• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.
  • The Politics forum has been nuked. Please do not bring political discussion to the rest of the site, or you will be removed. Thanks.

Analogue Nt mini: NES/Famicoms final form - Kevtris FPGA, aluminum, 1080P, $449

Chittagong

Member
Jun 8, 2004
19,295
5,090
2,110


History of Analogue Nt
In 2015, Analogue released its first NES/Famicom console, Analogue Nt. It was premium priced at $578, an aluminum console that used CPU and GPU chips harvested from original, supposedly cosmetically damaged Famicom's, combined with an awesome HDMI chipset from Kevtris. This provided it with compatibility with all NES/Famicom games and accessories, as well as a zero-lag, pixel perfect, 1080P presentation of games exactly as they played on the original consoles. As the amount of salvaged chips was limited, the console quickly sold out. Today units sell at $600-$900 on eBay.

Why Analogue Nt mini was made
With Analogue Nt mini, Analogue is tackling two issues. First, some retro gamers criticised Analogue for destroying Famicoms to make Analogue Nts. Second, there weren't just enough Famicoms going around to allow for more Analogue Nts to be made at reasonable cost. The emergence of FPGA chip technology allowed Analogue to create a NES/Famicom that doesn't use original chips, but that performes exactly like an original console, without the need to do costly custom silicon. Analogue weren't the first ones to do an FGPA NES/Famicom, Retro USB shipped their AVS already in 2016.

Key features
- Highly accurate, lag-free, FPGA-based hardware emulation
- 480P/720P/1080P
- Works with NES/Famicom accessories
- Works with Famicom disc system
- Scanline filters, colour palettes
- 4 controller ports
- Machined aluminum unibody

Key features upgrades from original Analogue Nt
- 8bitdo wireless controller/receiver included (value $55)
- HDMI/S-Video/Component inputs in one console
- Game Genie-like cheat codes integrated
- Supports also PAL games
- Upgradeable firmware with Micro SD
- Cropping (helps avoid flicker hidden by CRT overscan)

What is FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array)?
Traditionally, making chips, such as DACs or CPUs, required an expensive process of taping out a fixed design and mass producing it at scale. Once the chip was done, it couldn't change. FPGA chips changed this. You can now program a generic FPGA chip at will (or out at the ”field"). This means you could put a NES/Famicom CPU and GPU gates into the chip, and it'll behave exactly like the real thing, at accurate speed.

Why is FPGA better than software emulation?
Most NES/Famicom emulation, such as Virtual console or NES Mini Classic, is software emulation. The emulator attempts to replicate the output of CPU and GPU using the same inputs. While this often yields good enough results, it is not 100% accurate in terms of compatibility, timing or lag. The same output is achieved by different means than in the original console. For this reason, FGPA is more accurate.

WTF, this thing is $449?!
Analogue has seemingly positioned itself as a luxury manufacturer of expensive vintage consoles. Kind of like Astell&Kern, who produce insanely expensive but incredibly well engineered MP3 players. Or like Alienware, but with better materials and taste. With meticulously designed PWB boards and machined unibody enclosures, they seem to aim to produce the ‘ultimate NES/Famicom' consoles. There are significantly cheaper FPGA NES options available in the market, such as the $170 RetroUSB AVS.

Analogue's third chapter
Analogue's journey to Analogue Nt mini is a case study from a company growing from hobbyist to professional. Analogue gained name by making $649 wooden Neo-Geo CMVS retrofits. While beautiful, the units were often criticised for their gobbled together build quality and unpredictable delivery times.

Analogue's second major project was Analogue Nt, announced with great fanfare in May 2014. The project was announced early and seemingly ran into development hell, as Analogue struggled to learn the ropes of making their first fully custom product. In my view, their fortunes only really reversed when they joined forces with Kevtris, the creator of the HDMI NES chipset, who proved instrumental in helping Analogue exceed promises they might not otherwise have even met. I posted several bitterly critical threads tracking the troublesome development and erratic communications of Analogue Nt through to its surprisingly beautiful conclusion in Q3/2015.

With this background, Analogue Nt mini shows how much Analogue has learned along the way. It was announced in August 2016, and promised for delivery in January 2017. In stark contrast to the original, Analogue shipped Analogue Nt mini bang on promised schedule. Their communication throughout the project was clear and transparent. They didn't overpromise, and delivered what they promised (and a bit more, it turns out).

How I ended up with an Analogue Nt mini

DISCLAIMER - Analogue provided me with a free unit to test out

I wasn't planning to buy an Analogue Nt mini, as I didn't see it as a big enough upgrade to justify buying a new unit. So it was bit of a surprise when Chris from Analogue sent me a PM offering a unit to test. Slightly unnervingly, he had already connected my real name and GAF alias. Regardless, I appreciated the offer, especially considering that I had been pretty harsh towards their practices during the troubled Analogue Nt journey.

Impressions
I considered the Analogue Nt the best NES ever made. It's totally accurate, highly compatible, 1080P and beautifully made. Analogue Nt mini fixes its final shortcomings, and adds some useful features. Coming in a slick black/gold foil box very similar to the original Analogue Nt, it now includes multiple power adapters and a controller.

I tested my mini with Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers (USA), Salamander (JPN) and Legend of Zelda (PAL/SCN). All games perform extremely well, without any detectable lag.

The user experience is a bit more involved, reflecting the grown feature set. By default, the system boots into a menu system, although this preset can be changed. The menu highlight is a bit hard to spot first, hopefully contrast will be increased in a firmware update.

The device has an extensive menu system for Audio, Video and System settings. Playing PAL games at correct speed requires setting the PAL mode in the menu. I'll be getting Gimmick (Famicom) next week, and was advised by Analogue that I should select the Sunsoft sound chip support from the device menu.

I enjoyed the 8bitdo wireless controller much more than I though I would. Initially I had three worries. The button layout seemed weird. The buttons and d-pad felt just a little bit looser than original NES buttons. I was also concerned about lag. All three concerns were quickly forgotten once I started playing. The angled buttons are great, the button tightness doesn't feel substantially different during gameplay, and I wasn't disturbed by input lag. Playing NES with a wireless controller is awesome.

Conclusion
For most people, a NES Mini Classic ($49) or an Retro USB AVS ($170) are excellent, and much cheaper ways to play NES. While Analogue Nt mini includes some features neither of them do, features alone won't justify the $449 price tag. It's a luxury product, for someone who wants a beautifully crafted NES/Famicom with awesome features, zero lag and superb compatibility. For me, this is the final form of NES/Famicom. It's clearly a product of love and passion - the best way to play NES games. From Analogue Nt, it's an essential upgrade due to the PAL and CRT support.

Now, I really hope Analogue has Kevtris working on an Analogue Sn - my Star Fox 2 is ready...

Photos















Reviews


Gamespot - "Inside and out, the Nt Mini is an incredible piece of hardware that serves its audience better than any other NES-related product on the market. Analogue has outdone itself, setting a new standard for retro gaming hardware. Its price tag will no doubt scare off some potential customers, but if you're looking for a way to play NES games on your monitor of choice--without compromises--look no further than the Nt Mini."

Eurogamer - The Analogue Nt Mini does more than any competing product and offers a long-term solution for playing 8-bit consoles well into the future. For our money, this is the best console ever made for playing 8-bit NES games.

Engadget - "The perfect NES experience isn't for everyone, but for those who can foot the bill, it's here."

TechCrunch - "The Nt Mini is obviously not for everyone, given its high price tag, but you'd be surprised at how easy it is to justify the cost given the obvious care and attention put into both the console's industrial design and its hardware and software engineering."

Forbes - "The Analogue Nt is not some Nintendo clone gaming system hastily produced with parts found in the wreckage of a computer repair store. The Analogue Nt Mini is a solid tribute to the 8-bit era designed not to only capture our nostalgic spirit for a simpler time in gaming, but to keep our love for classic games alive with new hardware. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go rage quit Battletoads."

Digital Foundry video review

Linustech (video review)

Gamesack Review (video review)
 

Type40

Member
Nov 30, 2015
741
1
0
And it's still ugly and made of expensive aluminum. People should get the Retro USB AVS instead.

And this reads more like an Advertisement then an OT.
 

Chittagong

Member
Jun 8, 2004
19,295
5,090
2,110
I assume it handles all expansion audio similarly with you having to select the chip?

Also, is it HDMI out only?

Edit: also is the cart scraping issue fixed from the original NT?

I think that all expansion audio is handled via the menu. HDMI, S-Video, component and composite output. Supposedly scraping is no longer an issue, however my og unit didn't have the problem either.
 

Chittagong

Member
Jun 8, 2004
19,295
5,090
2,110
And it's still ugly and made of expensive aluminum. People should get the Retro USB AVS instead.

And this reads more like an Advertisement then an OT.

I say in my post that Retro USB is enough for most people, there's even link to it.
 

Chittagong

Member
Jun 8, 2004
19,295
5,090
2,110
Damn, Chitta. Those are some nice pics.

Thanks! To be honest I was lazy and couldn't be bothered to whip out the Canon 5D, so iPhone SE had to do :D

Spotted a small easter egg today. The LED in thw front panel of the device changes colour based on what's shown on the screen.
 

ToastyFrog

Inexplicable Treasure Hate
Nov 21, 2004
1,220
1
0
SF, CA
I've been testing out the Mini as well, and I'm pretty impressed. Even if it's a clone system, it seems extremely accurate, and it feels much less like a patchwork hack than the HDMI mod for the original Nt did.

I can see where most people would look at the price on this versus the AVS and go with the AVS. The Mini is definitely for people who want to tinker and fine-tune their experience, whereas the AVS is a no-fuss option. The big, obvious advantage the Mini has over the AVS, in my opinion, is that it offers 240p analog output for play on CRT sets. You can even output simultaneously via HDMI and RGB, so you can capture high-definition video of games that require a CRT (Zapper/R.O.B. games), something that I had to jump through some ridiculous hoops to pull off for my Zapper/R.O.B. Good Nintentions videos.

I did a live stream yesterday in which I showed off the system's HDMI features for 15-20 minutes — jump to 24:15 if you want to skip to the meat of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5z22btgO_c
 

SpiceMelange

Member
Aug 23, 2013
4,088
51
700
Don't agree with those who said that thing is ugly, it looks way better than the retroUSB in my opinion. I love toploaders and that thing is small and compact. Also that thing does native 1080p unlike the retroUSB if I understood the OP correctly, which eliminates scalers for 1080p TVs thus reducing input lag.

Ouch that price though.
 

sixteen-bit

Member
Aug 16, 2006
169,296
26
0
I've been testing out the Mini as well, and I'm pretty impressed. Even if it's a clone system, it seems extremely accurate, and it feels much less like a patchwork hack than the HDMI mod for the original Nt did.

I can see where most people would look at the price on this versus the AVS and go with the AVS. The Mini is definitely for people who want to tinker and fine-tune their experience, whereas the AVS is a no-fuss option. The big, obvious advantage the Mini has over the AVS, in my opinion, is that it offers 240p analog output for play on CRT sets. You can even output simultaneously via HDMI and RGB, so you can capture high-definition video of games that require a CRT (Zapper/R.O.B. games), something that I had to jump through some ridiculous hoops to pull off for my Zapper/R.O.B. Good Nintentions videos.

I did a live stream yesterday in which I showed off the system's HDMI features for 15-20 minutes — jump to 24:15 if you want to skip to the meat of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5z22btgO_c

Nice. That dual video output sounds like a great solution to capture headaches on other hardware configurations.
 

Battlesmurf

Member
Jun 23, 2014
662
4
460
California
I absolutely loved the first version. This seems like it fixed the one or two minor complaints I had for that (save for the price). Excited to hear more impressions and jump in.
 

ToastyFrog

Inexplicable Treasure Hate
Nov 21, 2004
1,220
1
0
SF, CA
Nice. That dual video output sounds like a great solution to capture headaches on other hardware configurations.

Yeah, I recognize that only a tiny fraction of a percentage of people have similar capture needs to my own, but this thing is a godsend for the tiny fraction.
 

New002

Member
Sep 7, 2013
4,343
1
505
Thanks for the impressions! I've been following this for a while, trying to decide how I want to handle my NES set-up, and this is definitely in the running.
 

NOLA_Gaffer

Banned
Jun 15, 2015
12,235
1,329
730
I've been testing out the Mini as well, and I'm pretty impressed. Even if it's a clone system, it seems extremely accurate, and it feels much less like a patchwork hack than the HDMI mod for the original Nt did.

I can see where most people would look at the price on this versus the AVS and go with the AVS. The Mini is definitely for people who want to tinker and fine-tune their experience, whereas the AVS is a no-fuss option. The big, obvious advantage the Mini has over the AVS, in my opinion, is that it offers 240p analog output for play on CRT sets. You can even output simultaneously via HDMI and RGB, so you can capture high-definition video of games that require a CRT (Zapper/R.O.B. games), something that I had to jump through some ridiculous hoops to pull off for my Zapper/R.O.B. Good Nintentions videos.

I did a live stream yesterday in which I showed off the system's HDMI features for 15-20 minutes — jump to 24:15 if you want to skip to the meat of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5z22btgO_c

Awesome, thanks for the impressions and video.

I think what I'm likely gonna do is go for the RetroUSB AVS now and leave the Nt Mini as a future upgrade path should I decide I want more features and options.
 

hedorah

Neo Member
May 13, 2010
6
0
0
This means you could put a NES/Famicom CPU and GPU gates into the chip, and it’ll behave exactly like the real thing, at accurate speed.

This continues to be a popular misnomer. The first versions of the At Games Genesis units were FPGA's as well and we all know how well those turned out.

Hopefully people will continue to update this thread with reviews, especially in regards to accurate sound emulation.
 

Marty Chinn

Member
Jun 6, 2004
31,449
0
1,585
Don't agree with those who said that thing is ugly, it looks way better than the retroUSB in my opinion. I love toploaders and that thing is small and compact. Also that thing does native 1080p unlike the retroUSB if I understood the OP correctly, which eliminates scalers for 1080p TVs thus reducing input lag.

Ouch that price though.

I think it looks fine with Famicom carts, but it's definitely an eyesore with NES carts. The reverse is true on the RetroUSB AVS.
 

NOLA_Gaffer

Banned
Jun 15, 2015
12,235
1,329
730
I love that wireless controller in theory, but the two extra buttons are just ridiculous.

Does anyone make something comparable with only two buttons?
 
Dec 6, 2008
3,424
0
755
They fail to justify their pricetag with this. It looks nice, I suppose, but it has zero charm. The AVS recalls the NES while looking modern. This is just a block of aluminum. It does nothing that the AVS doesn't do.* Calling the 8BitDo thing an upgrade or a differentiator is kind of carny, as that's one Amazon Prime click away. Really, it seems that the only reason to buy this thing is if you have an extra $250 or so that you just hate having in your pocket, or you're just REALLY into brushed aluminium. I don't know what a "luxury gaming device" is. You're not treated to any different sensory experience, especially considering the main interactive piece - the controller - is from a third party. I just don't get it. The AVS eats Analog's lunch.

* Yes, this does 1080 while the AVS does 720...however, the NES' resolution is 256x240... 720 is perfectly divisible by 240. 1080 is not. 720 is the better resolution for NES.
 

Vital Tundra

Member
Apr 13, 2015
8,032
5
0
Wilmington, NC
Not only is that expensive, but its ugly as hell. Why wouldn't they think of a better way to put in the cartridges that didn't involve them just standing upright? Such a small flat device with a protruding cartridge should not be a thing.
 

Decider

Member
Sep 18, 2012
1,068
0
0
Not only is that expensive, but its ugly as hell. Why wouldn't they think of a better way to put in the cartridges that didn't involve them just standing upright? Such a small flat device with a protruding cartridge should not be a thing.

I'd like to see the black version, even if living in the UK means I'm subject to insane shipping costs.
 

F34R

Member
Sep 11, 2010
1,604
0
865
South Carolina
Congrats :) have a good wasted evening

When did you order yours? and did it say "pre-order" when you did?

Yes, pre-order on Jan 4. 2017.

I'm updating the firmware on it now. It wasn't displaying on any HDMI tv.

edit lol;
Update complete, now it's displaying just fine.
 

F34R

Member
Sep 11, 2010
1,604
0
865
South Carolina
Thanks, and that must have been a tense few minutes :D

Twas! lol. Now I'm stressing over the lag when using HDMI. :( It is noticeable when playing PunchOut!, but playable with Super Mario Bros. I need to hook this to my CRT, but I don't have anything to go RGB to Component/composit, and my crt doesn't have a 15pin input. :( Ugh.
 

AgeEighty

Member
Aug 2, 2014
3,696
1
0
www.andytatnall.com
I got mine today, and the first game I booted up was Zelda II, which is the only cartridge I still own from when I originally owned the NES as a kid. All the others I had then I sold away (stupid), and the ones I have now I bought later. Other than Zelda II.

My old game saves are STILL THERE. I can't believe the battery has held on for thirty years. I'm almost afraid to play, in case it's barely hanging on.

I hope Analogue manages to implement save states soon, so that I can preserve those saves indefinitely.

And as for the unit itself, it's awesome so far. It's so sleek, and the options are almost everything I wanted. I asked them to put the FirebrandX color palette in as an option, and I was really pleased to see that they set it as the default. The 5x scaling is perfect, and the scan line feature is nicely customizable. Hopefully they can implement save states and 4K output in the future.

My only disappointment is with the NES30 controller. It seems pretty responsive for the most part, but I've had a few times when I kept running for half a second after letting off the D-pad. I might have to look into another solution.

* Yes, this does 1080 while the AVS does 720...however, the NES' resolution is 256x240... 720 is perfectly divisible by 240. 1080 is not. 720 is the better resolution for NES.

It's still being converted to 1080p with AVS, it's just leaving the TV to do the scaling rather than being done natively on the unit, which is generally an inferior solution. Analogue have also said they can update to 4K output in the future, which is also perfectly divisible by 240. AVS to my knowledge doesn't have that capability, nor does it have RGB output. At any rate, saying AVS "eats Analogue's lunch" is grossly inaccurate.
 

Weevilone

Member
Nov 11, 2011
3,473
0
0
It does nothing that the AVS doesn't do.*

* Yes, this does 1080 while the AVS does 720...however, the NES' resolution is 256x240... 720 is perfectly divisible by 240. 1080 is not. 720 is the better resolution for NES.

Doing 240p via analog RGB is something the AVS doesn't' do, right? And regardless of how you feel about 720p, it's got to get to 1080p for just about anyone's display. That's just one more conversion for the AVS. Not to mention that most of the old 720p displays weren't even actually 720p.

It's definitely not for everyone, but I think the above comments just aren't really on the mark.
 

Chittagong

Member
Jun 8, 2004
19,295
5,090
2,110
I got mine today, and the first game I booted up was Zelda II, which is the only cartridge I still own from when I originally owned the NES as a kid. All the others I had then I sold away (stupid), and the ones I have now I bought later. Other than Zelda II.

My old game saves are STILL THERE. I can't believe the battery has held on for thirty years. I'm almost afraid to play, in case it's barely hanging on.

Ha, I had the same thing! My Legend of Zelda saves from 1988 still working. Insane.
 

SScorpio

Member
Apr 24, 2012
481
94
655
Doing 240p via analog RGB is something the AVS doesn't' do, right? And regardless of how you feel about 720p, it's got to get to 1080p for just about anyone's display. That's just one more conversion for the AVS. Not to mention that most of the old 720p displays weren't even actually 720p.

It's definitely not for everyone, but I think the above comments just aren't really on the mark.

720p does have a benefit though. It's a 3x scale of 4K, so 6x 240 is a perfect integer scale to 4K. 1080p -> 4K is just 2x, but 240p -> 1080p is 3.5x. So a 240p -> 1080p upscaled to 4K wouldn't look as good on a 4K screen.
 

televator

Member
Sep 21, 2011
10,849
1
0
* Yes, this does 1080 while the AVS does 720...however, the NES' resolution is 256x240... 720 is perfectly divisible by 240. 1080 is not. 720 is the better resolution for NES.

At this s point, what we're talking about is 240p nearest neighbor but non integer scaled to 1080p (Analogue) Vs 240p NN scaled to 720 (AVS) and then non integer plus bilinear scaled by your TV. One is worse than the other, but neither is ideal.

Edit: It may be possible, however, that advanced aspect ratio options on the Analogue could make the picture line up for an integer @ 1080 with some cut off. I'm not informed on what the Analogue can do in this regard though.
 

Mega

Banned
Oct 31, 2007
3,689
1
0
At this s point, what we're talking about is 240p nearest neighbor but non integer scaled to 1080p (Analogue) Vs 240p NN scaled to 720 (AVS) and then non integer plus bilinear scaled by your TV. One is worse than the other, but neither is ideal.

Edit: It may be possible, however, that advanced aspect ratio options on the Analogue could make the picture line up for an integer @ 1080 with some cut off. I'm not informed on what the Analogue can do in this regard though.

The Analogue NT Mini's 1080p is an integer resolution and the correct aspect ratio via the horizontal adjustment option. You can do 4x (windowed 960p, also available on the Hi-Def NES mod) and 5x (fullscreen 1200p which only crops off overscan/junk pixels, unique to the NT Mini). It's perfect and hands-down objectively better.

The AVS is 720p integer but you lose that sharpness with 768p and 1080p monitors because of the noninteger TV upscale + bilinear filtering like you mentioned. It's not as bad at 1440p and 4K: integer scale but still bilinear filtering softens the picture a bit. The problem with the AVS is that you cannot get the correct aspect ratio (5:4, 6:5) at 3x/720p. If you try to force it you get uneven horizontal pixels which leads to a shimmering/wavy effect. To do away with that side effect you're forced into using 1:1 which is too skinny or 4:3 which is too wide.

I don't mean to shit on the AVS either. It's a great option at less than half the cost of the Mini.
 

televator

Member
Sep 21, 2011
10,849
1
0
The Analogue NT Mini's 1080p is an integer resolution and the correct aspect ratio via the horizontal adjustment option. You can do 4x (windowed 960p, also available on the Hi-Def NES mod) and 5x (fullscreen 1200p which only crops off overscan/junk pixels, unique to the NT Mini). It's perfect and hands-down objectively better.

The AVS is 720p integer but you lose that sharpness with 768p and 1080p monitors because of the noninteger TV upscale + bilinear filtering like you mentioned. It's not as bad at 1440p and 4K: integer scale but still bilinear filtering softens the picture a bit. The problem with the AVS is that you cannot get the correct aspect ratio (5:4, 6:5) at 3x/720p. If you try to force it you get uneven horizontal pixels which leads to a shimmering/wavy effect. To do away with that side effect you're forced into using 1:1 which is too skinny or 4:3 which is too wide.

I don't mean to shit on the AVS either. It's a great option at less than half the cost of the Mini.

Thanks for clearing that up. I was not aware of the windowed option being supported. This is truly ideal and actually makes the Analogue possibly the definitive NES iteration for the modern era in my book.
 

F34R

Member
Sep 11, 2010
1,604
0
865
South Carolina
Hmm.. there's so much play even with the cart seated properly. Also, my dang SMB NES cart plays just fine on the NES hardware, but I have to slightly torque it to not have any video issues with the NTmini.

The controller works pretty decent, but the original is definitely better in my hands. The wireless controller works well on the original NES hardware too lol.
 

Beer Monkey

Member
Mar 3, 2005
23,925
5
1,225
Cincinnati
www.tehbias.com
Quick thoughts (1.8 firmware).

Scanline multiple modes: Original and 4X seem to be the exact same thing right now. 3x and 5x are useless as they split pixels inconsistently (not that I'm a fan of splitting pixels at all). 2x seemed OK at quick glance, need to look at it more.

Scanline depth is weird too as it is blending lines which makes for colors that aren't present in the original rasters.

It would be nice to be able to change the actual thickness instead of "depth" if you want.

This thing is on even when it's not on, which can make for awful HDMI noise (and keep auto-switches engaged when they shouldn't be).

I like it, but there's room for improvement.

The VRC6 audio in Akumajo Densetsu is great.

A quick snap off the 2008 Kuro.