Review: Super RetroTRIO Plus (Hardware)
Out With The New, In With The Old
In this day and age where you can play libraries of video games from various consoles on a device that fits in your pocket, there still seems to be a demand for playing cartridge-based games on a home console. The reason varies from person to person. Some pin it to nostalgia, others might argue that the "real feel” is there, younger audiences might want to experience retro games but have no consoles to play them on, and others still are more concerned about the lifetime of their retro consoles. To cater for such needs, we’ll take a look at a device addressing such demands: the Super RetroTRIO Plus from Retro-Bit.
This new console has been custom built to include three cartridge slots; one each for NES, SNES, and Mega Drive!
Packaging & Contents
At an MSRP of $79.99, the Super RetroTRIO Plus comes packed with the following:
- Super RetroTRIO Plus Console
- 6 ft. HDMI cable
- Two 10 ft. wired six button controllers
- Power cable and plug for the console
- Instruction manual
I must say that while the package was safely delivered, the box the console comes in is quite slim and the contents are stored a thin plastic tray inside the box with no padding whatsoever. I am just concerned about the possible damage during shipping...
The Super RetroTRIO Plus (SRT+) is actually the upgraded version of the Super RetroTRIO released in 2014 as it features an almighty HDMI port! Oh yeah! You are in for a visual treat with those sweet, sweet 8-bit and 16-bit games in crisp 720p resolution! To satisfy your CRT TV fantasies, you can always plug the console into one via its AV port, provided that you have the required cables.
Like its predecessor, the Super RetroTRIO Plus is custom built with three cartridge slots and also packs six controller ports: two for the NES, two for the SNES (that’s also where the included Retro-Bit controllers plug in) and two for the Mega Drive. The front part of the console where the ports are found has a nice spring-loaded lid that will keep dust off the section and gives the device an overall slick look when closed!
The front part also has a few handy switches: the region switches! This will cover most (not all - more on that in a bit) regions for the consoles by simply flipping the corresponding switch.
Speaking of switches, a rather important one is on the top of the SRT+. That’s the console switch, which will allow you to switch between the consoles. A little light will indicate which console is currently being used.
I noticed that inserting and removing cartridges into their respective slots, in particular, SNES and Genesis ones, required a bit of struggle. I am not sure why but it might be because of the slot being larger than the carts themselves.
Including ports for each of the console's controllers is quite a nice feature should you want to play with the original ones. Otherwise, you can just use the included Retro-Bit controllers which work perfectly. These actually have a retro aspect to them down to the button feel, but unlike retro controllers, they are more comfortable with the handles and their little bump at the back to fit your palms. In addition, they come with impressive 1.8 meter long cables!
The included gamepads are also quite responsive, so no need to worry about how they perform with each console. You could consider them as a more ergonomic version of SNES controllers (they even share the same ports!) but with a cheaper and blander look.
While the case of the SRT+ looks aesthetically pleasing, the material itself feels quite cheap to the touch. Some parts of the console even bend under moderate pressure. All this reminds me that this is but a clone. The plus side of the material of choice is that for its size, the SRT+ is noticeably light.
Now that we've covered the main features of the SRT+, let's see how it performs!
- Adventure Island PASS!
- Batman Returns PASS!
- Dr. Mario PASS!
- Mach Rider PASS!
- Super Mario Bros. 3 PASS!
- The Addams Family PASS!
- The Battle of Olympus PASS!
- The Jungle Book PASS!
- The Smurfs PASS!
- Alien 3 PASS!
- Astérix PASS!
- Battletoads in Battlemaniacs PASS!
- Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest PASS!
- Star Fox PASS!
- Stunt Race FX PASS!
- Tetris 2 PASS!
- Tiny Toon Adventures: Wild & Wacky Sports PASS!
- The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun PASS!
SEGA Mega Drive
- Battletoads PASS!
- Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind PASS!
- Multicart: Fantastic Dizzy, Cosmic Spacehead PASS!
- Multicart: Super Hang-on, Columns, World Cup Italia '90 PASS!
- Rise of the Robots PASS!
- Sonic the Hedgehog PASS!
- Streets of Rage PASS!
- The Adventures of Mighty Max PASS!
- The Lion King PASS!
NES, SNES or SEGA Mega Drive? The choice is yours!
Your Go-To Retro Console Clone?
While the SRT+ gives one the opportunity to relive the entire library of three of the most iconic consoles of all time, it allows one to do so only if the person has the cartridges. Unlike its competitors like Hyperkin’s RetroN 5, the SRT+ does not feature a built-in emulator to play backup roms and therefore, it relies solely on cartridges. Nowadays, some of these can cost a small fortune among collectors and resellers, so you’d better invest in this console only if you have some games to play on the consoles, or you are looking at further investment in cartridges.
Nevertheless, the SRT+ does a pretty good job at doing what it does: playing games through their cartridges. It played every game I threw at it faithfully and even ran special cartridges like Star Fox and Stunt Race FX.
Retro-Bit finally made the jump to HD with the SRT+ but comparing the image quality with the NES and SNES Classic Mini or even the Hyperkin RetroN 5, the fidelity is not quite there yet as it gives out a relatively muddy image quality. This is particularly noticeable with the upscaling of 16-bit games from the SNES and Mega Drive. Not to say that the quality is bad per se but in comparison to what others in the market have to offer, the images are not as crisp.
Again unlike its contemporary counterparts, the SRT+ does not feature filters to help improve the image quality, nor those handy save states (since it is not emulation-based).
SEGA fans are in for a disappointment as Mega Drive games run at the lower PAL speed despite the presence of switch that allows you to toggle between PAL and NTSC. The latter only seems to allow you to boot NTSC games while leaving the gameplay and music to run at the slower PAL speed. Note that I am reviewing the European model of the SRT+ and thus this might not be an issue with the US model.
The SRT+ continues to be short on love for SEGA fans as the included controllers have the Mega Drive buttons weirdly mapped. For some reason, 'C' is mapped to the L shoulder button and 'A' and 'B' are mapped to 'B' and 'Y' respectively. You’ll be better off using an original Mega Drive controller!
Another blow for the console is that despite supporting NTSC/PAL for the SNES and NTSC/PE/NJ/PA for the Mega Drive, it does not support Famicom carts.
Step By Step
Retro-Bit is making baby steps to improve its retro clones. The inclusion of the HDMI port is a definitive plus for the Super RetroTRIO Plus. It is, however, a shame that despite being a supposed revamped version of the Super RetroTRIO it still does not include an emulator in the console, does not support Famicom carts nor does it play Mega Drive games at a proper speed. There is not much excuse for this as competitors that are already on the market and can be fetched for a similar price have already had those features years ago. The only edge that it has over its competitors is its slightly lower price point. Nevertheless, the overall performance of the games across the consoles it packs is authentic. A bit too authentic if you consider the PAL speed of Mega Drive games and no save states...
What will you play?
+ 3 retro consoles in one
+ HDMI and AV compatible
+ Versatile 1.8m cable controllers included
+ Multi-region support for SNES and SEGA Mega Drive
+ 2 controller ports for each console’s original controller
- No emulator
- Relatively muddy image quality
- Mega Drive games run at PAL speed
- No Famicom support
- Awkwardly mapped buttons for the Mega Drive controller
- Poor quality of packaging
- Cheap plastic build
- Little struggle needed to put and remove some cartridges
out of 10
When everything is taken into consideration, the Super RetroTRIO Plus is a decent console that lies on the more affordable spectrum of the booming retro console clones market. However it still has room for improvements which its competitors have already covered.