Here's a Raspberry Pi Zero case that looks like a Game Boy and lets you play retro games

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Bfft. Everyone knows about that already. I got one a couple weeks ago.

Although it looks just like all the other Game Boy emulator clone thingies out there, this is really well made – as in, it really looks like a GB, but also it’s very solidly built. Like, the cartridge at the back isn’t just decorative – you can take it out, and the Raspberry Pi (Zero W) goes inside, so you could in principle have multiple swappable cartridges, although a single raspbpi can hold a bunch of different games so there’s not much point. The “cartridge” shell also uses pogo pins so you don’t need to solder the board into it.

It’s a pretty neat case even for non-game use, since it runs on 3xAA batteries, isn’t very big, and has quite a nice screen. That’s actually why I got it. The display uses DPI which means it’s fast and you can use it in addition to an HDMI display. And yes, it is easy to remove from the case. And you can just about work out how to use it from the low-res images on the part’s Aliexpress page + some ancillary googling.

I think using actual batteries makes it impractical even if it seems “more authentic”. Even using rechargable AAs would be a pain. There is no reason something like this shouldn’t have a built in rechargable battery like a phone does.

Does it work with rechargeable batteries (1.2V)?

Why? Is it hard to open and put them in?

I can think of several

  • many people already have rechargeable AAs, so it saves resources and energy
  • when a battery dies, it’s easy to replace it, and you probably even have one at home already
  • you can carry spares in your backpack
  • once you’re bored with the device, you can use the battery for something else

At least in my experience, rechargable AAs don’t survive that many recharges – typically after a few dozen recharges they are dead. That’s fine when you are recharging AA batteries for use in wireless mice or remote controls, which typically last months on a charge, but you’d burn through batteries pretty quickly on something like this where you’d only get a few hours of play on a set of batteries.

While there is bad brands, also a good charger can increase the lifetime of rechargeables, and condition them, and sometimes even revive them. I started buying Eneloops exclusively around 12 years ago, and this year finally the last of my older rechargeables died for good, but I still have a couple of Eneloops from 2008 that are doing fine.

On this page you can see a few tests, especially this one that show how Eneloops pass several hundred cycles:

So maybe you use an inferior brand of batteries, or a charger that kills them. Here’s my favourite site for rechargeable and chargers, this guy really knows his stuff.

tl;dr: use Eneloop batteries, and one of the recommended chargers for them.

To answer my own question after some research: Eneloop batteries are recommended here and here

Rechargeable batteries are also mentioned in this instruction for n00bs for how to set it up with recalbox, a special operating system for retro games that autodetects the Retroflag GPi Case and already comes with all the screen drivers and shutdown scripts. Nice.

Here’s’ a mod that puts a Li-Ion Battery and a charger inside the Retroflag GPI case, and here’s a mod for a NiMh charging to charge rechargeable AA batteries inside the device.

And here’s the orginal website for the GPI Case, where you can see how it’s made and how it’s assembled.

After researching all that, I will now buy that case, make a total mess searching my house for a spare ZeroPi, and then discover yet again that I find most retro games terribly boring. Ah, well, the kids are going to love it.

As others have said, the right kind of modern rechargeable battery is pretty good, and if you have a bunch of Eneloops and chargers dotted around the place, it’s easier to swap out batteries than to be tethered to a wall outlet in the middle of playing something. That’s actually a lot more true for high-drain gizmi than for things like remote controls; no one would want a vape or a power tool that didn’t have swappable batteries.

If / when we get good, standard lithium cell sizes, then I think swappable batteries will again be the preferred option for most things, especially phones. Right now there is only the standard 18650 cell, but (a) it’s too big for small devices, and (b) apart from vapes, it’s usually bundled into a proprietary format, as in power tools, Teslas, laptops etc. Partly that’s about safety but often it’s also about DRM.

Anyhoo, the GPi has a DC input, and I believe there are videos about modding it to use a lithium battery.

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