With the Analogue Pocket selling out within the first 15 minutes of pre-orders, many potential customers expressed their disappointment with the company. Some have even called into question as to whether Analogue’s practice of advertising zero emulation for its devices is deceptive. Hardware emulation versus software emulation is a volatile topic to say the least, but no matter which side of the fence one decides to stand on, customers do have many options to choose from.
Many FPGA announcements or hardware mods are usually met with “JUST GET A PI!!!” from the Raspberry Pi crowd or software emulation enthusiasts, and while everyone’s user-case scenario and personal preferences are different, the recent PiBoy is an interesting alternative to the Pocket.
What makes the PiBoy so interesting is that it can accommodate a Rasberry Pi 4B, Pi 3B, or Pi Zero into the form factor of an original GameBoy DMG with 6 front-facing buttons, a dpad and analog stick, shoulder buttons on the back, a 3.5″ IPS LCD (640×480), and 4500mAh LiPo battery.
The Pi 3B and Pi Zero are tried-and-true devices that are adequate for emulation, but a Pi 4B is a far more capable board that can run Lakka & Retroarch with run-ahead enabled for many of its emulation cores. This means that while software emulation may not quite match the low latency of an FPGA, it can get pretty close under the right circumstances.
Accuracy is another area where enthusiasts are demanding, but whether your device is FPGA or software, how well it emulates its target devices is dependent on the skill of the programmer(s).
From ETA Prime’s tests, it appears that users can expect good performance with console gaming up to the Dreamcast. As with any other Pi platform, HDMI out and external controllers can be utilized to effectively create an emulation console.
Unfortunately, for those that want to play their actual carts, that will most likely never happen with a device such as the PiBoy. That said, for people who were planning to buy the Analogue Pocket just to “jailbreak” it and fill it with ROMS anyway, then maybe this device might be worth looking into. Most portable games don’t exactly require lightning-fast-twitch reflexes either.
The PiBoy price ranges from $90 – $180 depending on whether you want to assemble it yourself and bring your own Pi or have Elemental Pi send you a unit that is fully assembled.
Pre-orders are scheduled for shipment in August/September per their website.
If this device intrigues you, then I suggest doing some research to see which portable device, if any, is right for you. There are plenty to choose from these days, like the RG350M which is a sleek, all-metal device that also plays many ROMS.