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Blog posts and video from Steven as he “COMBS” through the minutia to discover tech, retro-computing, physical computing, gadgets and sci-fi.

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Commodore Plus/4 Series

1 August 2021

Great Boy Retro Gaming Handheld Console with 380 games

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


Introduction

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):

  1. Great Boy Portable Handheld Games for Kids Preloaded 380 Classic Retro Games with 3.5’’ Big Color Display and Gamepad Rechargeable Arcade Gaming System
  2. Handheld Game Console 390 Classic Games LiNKFOR Retro Mini Game Player with 3 Inch LCD Color Screen Rechargeable Battery Portable Retro Video Game Console Support for Connecting TV and Two Players
  3. FateFan Retro Game Console with 500 Classic Games, Handheld Game Console Supporting 2 Players TV Connection, 1020 mAh Rechargeable Battery(Green)
  4. TRIMUI Handheld Game Console with 4000+ Classical Games, Super Mini Retro Games Console Arcade, Mini Retro Gaming Player 2.0” IPS, Powkiddy Portable Video Game Console 600MA(Gray)

🕹️ 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.

Retro Gaming Handhelds Comparison Table

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.

RetroFlag GPi Case with RPi Zero W

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.

RetroFlag GPi Case

🕹️ Purchase the RetroFlag GPi Case

🕹️ Purchase the required Raspberry Pi Zero W

RetroFlag GPi Case Companion VIDEO

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!!!

Unique Features

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.

RetroFlag GPi Case Thoughts

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.

Great Boy Portable Handheld

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.

Great Boy Portable Retro Gaming Handheld

🕹️ Purchase the Great Boy Portable

Great Boy Companion Video – Retro game console handhelds under $60 | Great Boy w/380 games | #1 of 4

Watch the companion video below and then continue to read my thoughts on this device.

Time Codes:

Time Content
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
05:13 Unboxing
08:29 Power on and demo
11:03 Tear down
14:57 Conclusion
16:00 Games menus
16:33 Donkey Kong demo
17:08 Galaga demo
17:47 Contra demo
18:28 1942 demo
19:06 Galaxian demo
19:37 Dig Dug demo
20:17 Joust demo
21:00 Goonies demo
21:36 Vindicators demo
22:14 Defender II demo
22:45 End screen

Great Boy Features

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 STMicroelectronicsM36L0T7050BZAQ 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.

Great Boy Retro Games Highlights

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.

# Game title
01* Contra 1 and 2
07 Super Mario Brothers
20 Arkanoid
36* 1942
55 F1 Race
58* Donkey Kong 1,2,3
69* Galaga
70* Galaxian
78 Burger Time
81* Dig Dug
92 Lode Runner
98 Popeye
120 Pac-Man
123 Pinball
136* Joust
148 Millepede
190 Star Force
191 Star Gate
195 Tennis
219* Goonies
228 Xevious
229 Super Xevious
254 Pac-Mania
263 The Legend of Kage
322 Space Invaders
334* Defender II

* Demo included in companion video.

Great Boy Thoughts

Things to like about the Great Boy include:

  1. Cost
  2. Horizontal form factor
  3. Excellent gameplay performance with little or no lag
  4. Pause gameplay
  5. Second controller for multiplayer gaming
  6. Good selection of 1980s classic games make the handheld a good value
  7. Games appear to be original code or extremely good facsimiles
  8. Joystick controller in addition to gamepad
  9. Replaceable battery for longer game play
  10. Battery life
  11. Bright 3.5” screen with good view angles
  12. Connect to TV with RCA connectors RCA to HDMI Convertor
  13. Loud volume and headphone support

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.

  1. More games – other consoles include 500
  2. Ability to save gameplay
  3. Larger second controller
  4. Menu moves forward with are faster than moves backward with
  5. 17 character menu limit cuts off game titles
  6. Remove necessity to select language at power-on
  7. More weight; even if faux
  8. Gift box with “Love You” on the front
  9. Screen is easy to scratch
  10. Replace slots that contain modern “Power Joy” games with classic retro games
  11. License official games

Spoiler Alert: This is my favorite of the first three inexpensive handheld gaming consoles. I’ll tell you why when I complete this series. Follow the RSS feed or the YouTube channel for updates.

That concludes the look at the Great Boy. Up next is the LiNKFOR Retro Mini Game Player.

Conclusion, Comparison, and Recommendation

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!

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