Articles

Analogue Nt mini – The Ultimate Nintendo FPGA console?:: RGB307 / MY LIFE IN GAMING

October 7, 2019


The Nt mini by Analogue is perhaps the most
robust machine ever made for playing games
from the Nintendo Entertainment System, offering
nearly every feature we would want in an NES
alternative.
But we’ve already got RGB mods in our NESes
and Famicoms… and the Hi-Def NES kit offers
an excellent HDMI option.
The AVS by retroUSB is pretty darn capable
in its own right… and of course we’ve
even looked at Nintendo’s own NES Classic
Edition.
So when it comes to the Nt mini, is RGB and
HDMI in the same system even enough to get
us excited at this point?
The Nt mini is marketed as THE premium console
for playing your NES and Famicom games, and
it comes with a pretty premium price tag too.
But what if it was actually more than an NES
and Famicom machine?
Much more.
Well that kinda changes everything, doesn’t
it?
Let’s take a look at what the Analogue Nt
mini is truly capable of.
[MUSIC: “Principle” by Matt McCheskey]
Based in Seattle, Washington, Analogue has
built its brand around classy-looking consoles
like a wooden Neo Geo MVS and of course the
Analogue Nt – an NES and Famicom with an aluminum
body.
The first Analogue Nt had a fairly limited
production run – it took real processing chips
from Famicom and NES consoles that were in
bad shape on the outside and integrated them
into a custom motherboard – making, what is
for all intents and purposes, an authentic
NES… but with high quality video output.
Obviously this sort of console couldn’t
be manufactured long-term, and thus enters
the Nt Mini.
The Nt mini is slightly smaller than the original
Nt… but it’s not exactly tiny or lightweight.
At a glance, you might even think it was the
exact same console.
The most infamous issue with the original
Nt were that the slots could scratch your
cartridges, but thankfully the Nt mini’s
dust flaps have been extensively redesigned
with bevels and smooth ribs to minimize contact.
Scratching seems to be a non-issue.
Flip the system for what might be my favorite
part…at least when it comes to aesthetics.
This is where you get a hint of the inner
workings.
As you may already know, the Nt mini is not
original hardware, but it’s not emulation
either.
We spent a chunk time in our episode about
the retroUSB AVS explaining what FPGAs are
and how they’ve pretty much blown the doors
wide open for what we can do with retro gaming
hardware.
The short explanation is that they’re highly
versatile user-programmable integrated circuits
that have provided the basis for mods like
the Hi-Def NES and Ultra HDMI.
They can also be used to completely simulate
another hardware configuration – in this case,
the NES and Famicom.
This is an important distinction from emulation
because the relationship between the game
and hardware is approximated at a much deeper
level, leading to greater potential for accuracy.
Even when an emulator appears to be operating
perfectly, it is still at the mercy of unpredictable
system cycles, and can’t truly run parallel
tasks in the way that a hardware solution
does.
Emulation also requires additional layers
between the game and your TV such as a framebuffer,
which can reduce responsiveness.
But of course, the accuracy of all this depends
on the knowledge of the one who programs it,
and the Nt mini’s secret weapon is Kevin
Horton – better known as Kevtris.
Kevtris’s most famous work is possibly his
Hi-Def NES kit, but his history with the retro
gaming tech community goes way back.
One of his greatest passions has been developing
retro console cores to run on FPGA hardware
– which is only just now starting to reach
a wider potential audience.
He’s already had Famicom games running on
FPGA hardware for more than a decade[a], so
needless to say it was a no-brainer for Analogue
to contract his services in configuring the
Nt mini’s FPGA.[b]
Analogue sent us our review unit ahead of
release so that we could give feedback, comment
on features, and identify any issues – for
instance, we discovered that the Famicom versions
of Dragon Quest I and II had no sound – something
that was able to be addressed in a firmware
update released the very next morning.
We’ve seen Kevtris react quickly to bug
reports on forums, and Analogue has told us
that fixing things like this is a non-issue.
Their ultimate goal is to be “reference
quality” for NES and Famicom games.
As you might’ve guessed by this point, the
NES’s functions seem to be simulated on
the Nt mini with stunning accuracy – even
visual quirks like Mega Man 3’s horizontal
line on the boss select screen act just like
they do on original hardware.
Like with the AVS, the Nt mini does not dump
the ROM to run the game – it interacts with
the cartridge in realtime just like a real
NES.
It’s pretty awesome that it plays the carts
for real, but the downside of course is that
dirty contacts can result in the same sort
of scrambled image that NES fans have long
been familiar with.
In fact, this is our greatest frustration
with the Nt mini.
The connectors are surprisingly picky, moreso
with the NES slot than the Famicom slot…
at least on our unit.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of isopropyl
alcohol and Q-tips.
And just when you think your game is clean
enough… you’ll probably have to give it
another pass.
Games that had no trouble running on a toploader
NES or AV Famicom took a lot of extra work
for the Nt mini.
Maybe we’re crazy, but sometimes it seems
like shifting the cartridge up just a bit
can help.
Y’know, this might’ve been kind of annoying,
but at least all of Try’s games are clean
now.
A lot of people will be glad to know that
Analogue made a point of supporting flash
carts – good news because some flash carts
had issues with the first Analogue Nt.
The EverDrive N8 worked perfectly for us…
well, after we got it cleaned up of course.
We’re told that the PowerPak is also confirmed
to work exactly as it does on original hardware.
However, the FDS Stick – a flash drive for
the Famicom Disk System RAM Adapter – did
not work very well in our testing, with code
quickly corrupting as the games ran.
Analogue tells us they’re hoping to figure
out what’s up with that and get it working
correctly through firmware updates.
But you know what?
All this flash cart stuff might not even matter.
This SD card slot on the side of the system
has a lot of unadvertised potential – as does
the system as a whole.
But before we get to that… let’s actually
take a look at the system interface and how
the results compare to other options for playing
NES games in HD or RGB.
Alright let’s do that spin to the backside
– there’s the Famicom expansion port, microphone
port for certain Famicom games, analog audio
output, analog video output (multiple standards
supported), and of course HDMI.
This is kind of a big deal because with the
original Nt or a regular NES, you have to
choose between an RGB mod or Kevtris’s HDMI
kit… they cannot coexist in the same system.
It’s a little bit of a bummer that analog
video and HDMI video cannot be output at the
same time, but there is a reason for this.
Analog output on the Nt mini operates exactly
like a real NES, at 60.08Hz.
That’s just a tiny bit faster than the NTSC
standard, but analog displays take it like
it’s no big deal.
Digital displays on the other hand, don’t
always handle out-of-spec variations very
well.
To ensure compatibility and the smoothest
possible gameplay on any HDTV, the Nt mini
actually downclocks very slightly while using
HDMI output – 60.08Hz to 60Hz even.
That’s a pretty negligible speed difference,
but it is something to keep in mind for hardware
purists.
Most people will probably only use HDMI, so
let’s take a closer look at what settings
are offered for digital output.
The system menu will feel familiar to anyone
who’s seen a Hi-Def NES in action – this
is Kevtris’s work after all.
Once you’ve got a game running, you can
bring up the menu anytime using a button combination
of your choosing, and immediately see the
results of any changes you make.
Well then, it’s about time we looked through
these Video Settings.
The first three options are incredibly intertwined,
and the ideal settings for each depend on
which resolution you’re using.
Here you’ve got the expected 480p, 720p,
1080p, along with the equivalent 50Hz PAL
modes.
Here are our basic recommended HDMI settings:
1080p resolution… with a 1080p height of
5X at a vertical position of around 12 for
most games… and a width of 6X.
But let’s dig a little deeper to explain
why.
The 1080p Height setting only does anything
when you’ve set the system to 1080p.
The default height is 4X.
The NES vertical resolution of 240 times 4
is 960, so the entire image will be visible
on a 1080p screen, along with some black bars
at the top and bottom.
Use this mode if you absolutely must see everything,
and don’t mind a smaller picture.
We don’t particularly recommend 4.5X.
The entire 1080p height will be filled and
none of the image will be lost, but the pixel
rows will be uneven, creating a shimmering
effect as the screen scrolls vertically.
4.5X fills the 1080p height exactly, but with
uneven pixel rows.
This causes a shimmer effect as the screen
scrolls vertically.
We’d say this mode is best avoided, but
depending on the speed of the game, it may
not be very noticeable.
5X however, is one of my absolute favorite
features in the Nt mini system.
This is something that Kevtris was not able
to implement in the Hi-Def NES due to the
limitations of the FPGA controlling the HDMI
output, but the more powerful FPGA that operates
the Nt mini makes it possible.[c]
240 times 5 is 1200, so you’re missing a
few lines of the NES image[d].
However, this is completely acceptable in
my opinion because most of that lost picture
information was expected to be lost in the
first place, due to CRT televisions’ overscan
area.
This lets the game appear much larger, and
nothing important is lost in almost all cases.
To me, a vertical height of 12 feels comfortable
in most games, but if something important
is pushed just a bit off screen – like this
selection arrow in Conquest of the Crystal
Palace – you can nudge it up and nothing important
seems to be missing at the top.
But there’s an advantage to a vertical 5X
scale beyond simply filling more of the screen
– it also helps make it possible to get a
clean horizontal scale that’s fairly close
to the correct NES aspect ratio.
We’ve gone over the issue of NES aspect
ratio and horizontal shimmer in quite a few
episodes by now.
Using the NES Classic Edition’s 4 by 3 mode
as an especially obvious example, you get
this crazy shimmer effect in some digital
representations of retro games due to pixel
columns beings drawn at inconsistent widths.
This is because a lot of games from this era
(including all NES games) are technically
not supposed to have square pixels.
If you’re used to emulated NES, then this
might look right to you, but to those who
grew up playing NES on a CRT, it looks too
skinny.
Now mind, in spite of video standards, every
CRT will draw the image a bit differently,
but just using this one for reference, you
can see that matching the width on the Nt
mini results in a non-integer scale, which
will cause shimmering.
The Nt mini can’t do any light smoothing
to the horizontal axis, so the only solution
is to use an integer scale instead.
If you’re into the skinny emulator look,
then match 4X vertical to 4X horizontal, or
5X vertical to 5X horizontal.
But if that doesn’t seem quite right to
you, go just a bit wider with 4X vertical
and 5X horizontal… or, as we recommend,
5X vertical and 6X horizontal.
This makes pixels 1.2 times wider than they
are tall, which is very close to what you
might observe on a real CRT.
It’s fatter than my PVM, but it’s the
closest you’re gonna get with integer scaling
on a 1080p screen.
Regardless of any slight discrepancy, once
I start playing for real, I think it looks
completely natural.
Most footage in this episode uses the 5X / 6X
setting.
If that’s still not doing it for you, one
more trick would be to set the vertical height
at 4X and horizontal to 6X… and then squish
it back by setting your TV aspect to 4 by
3.
I wish it were bigger, but it looks pretty
darn accurate to me, and doesn’t cause any
shimmering.
At 720p, vertical height doesn’t apply because
it’s always a perfect 3X scale from 240p
to 720p.
In this case, you’re stuck with a too-skinny
3X and a too-fat 4X for viable horizontal
scale options.
At 480p, you’d better stick with 2X wide
because the uneven pixel columns become really
obvious at non-integer sizes.
Whew!
OK, the rest of the video options, I think
we can get through these pretty quick!
Cropping is for cutting out some of the junk
at the edges of the screen that can occur
in a lot of NES games – doesn’t bother me,
but I know this is a crucial feature for a
lot of people.
Scaling simply applies various types of smoothing,
if you’re into that.
Nothing complex like a CRT filter, since stuff
like that would require a framebuffer and
post-processing and add input lag.
The requisite Scanlines option of course adds
in blank lines to simulate the 240p look from
CRT televisions.
Don’t fuss with 2X, 3X, and all those…
setting for “Original” automatically places
the dark lines where they should be based
on your vertical sizing.
Scanline depth adjusts how dark the effect
is.
One feature we’d like to see implemented
is a gamma adjustment like the Ultra HDMI
for N64 has – it’s really helpful for balancing
the darkened image.
As we’ve demonstrated before on other devices,
720p really seems to hit the sweet spot for
scanline thickness, so consider using 720p
if you’re a scanline junkie.
In fact, all backgrounds in this episode are
screen grabs from the Nt mini operating at
720p.
Another of the Nt mini’s best features is
the Palette menu.
Colors that run out of an original NES do
not have defined RGB values, so how the composite
colors should be translated into RGB is a
mix of observation, interpretation, and perhaps
nostalgia for your crappy childhood CRT.
As a result, NES aficionados all have pretty
different ideas about how the system’s limited
colors “should” look.
And thankfully, the palette menu makes it
easy to suit your own taste.
I think Analogue made a wise choice in using
one of FirebrandX’s NES palettes as the
default – a palette he created by carefully
capturing the exact colors output over composite
from a North American NES.
Personally, I love it, but what if you consider
it an affront to your deeply-held belief that
the sky in Super Mario Bros. should, under
absolutely no circumstances, have even the
slightest twinge of a purple hue?
Fair enough, a lot of CRTs do show it that
way.
Well, the great thing is that you load up
any other NES palette .PAL file via the SD
card slot and get something to suit your taste.
You can download more of FirebrandX’s work
at FirebrandX.com, which includes a “semi-official”
RGB palette, captured from the NES Classic
Edition.
Or you can find a bunch bundled with emulators,
like this palette inspired by some Sony TVs,
which…
hey – sure enough, there’s that bright blue
Mario sky you were looking for.
While it’s not officially a video setting,
one more thing we’d like to point out is
the Number of Sprites in the System menu.
Just like with the AVS, you can increase the
number of sprites that the system can handle,
significantly reducing flicker when too many
sprites are lined up in a row.
We don’t know of any specific examples,
but some games may behave incorrectly with
this setting.
Of course, if you’d rather play on a CRT,
the Nt mini delivers an authentic 240p experience
– running at the true NES refresh of 60.08Hz.
Now, you might be a bit confused by the analog
out port, which looks like VGA – the connection
is technically called DE-15.
The Nt mini uses this port to output composite,
S-video, component, and a few varieties of
RGB.
No analog cables are included with the system,
but Analogue based the system pinouts on a
selection of cables available at Monoprice…
so if you want RGB, get the VGA to 5-BNC cable…
if you want YPbPr, get the VGA to component
cable… and then composite and S-video are
combined into a single cable.
Note that these are NOT VGA signal converters.
They are simple inexpensive cables designed
for devices that are already capable of sending
their respective signals through a VGA-style
port.
If you want to make your own cable, Analogue
has pinouts outlined in their support documents.
Retro Gaming Cables in the UK already took
matters into their own hands and made a SCART
cable for the Nt mini.
We use SCART from all of our other consoles,
so this makes things a lot more convenient.
Unfortunately, if you were hoping to connect
to a computer monitor with a regular VGA cable,
you are sadly out of luck – this port does
not output the necessary 31kHz signal.[e]
Since the Nt mini already has a great picture
for HDTVs over HDMI, we’re going to assume
that you’re planning to use a CRT for any
analog connections.
Let’s start with RGB on a PVM.
Needless to say, it looks pretty amazing.
When compared against a real NES equipped
with Tim Worthington’s RGB mod, the two
images are virtually indistinguishable, with
seemingly equal sharpness.
Any slight differences in color could be down
to nothing more than cabling for all we know.
When using analog output, most options don’t
do anything at all.
It’s a little disappointing that cropping
isn’t available, but I guess that just goes
to show the authenticity of the system’s
raw analog output.
However you can change the TV Standard between
NTSC and PAL, which interestingly enough does
let you play NTSC cartridges at 50Hz speed
for PAL-compatible TVs.
The default Analog RGB Mode is Composite Sync
– or CSYNC.
That’s our usual method, and the one you
typically need for a PVM.
In the case of the 5-BNC Monoprice cable,
leave the gray wire dangling and only use
the black one for sync.
Monoprice also has a 4-BNC cable, but it does
not work with the Nt mini for CSYNC.
If your hardware requires both sync wires
for horizontal and vertical sync, then choose
“Separate Sync” in the menu.
Even sync-on-green is supported if you need
it.
When using RGB output, palettes work just
like they do over HDMI, but your preferred
choice might be different on a CRT than an
HDTV.
Component output from the Nt mini is most
useful if you’re connecting to a later consumer
CRT that supports component input.
In this mode, there’s really no video settings
that you need to fiddle with other than color
palette.
As for composite and S-video output from the
Nt mini, they’re actually a lot more interesting
than you might expect.
Kevtris has configured the composite video
to replicate the composite output of a real
NES console – the same quality with the same
quirks.
In fact, the color palettes do absolutely
nothing in this mode – it simply outputs color
the same way a real NES would[f].
You may notice a slight difference here, because
NES and Famicom composite colors can vary
a bit from console to console.
As for S-video, it’s designed in much the
same way – it’s pure NES-style colors and
works exactly how a real NES S-video signal
would… if the NES supported S-video.
And yes, you can of course use light guns,
but only on a 15kHz CRT.
We also tested the Famicom 3D System glasses,
which again, you should use on a CRT.
The effect only sort of works on an HDTV.
But if you play on an HDTV, you’ve probably
been waiting to see how the Nt mini stacks
up against options like the NES RGB mod through
an upscaler, or the retroUSB AVS.
The good news is that it’s hard to go wrong.
And the Hi-Def NES mod is still a great choice
for an original hardware HDMI solution.
If you want to get into audio settings, you
can adjust individual synth channel volumes
to suit your taste, and also pan each of them
left or right for a more stereo-like sound.
You can even distort the square and triangle
waves for custom effects if you’re interested
in manipulating the NES sound chip.
We feel that sound may be somewhat further
removed from the original hardware experience
than any other aspect of the system, at least
going by default settings.
It certainly sounds good, but the output is
not quite an exact match either.
The Nt mini supports Famicom expansion audio,
but you have to do adjust some settings to
hear it.
For example, the VRC6 chip inside Akumajo
Densetsu, the Japanese Castlevania III, processes
[g]certain sounds and passes it through to
the system.
The Nt mini is capable of adding this sound
to the mix, but you’ll have to go into the
menu and turn Cartridge Audio up to a volume
level that sounds balanced.
This is the best option, but if you aren’t
using a real cartridge, you may need to go
to the “Expansion Audio Chips” menu and
choose the correct chip to hear a simulated
version instead.
It’s definitely not the same as real cartridge
audio hardware, but taken on its own, I think
the simulation still sounds good.
Google for a list of Famicom games that use
expansion audio chips if you aren’t sure
which to choose.
Many Famicom Disk System games also have expansion
audio, but when we first tested simulated
sound with the Nt mini, it was pretty harsh.
Thankfully, Kevtris has since done some nice
tweaks, but the system does not have enough
resources to apply a low-pass filter for [h]matching
the warmer sound heard when using a real FDS
RAM Adapter.
One neat bonus audio feature is the NSF Player,
which plays NSF files that you can easily
find online – raw NES sound files.
You can listen to entire soundtracks on the
Nt mini with this cool visualizer.
Well that’s pretty much everything we think
you need to know about the Analogue Nt mini’s
audio-video capabilities.
It’s an impressive achievement – a virtually
perfect NES recreation on programmed hardware,
with greatly expanded output capabilities.
But still, with options for RGB and HDMI already
being available for real NES hardware, and
far more affordable FPGA options like the
AVS, the Nt mini is a tough sell.
I mean, the thing is $450 dollars.
One nice thing is that it does come with the
8bitdo Retro Receiver and NES30 controller
which is an included value of about $50.
But I think for most people, the system is
going to have to offer a whole lot more to
justify the cost.
Well, Kevtris has one more trick up his sleeve
that might just convince you…
something that completely changes everything
about what the Nt mini is, and what it’s
truly capable of.
The week after the Nt mini started to ship,
Kevtris announced on the Atari Age forums
that he had just released his own “jailbroken”
firmware for the system – signified by the
skulls.
This allows for launching NES and Famicom
ROMs directly from the system’s SD card
slot.
Not only that, but he started to port 8-bit
FPGA cores that he’d already developed over
to the Nt mini.
This includes Master System, Game Gear, Game
Boy, Game Boy Color, Colecovision, Atari consoles,
Intellivision, and even a bunch of stuff that
hardly anyone even talks about, like the Arcadia
2001 and Gamate – around 20 complete 8-bit
console cores in all that he is preparing
to release – for FREE – for the Nt mini.
As far as Analogue is concerned, the Nt mini
is an NES and Famicom machine – but they have
nothing against Kevtris doing this on his
own, and using his firmware does not void
the system warranty.
I mean, it’s made by the guy who programmed
the Nt mini, so it’s basically official-unofficial
firmware.
It was a really cool feeling to discover that
something that had been sitting in my own
house for weeks was in fact something completely
different from what it had appeared to be,
something truly incredible, and I had no idea.
Updating with official or unofficial firmware
is easy – just put the .BIN file in the root
of your SD card, and then the system spends
a few minutes installing the new version it
when you turn it on.
Don’t worry about jumping between firmware,
because we’re told that the system is designed
to be unbrickable.
Launching NES and Famicom games is simple,
and pretty much all possible mappers are supported
– it can even play some popular fan games,
which is pretty crazy.
Game save RAM can be saved directly to the
SD card for games with a save feature, but
save states are not supported.
Launching NES and Famicom games is simple,
and pretty much all possible mappers are already
supported – it can even play popular fan games
and hacks, including some that an EverDrive
can’t.
Game save RAM can be saved directly to the
SD card for games with a save feature, but
save states are not supported.
Kevtris hopes to release about one core per
week.
The first released alternate core supports
SG-1000, Sega Master System, Game Gear, and
Colecovision… all of which run on similar
hardware.
As with the NES core, these systems output
their correct refresh of 59.91Hz over analog
output… just like their original hardware
counterparts.
As of right now, Kevtris is still in the process
of porting over his cores, with hopes to release
about one per week.
For the most part, video settings for NES
games should be good for other consoles too.
While navigating the menu system of an alternate
core, you can hit the Start button to check
core-specific settings, like FM sound for
Master System games.
While playing Game Boy games over HDMI, you
can even set for 7X vertical and 7X horizontal,
just the way I like it!
Over HDMI, settings chosen for NES games,
like vertical scaling, scanlines, and such,
generally apply to the other consoles too.
For the most part, we think NES settings should
be pretty good for other consoles.
Game Boy cores aren’t available as of the
time of this video, but in that case, you’d
want to choose 5X tall and 5X wide to get
the correct square pixel aspect ratio.
While navigating the menu system of an alternate
core, you can hit the Start button to check
core-specific settings, like FM sound for
Master System games.
For the most part, HDMI video settings for
NES games should be good for other consoles
too.
While navigating the menu system of an alternate
core, you can hit the Start button to check
core-specific settings, like FM sound for
Master System games.
Some years back, Kevtris released a piece
of hardware called CopyNES… [i]and he’s
included an FPGA version with his jailbroken
firmware.
I’m really excited to get around to dumping
my own ROMs, especially for my Famicom carts,
so I can apply translation patches full-on
legit.
If you don’t like the idea of loading ROMs
from the SD card, Kevtris is also hoping to
create and sell some inexpensive adapters
so that cartridges from other consoles can
be played for real.
One unfortunate thing though, is that BIOS
ROMs are needed for certain system cores to
run.
Technically you aren’t supposed to be downloading
these either, and they are not included with
the jailbreak firmware… you’ll need to
find them yourself and insert them into the
BIOS folder.
You can then change between different BIOSes
in the core settings, if a different one is
needed for another region’s games, for example.
Check the Readme file for each core to know
about any special requirements and quirks
that each system core might have.
Something to keep in mind is that some system
cores won’t run without a BIOS ROM.
This isn’t something that the average person
is likely to be able to dump themselves from
the original console, and even though you
might think of them as being different from
game ROMs, you still aren’t supposed to
download them.
BIOS ROMs are not included with the jailbreak
firmware… so however you might acquire one,
you have to rename it what system is expecting
(such as smsbios.bin) and insert it into the
BIOS folder.
You can then change between different BIOSes
in the core settings, if a different one is
needed for another region’s games, for example.
Check the Readme file for each core to know
about any special requirements and quirks
that each system core might have.
For years, Kevtris has actually been planning
an ultimate FPGA console he calls the Zimba
3000 – something that would be capable of
simulating not just 8-bit consoles, but also
16-bit and possibly 32-bit systems too.[j]
The Nt mini hardware then, you might think
of as an 8-bit-only preview[k] of that monster
of a machine.
It’s still probably quite a few years away,
and would require some pretty powerful FPGA
hardware, so it might even be more expensive.
But for now, I have to admit… it’s really
cool to have easy access to high quality video
signals for systems like Colecovision and
Game Gear… consoles that I otherwise currently
don’t have suitable setup for easily playing
their games.
And I love that I can feel pretty darn confident
that what I’m recording is authentic to
the functions of the original hardware.
The Analogue Nt mini may not be the first
FPGA-based game system, but it’s the first
to get firmware that allows the system to
become something else entirely.
It’s really kind of a significant moment
in the history of game preservation – giving
people easier access to some very dated consoles
through an impressive piece of flexible hardware.
This is not emulation, but rather, hardware
simulation.
Kevtris says that he doesn’t want to settle
for anything less than perfect accuracy with
any of his cores – so we’re excited to see
where the future of his FPGA work goes.
And who knew that so much of his work would
be available to us to enjoy this soon, made
possible thanks to the Nt mini.
[a]Agreed…I’m pretty sure Kevin designed
everything except the metal case.
[b]Should confirm if Kevtris only did the
FPGA programming, or if he also designed the
electronics inside the Nt Mini.
I had thought he designed the whole board
inside.
[c]I believe it was a memory limitation (not
enough memory to buffer the additional scanlines
required for 5x), and either the new FPGA
has more RAM onboard, or the NT Mini may have
external RAM (I haven’t seen any teardowns
yet).
But summarizing it as “more powerful FPGA”
isn’t wrong, per se.
[d]24 in total, to be precise, 12 on the top
and 12 on the bottom.
(1200-1080)/5=24, so your setting of 12
would be centered.
Seen another way, I think this would be 5.6%
overscan, which is well within what you’d
expect an old CRT to do.
Lon’s review mentions that RC Pro-Am has text
cut off with 5x, but that it was cut off by
almost the same amount with a real NES on
a real CRT (which he demonstrated).
[e]I forgot to mention in my review that a
cheap, basic HDMI to VGA converter (usually
around or under $20) should take care of anyone
that needs 480p VGA.
In fact, it’s probably a BETTER solution then
direct 480p VGA, since you have all the digital
tweaking available to you that the NT’s HDMI
port offers.
Most don’t add any lag either, as it’s just
a signal conversion with no buffer.
[f]I didn’t realize this!
I hope you guys show a picture of it….very
cool!
[g]creates three extra sound channels
[h]Maybe do a comparison with cart audio (passthrough)
vs it’s generated audio?
[i]The CopyNES allows to backup and upload
save files as well.
I have one on my desk now.
It can also be used to debug and help curious
types develop and fiddle with the internals
fo the NES from a PC.. don¿’t know if this
part of the functionality persisted into the
FPGA version.
But save files sure did according to the latest
interview
[j]Confirm with Kevtris if this is still the
case: he’s said that he would make sure the
Z3K supported the Neo Geo (but that the cartridge
had too many pins so it’d be ROM-only), and
he listed the Playstation as a “might be possible,
we’ll see”.
I’m going to try to find the source of this
statement regarding the Playstation.
Update 1: The Neo Geo is technically a 32-bit
console (marketed as 24-bit, the CPU was 16/32
depending on how you look at it), so if nothing
else this statement is accurate.
Still searching for the Playstation thing.
Update 2: Found it!
PS1 is “about as high end as things can go”,
and “The N64 might be doable but is probably
just out of reach”.
Here’s the post:
https://atariage.com/forums/topic/242970-fpga-based-videogame-system/page-30#entry3532086
[k]Think of it as the Zimba 2000 🙂

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