What is it that attracts makers to retro gaming? Perhaps it’s the challenge of putting the system together, or maybe it’s the fact that you can have all of the games from your childhood on console, something that wouldn’t have been possible even 10 years ago. I imagine it’s a combination for most people. Though I’ve never put together a system myself, with a few notable exceptions, the time I spend building things tends to be much longer than the time that I spend using them.
Perhaps Michael Barretta’s Portaberry Pi Ultra build will be an exception to this rule, though considering he’s built several models before, he certainly enjoys the process as well. This particular build can be seen here on imgur (or in an abbreviated below), and features a 5″ HDMI display, a “full compliment of modern controls,” stereo speakers, and runs on a Raspberry Pi 2 running Retropie 4.1.
When asked about what inspired the Portaberry Pi Ultra, Barretta replied that:
I’ve loved portable gadgets my whole life. Something about the engineering challenge of fitting all those components together into a functional machine fascinates me. It’s like a complex games of Tetris. Combine this with my love of video games and you get a series of custom built portable gaming machines :P
Build documentation on imgur starts out, after several pictures and GIFs to convince you that you need to build your own, by showing the components used. Although there are a moderately high number of components to fit in, in including several circuit boards, the following images show them going together in a rather orderly fashion. Things start to get a bit more complicated once everything is wired together, but considering all that is going on in the console’s very small space, things seem pretty orderly by the time the cover is put on.
Working on and off the build took Barretta around 2 months to complete. He estimates that it took in the neighborhood of 75 hours to design and build everything. If you want to build your own, however, design and documentation took up around 25 hours of this, so with his freely available help online via his build instructions on Thingiverse, one could, in theory, put this together in around a week. He notes that:
Total cost is about $200 to $225 depending on where the parts are sourced from. Documentation on Thingiverse includes: a getting started guide for general tips and instructions, a bill of material with detailed cost and source info for all of the components, and finally a build log which is 160 pictures log with detailed instructions on how to build the project.
I spent almost as much time documenting as I did designing and building this project. I like my work to be as reproducible as possible.
Structural components were 3D-printed or cut out of wood, which Barretta took care of at the Hive76 makerspace in Philadelphia where he’s a member. If you don’t have access to a laser cutter, the wooden parts could instead be printed, and the necessary 3D files are included in his documentation is that’s the case.
As you might suspect, Barretta is quite happy with the build. Even with something as excellent as this though, he’d love to improve a few things:
Overall I’m very happy with the outcome. There are some rough edges here and there but I think it looks very good and plays almost all the video games I’ve tried on it. I wish I had explored using a Raspberry Pi 3 in the build up front instead of leaving it as an open question. Using the Raspberry Pi 2 seems to be a big sticking point for a lot of people and I am making it a priority of mine to try to swap out the Rpi2 for an Rpi3 in the near future to see how the systems runs.
If this design does seem interesting enough to you to actually pursue, Barretta notes that:
I hope people build their own Portaberry Pi Ultra’s. As an industrial design and engineering enthusiast I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that my design was exciting and organized enough for other people to attempt on their own.
If you’d like to see how it works on the best N64 game ever, check out the video below:
One could argue that Goldeneye was the best, or probably many, many other games, but I think we can all agree that Mario Kart looks pretty great on his console! On a related subject, if you do really like Mario Kart, check out Wes Swain’s Mario-themed nursery build. Having seen it in person, I can attest to it being pretty incredible.