Hyperkin is one of the elder statesman of the clone hardware arena, having operating in this sector for quite some time now via its line of Retron systems, the earliest of which replicated the performance of the fan-favourite Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. The recent kerfuffle regarding the hard-to-obtain NES Classic has predictably led to an increased interest in such consoles, so it's hardly surprising that Hyperkin has pushed out an affordable NES clone to capitalise on this renewed demand. The Retron HD is a pint-sized pretender which doesn't come preloaded with software - as is the case with the NES Classic - but does support original cartridges. It also has 720p HD output, authentic joypad sockets and a switch which allows it to toggle between NTSC and PAL TV modes for enhanced compatibility.
From a purely physical perspective, the Retron HD is a success. While Hyperkin isn't producing this unit under an official licence it has imitated the look of the NES as closely as possible, adopting the iconic grey, black and red colour scheme of the 8-bit legend. The power and reset buttons are a close match as well, while the slits on the top plate also draw inspiration from the aesthetics of the original console. Spin the Retron HD around 180 degrees and you're faced with a HDMI socket, composite AV, a Micro USB port for power and a switch which alternates between a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 4:3 aspect ratio when using the HD output. On the base of the console a second switch allows you to select NTSC or PAL - a feature which Hyperkin insists will ensure a higher compatibility with software than other NES clones.
The Retron HD feels solidly built and - dare we say it - almost as robust as the real thing. This positive impression extends to the "Cadet" control pad, which is a close match to the famous NES controller save for two cut-aways on the bottom corners. This is part of Hyperkin's signature style (the console has a cut-away on the front-right corner, and even the packaging has one on the top-right edge) but it has an ergonomic benefit as well; the removed sections allow you to grip the pad more comfortably. The D-Pad and buttons all feel great and the cable is a whopping 10 feet in length as well, so you don't have to sit right next to the TV, as was the case with the NES classic. You don't get a power supply in the box but any phone charger block will do - Hyperkin recommends a 5 volt, 1 AMP charger for optimal performance. You may find that your TV's USB port can supply the power to the Retron HD, saving you having to plug in a PSU.
When it comes to actually playing NES games, the story is a little less positive. The Retron HD uses a system-on-a-chip solution when it comes to replicating the NES, so while this isn't software emulation - and therefore avoids the bugs and issues that come with that - it's not as accurate as the FPGA option which is found inside the RetroUSB AVS and Analogue NT Mini. As you can see from the video below, there's quite a noticeable difference between the Retron HD and the Analogue NT Mini, the latter being perhaps the best NES clone money can buy at this moment in time.
But this isn't really a fair comparison - the Retron HD costs significantly less than the NT Mini, and the disparity in performance isn't quite so bad when you play the console in isolation. The colours are off in some games and the music doesn't sound entirely faithful in others, but most casual players probably won't notice the difference. The 720p output is rather fuzzy and ill-defined but it's still a huge step forwards when compared to composite AV, which is what the vast majority of cheap clone systems use.
For £50 / $40, the Retron HD's unfortunate faults are easy to forgive. While the standard of emulation doesn't match that seen on the NES Classic (which is almost impossible to find for a reasonable price these days) or the Analogue NT Mini (which is way out of the price range of most gamers), for this kind of cash it's hardly a deal-breaker. Hyperkin isn't aiming this console at hardcore players who obsess over things like colour accuracy, screen filters and scaling options; this is a cheap and cheerful offering which will no doubt sell well this festive season as lapsed Nintendo fans seek to rekindle their love affair with their dusty NES collection in a low-cost fashion. There's certainly room for improvement, but as is so often the case, those seeking retro perfection will have to pay extra for it.
Thanks to Funstock Retro for supplying the Hyperkin Retron HD used in this review.
$40? That's a great price to be able to play NES games on a modern TV (and kudos to the reviewers for testing Journey to Silius on it!)
I heard a lot of Retro machines invade during this year.
2017 = Year of Modern Retro machines.
Wanna hear more from PolyMega.
I'll wait it out for the Polymega.
@Switch81tch would love it. I think my snes is dying. It's totally yellow
Even though they royally screwed up the sound emulation, something that free emulators have been getting right for almost a decade. Pathetic.
Um... "The cheapest way to play NES in high def"? What a load. Just download a NES emulator and you save yourself £50!
I don't see how this would be a good alternative to the NES classic at all, especially considering it doesn't come with any pre loaded games. One is a NES clone, the other is an emulator that looks like a NES.
Build yourself a RetroPie machine for around $100 (including two controllers) and enjoy games on your TV from numerous gaming systems instead of just one.
It's the best value for your money.
I'm guessing the mention of NES carts only in this review and on funstockretro's site means it doesn't play Famicom carts?
@GravyThief Yeah, just NES.
@amyr0se The cheapest way to own a Ferrari is to steal one, I've heard.
It looks like one of the best solutions.
Sorry, I don't want NES Emulator.
I want to play them in Original way, with Original cartridges.
No pirated games for me anymore.
I'd be interested in a straight SNES one of these since it's so much cheaper than something like Retron 5. I borrowed my friend's but all I use it for is SFC carts + english patches.
only thing better would be if they could make this like game genie so I could play patched SFC carts through it on my real SNES.
@amyr0se Only if you own the carts and dump the roms though, right? (Play along and say yes before the noblemen of this site descend on you! Oh, too late....)
Whenever I played Ninja Gaiden, I always thought Ryu looked like an elf with a really big lower jaw whenever he was attached to a wall and I still cannot unsee it to this day...
Get a CRT TV or monitor for cheap or free and play them the way they were meant to played - beautiful and lag free.
Fidelity does the games no favors.
What about historic comparability problem games like Mario 3 and Castlevania 3? That's the one things the Retron 5 managed to solve with software emulation. Going back to hardware strikes me as going back to that problem.
@Damo ...I think someone reported you. xD
@Damo Ferrari wouldn't charge you to drive your car in another country
@Anti-Matter Surely if you wanted to play them the 'original way' you wouldn't want them in 720p..?
Bah why buy this when the Retro hub USB AVS is soon much better.
I don't mind about 720p or 1080p for Classic NES games. As long playable with original cartridges, that's enough for me.
I have one of these and enjoy it. The HDMI colors are not as faithful as the Composite output (on the same system). But it does play a lot of games and games that were not available on the NES Classic Mini. Carts on this clone are also easy to insert and remove, unlike other NES clones. Not bad for $40. Retro-bit has a new HD NES console coming out soon. May give it a try.
I like the retrousb AVS. Works perfectly for me, and I'm picky.
I ordered this off of amazon.com back on May 22nd. Estimated delivery date said it would be here by July 5th. I emailed Amazon's customer support today and they informed me it was not in stock and it was not coming my way. Not a happy camper with Amazon or hyperkin at the moment.
I still don't see the point in playing NES games in HD. Composite works just fine for such retro games, especially on a CRT with no lag.
I still say nothing beats RetroGen's RetroTrio as far as a combination of compatibility, features, and price.
@Jim_Purcell The Retron 5 introduced more problems than solve them though. Games crashed every few session, lag issues with control, game saves deleted when save back to cart, indie carts like Pier Solar and Battle Kid doesn't work, bad pin connector ruins cartridge and could easily be damage, cartridge slot that refuse to load or recognize a game when they work just fine on an actual system, etc. For $150, the Retron 5 is just a big flop.
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