This is the RaspiBoy handheld console kit running Pico-8. Inside, it's a Raspberry Pi Zero connected to a TFT display, a LiPo rechargeable battery, a small speaker, a custom controller board, and a built-in full-size SNES-style controller including shoulder buttons on the back. The custom board provides two USB-A ports for data, a microUSB port strictly for charging, mini-HDMI video out, a headphone jack, a volume wheel for the speaker, and buttons for adjusting the display. RaspiBoy ships as a solderless kit that does not include the RaspPi Zero.
The two big ideas here are the full-size SNES-like controller grip and the injection molded case. Injection molding and silicone membrane pushbuttons do more to recreate the mass-market handhelds than any 3D-printed equivalent can. The controller size is comfortable and familiar. Overall, there are a lot of good ideas in the RaspiBoy that we haven't seen yet in this increasingly populated category of small-run manufacturing of Raspberry Pi-based handheld game consoles. The general design ticks a lot of boxes in my ideal version of this concept.
Unfortunately, there are some significant failures in the details. The large grip comes at the expense of a wide frame around the TFT screen. As shown in the picture, Pico-8 by default doesn't fill the frame, and the low resolution makes even Pico-8's chunky typeface difficult to read. (I have not yet experimented with options and config to fix this. The -width and -height command-line arguments may come in handy.) A flaw common to RaspPi-based handhelds is the need to formally shut down the operating system before turning it off, or risk corrupting the filesystem. (This could be fixed with custom software and a "soft" power button, but it'd be a project that I haven't seen anyone attempt yet.)
While the silicone membrane buttons have a familiar feel, they're a pain to assemble as part of the kit. Plastic buttons sit atop the membrane, and the membrane makes contact with simple copper pads on the circuit board. Getting these to line up while you push the two sides of the case together is difficult, and it took me multiple tries to get it to fit together correctly. Even when fully assembled, the buttons are too unreliable for gaming performance. I had far better luck sticking a prefab USB controller into one of the ports than I did with the built-in controller.
RaspiBoy doesn't use any custom software: it's just RetroPie in a common RaspPi configuration, and you install it yourself. So I'm not sure how to explain that Pico-8 misbehaves and crashes after a few minutes of play. I'm tentatively inclined to blame the RaspiBoy, the RaspPi Zero, or possibly the way the controller board connects to the Zero using pogo pins pressed up against the test pads. Needless to say, it's a deal breaker if I can't actually use it to play games reliably. I doubt I'll have the time or patience to troubleshoot this properly.
The basic RaspiBoy kit sells for 75 euros (~$90 USD) from http://www.8bcraft.com/.
Thanks for the detailed review. The RaspiBoy did always seem the "best value", off-the-shelf option out there (albeit with an Ikea "some assembly required" approach).
It's just a shame that it's a little too cheap from the sounds of it.
But hey, I'm sure it'll be perfect for some people.
Just got my RaspiBoy the other day. It was super easy to load PicoPi onto it but ran into the same issue with pico-8 not filling the screen. I also noticed the colors seem really off on the display, could just be the quality of the panel or something else.
I'll try retropie next. You're definitely right about the hassle getting the case assembled and keeping the button rubber pads in place. It felt like something was going to break when I was screwing the case in!
I ordered a micro sd card extension ribbon so I can make the sd card slot accessible externally then hopefully I won't have to take it apart ever again.
Pierre-Louis Boyer has a new Kickstarter for a revised Raspiboy, so here's another chance to get one.
The advertised improvements in this revision include more advanced battery management and gamepad sensitivity. I'll be curious to know if these improvements affect my issues with the original model.
Boyer's newer RetroStone handheld, preassembled and with a more promising form factor, is still in progress. RetroStone does not use a RaspPi, so we'll have to see if any of the Pico-8 binaries work on it out of the box.
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