Analogue Pocket’s FPGA-fueled features revealed: $200 pre-order on Aug. 3


After its reveal last October, Analogue‘s portable, retro powerhouse system, the Analogue Pocket, is getting closer to reaching our hands. Today, Analogue has confirmed that Pocket’s pre-order program will kick off Monday, August 3, for $200. That news comes with a delay, however, with the portable system’s original “2020” window being pushed back to May 2021.

As we learned last year, there’s a lot built into this $199 device. The biggest sales pitches include dedicated support for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges, a “hardware-emulation” backbone as powered by a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) board, and an overkill display resolution of 1600×1440 pixels. Today, Analogue answered most of our remaining questions, and most, but not all, of the answers are good news.

Subpixel gaps, thick glass, and cartridge adapters

First is the screen, which Analogue confirms will ship with a 1.5mm Gorilla Glass covering on its 3.5-inch LTPS LCD display. Though we haven’t gotten exact clarification on the hardware’s in-game color options, particularly for classic monochrome Game Boy games, Analogue is keen to show off its newly announced “original display modes” feature. This takes advantage of the system’s overkill resolution to emulate the subpixel gap inherent in original portable Nintendo hardware, as shown on games for GB, GBC, and GBA, and the sample images thus far look quite handsome. We’ve yet to notice any uneven pixel scaling or other faulty image-scaling issues.

In killer news, the display will include variable refresh as a default, instead of fixing game refresh rates to specific multipliers, and users will have the option to rotate any game’s orientation in 90-degree increments, should “tate” mode be useful for a particular game.

That’s more likely to matter depending on the system in question, and Analogue has now revealed cartridge adapters for Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and Neo Geo Pocket Color cartridges. These will function much like the cartridge adapters for Analogue’s Mega Sg, though exactly how they’ll fit into the Analogue Pocket—and how much clearance they leave for the system’s L and R shoulder buttons—remains to be seen. Only the Game Gear cartridge adapter will be available for pre-order next week, with the other portable consoles’ adapters receiving a vague “coming soon” notice.

Beats, battery, and Bluetooth

Analogue Pocket is bullish about exploiting the Game Boy’s unique series of four sound channels, and we already knew it would include homebrew music app Nanoloop pre-installed. Now comes word that the portable system will support audio-out cable options, via the link cable port, which include MIDI, analog, and USB Type-A. Want to sync multiple Nanoloop devices together or connect Analogue Pocket to your favorite MIDI controller? Analogue will sell you each of those three cable types for $20 apiece starting Monday, August 3. (This is much nimbler than hardware attachments needing to do the same things for existing Game Boy models.)

The system’s battery life, as powered by a 4300mAh lithium-ion battery, should run in the 6-hour range at “default brightness,” Analogue says. The handheld system will also include a “low-powered sleep mode,” should you wish to pause gameplay in a title that doesn’t support save files. And if you have a power adapter that supports high-speed USB Type-C charging, Analogue Pocket’s default Type-C port will play nicely with that for quick recharges.

In bad news, the Analogue Pocket won’t ship with any faked version of Bluetooth multiplayer connectivity, which means two systems won’t be able to wirelessly communicate and, say, let fans trade Pokemon. Instead, you’ll need a third-gen Game Boy link cable, the one designed for the GBA, though Analogue will sell its own version of that cable for $16.

Dock controllers, Pocket homebrew potential

Enlarge / Two USB plugs are on the backside of Analogue Dock.

Analogue

The Analogue Dock will also open its pre-order program on Monday for $100, and as we already knew, it accepts Analogue Pocket via a USB Type-C docking point and outputs its video feed via HDMI at up to 1080p resolution (or can be connected to the Analogue DAC to play nicely with CRT displays). We’ve now confirmed that the Dock will support up to four Bluetooth game controllers, up to two 8Bitdo 2.4Ghz wireless gamepads, or up to two wired USB Type-A gamepads.

Obviously, very few portable console games support same-screen multiplayer, so we imagine this multiplayer functionality will be exploited more by homebrew software than anything else. Should you be an enterprising developer, eager to exploit Analogue Pocket’s pair of FPGA boards, you’ll want to click over to Analogue Pocket’s developer preview portal starting sometime today. There, you can sign up and describe your dream project to possibly receive an early Pocket + Dock kit, free of charge, as per Analogue’s discretion. We’re unsure whether this will include anybody eager to recreate other portable or home consoles via hardware emulation or how users might load games from other systems on this smaller hardware. Larger cartridge adapters? Unofficial ROM support? Analogue isn’t saying yet.

Analogue hasn’t confirmed exactly how developers will get their projects and hardware-emulation cores loaded into Pocket hardware—which doesn’t require the Dock—but we assume the system’s built-in microSD card slot will factor into that process. And while we already knew about the pair of FPGA boards powering Analogue Pocket, the company offered an updated bullet-point list about their combined powers for what homebrew Pocket developers can look forward to:

• Altera Cyclone V FPGA with 49,000 logic elements & 3.4Mb BRAM
• Altera Cyclone 10 with 15,000 logic elements
• 2x Cellular RAM 16MB for a total of 32MB low latency memory, each independently addressable
• 16-bit data bus width
• 1x Synchronous DRAM 64MB with a data bus width of 16 bits
• 1x Asynchronous SRAM 256KB with a data bus width of 16 bits

Listing image by Analogue



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