Game Boy Pi (Game Boy mod) WIP

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by Mr.Chippy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 2:13 am
Welcome my my version of the Game Boy mod to Raspberry Pi. I am still in the planing stage for this so I will keep this up to date with my progress, as well as hopefully get some feed back from you guys.

So I have managed to find some other projects that have done this:

"The GamePi" done by FalconXY

Retroman's "Game Boy PC"

"Rasperry Gameboy" by Foobar

"Raspberry pi gameboy" created by dasimpson

All of these are in various states of completion, and have all achieved different things, but they have the elements of what I hope to accomplish. Now, I must say that this is my first hardmod of anything. I've done stuff with R/C planes, so I am not a total noob at this kind of thing, but the electronics component of the project may be a little rough.

Anyway, the goals I have set up for the project are as follows:
-Leave the Game Boy case as original as possible
-working buttons
-accessible HDMI
-63.5 mm to 88.9 mm screen
-decent battery life
-usable by itself (no keyboard or mouse required)
-powered usb hub (two accessible ports)
-ability to (hopefully) emulate up to ps1 (so basically add enough buttons to support it)
-maybe more to come....

Okay, so now to post what I have figured out. Here are some pictures of the disassembled gameboy

So I picked up this (broken) game boy from a thrift shop a while back and I think this is the perfect use for it. optimally I would like to have the Pi horizontal across the top, so that the hdmi port is accessible through the cartridge bay. Obviously there is some major dremaling that needs to happen. I don't have my Pi at the moment as it is on my schools R/C hovercraft at the moment (working as a communications system) so any physical stuff is going to have to wait.

For the buttons I plan on using the teensy micro controller to actually use the game boys buttons. Adafruit has a tutorial here they mod an snes controller to use usb, so I will do the same thing except to the buttons of the game boy. (then add a few more buttons for snes/ps1 emulation)

For the screen I plan on buying one of the cheap rear view car monitors off of ebay, as for which one, I am not sure. I would like to get a screen that is 480p, but those have larger controller boards and make it harder to fit everything. I also kinda want to do a 63.5 mm (2.5 in) screen so I can keep the plastic cover thing (though the large screen on other projects looks pretty sweet) Right now I am looking at this screen

I have seen other projects use it and there is a mod to make it run off of 5v

That brings us to power. I have looked for a decent size usb battery pack to use, but have yet to find one that is small enough, and still provides enough juice. Right now I am looking at creating my own battery pack consisting of either a 2.6 AH LiPo or a 6.6 AH LiI
It really depends on how much space I have. 3D modeling of things shows me that the larger battery should fit. I will run two voltage boosters, one for the screen, and one for the Pi (then maybe another for the usb hub) I hope to use this booster. It is only rated for 300mA on the site, but the IC it is using can go up to 2A and people have said it works fine under higher loads. The battery will be charged with a lipo charger from adafruit

So that is about all I got right now. My Pi will be tied up at school for another week or so, so I plan on buying the stuff to make the keys work in the mean time. I have also considered buying a model A, as it uses less power, but it doesn't ship to Canada yet so that sucks. Dose any of you know, if I don't use the Ethernet port, and turn off all the network stuff on the pi, will that have the same effect of using less power?

Does it sound like this will work? or am I being to ambitious for my first hardmod?
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by chairsgotoschool » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:36 am
do you have an estimate on mA together (screen pi and usb) and how long do you want it to run for.

i read the RPI uses about 500mA, the smaller batter supplies 2600mAh so it will power the pi for about 5 hours the larger is 6600 and will power it for 10+ hours but that's the pi alone, the step up circuit will use some power, the screen and the usb hub (if you put one in) the big battery is probably the best choice or 2 small ones if the big one doesn't fit (or another battery of course) you will probably need a different dc to dc step up, that one only supplies 300 mA, i don't think the pi will run good on that, it should work for usb though, not sure about the screen (i could be wrong)
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by Mr.Chippy » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:47 pm
I haven't decided which hub to use so I don't really have any specs on that.
Apparently, after the 5V mod for the screen, it takes only 300 mA to power. The 300 mA limit is at 1.5 volt in. the LM2623 chip that the board uses is capable of up to around an amp with higher input voltage, like the 3.7 volt in from a lipo battery. The boost converter runs at between 85 and 90 % efficiency at 3.7V 300mA and between 80 and 85% efficiency at 3.7V 600mA (and greater efficiency is achieved when the battery is 4.2V fully charged) so life time would be:

Pout = (Pin)(efficiency)
(Vout)(Iout)=(Vin)(Iin)(efficiency) for this we will lump the screen and the pi together and make the efficenecy 80% (so total Iout is 0.9 A)
(5)(0.9)/(3.7)(0.8) = Iin

Iin = 1.52A

so when drawing 1.52A the large battery would last around 4.3 hours (without a usb hub)
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by Mr.Chippy » Wed Apr 03, 2013 11:12 pm
Okay, so I have been looking for a better battery solution as the one I showed before is close to 70 bucks all together. I have been looking into some things on batteries, and most extended battery chargers contain 18650 lip cells, the same ones that are in the larger battery pack I list above, so with some reworking I thing I could fit one into the game boy. I have been looking at 2 versions; the presumably 3 cell 7800mAh pack and a presumably 2 cell pack 5600mAh pack, here and here respectively. Hypothetically I should be able to fit the larger one in (if it is a three cell, 18650 cell) but I think I am going to go with the smaller, as it should leave some more room for additional buttons on the back. I want to have an extra 4 or 6 buttons hidden under the battery cover, so when the cover is on it still looks like a normal game boy (and to protect the extra buttons)

I have been thinking about button layout a bit. I would only like to add buttons to the front of the game boy if I can find some original game boy buttons. I thing that using other buttons would look pretty bad. I would like to do "shoulder" buttons either near the top at the sides, or on the back, within the battery cover.

So here you can see the additional buttons layout. Remember, there have to be six extra buttons for ps1 emulation, so with this one I would probably have either two sets of shoulder buttons up, or put one set underneath like in the picture below. If the additional face buttons don't work, what I will probably do is have two sets of buttons on the top, then another underneath.

when holding the game boy, it feels pretty natural (to me) for buttons to be there. Having these buttons there would also limit how much I dremel out of it, and also the size of the batteries I can put in. With the smaller battery pack, the 2 cells should fit between where you put your fingers, and the pcb can be moved to beside the battery case(hopefully) also, with this design, there is a good chance I won't have to remove the tab that holds the battery cover on.(it is large and sticks in about halfway through the case)
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by dasimpson » Thu Apr 04, 2013 12:52 am
few tips
to get the rpi to fit so hdmi come out of the top I was going to do this at first you need to shorten the rpi this can be done with no damage but you have to remove the lan connector and the power input connector also the lan chip can be removed from the model b very easy to lower the power draw

now power a ubec can be used you know about these with your rc background for more then me but I have read with a 1800mah 7.2v battery lasted 5 hours running the pi now you can get 3000mah so that be a total of 10 hours battery life this way you could power the usb hub then run the screen and pi from that

the screen I would change to this one 111021344806 ebay item number this would fit better and no cutting of pcb only needed it tripping the switches to control brightness etc I have scene this screen used in a Gameboy mod somewere I cont seem to find it again

to the buttons on the back is a no go you will need that space for the batterys if you could I would get hold of another game boy for the extra buttons and make a new button pcb for the extra buttons
that way you could have 6 button 2 rows of 3 infact I can give you the buttons from mine if you like as I have gone a different direction with my pi now
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by dasimpson » Thu Apr 04, 2013 1:15 am
these were the parts I used for the battery in the end
charging circuit
protection circuit
batterys I got from dead laptop
but I would get keeppower 18650 3400mah if I was to get new these have been tested I have a photo of tested batterys if you wont it like runtime at varying current draws

this pack is a 3.7v one
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by Mr.Chippy » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:03 pm
Thanks for posting, its good to have input from someone who has done the mod before.

Yeah, I was already thinking of removing the lan connector and soldering directly to the board for power. This gives a lot more space for things.

Yeah, I was looking into BEC/UBEC and the main problem there is finding a multi cell battery charger that will fit into the game boy. Also, because they are 7.4V you can't charge them from usb (very well)

My one concern with using a different screen is that all the screens that I have seen with smaller pcb's are only 240p. Now, I would think that the higher resolution would be better, because there are a few ps1 games that run at 480p (most of them are at 360p so even then there has to be some scaling on a 240p screen) You have personally done a mod, what resolution did you use? and do you know any comparisons? Is the resolution really that important?

From my measurements (with a 2 cell battery) there is a chance that the back buttons might work, though I have my doubts, I will have to wait and see when I get the parts what will work. Do you know how much it would cost to ship the extra buttons? (I live in Canada btw) if its not too much that would be great (I would pay shipping of course)

Do you know a trustworthy place to buy Li-ion batteries? a lot of the places on amazon say that the cells that they got aren't whats advertised. Like I said, most of the usb battery packs are just 18650 cell with a boost/charge/protection circuit, and from what I have seen they tend to be cheaper than buying all the stuff independently and building it myself (granted that it will probably take up a little more space)
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by dasimpson » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:22 pm
charging was my exact problem hence the 3.7 volt and boost conveter I will send buttons free of charge I will be happy to send them to some one who can make use of them rather then the bin lol the screen I had when running openelec showed at 520p could not read the menus but I did try the screen on ps2 and so on and looked great the lan port is easy broken off with out damage the lan chip you will need to remove with a heat gun they is also other parts to be removed also 2 li-ion will give you the space and if you get the right ones 6.8ah I have a image with all the 18650 batterys and makers I got ripped off with the 5000mah they were really 1100 hence after that I got them from a dead laptop
on a screen so small you really wont notice the diference is detail between each res
you will have to sand the rpi on the power side and usb side to make it fit inside the Gameboy sideways all you do is sand till the tracers start to show this wont damage anything but makes it the size you need think I showed that on my build

really my self I would go with 6 buttons on the front some perf board and metal contacts should make this quite simple to do

for the batterys try this item on ebay 2 x High Quality Keeppower 18650 3400mAh item number 171017396308 they are more like the prices you should expect for decent batterys

also to add I glued a game cartridge in for that extra room and completely tulk the batterys area out I had 4 li-ion charging circuit boost circuit and protection circuit as my batterys did not already have one then a peace of wood epoxyed in to separate batterys area from the rpi area had to remove this close to the end for a different battery pcb system
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by Mr.Chippy » Sat Apr 06, 2013 4:01 am
You serious? You would send the buttons for free? That would be sweet (just give me conformation, and I will PM you my address)
Yeah, I have my pi running off of a 10.8V NiMh battery with a bec right now, but there is no way you would find a charger that would fit into a Game Boy. I've got a heat gun, but I am not sure it will bet hot enough to remove the lan chip (the one I have is not meant for desoldering, I use it for thermal plastics). I will look to see if I can find a screen with a smaller pcb, the one you linked to does not ship to Canada (that's part of the problem too, is a lot of stuff won't ship to Canada (or it will be $30 more than it is in the US))

Yeah, I've seen some people sand down the pcb on the Pi. It makes me nervous to do, but I probably will have to to make it fit.

If I could get your extra buttons I would probably do 4 on the front, then another 2 sets as shoulder buttons up top. (there has to be 6 additional buttons for ps1 support(so 8 total)) I plan on buying extra buttons, so I won't have to make my own.

See, those look like nice cells, but again, they don't ship to Canada. I think I will just go with the usb battery pack and taking it apart.

I would like to glue in a cartridge, but I couldn't destroy any of my old ones (I still play them occasionally on my GBC)

Thank you so much for the input, I hope to order the parts early next week sometime, and I should have my Pi back in a week or so.
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by dasimpson » Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:55 am
yeah been in uk makes delivery of things so much easyer get your point about buttons I forgot ps1 had the buttons uptop old games got for cheap on ebay were I got mine do you wont just the a nd b buttons or all of them ?ill defo send them just send address in private and ill get them to you as soon as I can

now another option for power Nintendo did a battery pack that clipped onto your belt was quite a bulky thing that could be a way to go I have a pouch I were on my side made out of 10x18650 li-ions from laotps
I have charger and boost circuit in there also gives my 22000mah for the price of about 10 dollars my pi ran for a couple of days on it befor I give up seeing how long it would last lol

with the screens it kind of hit and mis it could be any number of 5 different pcb layouts 1 of them will not work on 5 volt that was my first one that I killed the second one worked fine hasent to hard to cut the pcb down and solder wire jumpers to fill in the circuit tracers I just lost control of brightness etc if your reall wonting you could just solder fine wire from one part of the pcb to the other part but that seemed to much like hard work so I did not bother
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by dasimpson » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:02 am
I wish I had access to a 3d printer that way I could of taken photos taken it into software made the case larger were needed and then printed one
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by dclems » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:44 am
I have been working on a similar build with my old broken gameboy. I will detail my personal plans for my PiBoy:

Working screen (was looking at the same rearview screen actually)
Powered USB hub
Working HDMI out
Integrated keyboard (probably bluetooth somehow integrated)
Battery powered with decent battery (having trouble with this part)

This is my first full electrical wiring/soldering project so I am going to build up from those minimum standards. I may look into that button hack that you posted, but I am not yet that good at coding, so we will see.

Can anybody give me some better ideas on the battery? My plan is to put a switch on the battery so that it can be powered off of an AC Adapter and off of battery as well. This way I can use it like a regular unaltered pi without worrying about a battery.

I dont want to invest too much money into a battery, and most of the Lipo batteries that I have been looking at are around $60+ with the addition of having to buy a Lipo charger

That said, I already have the USB power hub : ... ugable+usb

this was the USB hub recommended by many Pi users, and it is perfect for this build. It takes 5v 3amp and powers the pi perfectly, meaning that I can power all my additional devices (probably a wifi and bluetooth adapter concealed inside primarily) as well as power an external mouse/keyboard if need be. This way (I am pretty sure at least.. still learning) I can split the battery power and run a 5v dc to dc to the usb hub and run the rest to the monitor.

Since the USB hub is 3 Amp, I am probably going to want at least a 6 Amp Hour battery if at all possible to fit in there.. maybe I am being too optimistic with that, though.

Any input is greatly appreciated. I am still learning this stuff as I go.

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by dasimpson » Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:38 pm
mod the screen to 5 volt then wire that to the hub same for the pi then find a dc - dc boost circuit to power the hub for charging I have listed some parts for a cheap battery system
batterys pack of 6ah you going to be looking at 40 alone for the battery fitting the pi screen hub and battery's in the Gameboy is going to take a lot of work

when I was doing my mod I had 4 18650 batterys in a dc to dc boost converter modded lcd to 5 volt, charging system rpi a small 4 port hub that was going to run wireless and Bluetooth but befor I adder them I changed my direction of were I was going and the Gameboy mod got put on hold will they come out with better screen were text can be read
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by Mr.Chippy » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:23 am
dasimpson wrote:yeah been in uk makes delivery of things so much easyer get your point about buttons I forgot ps1 had the buttons uptop old games got for cheap on ebay were I got mine...

Thank you so much dasimpson, I will PM you shortly with my address. I think I would only need the A and B buttons.

Yeah, that was kinda my logic, get a smaller battery pack for inside the game boy, then another, larger one for extended use (plus I can use the larger one for other things too)

The 5v mod page covers the different pcbs pretty well. I think that it would work to get the larger pcb screen into the pi. like you say, some of the board can be cut out (I don't know if my soldering skills are at the level of reconnecting tracers quite yet though)

A 3d printer would be so awesome. Then I could print myself as many buttons as I wanted.
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by dasimpson » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:26 am
plus any shape container to put the parts in
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by Mr.Chippy » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:36 am
dclems wrote:I have been working on a similar build with my old broken gameboy. I will detail my personal plans for my PiBoy...

Hello dclems, it seems that you have a good idea of what you are going for (but may need some help with the power side of things). Have you come across this thread?
It covers how to convert that monitor to 5v, meaning that you can power it from usb (so straight from the usb hub) Also, that hub looks pretty big, and amazon puts the length at 11.4 cm, which is just over 3/4 the length of the game boy case. That's going to make space a little tight (unless the pcb is a lot smaller than the case)

As for the batteries, you will probably want to get either Li-Ion or Li-Po batteries. There are links to different cells and charging circuits above, from both me and dasimpson. If you want to build your own battery pack, you should look for cells called 18650 cells. They are Li-Ion cells that range from 1000mAh (1Ah) to 3300mAh (3.3Ah) any cell claiming higher capacity than approximately 3.4ish Ah is lying to you, those capacities are just not possible with current chemistry and technology levels. Any modern Li-Po/Ion batteries are rated at 3.7V. If you want higher Ah, you can rig 2 or more batteries in parallel. this essentially creates a larger 3.7V battery. Packs in parallel can be treated like a single cell battery, and thus charge them with any single cell charger. When putting batteries into parallel, they MUST be identical cells, and have the same charge level when rigging them together. If you buy unprotected cells, you must get a protection circuit, or risk the batteries catching on fire. You say you would like to have at least a 6Ah battery. That can easily be done with 2, quality cells, which will easily fit into the game boy. the 3.7V can easily be boosted to the 5V, ~700mA the Pi needs (remember though, when you boost the voltage, you have to calculate the total draw from the battery to get an accurate battery life, the boos is going to draw more current. I include a calculation on this in one of my previous posts). The problem is, what is the voltage in requirement for the hub? (never mind, you can see in the picture that it us 5V 3A) which means that boosting 3.7V is a no go. Even the most efficient booster circuits can only pump out around 2A at 5V (and to get that efficiency you need to build your own circuit). So, now you have a few options. Probably the easyest, but takes up the most space is to run 2 battery packs in series. So now you would have to have 4 cells, pair the cells in series so you get the 6Ah, then connect the 2 6Ah cells in series to increase voltage. So now you have a 7.4V 6Ah battery (also, you would have to leave the battery removable, because you can't get a 2 cell charger that will fit into the game boy). You could then run this through a BEC or UBEC which will reduce your voltage to 5V and you can get pretty powerful BECs (I have seen up to 6A BECs) This solution is large and cumbersome (though BECs are a lot more efficient than boost circuits).
Another way is to just get a 2A boost converter, and then don't draw more than 2A out of the hub(which is unlikely anyway, unless you plan on charging a bunch of tablets at once off of it) The 3A rating is not a constant draw, it is the max that it can provide. the hub won't pull more amps than is needed. (and the standard mouse and keyboard only draw around 50mA)
If you really want the 3A certification, then you could run 2 boost converters in parallel. This would cause horrible inefiencys though, because the average boost converter efficiency is 80% running 2 of them would produce a loss of 40% because power out = power in* efficiency. for 3A you are looking at 1.5A between the 2 of them so:
Wout=Win * .8
Vout*Iout=Vin*Iin*.8 (I is the symbol for current)
so to get your 3A would draw a total of ~5A! meaning that a 6Ah battery would only last 1.2 hours.
Welcome the the lovely world of power :lol:

Anyway, I would suggest either getting a usb battery pack(those are basically what you need to build, just pre-built) or build your own parallel battery. I would not advise building the 7.4 volt battery unless you know how to properly balance and charge a series battery pack (I have fried many r/c controllers and batteries(only NiMh though) due to improper balancing) And the parallel boost circuit I think is just too inefficient to be worth it (plus some boost circuits won't work in parallel) And as far as the switch thing goes, you can get chargers that let you have them plugged in to charge and run the system at the same time (its just that most lipo chargers don't charge over 1Ah, so if your power draw when charging exceeds this your battery will start to discharge to make up for the extra amps) If you want to do the switch, I would power everything through the usb hub, then have a switch that would change the power in for the usb hub from battery/charging, to straight use. this wouldn't be too hard to do with a single switch (just a lot of wires, which take up more space)

I'm impressed if you are still reading! I hope this post wasn't too long, and that it was helpful. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!
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by dclems » Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:50 am
Mr.Chippy wrote:Hello dclems, it seems that you have...

Wow, that was a very thorough reply! :D
Okay a lot of info in there and it is going to take some serious interpreting for me to understand, but that link to the screen 5v convertion will help this build out a lot! I can just take one of the usbs from the hum and power the screen off of that. That makes 1 bluetooth, 1 wifi adapter, the screen, and the raspberry pi all being capable of coming from the 1 usb hub. So I can power the hub on 2 amps? that helps a lot because 2 amps seems a lot more achievable. I am not sure how much power the bluetooth, wifi, and screen would draw, but I imagine that all of that would be less than 1 amp (just guessing on that) which would leave sufficient power to power an external keyboard or a usb stick or the like. I will probably have to make he battery removable, and I think the switch from battery to AC will be easy enough since everything is powered off of the usb hub.

I have already purchased that USB hub and tore it open. The casing had a lot of empty space in it, and the pi + usb hub should fit in there beautifully... the only space concern I have yet is whether I can fit the pi + usb hub + screen + battery... I really hope I am not being too optimistic on the battery part. I guess I could try making a battery extention in the place of the battery cover... but this is not ideal.

So the 2 amp plan that you described is probably perfect, but I am going to have to read it several times to understand haha.
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by dasimpson » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:10 am
a little trick for battery I was laid in bed last night thinking about if we have 4 cells and a 6pin switch we could effectively flick the switch to charge at 3.7v ok the pi and screen is off but when we wont to run we flick the switch to series position (on position) that then gives us 7.2 volt and are able to use a ubec for 3amps +
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by dasimpson » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:18 am
if you look at my mod forget about the batterys i used i got ripped a new one with them
i removed 1 usb port so i still had one external and the header for the other internal going to a small 4 port hub i also removed the usb ports off that and was going to do the same to wifi adapter and Bluetooth adapter i found i had room for al that under the pi also removed the sd card slot and made it so it poked out the top of the Gameboy so i could swap cards out for different duties i scraped this hole mod because the sceen was not clear enogth to read text i may take it upagain in the futer
oh don't remove the lan chip i get nothing but complaints now about hub been bad when i use one to connect keyboard and mouse that worked befor removing the lan chip

if your going to do this mod i recommend the model a just wish it had the 512mb for pentesting it is handy

my gouls for the mod was a media player pentest mobile desktop etc
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by Mr.Chippy » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:51 pm
dclems wrote:Wow, that was a very thorough reply...

Yeah, your hub should run off of less than 3A. The rating on those types of things is usually the maximum. There is a small chance that it needs a 3A start up current though. I would try taking apart a usb cable, then using the black and red wire from there to try and power the hub. If it starts you know you're good. (If you happen to have a bench power supply then that would be a lot easier) USB can only give around 500mA to 700mA so if it starts off of that the rest just means that you can add more stuff to it. The hub won't draw 3A if the stuff plugged into it only needs 200mA. I hope that makes sense, if you have any other questions feel free to ask.
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by Mr.Chippy » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:01 pm
dasimpson wrote:a little trick for battery I was laid in bed last night thinking...

This could work, you would just want to add a battery balancer circuit, or some kind of voltage monitoring circuit. What can happen in a series battety pack is if one cell becomes unbalanced (aka. its voltage drops significantly lower than the other cells) than batteries can back feed into each other, causing them to do a bunch of different things. (Sometimes nothing happens, other times fire happens and other times the current starts to run backwards and ruins all your electronics)

dasimpson wrote:if your going to do this mod i recommend the model a just wish it had the 512mb for pentesting it is handy

my gouls for the mod was a media player pentest mobile desktop etc

I would love to buy a model A for this, but A's aren't sold in north america yet (I don't think anyway)

I can see how the quality screen would matter if you wanted to do pentesting on it. For just games though the small screen should be fine, as most games have over sized font to begin with
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by dasimpson » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:17 pm
also for media the screen on xbmc was not readable the batterys idea yeah I hadent thought about that
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by dasimpson » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:21 pm
I haven't scene a for sale yet myself
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by Mr.Chippy » Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:09 am
Just a quick update, I was able to order the parts last night, so they should hopefully be here by sometime next week. Now we play the waiting game.
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by dasimpson » Thu Apr 11, 2013 6:39 am
that's the par t ihate the most
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