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Aluminum NES Maker Announces Smaller, Cheaper Analogue Nt Mini (polygon.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Polygon: Analogue, the company behind the aluminum NES known as the Analogue Nt, is releasing a smaller, less expensive version of its console this January. Known as the Analogue Nt mini, the new version of the long-sold out hardware will be 20 percent smaller and carry a lower price: $449. The original Analogue Nt was priced at $499, but its tinier successor will outclass the original model with a better offering, the company says. The mini will comes with RGB and HDMI output (1080p/720p/480p) built in. The console will include a wireless 8Bitdo NES30 controller and Retro Receiver -- compatible with PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Wii and Wii U Pro Controllers -- as part of the package. In addition, the Nt mini will support over 2,000 NES, Famicom and Famicom Disk System games.
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Aluminum NES Maker Announces Smaller, Cheaper Analogue Nt Mini

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  • Is it just me, or does HDMI seem kinda pointless for playing NES games?

    • Re:HDMI? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday August 22, 2016 @05:43PM (#52751883) Homepage Journal

      Well maybe it makes sense if you don't have analog inputs on your TV?

      • by donaldm ( 919619 )

        Well maybe it makes sense if you don't have analog inputs on your TV?

        You are quite right, however, most modern TV's including UHD, 4K, 1080p, whatever do have AV inputs. The main problem you have with low-resolution graphics is scaling and smoothing so the game looks presentable on a large screen TV.

        It must also be noted that pretty well all NES and SNES games were designed with a 4:3 aspect ration so on a 16:9 aspect ratio TV (the industry standard) you are going to have black bars left and right of your screen. It is possible to "stretch" or even "clip to size" the vide

        • Silicon Image makes nice scaling and filtering chips, and I'd recommend them if anyone is doing a design for low resolution to high resolution retro consoles or upscaling adapters. They are inexpensive because they don't use a full frame buffer, but their scaling quality is not as good with interlaced because of that design choice. Because NES uses fake interlaced mode it's not likely to matter.

    • Cutting out the composite analog conversion removes "dot crawl" artifacts from the picture

    • My assumption is that because the marketing says "Every pixel is razor sharp..." that it upscales the games using a technique that doesn't cause blurring and so HDMI is available to display the game with full sharpness, whereas analog would inherently be somewhat blurry.
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        My recollection is that they use a version of Kevtris's HDMI mod for the NES. As I'm not an EE I don't know the appropriate lingo, but the NES GPU's pin output is intercepted which provides a true digital signal for the graphics.
    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      Modern televisions are absolutely atrocious with old console signals.
      They add a lot of lag to the input, like some adding a whole half second, and as the consoles work with a kludgy 240p signal (repeating the same field over and over), the scalers just can't deal with it and make a lot of distortions.
      So, HDMI ends being your only option for modern screens if you want a decent input lag.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'll stick with the $5 rpi in a $3 plastic case

  • Notice the guy having to use a CRT to play Duck Hunt.

    Not exactly free of compromises.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@worf . n et> on Tuesday August 23, 2016 @02:01AM (#52753743)

      Notice the guy having to use a CRT to play Duck Hunt.

      Not exactly free of compromises.

      That's because of the gun controller - the guncons of most consoles is really a photo transistor. The lens in the barrel narrows the field of view of that transistor. What it's looking for is a bright spot on the screen - when you click the trigger, the game notes the delay from the vertical retrace (blank) and when the photo transistor triggers. That delay gives you the X,Y coordinates of the shot and the game uses it to determine if you hit the object.

      In some games, it's obvious - you pull the trigger, and the screen turns white briefly as the scan begins by drawing white and seeing when the transistor fires. Others are more sensitive and just rely on the fact that the transistor can see the part of the screen where the electron beam is, or they just turn the targets white to see the location. (In high speed footage, you can see the bright spot drawn by the electron beam in a CRT).

      Of course, modern TVs don't have a rapidly moving bright dot so those guncons just don't work anymore. It's why the Wii has the "sensor bar" which is emitting two red dots that are used to spatially track the Wii remote, or the use of AR style tricks with the Wii U tablet controller.

      Don't get me wrong, you can use the guncons but not in a single frame - you basically have to rapidly scan the screen with a bar after firing - you send a white bar on a black screen down and across to see when the photo transistor fires and use that to get your coordinates. The lower resolution you go, the faster you can scal - you can do two frames for a leftr/right or up/down dtermination, 4 frames for a corner, etc.

      • Nice informative comment. The mechanism the gun uses is easy enough to fool, though - I used to point the gun at a lightbulb and got every single duck, every single time :-)
      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "the guncons of most consoles is really a photo transistor"

        No, just the Action Maxx, Nintendo Zapper, Super Nintendo Super Scope, and the Sega Genesis Menacer ones used that (of the sozens of consoles I've owned and taken apart over the years.) Everything else from the PSX on up (Time Crysis, anyone?) worked fine with LCD screens.

        • Everything else from the PSX on up (Time Crysis, anyone?) worked fine with LCD screens

          Oh? I'm not so sure about that:

          he Guncon 3 utilizes two infrared LEDs as markers, placed on the left and right sides of the screen. An image sensor in the muzzle tracks the markers as reference points for determining where the gun is pointing on the screen. As opposed to the Guncon and Guncon 2, which are only compatible with CRT-based displays, the Guncon 3 supports a wide variety of display types, including LCD and Plasma.[8]

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )

            The original Time Crysis arcade cabinet was on an LCD screen and used the original GunCon just fine. I worked as an arcade repair tech and that was the most-repaired game I worked on (specifically the GunCon recoil mechanism and the cover/reload plate.)

  • Price Point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkain ( 749283 ) on Monday August 22, 2016 @06:42PM (#52752231) Homepage

    For those that didnt RTFA, there is a reason for the high price point of this console.

    They are not using emulation like the Retron consoles. This isn't the usual Famiclone either. They sourced actual 30 year old Famicom CPU and Video chips to build this custom unit, then hacked the video chip to connect to a custom HDMI output chip so there is no digital-analog-digital conversion process at all. This is straight digital video right from the original NES video chip right to an HDMI chip without any converters. *THIS* is impressive, to say the least.

    If nothing else, this entire unit is actually quite the impressive custom hack of 30 year old hardware.

    • If you look at the second link, the mini actually uses an FPGA: " The core functionality of the original NES is engineered directly into an Altera Cyclone V, a sophisticated FPGA.". http://www.analogue.co/pages/n... [analogue.co]
    • Re:Price Point (Score:5, Informative)

      by Michalson ( 638911 ) on Monday August 22, 2016 @07:25PM (#52752387)

      You're wrong, but it's not your fault since the article Slashdot used is extremely short on information so you simply made an assumption based on existing information.

      The original $500 Analogue Nt is indeed based on NES chips recovered from used Famicom (Japanese NES) consoles. However the $450 "mini" version announced does not include any NES components and is instead based around the Altera Cyclone V, a FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chip. This is essentially emulation in hardware. But a FPGA can't perfectly replicate the timings and quirks of the original Ricoh 2A03 that powered the NES and the maker seems to acknowledge this in the fact that the mini version adds user deployed firmware (revised FPGA code) updates.

      This makes their approach not much different from software emulators, patching away emulation inconsistencies as they are found by end users. The only difference is the software emulators have had a mostly open source approach and 20 years of incremental improvements to get the NES library right, while this will be a closed source effort by a small company with an entirely different approach to emulating the NES, requiring that they basically start from scratch. And at $450 per unit they may have a limited number of testers.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        , a FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chip. This is essentially emulation in hardware. But a FPGA can't perfectly replicate the timings and quirks of the original Ricoh 2A03 that powered the NES

        An FPGA can certainly provide a clock by clock accurate implementation of the original system. Logic on an FPGA is just as real as on an ASIC.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        This makes their approach not much different from software emulators

        Other than 1. less lag, and 2. compatibility with the "mapper" hardware inside all NES-compatible Game Paks now known or hereinafter devised.

    • For those that didnt RTFA, there is a reason for the high price point of this console.

      They are not using emulation like the Retron consoles. This isn't the usual Famiclone either. They sourced actual 30 year old Famicom CPU and Video chips to build this custom unit...

      You read the wrong FA; this story is about the successor to the model made from 30 year old stock. The Nt Mini uses an FPGA to emulate the original hardware.

      If nothing else, this entire unit is actually quite the impressive custom hack of 30 year old hardware.

      Except that it isn't. It's a much more impressive thing than cobbling together off-the-(dusty)-shelf chips in a shiny box.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's not *that* impressive. Interesting, but similar devices have been made for lots of other machines. Typically they all use a graphics chip that outputs digital signals to a video DAC, which can be intercepted easily. An FPGA receives them, and converts to HDMI. The HDMI bit is just a standard FPGA software module, they won't create it from scratch, and the video is buffered in internal RAM (which adds some lag).

      It's more impressive when the machine being upgraded is something like an Amiga, with lots of

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Now, looking at the Famicom PCB, it should be possible to make a clip-in or pass-through board that attaches to the video chip and produces the HDMI output, all while fitting in the original case. That would be a nice upgrade that people would buy and wouldn't cost too much.

        That's called the Hi-Def NES board by Kevtris.

  • Nintendo already announced a cheap first part console with 30-games built in ;) While it won't satisfy the true die-hards, its unlikely the Analogue Nt consoles would either.
    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      The 30 games are all you got.

  • Considering that Nintendo is releasing their own mini NES for $59.99 http://www.theverge.com/2016/7... [theverge.com], the Analogue Nt mini looks way over priced. Yes, I know they are not the same, but there is no justification for the huge price difference.

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