The SNES Classic Mini is just days away, and we think it's pretty neat. It's as charming as one would expect, and does an impressive job of emulating its games - including some titles that were considered beyond the scope for the Wii, Wii U and New 3DS Virtual Console.
An interesting quirk of the hardware, however, is that the board, processor etc are actually the same as the NES Classic Mini. This essentially means it's all about the operating system / software to distinguish the two systems; the following is from a Digital Foundry teardown.
Confirming that the internal mainboard is the same, the corners - carved out to fit within the NES mini shell - remain the same on the SNES model, even though there is no real need for them to be touched at all. As a result, the new piece of hardware looks slightly less elegant internally. Hardware-wise, we're looking at the same off-the-shelf Allwinner R16 SoC (system on chip), featuring four ARM Cortex A7s paired with an ARM Mali 400 MP2 GPU. Hynix provides the single memory chip - a 256MB DDR3 module - and there's a generous 512MB of NAND storage.
The magic comes from the bespoke Super NES emulation software layer, likely built from the ground up by Nintendo's Paris-based European Research and Development (NERD) team, running on open source OS, Linux. As Digital Foundry recently discussed, the software not only emulates the Super NES itself, but a range of add-on processors specific to select titles, including the Super FX and Super FX2 chips used for Star Fox, its sequel and Yoshi's Island, along with the SA1 CPU upgrade utilised by Super Mario RPG and Kirby Super Star. Even Super Mario Kart used additional hardware - NEC's DSP-1 was present in every cart, faithfully replicated for the mini consoles.
While this may prompt some to complain, it's actually a smart approach from Nintendo. It was clear that the NES Mini didn't need all of these specs to run successfully, but all that excess resource has allowed Nintendo to use the same innards in the SNES. This adds context to the recent welcome news that there'll be increased SNES stock and a revival for the NES next year; Nintendo can churn out the hardware and simply alternate the shell and operating system when manufacturing. It certainly makes logistical sense.
So, will you be grabbing a SNES Classic Mini this week?