Zoombox-1Brian has a great review of the Hasbro Zoombox! “When someone asked me recently about cool gadgets for holiday gifts, the Hasbro Zoombox was one of the items I mentioned. I didn’t think I’d buy one this year, though, but that was before I took a closer look. Ever since editing Retro Gaming Hacks, I’ve been on a big retro gaming kick. Lately, I’ve been focusing on collecting cartridges for my Atari 130XE, and big screen Donkey Kong and Miner 2049er have been taking up some of my gaming time….”

Zoombox

For big screen retro gaming, I’ve been using a 3M overhead projector, VGA-quality LCD panel, and a $99 projector screen from Staples. I’ve been using this solution for a few years, but I’ve never been happy about the lack of portability, the noise, and short bulb life. And I’m a little nervous about how hot it gets… I’m always worried the kids are going to fall asleep with it on, since they often watch movies on it late at night.

I decided to take another look at the Zoombox, and noticed that the bulbs are pretty cheap, use only 35W, and have what I thought was a pretty short life, 1000 hours. Then I decided to double-check the stats on my 3M projector, and I was disturbed to see that those bulbs are likely to give me only 50 hours of service. Plus, I was reminded just how much power the projector uses: 410 watts (no wonder it gets so hot)! So, with the kids coming home for the holidays, and some downtime that I hope to fill partially with some retro gaming, I decided to make the purchase (walmart.com had it on sale recently for $282 with 97-cent shipping).

When I first turned on the Zoombox, I was a little disappointed, since I could barely see the image. So I closed a couple of the curtains, turned off the lights, and was pleased with what I saw (see the before and after photos). If you watch the promo video, you’ll see that the image is a little washed out. But in a darkened room in the evening (or with all the curtains closed), it’s excellent.

Washedout

Crisp

The only significant drawback is that the resolution is much less than VGA, 557×234. Some of the onscreen DVD menus were a little hard to read, but not bad to the point of frustration, and it’s been fine for retro gaming. The Zoombox has a lot to recommend it: it’s a lot quieter than my 3M projector, takes up less space, uses a lot less power, and is portable. Plus, the built-in DVD player is a big win: that’s one less device I need in my basement home theater.

Unfortunately, the speakers didn’t pass my bass test, which consists of starting the Fellowship of the Ring DVD, waiting for Sauron’s helmet to drop in the opening sequence, and listening as the shock waves blow across the surviving warriors. If you’re rocking some bass, you’ll hear a low growling/moaning/rumbling sound. If not, as was the case with the Zoombox, it’s time to plug in some 2.1 computer speakers to make up for the lack of bass.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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