Task: Purchase a Retron77 Gaming Console for Emulating the 2600
Needed: Web browser
Time: 15-30 minutes
One of the most frustrating aspects of retrocomputing and retrogaming is getting old hardware to play nice with HDTVs over HDMI. This is especially true for the Atari 2600. Getting an RF signal to convert to HDMI without artifacts is a challenge. This is the main reason I have had my eye on the Retron77 from Hyperkin. The Retron77 is a newly made console that runs the Stella Atari 2600 emulator under the hood to deliver a clear signal to HDTVs over HDMI with 720p resolution. You can load up binaries via an SD card or plug in original 2600 cartridges. I finally broke down and bought one of these and found some time to take it for a spin. Here are a few impressions.
First, I found the device to be attractive and of decent construction. It was solid and intuitive to use. Second, the quality of the picture was excellent. It was so much fun to play original Atari cartridges in HD! Third, the controller that is included works pretty well and includes a nice long cable. You can also use original Atari joysticks which is a plus. Fourth, my only hardware complaint is that the HDMI cable that is included is on the short side (3 feet). Fifth, a negative for some is that Harmony cartridges don’t work with the device. I confirmed this. Overall, I am reasonably impressed and can recommend this to others. I am certainly happy with my purchase and expect to use this a bunch. I will update this post if I encounter any problems down the road.
It is important to note that there is a community-built firmware update for the Retron77 that improves the menu system and some other features such as being able to plug in and remove cartridges without powering down the system. I confirmed that when you remove cartridge it defaults back to the menu. This is a nice feature. I have some notes on how to do this below in the instructions.
Purchase a Retron77. They are currently listed on the Hyperkin website for $69.99.
Upgrade to the community firmware (optional). There is a microSD care in the back left of the unity that has the firmware on it. The instructions are pretty easy and can be found here. There is also a YouTube video on how to do this that you might watch first. Once you have have updated the software you will need to create a ‘games’ folder on the root of the SD card where you can load any binaries. These then show up on the menu when you boot the system.
As you can see in the photo below, the video coming from the Retron77 looks great on my 65″ OLED TV! The artifacts in the upper left are from screen burn from playing too much Fortnite on my PS4. Well worth the $70.