The Analogue Pocket looks like a handheld retro gaming dream

By Alex Donaldson, Wednesday, 16 October 2019 16:00 GMT

Analogue is back, and its latest creation is small enough to slot in your pocket.

Analogue is a company dedicated to creating what are essentially the video game versions of high-end record players, providing the best-quality hardware so that fans can experience retro games exactly as originally designed and intended, but on all-new hardware with a modern design and current inputs. Previously the company has released high end versions of the NES, Super NES and the Sega Mega Drive, all of which have been the gold standard in their class.

The latest member of the family? The Analogue Pocket. It’s coming in 2020, and it’ll cost $199.99.

The Analogue Pocket is exactly what you probably think it is. First off, it plays Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games. All you have to do is slot in a cart and the games will play on its 3.5 inch LCD screen, which has a maximum resolution of 1600×1440, ten times that of the original Game Boy. A modern screen means you won’t need to sit at a very specific angle in the sunlight to see the screen like you did with the old hardware, too.

The reason that the Analogue machines are so coveted by hardcore fans of retro games is pretty simple – they’re among the most reliably realistic ways to play these classic games without digging out original hardware. While all-in-one machines like the official SNES Classic and Mega Drive Mini exist and are solid value, Analogue’s high-end machines have two key advantages: firstly, you can use original carts. Second, there’s no emulation involved.

Entirely accurate emulation is essentially impossible, so the Analogue Pocket follows in the footsteps of Analogue’s previous machines by using FPGAs. FPGA stands for Field-programmable Gate Array, but in layman’s terms it is essentially a chip that can be programmed to act like another chip at the hardware level. So the chip in the Analogue Pocket can pretend to be any member of the Game Boy family at the hardware level, right down to circuits and transistors. This means the games run almost pixel-perfect to how they do on real hardware – and where they don’t, the FPGA can be tweaked and patched with firmware updates. This has worked out brilliantly on the Super Nt and Mega Sg, and hopefully continues to do so here.

“All clone systems fucking suck,” Analogue CEO Christopher Taber told us back in 2018. He’s long been on a mission to provide an alternative.

The Analogue Pocket goes beyond Game Boy, however: with a cartridge adapters, the machine can also be made to play cartridges from the Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color and Atari Lynx. The announcement also curiously says that there could be more adapter carts to come for the machine, too.

Finally, the machine also has a nod to all those musicians who plug Game Boy hardware in to use it as a synthesizers – the machine has a digital audio workstation called Nanoloop built right in. It can be used as a synth and sequencer for creation and performance, which is a neat addition.

On top of all this, Analogue plans to also release a new ‘Analogue Dock’ – and you’ll be able to drop the Analogue Pocket onto this in order to make it into a TV-based machine for playing those handheld classics on your TV if you so wish. You can sync up bluetooth controllers or use the dock’s two USB ports to plug in wired input devices. The dock will be sound separately.

Here’s the full specs of both the machine and the dock:

Analogue Pocket Specs:

  • Compatible with Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance carts (plus other machines via adapters)
  • 3.5″ LTPS LCD Screen with 1600×1440 resolution at 615ppi
  • Rechargable Lithium ion battery with USB-C charging
  • Stereo Speakers and a 3.5mm Headphone Output
  • Mappable buttons
  • Original-style System Link port.

Analogue Dock Specs:

  • HDMI output
  • Bluetooth for wireless cotnrollers
  • 2 USB inputs
  • Fully compatible with Analogue’s DAC for older displays

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