In what has become somewhat of a yearly tradition, boutique console manufacturer Analogue has just announced another new machine in the works for 2020 and, for the first time, it's a portable system. Christened the Analogue Pocket, this new system offers a unique take on portable retro gaming that has a lot of potential.
The first main feature on the menu is support for a wide range of portable gaming systems. Out of the box, the focus is on the Game Boy line full support for Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. Analogue also promises support for Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color and Atari Lynx using cartridge adapters which, hopefully, won't fall too far behind the release of the system itself.
In addition, the Pocket includes a full synthesiser and music sequencer known as Nanoloop designed for music creation. The Game Boy has become a popular tool for chip-tune artists but Nanoloop seems like a significant leap forward in terms of available features.
Lastly, and this is perhaps most exciting, the Pocket will include a second dedicated FPGA chip aimed at developers. Analogue specifically mentions MiSTER in its fact sheet suggesting that developers can port or create new FPGA cores specifically for this additional chip. So, in theory, this means the Pocket could support classic arcade games, early micros and other consoles. The main selection of support consoles is, of course, driven by a separate FPGA chip.
So, the feature set is impressive then but it's the form factor that really stands out. Featuring clean lines and a compact design, the Pocket recalls the form factor of the original Game Boy but with a much more modern aesthetic. The top half of the unit features a 3.5" 615ppi 1600x1440 LCD panel. A high-resolution panel such as this is a good choice as it can support variable resolution without introducing uneven scaling artefacts. The unit also features stereo speakers with a separate 3.5mm headphone jack, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, a micro SD card slot, a Game Boy style link cable port and a USB-C charging port.
Beyond the unit itself, Analogue is also promising a dock which will be sold separately. The dock offers HDMI output, dual USB inputs, support for Bluetooth controller and even compatibility with the Analogue DAC for those wanting to use the Pocket with a CRT television such as Sony PVM. There's a lot of potential here - especially when considering the second FPGA which could lead to console style gaming both on the go and on the couch.
There already exists a wide range of third-party handheld consoles but most of them fail to offer high-quality hardware or a desirable form factor. Which is precisely why the Pocket is so intriguing as it promises to solve these issues and more. There are still a lot of questions to answer but the Pocket is shaping up to be a very impressive piece of kit with a lot of features. It's set to retail for $199 and has a vague 2020 release date but we'll be sure to test this unit out once it arrives.