A Look Inside a Mega Drive Mini


The Mega Drive Mini (Genesis Mini in North America) is a compact micro console, produced by Sega. Coming hot on the heels of the PlayStation Classic and SNES Mini, the console is aimed at gamers who want a modern way to play their favourite retro games.

The design is a faithful recreation of the original console, with the styling and decals being altered to match the original design in each region. It even includes the removable expansion slot cover, and cartridge slot flaps – it’s really does look great.

Naturally, the console is not compatible with cartridge games, what with the entire machine being narrower than a cartridge. Instead, the console is loaded with 42 games, with the list differing slightly per region. To play the games, the console makes use of an emulator.

While there is no support for the original controllers, there are instead two usb ports for use with the included USB MD style controllers.

Having recently purchased one of these consoles, I decided to take a look inside.

Initial Impressions

Opening the console is very simple. There are 6 phillips head screws holding the two halves of the case together. Removing these is enough to free the top half of the case.

The first thing I noticed was how small the board is inside the case. There’s a lot of space left inside, particularly towards the right-rear corner. If it’s possible to mod this machine in future, there’s plenty of room to add extra hardware inside.

md mini open
Inside the MD Mini.

At first glance, it appears that there is a large heatsink covering the board. In reality, it’s a flat piece of metal, that possibly serves as an RF shield alongside cooling the hardware.

It’s interesting to see that the headphone audio slider isn’t actually connected to anything on the board – it’s purely cosmetic. In hindsight, these seems a little more obvious as there’s no headphone jack. Sega have done a great job adding some resistance on the slider, as it certainly feels like it’s connected to something.

The reset button is a simple button sat directly on the board. This one actually is connected, and can be used to reset the console when you want to switch games.

Under the Heatsink

Removing the heatsink allows the board to be removed fully.

On the top side of the board, you can see all of the main components.

top of the board
The top side of the board – here we can see all of the main components.

The largest component, adjacent to the power switch, is a Samsung K9F4G08U0F 4Gb (512MB) SLC NAND flash memory, which acts as the system ROM. It’s likely there are machines out there with different memory, as these modules are often sourced from different manufacturers. The 512MB of storage is the same amount that Nintendo included on the SNES mini.

To the right of this is the chip used for the USB controller inputs.

Above the storage, we can see the SoC (CPU and GPU), which is underneath the thermal pad. The SoC is a ZUIKI Z7213, with 4 ARM Cortex A7 cores clocked at 1.3GHz, paired with a MALI 400 GPU. The MALI 400 has also seen use in all of Nintendo’s mini consoles to date. Next to this, we have the 256MB DDR3 RAM.

These specs seem impressive compared to the 7.6MHz Motorola 68000 CPU and 128KB RAM contained in the original Mega Drive, but it’s worth remembering that emulation requires a higher spec machine to perform well. This is due to the extra overheads involved.

Towards the rear, we can see a chip labelled AXP223, which is responsible for converting the 5V input into the voltage required for each component.

The final large component on this side is the HDMI encoder, used to convert the video signals from the SoC into an HDMI signal.

Turning the board over, we find very little of interest. All of the main components are present on the top side of the board.

bottom of the board
The rear of the board – not much of note on this side.


Overall, this seems to be a fairly standard design for an emulation machine. Both the PlayStation Classic and SNES Mini feature a similar overall design, albeit with different components.

It will be interesting to see if any mods are designed for this console in the future. I could see potential for adding wireless controller support, and maybe even a battery for portability given the space that is available.

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