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The Arduboy Mini is a matchbox sized Retro handheld packed with over 300 games

The Arduboy Mini is a matchbox sized Retro handheld packed with over 300 games

There have been a few handheld gaming consoles that really push the limits of how small a console can be, but the creator of the original credit card-sized Arduboy is back with an even smaller version that still looks very playable. The device is meant to encourage players to venture into hardware hacking to expand their capabilities.

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

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The original Arduboy was eventually followed up by a version called the Arduboy FX, with more built-in storage capable of storing over 200 Arduboy games (with just a monochromatic pixelated screen; the games are very small), but Bates is back again with a complete redesign of 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 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.

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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.

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

Besides being a gaming system, the original Arduboy was a tool that encouraged users to learn to program through an abundance of resources and a thriving developer community on the 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 attaching speakers and a battery, with the circuitry needed to charge a battery through USB The C port is already baked in.

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

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 open to anyone willing to pledge $29 for the regular version, or $34 for the Graffiti Edition, with expected delivery already in June next year. A 10-pack is also being 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 is familiar with the challenges of bringing these devices to consumers. So while there isn’t as much risk in backing the new Arduboy Mini, with crowdfunded products, it’s always a “buyer beware” situation.

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