First revealed way back in 2018 when the world was only slightly less out of control, the TinyNES was a miniaturized clone of the original Nintendo Entertainment System that, like the original, could play authentic NES carts, while taking up much less space in your entertainment center. Three years later, you can finally pre-order one.
It turns out there are actually three ways to build a console clone for playing retro games. You can go the emulation route, where you throw enough processing power at a device that software emulation has enough horsepower to play digital ROM files without slowdown, dropped frames, or audio sync issues—but it’s never perfect. There’s the FPGA route, which companies like Analogue use for devices like the Pocket and the Analogue Nt, where a custom chip is programmed to behave exactly like the original console hardware did, ensuring original game carts play exactly like they did decades ago.
And then there’s the route the TinyNES has taken, which is to strip a console down to its absolute bare essentials but continue using the exact same chips that powered Nintendo’s original hardware—ensuring perfect compatibility.
The miniaturization of the TinyNES leaves the console looking not much bigger than an actual NES game cart, but it still includes a cartridge slot on top, and two classic NES controller ports on the front compatible with the original gamepads or modern replacements. Just about the only downside to the TinyNES—and a good reason to maybe try and hunt down a second-hand Analogue Nt or Nt mini—is that it doesn’t do any upscaling and doesn’t include an HDMI port for easy connections to a modern TV. All you’ll find on the back is a mono audio RCA jack and an NTSC composite RCA jack—which is as retro authentic as you can get.
Inside the TinyNES, you’ll find the same CPU and picture processing unit the original NES hardware used (RP2A03 and RP2C02 chips) but with the rest of the internals updated and no region-locking chips, meaning cartridges and games from all over the world can be played on it. It’s currently available through pre-order through the crowdfunding site Crowd Supply (it just surpassed its $20,000 funding goal) for $200, although you can save $20 if you opt for a version with cloned chips instead. Orders are expected to ship out as early as May this year, but as the pandemic continues to drag on and supply chains remain problematically choked, you may want to take that ETA with a grain of salt and brace for further delays if you decide to back this one.