It's fair to say that the SupaBoy handheld is one of Hyperkin's most successful products; it initially hit the market in 2012 and has been revised once already in the form of the SupaBoy S. We're now on the third iteration of the same model, and we can imagine this fresh SKU will do the business just as well as its forerunners did – thanks partly to the fact that it finally uses the best SNES button colour scheme known to mankind: the Japanese / European one. Needless to say, those iconic multi-coloured buttons look fabulous.
The changes between this version and the earlier SupaBoy S aren't merely cosmetic, however. Hyperkin has fixed one of the biggest problems we had with the 'S' model – its 16:9 screen. While the 2012 original had a 4:3 aspect ratio LCD, Hyperkin used a widescreen version on the sequel, presumably because 4:3 panels were becoming hard to source. The shortcoming of this screen was obvious the moment you turned it on – games were stretched to fill the entire display. The same panel is used in the SupaBoy SFC, but now you can toggle between 16:9 and 4:3 by holding down the brightness button for a few seconds. Pleasingly, the console remembers the aspect ratio you selected even when you turn it off. Sure, those black borders either side are annoying, but we can live with them.
Unfortunately, the actual quality of the screen remains identical. It's slightly fuzzy and colours appear a little washed out; compared to the displays on the 3DS, PS Vita or even your typical Android or iOS smartphone, the SupaBoy SFC is noticeably inferior. Viewing angles are also poor, with the image inverting with even the slightest tilt of the device. It's also worth noting that, as was the case with earlier models, production quality leaves something to be desired; our unit had a human hair sealed inside the plastic panel covering the screen (you can just about make it out in this image, top left of the screen), presumably a stow-away left in place during assembly.
In terms of ergonomics, the SupaBoy SFC hasn't changed since the last model (which, in turn, was largely the same as the one before it). It's pretty bulky so don't expect to fit it in your pocket; think of this more as a backpack companion and you'll be fine. The D-Pad and buttons are both excellent, and the shoulder buttons are easy enough to reach during gameplay. It's not too heavy, but your arms might tire after a few hours of use – speaking of which, the replaceable rechargeable battery is rated for around 10 hours of use, although this depends on how high you have the volume and which of the four brightness settings you use.
On the front there are two SNES controller ports, into which you can plug your original pads for some two-player gaming on the go. Interestingly, this feature (which has been present since the first model) apes the core hook of the Switch; you can rest the SupaBoy SFC on any available flat surface and play with a friend. However, a better use of this mechanic is hooking up the console to your television using the supplied AV cables. The drawback here is that Hyperkin has once again opted for a composite connection, so image quality is predictably poor – especially when compared to what we've come to expect from systems like the SNES Classic Edition, Supa Retron HD and Analogue Super Nt, all of which output a much sharper HD signal via HDMI. It would have been nice to see Hyperkin include this kind of connection on the SupaBoy SFC, given that it's being sold as a revised version of an existing product. Maybe next time.
A 3.5mm headphone socket is included, as is a region switch which means the system is theoretically capable of playing every SNES and Super Famicom game. Powered by an old-school "system on a chip" approach, the SupaBoy SFC doesn't use FPGA technology like the Analogue Super Nt, so it's not quite as faithful when it comes to performance. Having said that, we tested many games on the console and couldn't spot any glaring problems; the audio on some titles was ever so slightly off but it otherwise seemed accurate enough – although we imagine under closer scrutiny a few more cracks might appear. It's also worth noting that games with specialised chips inside – such as Super FX – run perfectly, as do Game Boy games played using the Super Game Boy peripheral.
The only other real addition to this new model is the introduction of what Hyperkin is grandly calling "Pin Perfect" technology, which boasts "state of the art" cartridge slot pins. This might sound like marketing speak – and, to be honest, it is – but one of the other problems we noticed with the SupaBoy S (especially when using flash cartridges, like the SD2SNES) was that slight movements or knocks could result in cartridge getting jolted and the game crashing, forcing a complete restart and potentially costing you hours of progress. The tighter, higher quality pins on the SupaBoy SFC seem to almost eradicate this problem, although we've still be able to make a game crash by violently shaking the console (something you'd argubly avoid doing in normal use).
Just like the SupaBoy S, the SupaBoy SFC is an evolution rather than a complete overhaul. Hyperkin has mercifully fixed the aspect ratio issue, but hasn't addressed other problems – such as poor production control and the use of a composite connection for AV out, something which, in 2018, seems positively ancient. We imagine that the company will continue to iterate and revise this product and fix these complaints while adding in new functions and features, but for the time being this is an excellent means of enjoying the SNES library on the move, despite its many teething troubles. It's also the closest thing we have to a portable SNES with multiplayer support, at least until Nintendo decides to bring its Virtual Console service to the Switch.