Published on January 30th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Retro on the Rise: Hyperkin SupaBoy Review
- Volume: Adjustable (Scroll Wheel)
- Battery Life: Five Hours (Internal Li-On Rechargeable Battery)
- Charger type: Mini USB A/C Adapter
- Screen Size: 3.5-inches
- Total Body Size: 8.5 X 4 X 2- inches
- Compatibility: Super Nintendo and Japanese Super Famicom cartridges
- Weight: 11.5-Ounces
- Sound: Stereo Output
- Price: 79.99
Review Notes: The Hyperkin SupaBoy was received for review purposes.
What is the goal of technology? Is it to make things we do, as humans, better, easier or filled with more fun? Well, if you take into account video game technology in its widely marketable state, the answer is: All of the above.
While newer technology is a fun thing to have sometimes it’s better to be basic. Don’t get me wrong, I go into a panic when my smartphone isn’t locatable in 0.5 seconds. Although my phone does many-a-magical feats, it isn’t appreciated as much as my gaming collection. Even for others outside the era of the original Super Mario Bros., it’s easy for them to relate on a basic level in that feeling of reminiscence.
For example, when I tell people that I collect retro gaming consoles or their games, I’m always asked, “So, do you have the old school Nintendo?!” Of course the answer is “yes,” but, to a retro collector, we know it’s is more than just getting old school for the sheer feeling of nostalgia.
Retro collecting is much like any other hobby. It takes some money, a keen eye and some extra time. Hobbies are meant to be fun but, most importantly, unique to the person. This is what makes hobbies enjoyable, and provides that spark of fun outside the mundane day-to-day grind. While the process can bring many high-highs (and many low-lows, stupid eBay) it can come with satisfaction. With a company like Hyperkin around, there’s no doubt those feelings will keep me in good standing and keep my collection revisited often.
Hyperkin, a company that specializes in quite a bit of “retro” fitting retro consoles, also does another thing well. The company has a hand in taking older consoles and putting a new spin on them. A few might have seen their creations in your local mom and pop game shop, or even own one. New consoles that play old school games? Well, if you’d like to throw a Super Nintendo Cartridge and play it on the go, the Hyperkin SupaBoy will do just that.
Portability seems like the first thing on people’s minds these days. We’ve grown accustomed to having those within an arm’s reach and even panic when they aren’t there. Ever feel naked when you forget your phone? Or what about leaving your laptop on a weekend trip out of town? Now, what about your SNES? This time, your old buddies Mario, Ryu and even Donkey Kong can travel by your side in their originality.
Something you’ll first notice about the SupaBoy is the console’s size. It is not the smallest handheld that Hyperkin has designed, particularly compared to its older SEGA Genesis handheld models, which is noticeable for darn sure. The design is made to resemble the North American Super Nintendo Entertainment system in terms of colors. I actually would have preferred to see it with a colored button layout as I’ve never own a Super Famicom before, but its still a cool design.
Speaking of which, the most important part of the system is the design itself. The body measures 8.5 by 4 by 1.5 inches, which is, again, large for a portable device. The screen is 3.5 inches measured diagonally. It is actually pretty bright and detailed up close. It is backlit, bright and vivid–which will immediately find a home on your nightstand. It plays in dark and low light extremely well. In direct light, however, it succumbs to the overpowering brightness of the sun. In moderate light such as a car ride, it is playable.
The speakers are located on each side in the bottom left and right-hand corners. These were OK in design, but did lose clarity when turned up to the max. It was crazy though to listen to tunes from the 16-bit era through the headphone port. I was using a set of Plantronics X95s and making good use of an auxiliary adapter.
The battery life is something many consider when purchasing a portable product. Fear not, as the SupaBoy has some of the best battery life I’ve experienced from a portable device. The company site lists it as only having five hours, however, I’ve been playing off and on for a few days. Out of the box the console received a hefty charge before picking it up and has been going strong since. Matches of Super Punch Out! and Super Mario World have allowed me to play on!
The buttons on the console match that of the Super Nintendo design. In fact, as you can see in the images, the console sports an entire design like that of the SNES controllers. The front of the console hosts ports for additional accessories. You could easily plug in another controller for co-op play on the handheld or plug it right into your TV via AV port for composite video.
In terms of design, I would say that the overall quality of the body isn’t 100 percent what I expected. While the battery life and screen quality is bar none some of the best, the punchy buttons and wonky D-pad make some games tough to play.
For example, playing Street Fighter II left me missing attack cues and top-down shooter games like Total Carnage had me trailing right into enemies. The instability is most likely due to the raised axis on the pad. Although it gives more definition in the directional buttons themselves it does have a teetering feel to it.
Overall the design is robust and fun, but not so much sleek. It would be easy to jab at the console, however, I do feel like it is unique and achieves its goal of converting an entire console from the ’90s that plays the original cartridges as bait for Nintendo lovers.
These are some definite things I would change about the design:
• Although ergonomically friendly, a slimmer design
• Capped volume control or different speakers
• More rubberized material below buttons for a more authentic feel, particularly in the ‘L’ and ‘R’ buttons
• Different location for the reset button, possibly near the top. Or even a spring loaded design similar to the SNES
• Different materials around the screen (after removing the screen guard I noticed the edges partially lifting)
Things that I wouldn’t change:
• Screen size is perfect
• AV accessible ports on the top
• Battery life. The Li-on batter is full of life
• Controller ports located on the front of the console
• Locking mechanism for cartridges
• Charging port standard and universal
Not everyone will remember the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console had a nice stretch of time where it was the go to choice for gamers. Now, it brings back feelings of nostalgia and sparks feelings of childhood splendor. In terms of a handheld that can replicate such feelings, the SupaBoy can.
Although the console might seem flawed based on my wants, I would still consider it a modern marvel. A console that once required you to plug a large AC adapter to the wall and then plug into your TV is now portable. Not only that, the console has a pretty sharp looking screen, rechargeable battery and among all things, plays the original cartridges of the era. Heck, it supports SNES accessories to boot.
There have already been improvements over the original design and that is something that I find interesting about Hyperkin. The voice of retro gamers and collectors is being heard. They take into consideration thoughts and input from the community about the products they create and sell. If you are doubtful of this, take a glance at the company’s repertoire of retro goodies the catalog boasts.
The SupaBoy is by no means perfect, but its heart in the right spot. I’m certain that the next iteration will also prove just as grasp-worthy for collectors of consoles just as this one did.
Click here to visit the official Hyperkin site.
+ Battery Life
+ Screen Size
+ Cartridge Locking Mechanism
+ Cartridge and Accessory Support
+ / – Portability
– Button design
– Battery Life Indicator