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Brad_from_the_80s

The BEST Atari Flashback?

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I had a FB2 since long time back, but a couple years ago I upgraded and bought both the FB 8 Gold and GB 8 Gold ActiVision Edition.  My experience with these units has been good, with problem-free wireless controllers (I actually just use the same one when swapping between both consoles - no issues), good emulation and a great selection of games.  But with no working USB port to hack and no SD card slot any expansion or customization is mostly a non-starter.  Supposedly some have gone the extreme route of soldering on a USB port and were able to add some games and get them to work, but at that point I think I could just load up whatever is missing on my laptop using Stella and 2600-daptor.  And the FB 8 version works with existing/available paddle controllers.

 

I never bought the FB 9 Gold, initially hearing that the SD card more or less accomplished nothing, but I assumed it was basically the same as the FB 8 with a slightly remixed game list and refreshed UI.  Obviously the HDMI relocation and USB for power (and potential hacking?) were small improvements.  After some time I did look into it in more detail, noting the SD card firmware patch as a small plus, but I was curious about all the complaints of wireless controller pairing issues and also occasional emulation glitches.  Did they change the wireless controller tech between FB 8 and 9?  Because I never had any problem with the wireless controllers on FB 8 Gold and found them to work really well.  Also I think FB 9 switched to Stella, so why are there now complaints of emulation issues compared to the supposedly inferior AtGames emulator?  The patched SD card feature works to a point, but in a clumsy way with no box art, friendly names, etc, and some games are still incompatible.  Then there is the whole paddle controller fiasco.  Some of this may not be 100% accurate, as the FB 9 was rather thinly reviewed or not even paid much attention to compared to the FB 8.  But the FB9 just seems like a really mixed bag of supposed "improvements" over the FB 8 Gold editions.

 

So now the FB "X" is coming down the pike soon.  It certainly looks WAY more attractive, but word is they are dropping the SD card.  Compared to whatever it was "officially" supported for I don't know what the point was including it on the FB 9 in the first place.  I would almost argue that the FB 8 Gold editions are possibly the best of the series right now, with the limitation that they are difficult or impossible to hack with more ROMs, until the FB X shows up.  Or maybe the SD card slot alone makes the FB 9 the best to some people.  But without the SD card, what else could the FB X offer that would make it solidly "better" than FB 8 or 9?

 

Of course I see nothing wrong with owning all of them, and I probably will anyway.  But the 40th Anniversary FB 8 versions may still end up being the best of the bunch and the ones I use most.

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FB2 is the best one. It has 2600 hardware in it and isn't emulation. It's even possible to mod it and add a cartridge port. I already have over 100 2600 games so I only ever turn on the FB2 to play Fatal Run.

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The FB2 is nice but compatibility is imperfect and it's composite only. 
 

I like the FB9 for the HDMI connectors and SDcard slot. The one with wired controllers is probably the most faithful and reliable. It's emulation, but that's okay because it's 2019 and no one is recreating 2600 hardware anytime soon. 
 

If the X left out the SD card for business reasons, that's a major regression IMHO regardless of the emulator, onboard game selection, or case aesthetics. I haven't seen it yet (should be out soon, right?) but I'd love to be wrong. 

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From what I've seen of the FB9 it seems like AtGames really decided to step up their game with the competition of the Retron 77.  That said, it was a better product than the Retron'77 and had some great features.

 

If the FBX does not have an SD card slot... well, sounds like Atgames may be falling back on their laurels again.

 

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Like others said, the FB2 is so old it's composite only.  HDMI was a compelling reason for me to finally buy the FB 8 when it came out a couple years ago.  I'll hang onto the FB2 because of it's significance, but it's not really my goto unit, and I'll probably never mod it for cartridges.

 

In fact I was out earlier and actually had a chance to pick up an FB 9 Gold finally, so I did and spent a little time with it this evening.  As to the wireless controller, initially it looks just like the FB 8 controller, but it is actually different.  I didn't have trouble pairing, but the fact that there is an on-off switch on it now was not immediately obvious.  I don't know why this change was made or was necessary.  The FB 8 controllers don't have off switches and I haven't had to change their batteries in 2 years.  BUT, they did add a "Menu" button instead of "Reset", so it is quicker and easier to get to system/save menu than having to know the special combination on the FB 8 controller.  I did try my FB 8 wireless controller first and of course it didn't work.  The controllers have different model numbers.

 

The FB 9 menu and navigation changes I have mixed feelings about.  It basically looks the same (with now some simple looping background music), but navigating between pages, game boxes on the current page and left hand menu items was not immediately intuitive.  However I got it after a minute or so, no big deal.  The few game selection changes were interesting, but not markedly "better" than FB 8 versions.

 

Installing the SD card firmware was simple and worked fine.  I made my own GAME folder with maybe 20-30 games, renaming them per the rules, but at least found that underscores, dashes and decimal characters were not really an issue, so the resulting list of games sans box art is not so bad.  The FB series is perennially lacking many of the most iconic games (Pac-Man games, DK games, Q-bert, Battlezone, DigDug, Pole Position, Mario Bros, Rampage, SW, and proper versions of Space Invaders and Frogger).  So the SD card on the FB 9 at least affords the opportunity to add them easily, and my initial test of all these and several more was that they work.  I did see where AtGames got the Ms. Pac-Man license, although I don't know if that will have any bearing on the FB X.  Would be a nice plus though.

 

Losing the SD card is a big step backwards, but I think if the FB X retains USB and the rear HDMI, and maybe even turns out to be hack-able, improves the emulation software further, and maybe has some nice surprises in ROM selection then it will still be worth getting.  But I'm still not sure which will be the "best".  I still maybe lean toward the FB 8 Gold units.  But it doesn't rally matter, will probably just have to own all three for game selection and feature coverage.  The day of the perfect little all-in-one 2600 still isn't here I guess.

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On 9/26/2019 at 10:55 PM, Flojomojo said:

You might like the Retron 77, particularly if you put Stella on it. 

The biggest problem with the Retron 77 from what I have heard is the joysticks they made are worthless as they brake after just a few hours of play.  There still is no way of using paddles unless you know how to hack them to work.  The cartridge port is unreliable and inconsistent.  That's just too many negatives even if you can load Stella on it.  It's a shame Hyperkin didn't support the product after they put it out.

 

I'm glad I went with the FB9 as the wireless joysticks are just as good as the FB8 and you can also use the classic corded joysticks that you use with the original 2600.  That's more of a win-win to me.  The fact that you can play this on an HDTV through HDMI and add more games via SD card slot makes this better than the FB2.  The game compatibility is better on the FB9 than the FB2.

Edited by atarifan88

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After spending some more time with the FB 9 I'm probably leaning toward it being the best.  In addition to good game selection, nice wireless controllers, scanline filter, save states, and HDMI (all of which the FB 8 has) there is of course the SD card and some additional new small features like some nice borders, and better or smoother access to system/save menu.  The big weakness is the paddle controller situation (and the FB 9 even has a menu section highlighting paddle games for crying out loud).  On the FB 8 any existing paddles just work.  Their response seems somewhat imperfect, but paddle games are definitely playable.  But I can probably manage fashioning a pair for the FB 9.  The 9 series also drops some ROMs I liked from the FB 8, but with the SD card that can be partially remedied (you know, with no box art or description/instructions).

 

As a very young gen X'er I came along just a hair too late for the 2600's heyday.  By time I knew anything early home computers were increasing in popularity, so I had a TI-99/4a.  It was a more capable system that could play better and better looking ports of several popular games, but never had such a large library.  And the joysticks weren't as good.  But, Munch Man!  I emulate that system on my laptop sometimes.  But before long it was all Nintendo and PCs anyway and I never looked back.  I was of course aware of the Atari "VCS", associating it closely with the similar early experience I had on the TI-99.  These days while my Xbox collects dust I really enjoy these mini consoles, especially when they can be hacked or expanded.  Revisiting old favorites and experiencing many classics for the first time.  The Atari stuff has been a bit of an acquired taste, and certainly it's not all good, but I've gained a real appreciation for it when it is. 

 

As to the FB 2, I don't know why it's much better than just buying an original console, which would make more sense to me than modding FB 2.  It has a very basic menu, not very many feature and more limited game selection.  With these modern mini consoles with HDMi and wireless controllers you can play these games on a projector on a 120" or larger screen in HD, great for parties.

 

Still interested to see the FB X soon, but I'm not sure what it's really going to be able to offer other than aesthetics and maybe a surprise ROM or two.

 

 

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You might like the Retron 77, particularly if you put Stella on it. 

The Retron 77 seems to have better hardware specs then the FB9 and can play more recently built ROMs such as Galaga because it can support Stella 6.x. Unless the plain Stella UI is an obstacle for some it seems a hair stronger than the FB9 (which I have).      

 

Based on what we have heard about the FB 'X' (no SD slot), the FB9 is the strongest of the FB series.

 

 

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The FB9 has the potential to get much better now that there is a way to hack and customize it, so I am officially boxing up and retiring my FB 8's.  Just need to make a set of paddles.

 

I will probably buy the FB X, to collect if nothing else.  Maybe it will have newer Stella, or some good roms.  But if there isn't some way to access and mod or expand it via USB then the FB 9 will continue to be tops while old stock remains for the next year or so maybe.

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There are Flashback 9 units on Ebay for under $25. I might need to get one of the wired ones. Not sure why, I certainly don't need it, but I like the things. 

 

Looking forward to whatever you can work up, @Brad_from_the_80s

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My local Walmart is clearing out their AtGames stock. FB9 Boom is $35, the Blasts are $9. I suspect the 2019 line is coming soon.

 

BTW - I'm thoroughly enjoying the FB9 Gold. High Def, SD card roms and wireless controllers make for a better experience than the original hardware did back in the day for me.

Edited by radiohead
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4 hours ago, Brad_from_the_80s said:

The FB9 has the potential to get much better now that there is a way to hack and customize it, so I am officially boxing up and retiring my FB 8's.  Just need to make a set of paddles.

 

I will probably buy the FB X, to collect if nothing else.  Maybe it will have newer Stella, or some good roms.  But if there isn't some way to access and mod or expand it via USB then the FB 9 will continue to be tops while old stock remains for the next year or so maybe.

 

While I just read about your hacking, and would largely agree with you, not having compatibility for paddles AND literally having a Paddle Games folder in the menu is just plain dumb!  Yes, 720p HD is terrific though.  I kinda prefer the FB X upcoming design though, with the sliding switches replacing the goofy buttons (about time).  Like you I really hope these can be hacked, though to date, pretty much every "mini" flashback console which has a USB interface has been hacked.  All it takes is community interest.  Sadly I'm not sure that beyond yourself, there's a groundswell for Atari the way the Nintendo, Sega, and Sony classics have gotten. 

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The Atari Flashback 9 is probably the first unit that can really be hacked without hardware modifications thanks to the SD slot.  The usb port is not really responsive without soldering, although I think it is possible to dump the NAND flash and maybe perform flash updates by opening the unit and tapping into the right contacts.

 

Most likely there will be SOME way to access and mod the FB X board, although it may require hardware mods since there is no longer an SD card or firmware updater to exploit.  But it will be an interesting challenge anyway.

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The Atari Flashback 9 is probably the first unit that can really be hacked without hardware modifications thanks to the SD slot.  The usb port is not really responsive without soldering, although I think it is possible to dump the NAND flash and maybe perform flash updates by opening the unit and tapping into the right contacts.
 
Most likely there will be SOME way to access and mod the FB X board, although it may require hardware mods since there is no longer an SD card or firmware updater to exploit.  But it will be an interesting challenge anyway.
Let's get Stella 6.x hacked into FB9 and I'll be thrilled

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk

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On 10/2/2019 at 9:51 AM, Jimmygtr said:

Let's get Stella 6.x hacked into FB9 and I'll be thrilled emoji6.png

Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
 

Well no promises, but I am slowly toying with a few ideas.  The device has a relatively old dual core cpu, seems to be underclocked about 1GHz.  256MB NAND and 256MB RAM.  Typical rather simple embedded Linux instance.  The UI is based on SDL2, and it's already running a libretro core (not Retroarch) for Stella 3.9.3 I believe.  Anyway, I am putting together a build chain for it, just to build some custom stuff, but will see what else I can feasibly compile or run on it as time permits.

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On 10/5/2019 at 10:39 AM, Brad_from_the_80s said:

Well no promises, but I am slowly toying with a few ideas.  The device has a relatively old dual core cpu, seems to be underclocked about 1GHz.  256MB NAND and 256MB RAM.  Typical rather simple embedded Linux instance.  The UI is based on SDL2, and it's already running a libretro core (not Retroarch) for Stella 3.9.3 I believe.  Anyway, I am putting together a build chain for it, just to build some custom stuff, but will see what else I can feasibly compile or run on it as time permits.

Keep us posted. Stella 6.x or better means I can run Galaga 🙂😁🤩

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It was mentioned by someone that the hardware limits what version of Stella it can run.  I hope they are proven wrong!

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Well I don't know the RetroN 77 very well, but from what little I dug up it has twice as many cpu cores (4 vs 2 of roughly the same cpu architecture) but half as much RAM as the FB9 (128 vs 256).  If that's accurate.  The FB9 may need the clock speed increased a little, but I don't otherwise know yet what specifically prevents it from running Stella 6.  That doesn't mean it ever will of course, I really haven't gotten that far.

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