As reported on retrorgb.com, Analogue has filed for a trademark for two new products, the Analogue Pocket and the Analogue 8. Analogue has yet to comment on these two patents, so for now we can only speculate what these products might be. Unlike large corporations like Sony or Nintendo who tend to file patents while testing the waters of new technologies that may never be released, most of Analogue’s patents are clearly identifiable products. Analogue is famous for its development of FPGA (Field Programmable Gateway Array: What is FPGA?) retro consoles, which have a reputation for being the most accurate clone consoles on the market.
The Analogue Pocket
It’s a safe assumption (but only an assumption at this point) that the Analogue Pocket is designed to play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, it’s the first handheld console with interchangeable cartridges and it’s the best selling console of all time. Lead Analogue engineer Kevin Horton, aka Kevtris has already developed and released an FPGA core for jailbroken firmware for the Analogue NT Mini. Kevtris is a perfectionist, often releasing new firmware, updating his products for more and more accuracy. Similar to his previous products, the core for this product should be excellent. One can assume that the hardware will be sleak, modern, sturdy, and fully functional.
Will this console support hardware from other systems?
Analogues’s most recent console, the Mega Sg, supports Sega Master System cartridges via an adapter; they also promise future support with cartridge adapters for other Sega hardware such as the Game Gear. This seems like a great option, but since it is a portable console portable cartridge adapters could be an issue. There is precedent for cartridge adapters and portable consoles, Sega developed a somewhat bulky cartridge adapter to play Sega Master System games on the Game Gear.
Another possibility is that jailbroken firmware provided by Kevtris could run cores for other systems via an SD card. In the past Kevtris developed multiple cores via jailbroken firmware for the Analogue Mini NT, as well as additional cores for the Mega Sg.
What other consoles could be supported by the Analogue Pocket?
The Game Gear could very well be supported by the Analogue Pocket. Kevtris has already developed a fully functional core that he’s released on the NT Mini and the Mega Sg. The Game Gear runs at a different aspect ratio than the Game Boy does, but past Analogue products have had video options to adjust for this. The Game Gear runs games in 8-bit, similar to the Game Boy Color; making this collaboration another possibility.
Game Boy Advance games are another possibility, but less probable. Game Boy Advance games are more sophisticated, running at 32-bit; we have yet to see a Game Boy Advance core from Kevtris. However, this is still a possibility, as Kevtris has already designed cores for sophisticated 16-bit systems; the Super Nintendo and Genesis. One cannot rule anything out when it comes to Kevtris and his engineering black magic.
What form factor will the Analogue Pocket take?
The Analogue Pocket will be backlit, a technology too early for most retro handheld systems. This will be a major selling point for many, most retro gamers suffered the lack of a decent backlit when playing portable consoles. Today there is the possibility to backlit original hardware through modification, but not everyone knows how to or is willing to modify their original hardware.
A safe assumption is that this portable unit will not be shaped like a Game Gear, Analogue has a history of prioritizing form factor with a hint of nostalgic design. The Super Nt and the Mega Sg were smaller than their original console counter parts but kept some of the original console color and design schemes. The Analogue Pocket could be a slightly more ergonomic form of the original Game Boy design, available in a few of the colors of the more popular Game Boy Color units.
The console will probably not have the form factor of the original Game Boy Advance; the design is less iconic than the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Nintendo sought fit to revise the design of the Game Boy Advance a few times. Our best bet is that this unit will be designed something close to the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color, an iconic and ergonomic design that survived over a decade. Another possibility is that of one of Nintendo’s clamshell designs; the Game Boy Advance SP, the DS, DS Lite, or even the 3DS. The clamshell design is the most efficient handheld design to date, allowing a portable unit to fold up and fit in your pocket while protecting the screen. It is a shame Nintendo did not incorporate this design for the new Nintendo Switch Lite, Nintendo’s newest dedicated portable gaming console.
Analogue has yet to release its own controller, it will be interesting to see the D-pad and button quality Analogue develops for this system. To this date the NT Mini is the only console they released with a controller, however that controller was developed by 8-bitdo. One can expect all-around hardware quality from Analogue, but even Analogue has suffered at least one hardware hiccup. Analogue’s top loading design for the NT Mini was reported to be a bit loose, some gamers reported that it scratched their NES cartridges. This feature was fixed in later consoles, the Super NT and the Mega Sg. Aside from this one road bump, Analogue hardware has a stellar reputation.
What will be the price point?
To consider the price point one has to first consider the competition. At the moment, there are not many options to play real Game Boy hardware on a backlit system. A Game Boy Advance SP 101 system offers a very nice backlit, but the d-pad and buttons are tiny and are not always comfortable for adult hands. Modding an original Game Boy Color could cost over $100; a used Game Boy Color can be purchased for $30-$40, a quality backlight such as BennVenn’s or McWill’s will cost $60-$75 before shipping, and replacing the shell and buttons to get the feel of a brand new unit can cost another $10-$20. Another thing to consider is that these backlights offer slightly smaller screens than the original stock units.
Currently there are not many other options for clone consoles that play original and Game Boy color games. In early 2018, Hyperkin announced they were developing the Ultra Boy, with a price point below $100. Hyperkin’s products rely on emulation and vary in quality (they are not all TERRIBLE), even their better quality products do not match up with Analogue’s. Since their E3 presentation in 2018 Hyperkin has not offered any updates on this product, leading many to speculate the project has been scrapped. At this point, Hyperkin missed the boat in delivering a Game Boy clone console, they cannot hope to compete with the quality of a similar Analogue product, no matter the price.
Chinese company Kong Feng’s GB Boy Colour is currently the best and cheapest option for Game Boy clone consoles. The GB Boy Colour can currently be purchased for $30-$50, comes with 66 built-in games (some are repeats, and probably none of these have proper licensing), and plays original and color Game Boy games, as well as flash cartridges such as the Game Boy Everdrive. It is backlit and the screen is slightly bigger than Nintendo’s original stock unit. The problem with this unit is twofold, issues that are emblematic of Chinese manufacturing. One is the lack of quality control. When looking at reviews for this product on websites such as Amazon.com, the reviews are very split on both sides of the spectrum. The majority of the reviews fall in the four to five star range for very pleased customers, or the one star range in which customers have repeatedly complained about the product malfunctioning in the first few weeks. The second problem is that the 66 included games are probably not properly licensed. However one feels about downloading ROMs for personal use, or using flash cartridges to play those ROMs, it is a whole other ballpark when another company illegally packages someone else’s intellectual property and sells it for their own gain. Not to get too political, China has earned a reputation for stealing intellectual properties. This remains a source of tension between China, the United States and the rest of the Western world.
Considering these factors, and Analogue’s recent history, one can speculate that the Analogue Pocket will cost in the $99-$150 range. The most recent Analogue products, the Super NT and the Mega Sg were priced at $189.99, it’s a safe guess that the Analogue Pocket will cost less. Still, Analogue is smaller company and not a manufacturing behemoth; it is not cheap for them to produce quality products. Considering the fact that Hyperkin manufactures products of lesser quality, and the fact they were planning to release a similar product in the $99 range, it is safe to guesstimate that the Analogue Pocket will cost $149.99.
The Analogue 8
The “8” in its title seems to suggest the Analogue 8 is a modern 8-bit video game console. Perhaps the most logical speculation is that this clone console will be the successor to the Analogue NT and NT Mini consoles. These consoles’ price point began at $450, more than what a Xbox One X or a PS4 Pro currently costs. The NT and NT Mini offer pretty much every feature imaginable, were costly to produce, and thus went out of production after a few production runs. After these consoles Analogue removed analog output from their next two consoles, the Super NT and the Mega Sg, giving these consoles a quality yet more cost effective plastic shell. This drove down the price of the consoles to $189.99, a much more affordable and competitively priced solution. People on the Internet speculate Analogue would release a more reasonably priced NES clone console, one with less features than the NT Mini. Considering these factors one can speculate that this new NES clone console from Analogue will also cost $189.99, the same as their last two offerings.
What other cores could be implemented, and how would they be implemented?
Back in 2015 Kevtris mentioned he was working on the Zimba 3000, an FPGA console capable of running the 17 cores he had written for various 8-bit systems. His idea at the time was to develop cartridge adapters for each console, an idea he is implementing with the Mega Sg. About the same time Kevtris began working on the development of the Analogue NT Mini, a console he eventually transferred all of his 8-bit cores to via jailbroken firmware. The NT Mini became the Zimba 3000, minus the cartridge adapters for each console.
It would not be surprising if the Analogue 8 focuses on the NES, but also includes all of the 8-bit cores developed by Kevtris. Will this unit offer cartridge adapters for the other 8-bit cores? While discussing the Zimba 3000 Kevtris seemed optimistic about the ease of developing various cartridge adapters. Although it is not as likely, it would not be surprising if Analogue offered cartridge adapters for the other cores to be purchased separately; this is something Analogue proposed but has yet to fully implement for the Mega Sg.
If not an NES clone console, what other consoles have been rumored to be in development by Analogue?
Others speculate Analogue’s next console could be something completely new, such as the Turbo Grafx 16. The Turbo Grafx 16 seems to be reentering the public consciousness with the upcoming Turbo Grafx 16 Mini. While the console was billed as 16 bit console, it was more of an 8 bit and 16 bit hybrid. (It had an 8-bit CPU and a 16 bit color encoder) Considering this history, one can surmise that Analogue would not bill a Turbo Grafx 16 clone console with the number “8.” It does not rule out the possibility of the Turbo Grafx 16 being a separate core for this new system, but it is not as likely. Kevtris has not claimed to have written a Turbo Grafx 16 core. It seems like this could be its own standalone product for Analogue, a Hucard slot and a Turbo CD connector could be the right dose of nostalgia for a dedicated Turbo Grafx 16 FPGA clone console.
Further proof Analogue is developing a scaled down NES clone, with only HDMI connectivity
Kevtris himself threw out the idea of producing a digital-to-analog converter for all of his products, giving current and theoretical Analogue consoles the ability to connect to a CRT TV.
The Analogue DAC
Giving further insight, SmokeMonster recently announced the Analogue DAC, a digital-to-analog converter. Although not an official announcement from the company itself, this is the most tangible product of the three. Not officially announced by Analogue, the company has already released official firmware for the Super NT and the Mega Sg, offering support and compatibility for this product. SmokeMonster reported that it works with zero input lag and light gun support, the latter a feature that is only available on CRT TVs as of this writing. (Hyperkin is developing a light gun that works with modern HD TVs) It does not seem like a stretch that this product could be used with the upcoming Analogue 8.
Other possible uses for the Analogue DAC?
Is there a way to connect a single unit with all of Analogue’s products simultaneously? Or does one need to purchase one unit for each Analogue product? Can this connection be split with an HDMI connection, so a product such as the Super NT can be connected to both a CRT and HDMI TV at the same time. Due to different refresh rates, it seems unlikely that one can simultaneously broadcast to a CRT and an HD TV at the same time. Still, it would be nice if the connection could be split, so there would be no need for wire swapping if a person wanted to game with a Super NT on either a CRT or HD TV.
Can this product be connected to an FPGA, HDMI capable clone console such at retroUSB’s AVS NES? With its current firmware this connectivity would be impossible because there is no way for the AVS NES to detect and process an analog signal at the correct refresh rate. However, the Analogue DAC does not seem to have proprietary hardware, it appears it connects to the console via HDMI. Theoretically, retroUSB could release a firmware update that allows the AVS NES to detect and utilize this product.
At the time of this writing, the price point is unclear. It is difficult to speculate the price point because it is such a unique product. Similar products cost a few hundred dollars or more, but it seems as if Analogue is focusing on making their new products available at more accessible price points. One might expect this product to be priced in the $100-$200 range, but this is pure speculation.
Although I am currently modding two used Game Boy Color units I bought off of eBay with a backlight I am still intrigued with the Analogue Pocket…
Verdict for the Analogue Pocket
Analogue, you have my money. Although I already own and enjoy an AVS NES, I have coveted the NT Mini mainly because of its RGB capabilities…
Verdict for the Analogue 8
Analogue, you have my money. The possibility to connect all of my Analogue products and quite possibly other products to an RGB CRT TV…
Verdict for the Analogue DAC
Analogue, shut up. You had me at hello… You have my money, and take my wallet while you’re at it; I can’t be trusted with it around your products anymore!
If Analogue keeps producing high quality products, it is all the more reason to encourage my daughter to study hard and earn a college scholarship. 😉