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For whom it may concern - RetroN 77 - FAIL?

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Posted Thu Jul 12, 2018 10:55 AM

I had a few hours to test the console and I must say, I am overall disappointed.
Positives first:

  • Very good HDMI output (it even remembers the last 16:9 or 4:3 setting, which is a surprise)
  • Convenient form factor and nice design (though I wonder why the woodgrain is orange?)
  • Convenient to use IF it works
  • Very litte lag
  • The CPU seems powerful enough for newer Stella versions
  • The software is a only stub! (at least there is hope for improvement here)
    • Not only did they use a very outdated version of Stella (5.5 years old!), but that version is almost completely unaltered.
      E.g. it says "State 0 saved", which indicates that one can save more than one state (like with Stella). But you can't! So why didn't they at least remove that number? That's a one minute change!
    • Since the code is unaltered, Stella is writing its (of course unchanged) configuration files to the SD. If this process is interrupted, e.g. by using the cart slot or switching off the console, there is a high risk that the configuration gets corrupted. This can cause all kind of problems with Stella (e.g. not responding fire buttons) and can only be cured by manually restoring the configuration file. That's the opposite of plug and play.
    • The menu is extremely simple and minimal. It has only 18 entries (hard coded!), no subdirectories, no paging and the game name gets mutilated to just 8 characters.
    • Not even the license link is spelled correctly. Quality control???
    • You can only select a new ROM by switching off and on the console. This takes a while and I wonder how long the power button will survive this (see below). There are so many buttons on the console which could be used here (e.g. press Load and Save together).
    • Finally I had a brief look at some of Hyperkin's software and I am not impressed. It looks like a cheap hack job. A far cry from the quality of Stella's code.
  • The dumper might have been a good (marketing?) idea, but as it is now, it is pretty useless.
    • It only works with very few bankswitching schemes, so that bank switched games are prone to fail
    • Modern homebrews (even those who don't use ARM hardware) also fail regularly.
    • Even games <= 4K fail, sometimes an inserted cart is not even detected.
    • If the dumper fails, there is not even an error message.
    • The code for the dumper is not available (yet?), so there is nothing which can be done here.
    • If the code ever become available and can be improved, it is unclear if the average user can make use of that
    • If a dump is successful, why does it not save the ROM to the SD cart? Then it would at least make some sense now.
  • Even the emulation itself has severe flaws.
    • The old Stella version does not support many modern homebrews and has problems with a few old games (e.g. Kool Aid Man, Meltdown)
    • Emulator and TV are not synced, this causes massive tearing on horizontal scrolling games.
    • Paddles are basically useless, since they react very erratically.
    • Many controllers which support extra buttons do not work, they often cause the console to crash.
    • Keypad, trackballs, driving controllers etc. are not supported at all.
    • AtariVox/SaveKey does not work too.
  • The build quality seems flimsy.
    • Many people reported easily broken joysticks 
    • The console buttons are not best quality too
    • The power switch feels like it may break soon
    • The cartridge port is unprotected, so that dust may get into it. Also when plugging in a cart, the mechanic feels less sturdy than on an original console.
(I will extend the list when I have more time for testing.)
So the basic roots are there for a good alternative to a console. But in its current state, I would not suggest to buy one. :thumbsdown:


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