Handhelds for developers

Consoles not just for playing games

May 23rd, 2019 · 7 min read

#List #Hardware

Unbeknownst to many developers there's a whole bunch of handheld consoles available that you can build yourself, or program custom games for. We've compiled a list of the most popular handhelds, listing specs and glancing over the unique features of each device.


32blit by Pimoroni

Price: $125.00 USD
Availability: Unknown (currently on Kickstarter)
Storage capacity: 32MB flash
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, Micro USB
Suggested by: @EliteFreq

The 32blit handheld is currently on Kickstarter but has already surpassed its goal. This devices features a 3.5" 320 × 240 color display, an accelerometer, analog joystick, D-pad and four buttons.

The console doesn't just come with tutorials and free assets, it has custom tools for creating sprites, maps, sound effects and even music. Games for 32blit have to be programmed in either Lua (beginners) or C++ (advanced).

More information: kickstarter.com

Adafruit PyGamer / Adafruit PyBadge

Adafruit PyGamer / Adafruit PyBadge

Price: $39.95 USD / $34.95 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: See description
Connectivity: Micro USB

The Adafruit PyGamer features a 1.8" 160 × 128 screen, an analog joystick and two buttons and supports MicroSD for storage. The Adafruit PyBadge also includes a 1.8" 160 × 128 screen but switches the analog joystick for a D-pad and two buttons, this version has 2MB built-in flash memory. Both versions have Micro USB for connectivity and charging.

Both devices allow programming through MakeCode Arcade, which is a really easy to use tool featuring visual programming. This makes the device perfect for kids or beginners in programming. More advanced users can use Python or Arduino.

More information: Adafruit PyGamer and Adafruit PyBadge


Arduboy is a miniature game system the size of a credit card.

Price: $49.00 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: 32KB flash
Connectivity: Micro USB
Suggested by: @brintown

The Arduboy is incredibly affordable and features a 1-bit 128 × 64 screen, D-pad and 2 buttons. This tiny device is about the size of a credit card that fits comfortably in your pocket (unlike claims of the original GameBoy). It's not incredibly powerful and the 1-bit screen is a bit limiting, but that's part of the fun.

On the Arduboy website you'll find detailed guides on how to get started with C++ programming using Arduino. It can be a bit tougher to get into if you don't know any programming just yet, but their tutorials are easy to follow and if you've got question they can be asked in their community forums.

More information: arduboy.com


GameShell by ClockworkPi

Price: $199.00 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: 16GB (MicroSD card included)
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth

GameShell is a modular handheld built from several components like the screen, keypad, battery and CPU. It has a 2.7" 320 × 240 color screen, a D-pad and 4 face buttons, dedicated start/select/menu buttons. Every kit includes a secondary backplate which has 5 independent IO extended keys.

It features a custom OS which can easily run PICO-8, LOVE2D, PyGame, Phaser.io, Libretro, and many other game engines smoothly. This means that you'll have plenty of options when it comes to engines, frameworks and which language you'd like to program.

More information: clockworkpi.com

Gamebuino META

Gamebuino META by AADALIE

Price: $111.53 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: 8GB (MicroSD card included)
Connectivity: Unknown
Suggested by: @NullMember

This Arduino based device looks like it's straight from the early 80's (in a good way, we need more wood grain), it features a 1.8" 80 × 64 color screen (or 160 × 128, indexed colors), D-pad and two buttons. Games are programmed using either C++ or Python.

A unique feature of Gamebuino are 8 independently controllable RGB LEDs in the back to enhance your games, they allow you to add effects to your game like when taking damage or picking up coins.

More information: gamebuino.com

Meggy Jr.

Meggy Jr. by Evil Mad Scientist

Price: $75.00 USD / $95.00 USD (assembled)
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: 32MB flash
Connectivity: None

Instead of the usual LCD screen the Meggy Jr. instead has an 8 × 8 array of RGB LEDs, while this means there's limitations in what can be displayed this also makes the device unique and fun to develop for.

Do note that it comes as a kit that requires soldering, although for a premimum assembled versions are also available. Meggy Jr. can be programmed in the popular Arduino software environment using a separately sold USB interface.

More information: evilmadscientist.com



Price: $32.00 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: None included (MicroSD supported)
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
Suggested by: @Kartercas

This device includes a 2.4" 320 × 240 screen, a D-pad and 6 buttons. Do note that the device is delivered as a kit, which means you'll have to assemble but doesn't require any soldering.

Once assembled the ODROID-GO uses Arduino which means you'll find a lot of guides and tutorials online to learn programming for the device. The assembly of the device and barebones presentation makes it perfect for learning about both software and hardware.

More information: hardkernel.com


Playdate by Panic

Price: $149.00 USD
Availability: Early 2020 release
Storage capacity: Unknown
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth, USB-C

The recently announced Playdate is produced by Firewatch publisher Panic and is their first venture into gaming hardware. The Playdate features a black and white screen (400 × 240 resolution), two buttons and a D-pad, a dedicated pause button and an unusual looking crank meant as an input device.

Games for Playdate can be programmed in Lua (ease of development) or C (for games that require extra performance), the simulator and debugger are both Mac only.

More information: play.date

Pocket C.H.I.P.

Pocket C.H.I.P. by Next Thing Co.

Price: $69.99 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: Unknown
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth

The Pocket C.H.I.P. features an impressive 4.3" 480 × 272 touchscreen display and a primitive keyboard which will allow you to program games on the go. The device comes pre-installed with a custom CHIP OS that features video game console virtual machine PICO-8. This means that next to programming your own, you'll be able to find thousands of pre-made games online.

It's unfortunate that the company behind Pocket C.H.I.P. has ceased to exist, currently devices are sold by a new company called PocketCHIP which has no relation to the previous manufacturer other than being a 3rd party reseller.

More information: pocketchip.co


Pokitto, a do-it-yourself gaming gadget

Price: $55.70 USD
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: None included (MicroSD supported)
Connectivity: Micro USB
Suggested by: @HomineLudens

Pokitto features a 2" 220 × 176 color screen, D-pad and 3 buttons. This device is made to be modded and used for learning electronics, it's simple in design and their website features dozens of tutorials videos and projects.

The Pokitto is delivered as a kit you'll have to assemble yourself, the manufacturer claims it'll only take 20 minutes and requires no soldering. If you still think this will be too much of a challenge, you can get it delivered fully assembled for a small additional fee.

More information: pokitto.com


RetroStone by 8BCraft

Price: $156.60 USD (16GB model)
Availability: Available now
Storage capacity: 16GB or 32GB (MicroSD card included)
Connectivity: USB, Micro USB, Ethernet, HDMI

RetroStones features a 3.5" 320 × 240 screen, D-pad, 4 buttons, 2 system buttons and 4 additional buttons hidden on the back. It's designed to be compatible with the Armbian distribution of Linux and will allow you to use a wide variety of engines and programming languages.

Thanks to the full-size USB ports and HMDI port this device is great for parties where you'll want to connect multiple gamepads and display games on an external screen. You could even connect a keyboard & mouse to use it as a PC on the go!

More information: 8bcraft.com

Note: We have not received or requested any of these devices for review purposes, this means we cannot comment on the build quality of the devices or give in-depth reviews other than what information was given by the manufacturer.

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