I received an Retron 77 for Christmas, and after some fiddling with it, I thought I would give my opinion/review for those contemplating purchasing the unit.
There are some benefits to the unit, including the HDMI hookup for modern TV's and an extra long Retron Joystick wire, for example.
Unfortunately, the Retron 77 has too many flaws to recommend it at the current price point. First, it doesn't work with all ATARI cartridges because it doesn't have real (or equivalent) Atari guts. Plugging in your game cartridge and finding out that many simply won't work kills the value of this unit. You cannot trust it to accurately identify working/non-working cartridges because the unit is so flawed in this department.
"But wait!" some of you will say, "You can update the firmware with the latest Stella build and load ALL your roms onto the system!"
Yes, that is nice, but then the system at this point is little more than a full-on emulator. The "cartridge plug," because it doesn't work on half the cartridges I loaded, is pointless. So now we must examine whether it is better than a Raspberry Pi with the peripherals doing the exact same thing.
So, now that I have updated the firmware for the unit, I am searching through ROMS to find games I want to play...
Which leads to the next problem. For a system that is not a TRUE Atari, it lacks the most basic necessity... a way to change roms from the controller.
What is the point of an extra long controller if there is no way to return to the main menu? I understand creating the unit to use authentic Atari hardware, but a remote would be helpful. For example, you have a save feature, but to use it, you have to get up to hit save on the actual physical unit. This means to play and use save, you really need to sit right up next to your big screen TV...
Because the buttons/switches etc are on both sides of the unit (front and back), and because they are not easy to identify, I find the entire control system on the unit clumsy and unintuitive. For a system that operated on 6 switches, you would think they could get them all on one side. But sticking switches on the back means you have to feel around the back of the unit (or flip it) to trigger them. And there are a handful of games that use those switches (Space Shuttle, for example).
The switches really bother me.
First, they don't resemble the Atari 2600 in any way, and as such are not arranged in any way similar to an Atari. Other than having difficulty switches above the controller ports and an easily identifiable power switch, all the others feel like sloppy afterthoughts.
Second, since they are nothing like the Atari switches, you would think they would try to make them user friendly or more modern. You would be wrong. Sure, maybe LED lights would have increased the cost of this unit, but they have an LED light on the unit (for power on) that is NOT a power button. If that round power light was a button, that would make sense. Then maybe a couple of the buttons on the back could be on the front... but no. How about lettering ON the button itself? Instead of above the two top and below the two bottom? No. So hitting save means you have to KNOW where the right button is before you hit save, otherwise your eyes are off the screen, which could be the difference of life and death.
In the end, the Retron 77 is a series of missed opportunities. It is not a true Atari, nor does it sufficiently modernize the Atari. You don't simply turn it on, sit down, and play for a while. No, you will be getting up over and over to fiddle with buttons on the front and back. Depending on your setup, the Retron 77 unit will be somewhere near your TV/Entertainment Center, but you will need easy access to both sides of the unit, making it pointless for modern users.
There you go, my two cents!