RasPiBoy preview


Disclaimer:  Originally, I had planned to do a full review on the RasPiBoy by now, but the unit I received has a defect, which has delayed the full review.  Until then, here is a quick preview.

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The RasPiBoy is a kit created by 8BCraft, a small company working out of France.  The kit allows you to take a Raspberry Pi Zero and turn it into a portable handheld, as pictured above.  The controls are reminiscent of the SNES controller, including the shoulder triggers on the back.  You get both sets of buttons to either use the colors from the Super Famicom or Super Nintendo versions of the SNES (Japan or USA).  It also features a similar D-pad to that of the SNES.

The handheld0 takes the standard Pi Zero and uses an addon board to add full sized USB ports, a headphone jack, and a volume dial.  The onboard Pi provides TV Out using mini HDMI, and it gives audio out with a small mono speaker if you don’t wish to use the headphone jack.  Four blue LEDs below the screen act as a battery indicator, and screen contrast/brightness adjustments are on the back of the unit, as well as the main power switch.

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In my time using the unit, it is constructed very nicely, and the controls feel great in most games.  There are a few flaws in the design though, the most major one being the fact that the unit cannot be charged while it is turned on, and attempting to charge it while powered on will shut down the unit.  Also, after assembly, RetroPie requires some addition configuration to get the screen and audio working, in both a config.txt file as well as settings in the OS itself.  Some of these changes are not well documented, like increasing the gain in the audio section of RetroPie in order to get the maximum volume higher than a whisper.

On top of that, there are a few defective boards that have caused a black screen.  My board was one of the defective boards, and only functioned a few hours before the screen suffered this issue.  The dev is getting me a new board, so I am delaying the full review until I can do more comprehensive testing on it.

Once they iron out the black screen, it will be a solid device I would highly recommend for anyone wanting Pi based emulation on the go, with the only major issue being the inability to charge while being turned on.  I would assume this could be fixed with a PCB revision, and am waiting on the project creator to get back with me to see if there will be a board revision that will allow this.  Even if this doesn’t happen though, battery life is exceptional, and the battery is accessible for the user to change in the future if the battery does finally give out.  On my unit, I ordered a 6000 mah battery which lasts about 8 to 10 hours (while my screen is black, TV out still works).  For around 100 US dollars and the cost of a Pi Zero (around 10 to 15 shipped), you get a handheld that can easily handle anything from the 2600 to the 16 bit era, and some 32 bit stuff as well (32X and some PS1 games run great).  The jury is still out, but I am hoping a board revision squashes the charging bug, and I am hoping the black screen issue I ran into is only on a few select units.  I will update once the new board comes in.

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