When it comes to retro gaming you tend to have one of three options - original consoles, emulation or clone consoles. All have their pro's and cons but which is better depends on your needs and your wants.
I like a little mixture of both clone and original consoles. It's why I have an original Megadrive, Mega CD, SNES, NES, Atari Jaguar, Atari 7800, N64, Sega Saturn, Playstation and Sega Dreamcast set up alongside my trusty Retron 5.
Now why would I want a Retron 5 when I have most of the original consoles? Well the answer is simple, I want retro gaming in HD. I love blasting out Sonic on the Retron 5, or seeing the crispness of the original Super Mario Bros, and let's not forget Super Mario Kart which looks glorious by the way. I love collecting games and then playing them in HD, in particular the old 8 and 16 bit games, there is just a crispness to the pixels which looks stunning on an HDTV.
Now the point in this post was to tell you what your options are for HD gaming, well my favourite is obviously the Retron 5.
For me, the Retron 5 is the best currently. It plays NES, Famicom, SNES, Super Famicom, Megadrive, Genesis, Gameboy, Gameboy Colour and Gameboy Advance games; throw in the Retron 5 adapter and you can then play Master System, Game Gear and Master System card games. It has a host of scanline and screen options and filters and has played almost everything I've thrown at it with the exception of some reproduction titles (and Burai Fighter on the NES dammit!!). It is also multi region meaning it will play carts from around the world.
Now if you didn't know the Retron 5 actually uses emulation, you put your cart in, it then dumps the rom from the cart and loads the game. However, in my opinion you don't even notice this. The bonus though of this emulation is save states which means saving on the fly, no more retro gaming rage.
It also has a host of ports that allows you to use Megadrive, SNES and NES controllers.
The cons of this system is that the wireless controller it comes with is a bit clicky and the purist amongst us may not like the idea of emulation. It also can't play Everdrives.
However, for the price it's a great all in one system if you have a collection of your own games.
Ah the Retro Freak. Similar in many ways to the Retron 5 in terms of emulation but with the bonus of being able to play PC Engine and Turbografx games. It does need an adapter though to play NES games and another one to play Game Gear games.
What the Retro Freak has in its armory though is the ability to play roms off an SD card, including Master System and Game Gear roms. This is a great little feature although the execution of it isn't great if you have thousands of roms. To utilise this feature you are best finding the roms you really like and adding them to an SD card rather than just dumping full sets as it takes a while to index them.
Like the Retron 5 it is multi region and supports save states.
It is a great console, is it better than the Retron 5 though? Well it is if you like using roms however there are cheaper options for that.
Hamy NES and SNES HD console
Now this is nice if you like both these consoles. The great thing with the NES and SNES HD is that it doesn't use emulation and is purely hardware based. What this means is that it can use Everdrives and multi carts which is great as we sell both with tons of games. It comes with a NES pad and a SNES pad and ports for both meaning you can plug a couple of NES pads in or a couple of SNES pads in.
The main con of this system is that it is NTSC format which isn't an issue if you team it up with an Everdrive. However, if you wanted to play the PAL version of Mario World for example it is unlikely to load up due to region locks but US carts are cheap enough on ebay.
The Retropie Pad
Now the Retropie Pad is a fantastic emulation device. Forget about carts, you won't find them here, what you will find is an emulation device capable of playing NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Colour, Game Gear, Megadrive, Master System and Atari 2600 roms. It comes with the beautiful retropie interface with data and posters for the majority of games and allows you to save on the fly. All you do is plug it in and load it up.
Did we also mention that it comes in an original NES controller (well the front anyway) just to add to that authenticity and it comes with an additional USB SNES pad for those 6 button games and Megadrive games.
The cons? Well it is emulation and it can't play carts.
The Hamy 8-bit NES HD
Miss out on the NES classic? Well the Hamy 8-bit HD could be the answer. This is a nice little unit if you just want to play some NES games. Team it up with a multi cart and enjoy a ton of NES games in HD. It's nice and it's simple.
I really like the 8-bit HD but it is NTSC format meaning some UK carts might not be compatible although I haven't come across one yet. It can lead to some speed up though of UK carts - sometimes this isn't noticeable sometimes it is. Our multi carts are NTSC format so there isn't any speed up on those.
If you have a NES collection though this is a nice way to play them in HD without having to fork out for the NES classic.
The Retro-bit Generations is a quirky little console. First and foremost it is tiny, absolutely tiny, it comes with a couple of USB pads and has 90 games built in which are a range of Arcade, NES, SNES, Megadrive and Gameboy games. These aren't all particularly well known games but that doesn't matter as we throw in an SD card with the well known ones on.
Now, with our little SD card that we add in, and a bit of magic, you are able to play thousands of games on it. NES and Gameboy emulation are spot on however there can be some sound issues with Megadrive and SNES and don't expect SuperFX games to work. The sound issues aren't with all games but it can happen.
The Generations is an emulation console with no cart slots but for this type of thing it is a great console. It supports saves on the fly which again prevents that retro gaming rage.
So that's a little comparison of what we have. There is also the NES and SNES classics by Nintendo which are great consoles in their own right if you can get hold of them. We also have a Sega Megadrive HD coming soon however we don't have this in stock at the moment so can't report on it yet but watch this space. Finally, there is the GPD XD which we didn't cover as it is a handheld but it can plug into your TV.
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