X

If Apple made a mini NES, it might look like this

The Analogue Nt Mini sounds like a retro gamer's dream -- but this shrunk-down aluminum NES is still pretty pricey.

seanhollister.jpg
Sean Hollister
seanhollister.jpg

Sean Hollister

Senior Editor / Reviews

When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.

See full bio
2 min read

Nintendo fever is back. The Nintendo Switch and incredibly cute $60 NES Classic Mini are constantly sold out, and Nintendo's making millions from Pokemon Go and its Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Mario Run smartphone apps.

Yes, it takes actual Nintendo cartridges.

Analogue

But if your Nintendo nostalgia runs deep -- and we mean pockets -- there's another product you should consider. The $449 Analogue Nt Mini just might be the finest Nintendo Entertainment System ever.

Perhaps you've heard tell of the original Analogue Nt: a gorgeous game console carved out of a single block of aluminum. A game console compatible with every single NES and Famicom cartridge, controller and accessory collectors have stockpiled over the years.

A game console that used the exact same Ricoh 20A3 and 2C02 silicon chips as the original NES, harvested from actual Famicom motherboards, to ensure picture perfection.

analoguent.jpg
Watch this: Analogue NT is 8-bit NES perfection
Analogue NT is 8-bit NES perfection
2:57

Analogue couldn't make enough of the $499 Analogue Nt, shown in the video above, to satisfy rabid demand. There simply weren't enough chips.

So its engineers spent 5,000 hours re-engineering the NES' circuits to fit in a modern Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). They shrunk down down the aluminum alloy case to make the system 20 percent smaller, and added a 1080p HDMI output to play nice with modern TVs. (The original needed a $79 upgrade board to do that.)

The new Analogue Nt Mini even has a bundled wireless NES gamepad with an estimated 20 hours of battery life, so you can play from your couch. Wouldn't want to get too close to that TV screen! Not to mention 16-bit, 48kHz digital and analog audio, plus component, composite and S-Video outputs for practically any type of TV.

"I can't overstate how sophisticated our hardware is now," says Analogue founder Christopher Taber.

analogue-nes-8210-001.jpg
Enlarge Image
analogue-nes-8210-001.jpg
Josh Miller/CNET

And while we haven't yet been able to put it through all its paces -- our NES library is tiny -- the hardware doesn't disappoint. The case is beautifully machined, the ports fit perfectly, and the motherboard's neat rows of chips -- just six screws and two ribbon cables stand in your way -- shows an attention to detail and craftsmanship you don't usually find on the insides of gadgets. It's a real showpiece.

My one nitpick (beyond the price) is that cartridges can wiggle very slightly in the cartridge slots, but that's intentional. Analogue changed the design after people complained that the original slots' aluminum edges could scratch the plastic carts.

A closer look at the Analogue Nt Mini

See all photos

Assuming you can afford the price, the Analogue Nt Mini is now available -- in both silver and black -- from Analogue's website.

Update, April 1, 2017: With hands-on video, photos, and hardware impressions. Not an April Fools.