While it never reached the stratospheric popularity of consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Neo Geo AES Console and it’s large arcade cabinet brother still had quite the following. So, it’s not surprising that the SNK Corporation recently jumped on the revamped-retro-console bandwagon and released the Neo Geo Mini. Like the Super NES Classic, it comes packed with popular games, but in a miniature arcade cabinet form factor. And everyone’s favorite hacker, Ben Heck, converted one into a portable handheld console.
As Heck points out, the Neo Geo X handheld was released several years ago, but didn’t receive very good reviews. Heck thought he could build a better portable console, and the results seem to bear that out. He started by purchasing a Neo Geo Mini, which retails for just over $100. In his first video (below), he tears down the console and evaluates the components within.
The main PCB is of surprisingly high quality and remarkably flat, making it perfect for a handheld. Heck only needed to move a power filter capacitor and a couple of jacks to slim it down even further. The controller board, however, left a lot to be desired. It uses analog potentiometers for the joystick, and the buttons aren’t placed in the same pattern as the original Neo Geo. In Heck’s second video (below), he shows how he improved the controls and fit everything into a 3D-printed case.
Heck replaced the joystick potentiometers with four microswitches that provide a nice clicky feel, and repositioned the buttons so they adhered to the original pattern. He also used real buttons for a tactile feel. The only other major hardware change was the addition of a LiPo battery and an Adafruit Powerboost board to provide power. The body of the case was carefully designed and 3D-printed, and the attractive face plate was laser-cut. The finished console looks fantastic, and has solid controls that are actually enjoyable to use — proving that a good Neo Geo handheld is completely feasible.