The Arduboy Mini attached to a USB-C cable being held in a hand.

Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

The unique Arduboy made headlines as a credit score card-sized handheld you can hold tucked away in your pockets for gaming emergencies, nevertheless it was additionally an effective way to get began coding via the Arduino platform. The Arduboy Mini provides the identical expertise—8-bit gaming and portability—in an excellent smaller gadget. It’s additionally full guts out, so it encourages {hardware} hacking, too. Its creator is bringing it to customers subsequent 12 months via a Kickstarter campaign, however we received some palms on time with an early pattern of the {hardware}.

If you’re not aware of the Arduboy, it’s a Game Boy like handheld console born from a Tetris-playing enterprise card created by Kevin Bates to point out off his {hardware} hacking abilities. It didn’t land Bates a job, however the on-line response to his creation inspired him to take the thought additional, ultimately turning it into the Arduino-based Arduboy, which at the moment has lots of of 8-bit video games accessible for it, all free, courtesy of an ever-growing developer community. If you’re searching for a place to begin to get into sport growth that doesn’t contain going again to highschool, the Arduboy’s an important various.

The Arduboy Mini compared in size to a US quarter.

The Arduboy Mini (proper) in comparison with the dimensions of a US quarter (left).
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

I’m undecided what I used to be anticipating when the Arduboy Mini was first introduced, however the {hardware} is quite a bit smaller than I anticipated it to be. Put a few quarters facet by facet on a desk, and that’s roughly the Mini’s footprint.

The Arduboy Mini sitting next to the original Arduboy.

The Arduboy Mini (proper) in contrast in measurement to the unique Arduboy (left).
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

The unique Arduboy was already a satisfyingly small and skinny handheld for players prioritizing portability, however the Mini shrinks it right down to as small as a tool like this may probably get whereas nonetheless being playable… principally… we’ll get to that later. However, whereas the Arduboy Mini is well half the dimensions of the unique model, its display didn’t really shrink that a lot, so that you received’t want a microscope to make use of it.

A close-up of the Arduboy Mini's OLED screen showing a 1942-style game being played.

The Arduboy Mini makes use of a monochromatic OLED display which may solely show black and white photos—no grayscale.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

For these now accustomed to the high-res screens on portables just like the Nintendo Switch or the Valve Steam Deck, the Arduboy Mini’s 128×64-pixel OLED display may seem to be a step again, nevertheless it’s really an enormous a part of the hand-held’s attraction. Unlike even the unique Game Boy, which may show 4 shades of grey, the Arduboy Mini is monochromatic—simply black and white—however that helps streamline and simplify sport growth, whereas encouraging creativity to push what the display can really show.

The Arduboy Mini next to the Arduboy Development Kit.

The Arduboy Mini (proper) in comparison with the Arduboy Development Kit (left) which each function a caseless design with uncovered electronics.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

I’ve been evaluating the Arduboy Mini to its predecessors (the unique Arduboy was adopted by the Arduboy FX, which launched extra reminiscence and an up to date front-end permitting the hand-held to be loaded with over 200 video games) however a extra apt comparability could be to the unique Arduboy Development Kit, because it additionally lacked a plastic case and completed buttons. Like the ADK, the Arduboy Mini is constructed on an uncovered circuit board that encourages customers to not solely tinker with the code, however the {hardware} as nicely.

A close-up of the back of the Arduboy Mini showing the solder contacts for attaching a speaker and rechargeable battery.

The again of the Arduboy Mini options uncovered contacts for connected a chargeable battery and a speaker.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

Bates is positioning the brand new Arduboy Mini as a model of the gadget geared in direction of colleges as a STEM studying instrument. To assist encourage {hardware} hacking (and to maintain transport prices down), the Mini comes and not using a speaker or a battery. Flip the hand-held over and also you’ll discover the solder contacts you’ll want so as to add each of these parts your self uncovered and labelled, with the circuitry wanted to facilitate a battery that may be recharged via the gadget’s USB-C port already baked proper in.

The Arduboy Mini perched atop a much larger battery pack which it's connected to with a USB-C cable.

Out of the field you’ll want to attach the Arduboy Mini to an influence supply with a USB-C cable.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

As such, as splendidly tiny because the Arduboy Mini could be, it may not be the only option for many who simply wish to dive into the platform’s assortment of lots of of 8-bit video games. I’ve been testing the Mini and having fun with its included library of over 300 video games whereas staying tethered to an Anker battery pack that completely dwarfs the gadget, virtually comically so. If you’ve by no means picked up a soldering iron, and by no means wish to, the Arduboy FX is certainly a greater choice.

A close-up of the buttons on the front of the Arduboy Mini.

The Arduboy options measurement buttons on the entrance, together with 4 grouped collectively and used as a directional controller.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo

The Arduboy Mini may also not be the platform of alternative for prime rating chasers. On the entrance, it makes use of 4 buttons laid out like a directional pad, plus two others that function motion buttons. (As nicely as a seventh smaller button on the again for shortly resetting the gadget.)

They’re useable, however the buttons have numerous journey and require extra drive than I used to be anticipating to register a press, and that may make motion gaming a bit of difficult, notably on a tool this small. I undoubtedly choose the buttons on the bigger Arduboy, that are softer and have much less journey, however I additionally perceive that if you’re constructing a handheld this small, there are typically compromises that need to be made with the parts you should use.

At the time of writing, there are nonetheless 13 days left within the Arduboy Mini’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign (it has already surpassed its $10,000 funding goal), simply in case you have been hoping to get in on the preliminary manufacturing run that’s anticipated to ship out to backers in June of subsequent 12 months. If you’re already an enormous fan of the unique Arduboy, you’ve most likely already backed this one. But in the event you’re new to the platform and are principally all for it for some nostalgic retro gaming motion, you may really be higher served with the older Arduboy FX. It’s simpler to play, and comes with sound and a battery already included.

The Arduboy Mini’s actual attraction lies not with its measurement, however its potential. I’ve lengthy been all for attempting my palms at electronics and increasing my coding capabilities, however merely sitting down with an Arduino board in a single hand, a soldering iron within the different, and a ‘hardware hacking 101′ tutorial on my laptop has never appealed to me. I need a more defined end goal—like making a video game—and I imagine I’m not the one one. The Arduboy Mini is a intelligent malicious program for getting children all for coding and electronics, and for $24 (when bought in a 10-pack), I hope it is going to be embraced as a enjoyable academic instrument.

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