A Look Inside an Atari Retro Handheld Console


April 21, 2022

2600 atari console handheld


The last couple of years have seen a boom in retro-inspired consoles, with Sega, Nintendo and Sony all getting in on the act.

Atari, meanwhile, have never been shy about releasing licenced hardware, with dozens of devices released over the past two decades.

One of the more recent Atari licenced handhelds is the Blaze Atari Retro Handheld console. Initially released in 2018, the handheld device contains games from the once-popular Atari 2600.

There are two versions of the handheld – and I have both. We’ll take a look at what’s inside, and see what’s different between the two.

And if want to see more of these consoles, take a look at our video, where we attempt to repair a couple of these Blaze handhelds.

First Impressions

On the outside, both consoles are designed to invoke memories of the wood grain on the front of the 2600. The colour of the buttons, switches and front section also hark back to the original.

The cover on the back provides access to the battery bay, which takes 4x AAA batteries.

Along the top of the device, you’ll find the power switch, volume wheel, and video output jack. This output jack requires a specific type of composite cable, so I’ll be unable to test this.

The display is a 2.4″ no frills LCD. The brightness is fine, and the screen quality seems adequate for a low-cost device. Let’s not forget, we’re running 30 year old games here – the display doesn’t need to be high res.

That’s about it from the outside, so let’s open them up and see what’s contained within.

A Look Inside

Now, with both models at my disposal, we’ll take a look at each, and see if there are any differences hardware-wise between the two.

50 Game Model

To begin with, let’s look at the original 50 game model.

Inside the console
Inside the console.

The console features an Allwinner F1C100s ARM-based SoC. While this is not a great SoC performance wise, it’s a world away from the MOS Technologies 6507 of the original.

The audio and video outputs both use the exact same type of jack. Doesn’t mean anything, I just found that interesting to note. Most likely, this is done to lower costs by reducing the part count.

The speaker us attached to a separate audio board, though curiously, the volume wheel is situated on the main board instead. Hot glue is used to secure the connection, which honestly, seems a bit of a mess. Solder joints shouldn’t really need reinforcing with hot glue.

On the right-hand side of the board, we find a micro USB connector – which is hidden behind the shell. There’s no space to plug a micro USB device in to the board. I would speculate that this could have been used to load the software onto the device.

Just above the CPU, there is a footprint which looks very much like an SD socket, though it’s not populated. There’s no way on this board to expand the storage, so it’s interesting to see this footprint in place. I might take a look at this in the future, to see if there’s a way to fit a socket and add extra storage to the console.

60 Game Model

Now to the newer 60 game model, seen above the original.

Comparison of the consoles
The consoles together, newer model on top.

The majority of the hardware is identical, with the same SoC powering both devices.

The most noticeable difference is the addition of the SD card slot on the 60 game model, with the pinout of the original moved to the edge of the board. It’s essentially swapped places with the micro USB port, which is now located just above the SoC. The SD card can be used to add extra games, albeit with no guarantee they’ll run correctly.

Among other changes, we see the battery connector has been rotated so it is now lying flat against the board.

Flipping the board over, we see the screen has been mounted differently, with the flex PCB now flat with the set of pads on the other side used to connect it to the board. The screens themselves are the same, and are cross-compatible between the consoles. Just remember to check the PCB orientation to mount the screen correctly for your model.

Test Drive

Now, I’ll be honest, the games on this thing didn’t exactly blow me away. But then, the original Atari consoles these games were designed for predate me by a decade or two.

For anyone who grew up with these games, they should invoke a degree of nostalgia, given that the machine is emulating the original titles.

The controls feel fine, and while the shell feels rather cheap, the light weight and standard handheld form factor make for a fairly comfortable playing experience.

It’s certainly playable, and I can see someone with an interest in Atari titles enjoying playing them on one of these consoles.

Should I Buy One?

If you didn’t grow up with Atari, then I would suggest not. The game experience is naturally a world away from even the most simple mobile games, and you’ll find yourself losing interest rather quickly.

But, that’s not who this is aimed at.

If you’re after a bit of nostalgia on the go, then, maybe. There are so many Atari-licenced retro consoles out there, and there’s not a lot to separate this from the rest. The ability to add games to the 60 game model might seem appealing, but without being able to modify the emulator there’s no guarantee these games will run properly.

Unless you really like the layout of the controller, a bluetooth controller paired with a smartphone emulator would provide a better experience – and if you already own both, at no extra cost.

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