Review PiBoy DMG by Experimental Pi Review

Silent_Gunner

Crazy Cool Cyclops
OP
Banned
Joined
Feb 16, 2017
Messages
2,696
Trophies
0
Age
26
XP
4,584
Country
United States
After seeing some reviews for handhelds powered by open source chips here on this site, I decided to shine a spotlight on some very tasty pie here in the Pi Boy DMG by Experimental Pi!


I personally have used two other SBC units myself: an Odroid XU4 before the RPi4 came around, and then I got myself a RPi4 when I wanted to test the waters and see how it stacked up against the Odroid XU4. Long story short, the RPi4 itself comes very close, but the Odroid XU4 would edge it out for me…which is why I’m fine with a portable Raspberry Pi4 being packed into an OG Game Boy clone case with six buttons, a d-pad, analog stick, and one set of shoulder buttons to be able to play more than just what a regular DMG device would offer in its paltry set of two buttons in this reviewer’s humble opinion.

NyTaLaK.jpg


Unboxing:

zl82uFq.jpg


vkXkrSf.jpg


lyKjUV3

AVUv3OW.jpg

AVUv3OW


lyKjUV3.jpg


Content/Features:

The PiBoy is sold on Experimental Pi’s website in three different packages depending on what you want to do with it. They are as follows in the spoiler:


1. Base Kit:



Price: $89.95



Includes:

*Partially Assembled PiBoy DMG

*2 Styles of Shoulder Buttons

*Rpi Connector Face Plates

*Screwdriver



Does not include:

*Pre-assembly

*3.7v LiPo Battery

*Micro USB Charger/Power Supply 5v/3a

*Micro SD Card

*Downloadable Images

*Games

*Raspberry Pi 3B+, 4B, or Zero



Optional:

*HDMI Adapter

*Cooling Fan


2. Full Kit:



Price: $119.95



Includes:

*Partially Assembled PiBoy DMG

*4500 mAh LiPo Battery

*Micro USB Charger/Power Supply 5v/3a

*2 Styles of Shoulder Buttons

*Rpi Connector Face Plates

*Cooling Fan

*Screwdriver



Does not include:

*Pre-assembly

*Micro SD Card

*Downloadable Images

*Games

*Raspberry Pi 3B+, 4B, or Zero



Optional:

*HDMI Adapter


3. Pre-Assembled Kit:



Price: $179.95



Includes:

*Fully Assembled PiBoy DMG

*Raspberry Pi4 2GB

*4500 mAh LiPo Battery

*Micro USB Charger/Power Supply 5v/3a

*HDMI Adapter

*64GB Micro SD Card

*2 Styles of Shoulder Buttons

*RPi Connector Face Plates

*Cooling Fan

*Screwdriver

*Image Installed

*Fully Installed



Does not include:

*Games
I bought the Pre-Assembled Kit, not because I couldn’t assemble to save my life, but because I wanted something that I could just jump into and get started with. Thankfully, from what I’ve personally seen of the internals, it doesn’t look like one needs to be the Master of Soldering to put it together. And the two styles of shoulder buttons are a neat touch; one looks like the grooves of the battery cover on the Gameboy, while the other set (and the one I personally like more) look more like the buttons in front.

Ccpj0rg.jpg


"Ehh..."(that's the battery, btw)

9fWcKo0.jpg


"Much better IMO!"

All this being said, this is one device that I personally think is worth the bucks spent. While this is certainly no GPD WIN Max, this is literally a RPi4 running RetroPie with some modifications from Experimental Pi to help make the experience more portable friendly, what with the on-screen display that at first displays the load on the CPU, the temperatures on said CPU, the voltage, wi-fi signal should you choose to use it, Bluetooth icon, and the most important of all, the battery icon. If some of that isn’t necessary to you, you can thankfully find a file that handles the OSD’s configuration and comment out what you don’t want displayed all the time. That means that any tutorials, guides, and everything in between regarding RetroPie, the Raspberry Pi itself, Linux, and more is all applicable here. You can even dock the PiBoy to your TV if you wanted! All of this with three different pricing options for consumers to consider!


Content/Features Rating: 10/10


Hardware:

The assembled hardware feels great! The face buttons are clicky, the analog stick is comfortable enough and is clickable, and the shoulder buttons have the same satisfactory click one can get when setting an alarm clock. The volume is controlled by sliding a dial underneath. You can also adjust the brightness of the screen with the dial on the right, all the way down to making it pitch black much like an actual Game Boy! Not to mention, a 3.5mm headphone jack! Man, that apple sure is tasty!

k9Lup1W.jpg


There’s a power switch on top much like an actual Game Boy that has a custom shutdown script that is the preferred way to shut the PiBoy down by design! The 4500 mAh battery is plugged into the board directly by inserting the 2-pin cable into a cutout to thread the cable through, and the battery itself sits in this case much like the batteries in an actual Game Boy would.

8IMRFcS.jpg


The 64GB SD card that came with my PiBoy is already pre-loaded with RetroPie; one can get it out with a simple push.

8Gwx1yB.jpg


The single speaker only comes out of the front, and its...a speaker. It’s not audiophile grade, that’s for sure, but that’s what the 3.5mm jack is for. Still kind of sucks that I have to bust out my V-Moda Crossfade LP2’s to get a better auditory experience on this device, though.

uYnmVVi.jpg


As for the build quality, it’s definitely not made of Nintendium that could withstand a Gulf War blast like the original Game Boy itself, but it’s definitely lightweight, that’s for sure!

The big flaws for myself personally would have to be that it’s got a smaller HDMI out for what I’m assuming is to be used with a smaller HDMI cable than most of the cables I’ve been stocked up on are. Not to mention, Micro USB for the charging port. USB-C is apparently on the way as an option for those who want it, but still.

OEnj4Ey.jpg


And now, we have to talk about the fan:

While the fan does its job, it isn’t exactly of the quiet variety; it can be quite loud if you aren’t using headphones, and when moving it, sounds like the electric razor I take to my facial hair about once every week. Well, at least it keeps things cool...right? Not really. In the few sessions I’ve spent, it does get warm in the hands. Then again, given that I live up in the northern Midwest and that things are about to get very cold, I could use a handwarmer or two! ;)

xtwc7No

https://imgur.com/xtwc7No

How the fan sounds with the menu BGM playing:

https://imgur.com/Hh86Yj1
Hh86Yj1


Still, a better fan that’s quieter and could get rid of more of the heat would be preferable in a second iteration of the product that ships to customers, as I know, given that the PiBoy is based on the RPi4, one could get the Noctua NF-A4x10 FLX fan and probably jerry rig it to blow the other fan away in cooling and noise performance, but that’s more on the users’ end if they want to take that route.

Lastly, the battery only lasts about 3 hours. Not much longer than an OG Switch and while I'm sure one could mod in a longer lasting battery if it were to fit into the space provided for the battery, it's disappointing that it has to be this way. I kind of wish it lasted about twice as long. At least the PiBoy is more pocketable than the Switch.

All in all, I’d say that the hardware itself is good! It’s got some flaws, but really, outside of the fan being somewhat loud and it getting warm in the hands, as well as the battery provided being a little underwhelming it all works as one would expect of a device that’s functional.



Hardware Rating: 7/10


Software:

RetroPie is a program that sits on top of a full OS, be it Raspberry Pi’s Raspbian, Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, Gentoo, or other Linux distros. It uses EmulationStation as a frontend and RetroArch for many of the emulators on the PiBoy and devices running similar hardware/software. You can download RetroArch cores, ports of open source projects, skins for EmulationStation, plug-ins, set up your wi-fi, the works. It’s a good set of software if you want to make a cheap All-In-One entertainment station that doesn’t even take up as much space as this reviewer’s HTPC! There’s no dedicated hotkey button, but to exit a game on most emulators, you’ll hit start and select at the same time. You can bring up the RetroArch menu as long as you define a set of keys to push to bring it up, though that requires using an emulator option that actually uses RetroArch itself. Said emulators can be chosen by spamming the “confirm” button on the menu while the game is loading and it will bring up a menu where you can set the default emulator for the platform, choose the emulator you want to use for a particular game in question, select the video mode, launch with verbose logging, and a few different options!

up4UM36.jpg

The only negative here is that updating the PiBoy involves messing around with Linux filesystems that won’t be for everyone; it involves updating the shutdown script, and then also the OSD files so that, when you download the main update, you don’t have an issue of the OS not loading up. Really, though, the only reason to update right now is if you plan on docking the PiBoy from what I understand.

Lastly, and this is less the PiBoy’s fault itself as it is a flaw with the RPi4 and the software support for it, but unfortunately, regardless of what game you’re playing, there will be times where the screen will tear. This happens on a real RPi4 as well, so it’s not like Experimental Pi is at fault, but it is worth mentioning. I think there’s a solution coming along that involves using Vulkan from what I’ve read, but it’s a flaw worth pointing out.



Software: 8/10


Performance:

In terms of gaming performance, let’s get the obvious out of the way; this device will play practically everything up to the 16-bit systems flawlessly. Sure, I wouldn’t try using the CRT-Royale shader on anything, but the performance of these platforms shouldn’t be a concern. Arcade games also run just fine as long as it’s not some system that MAME just got around to being able to run at playable speeds on higher-spec PC’s. (think trying to emulake Mortal Kombat 4, any of the Tekkens, Hyper Neo-Geo 64, etc.)

Where things get interesting is the fifth generation of consoles in more ways than one; PS1 runs the best out of the three, with N64 being playable as long as you don’t mind fiddling around with the various emulator options. Unfortunately, the loser out of all of these mirrors that of how the fifth generation of consoles played out; Sega Saturn is so bad that I wouldn’t personally classify anything as being playable with the cores from RetroArch or whatever standalone emulator happens to be on offer. Which is ironic considering the system’s follow up.

The Dreamcast runs very well, though YMMV depending on how much you want to OC the PiBoy and the game itself; I’d say Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Capcom Vs. SNK 2, and probably a lot more games that are simple arcade ports/fighters/maybe shmups will be fine on this platform. Where things go awry is in the more ambitious 3D games; Shenmue, Sonic Adventure 2, Dead or Alive 2, etc. Come to mind when I think of games that neither Flycast or Redream will run well. Speaking of the two cores, if you want to play NAOMI, Atomiswave, and maybe Windows CE-based games, you’ll want to download the Flycast core for RetroArch. However, if one wants to play these games via RetroPie, you’re going to have to edit some more files to add some platforms that don’t come with the RetroPie image provided by Experimental Pi.

The PSP runs fine for mostly anything that isn’t either of the God of Wars, Final Fantasy 7 Crisis Core, or anything that isn’t mostly 2D based from what I saw. It, along with Dreamcast, would probably need a good OC to be playable.

Mind you, all of these impressions about performance are assuming you don’t OC. I can’t imagine an OC would make the more demanding games like the ones that were giving me trouble here to be what I’d classify as playable, but it might push games thar aren’t quite able to maintain 60 fps to at least cross that threshold of performance.



Performance Rating: 9/10


Summary:

If you’re mainly into modding your portable devices to emulate older games, this system doesn’t require one to exploit security holes in the firmware or hardware errors caused by manufacturing oversights; you just plug in a flash drive into one of the 4 USB ports on top or transfer your “legal” roms to the platforms corresponding to the platform of game that it’s from and you’re golden!

All in all, I’m very impressed with what’s on offer here! You get the performance of a RPi4 inside a case with all of the buttons necessary for most of the games one could play within reason, paired with software that’s a perfect fit for consoles and portable devices alike!


Raspberry Pi 4:

CPU: Broadcom BCM2711, Quad Core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.5 GHz
RAM: 2GB for the model included with the pre-assembled model, you can provide whatever RPi4/RPi3/or even RPi Zero if you buy one of the packages that require assembly from the user.
2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports

Experimental Pi:

Screen: 3.5" IPS LCD at 640x480
Battery: LiPo 4500 mAh


Pros:
+Runs everything a RPi4 can on the go.
+Easy to tinker with.
+Good software to tie everything together.
+Can do Dreamcast and PSP at playable framerates.

Cons:
-Fan is louder than necessary and could do a better job cooling things.
-Firmware updates for the Experimental Pi-specific parts of the software could be made easier to work with.
-Could use two good speakers.

-Really could use a longer-lasting battery.

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10

PS - Apologies for the missing image links. I was having some trouble uploading some of the images here initially, and the images right next to the generic icons are what should be there. As for the video clips, I was having trouble trying to embed those, so I just decided to post the links themselves.
 
Last edited by Silent_Gunner,
  • Like
Reactions: Julie_Pilgrim
Joined
Mar 17, 2010
Messages
21,266
Trophies
3
Location
Space
XP
10,083
Country
Norway
It looks good. I believe RetroFlag also make a Game Boy inspired Pi case, which also looks pretty good. I'm not sure which is better, but RetroFlag have a great track record. One thing I can see is that it lacks an analog stick, and has 4 face buttons instead of 6, so it's no good for N64 games. Then again, it's designed for the Pi Zero, so it wouldn't be able to run them well anyway.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Silent_Gunner
General chit-chat
Help Users
    TheLiamChannel @ TheLiamChannel: ok...