Arduboy Mini is a Retro handheld in matchstick size

Arduboy Mini is a Retro handheld in matchstick size

There have been a few handheld gaming machines that really push the boundaries of how little a console can get, but the creator of the original, Arduboy in credit card size is back with an even smaller version which still looks very playable. The device is intended to encourage players to dabble in hardware hacking to expand their capabilities.

Back in 2014, Kevin Bates wowed us with a custom 1.6mm thick electronic business cardcreated by removing an Arduino board, which can actually be used to play a simple Tetris clone. It was designed to showcase Bates’ hardware hacking skills and give him a job, but it instead led Bates down a different path as he turned his custom creation into Arduboy: an open source thin 8-bit handheld credit card for aspiring game developers or retro gaming enthusiasts.

The original Arduboy was eventually followed up by a version called Arduino FX, with more built-in storage that can store over 200 Arduboy games (with just a monochromatic pixelated display; the games are very small), but Bates is back again with a complete redesign of the Arduboy hardware which is now more than half the size of the original.

The new Arduboy Mini stands before the original Arduboy.

The new Arduboy Mini is fully backwards compatible with the original, but includes even more storage than the Arduboy FX, and out of the box it comes pre-installed with over 300 Arduboy titles – or more or less every game made for the system to date. Where the Arduboy Mini differs from the original is that it has been boiled down to its essentials. It’s a bare circuit board with a 128×64-pixel OLED display, six buttons and a USB-C port attached.

If you’re wondering where the speaker and rechargeable battery are hidden on the Arduboy Mini, you won’t find them, because out of the box it doesn’t have either. You have to connect the tiny handheld device to a USB-C cable connected to a power source to play it, and while that may seem like an inconvenience, it’s actually part of the whole reason the Arduboy Mini was created.

The back of the Arduboy Mini circuit board shows the connectors for attaching a speaker and rechargeable battery.

Besides being a game systemthe original Arduboy was a tool that encouraged users to learn to program through an abundance of resources and a thriving developer community on Arduboy website. The Arduboy Mini strives to be a device that also encourages users to dabble in hardware hacking, and when you turn it over, you’ll find pre-existing connectors for connecting speakers and a battery, with the circuitry needed to charge a battery through the USB-C port which is already baked right in.

Arduboy Mini connected to a USB-C cable sitting on an orange wallet.

Bates is positioning the Arduboy Mini as a learning tool for the classroom first and foremost, but at launch it will be made available through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which is open to anyone willing to pledge $29 for the regular version, or $34 for the Graffiti Edition, with expected delivery as early as June next year. A 10-pack will also be made available to schools, with a slightly discounted pledge of $240.

There is always a risk in backing any crowdfunded product, especially electronics, given the ongoing supply chain issues surrounding various components. But Bates successfully delivered the original Arduboy through Kickstarter, and knows the challenges of bringing these devices to consumers. So although there is not as much risk supports the new Arduboy Mini, with crowdfunded products, it’s always a “buyer beware” situation.

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