3 months ago

TinyPi Pro review

The smallest retro game console you ever saw, and you can make it yourself.

We first looked at the TinyPi – originally called the Pi0cket – way back in The MagPi #59 when it was just an interesting little project. Now the maker, Pete Barker, has put together a little kit so you can make your own extremely small game system.

This article first appeared in The MagPi 78 and was written by Rob Zwetsloot

And we do mean small – it’s designed to be the same size as a Pi Zero, albeit just shy of 20 mm deep. It’s a pretty remarkable kit in that sense: fitting a D-pad, six face buttons, and two shoulder buttons, while also including a screen and speaker in the chassis is both impressive and a tight squeeze.

As mentioned above, it does come as a kit, and you need to supply your own Pi Zero for it (GPIO pins not required), as well as a microSD card to install an operating system to.

For a project kit this small, you’d usually be required to do a little soldering yourself to ensure everything fits as intended. Not so with the Tiny Pi – in fact, the only fastening you need to do is with eight screws connecting to four spacers, and an Allen key to tighten them is supplied in the kit.

Tiny build

With something this small, you also might imagine it to be quite fiddly – and the tweezers included with the kit will hardly allay those fears. However, the only really fiddly part was attaching the (quite small) battery. The tweezers worked perfectly for that, while everything else just dropped, slotted, or clipped into place.

The packaged instructions make the build look simple, and it mostly is: unfortunately, a couple of bits are neglected in the explanation, although we’re assured that there will be very fleshed out online resources by the time its released, as well as some tweaks to the included instructions.

Tiny power

Thanks to a combination of RetroPie and the power of a Pi Zero, the TinyPi Pro has the means (and oomph) to play a wide range of emulated and homebrew games. The RetroPie setup is easy, but you need to know how to skip the controller configuration once all the available buttons are used (tip: hold down any button).

While there are more than enough buttons for the majority of games you’ll be able to play on the TinyPi Pro, actually using them all with clumsy adult mitts for some games is quite difficult. Fingers and thumbs get in the way of each other, and you’ll soon get a cramped hand from holding it in a way needed to reach the shoulder buttons. We found games that didn’t need that many buttons worked a lot better, but kids with smaller hands might be fine with the full set.

The small screen is fine, though, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a game where you’ll struggle to make out everything that actually runs on the Pi Zero.

It’s a lovely kit with a fun, quick build. The final result is impressive, but it’s not the very best thing to play games on. Still, it fits neatly in a pocket if you really need a retro hit out and about.

Verdict

8/10

A really neat kit that has a fun build and an amazing final product. It’s a little too small for giant adult fingers, but may be better suited to younger players.