Analogue Releases Pocket 1.1 Update: ‘We Don’t Play’

Increase / Each Analogue Pocket system will function as a “developer kit,” but this special version of the portable developer system will be sent to interested FPGA “core” developers starting this week as a free offer to encourage their input into the new, less-than-open OpenFPGA standard .


After launching in December, the Analogue Pocket portable system immediately stood out a supercharged way to play classic handheld cartridges from Game Boys. While its design borrows heavily from original by Gunpei Yokoiits looks are attractive and modern, and the combination of FPGA hardware and an oversized high-resolution IPS screen does wonders for old-school gaming.

But Analogue has dropped part of its sales pitch: a massive “1.1” system update that was supposed to launch in “January 2022.” Analogue never said why this patch was delayed. Was it a case of its developers struggling to deliver? Did Analogue bide its time while supplies of the $199 Pocket hardware and its $99 companion Analogue Dock for TVs remained in short supply, partly due to global chip shortage?

Whatever the reason, update 1.1 finally arrives today as a free download — and it means Analogue is taking its boldest steps into new territory. Speaking to Ars Technica, Analogue CEO Christopher Taber suggested that the company’s previous emphasis on console FPGA systems (such as Super Nt and Mega Sg) may give way to a more open approach similar to MiSTer.

Thanks to today’s new “OpenFPGA” initiative, Analogue Pocket can be your one-stop shop for multi-console gaming on a single system – provided certain use cases are open.

A primer on FPGAs, hardware emulation, and MiSTer

Analogue describes OpenFPGA as an operating system and platform for Pocket and potential future analog hardware. This allows third-party developers to write and publish a “kernel” that can recreate any classic PC platform or console family. But “open” is relative here, so let’s clarify a few points.

For starters, what is a kernel? When you put a Game Boy cartridge into the Pocket, its FPGA-based hardware recognizes that it’s from a Game Boy and then parses a set of instructions (also known as a “kernel”) to emulate the original Game Boy on the hardware. level. This is different from software emulation, which tricks the CPU/OS combination into taking calls originally intended for the Game Boy and treating them as if they were native to something like Windows or Android.

Hardware emulation strives provide more accurate versions of classic games in aspects such as timings and hardware limitations, while reducing button-press latency and supporting new video formats such as HDMI. Ars readers have seen this in systems made by Analogue, which tend to revolve around a single console and a working cartridge slot, and in the MiSTer community, which goes the other way.

MiSTer chests combine off-the-shelf DE-10 Nano motherboards, Altera Cyclone FPGA chips, and community-developed cores to do the same hardware emulation trick without waiting for, say, one manufacturer like Analogue to add support for other computers and families consoles. Only Super Nintendo and Super Famicom games can be run on the Super Nt. In the MiSTer box, you can load dozens of cores onto the same hardware, from popular 80s PCs like the ZX Spectrum to powerful consoles like the first PlayStation. But you also have to contend with a completely open hardware market to get everything you need to run MiSTer (although some hobbyists will sell you ready-made kits for a premium).

You can drop diskettes or cartridges and load their games and programs onto any running MiSTer, but as an open platform, MiSTer does not dictate how you get or load games. Officially, Analogue systems require physical cartridges, but longtime Analogue programmer Kevtris previously published a jailbreak firmware for the company’s systems that allows users to put game ROMs on an SD card and play them that way. Kevtris has not confirmed any plans to do the same for the Analogue Pocket.

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