If you know the name Analogue, you know the company’s reputation for somewhat pricey but authentic and beautiful HDMI-compatible FPGA (field-programmable gate array) recreations of classic gaming consoles. Today, the company is announcing that it will extend that line into the portable market next year with the Analogue Pocket, a $199 FPGA handheld that’s fully compatible with literally thousands of original cartridges for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance (and other portables like Lynx, Game Gear, and Neo Geo Pocket Color via planned cartridge adapters).
The Pocket’s 3.5-inch, 1600×1440 resolution, 615 pi LTPS LCD display frankly seems like a bit of overkill, considering the Game Boy Advance topped out at 240×160 and about 100 ppi. But Analogue’s Christopher Taber tells Ars the Analogue Pocket will sport the same Altera Cyclone V FPGA found in its previous Super Nt and Mega Sg, plus a second Cyclone 10 FPGA “just for developers to develop and port their own cores.”
That means it should be trivial for hackers to add aftermarket firmware to the Pocket through the system’s microSD card slot, as they have for other analogue products in the past. So don’t be surprised if the Pocket gets “unofficial” support for the same NES, Super NES, and Genesis FPGA cores built into previous Analogue products, as well as homebrew cores that support classic systems, from the Atari 2600 to the Sega Master System.
While Analogue marketing materials and Taber both insist that the Pocket “does not support playing ROM files,” previous homebrew, jailbroken Analogue firmware has been able to load ROMs stored on SD cards and even dump ROM files from original cartridges for fully digital play (Taber also told Ars to expect “other neat features” accessible through the microSD card slot to be announced in the future).
Perhaps taking a nod from the Nintendo Switch, Analogue is designing the Pocket to work on HDTVs via an optional HDMI dock, which will support wired USB and wireless bluetooth controllers (the price for this dock has yet to be announced). For undocked play, the system will sport stereo speakers and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack (eat your heart out, Game Boy Advance SP). The Pocket also will have a rechargeable USB-C lithium-ion battery pack (Taber tells Ars, “I can assure that everyone is going to be really happy with the battery life”) and an “original style link plug” if you want to play multiplayer Tetris like it’s 1989.
The Analogue Pocket will also come pre-loaded with Nanoloop, a popular Game Boy sequencer/synthesizer that has been aiding chiptune musicians through original Game Boy hardware and a mobile app for decades now.
While there have been cheaper and/or more versatile Game Boy clones in the past, we’re looking forward to seeing how Analogue’s impeccable design chops apply to the portable retro market when we get our hands on the Analogue Portable next year.