun experiment. While not every handheld is a winner, trying them out makes every experience like Christmas morning!
Want to suggest a model, or better yet, send me one to feature or as a, “Thank you!” Drop me an email and let’s start the discussion.
🕹️ retroCombs OUT!