microByte

by Byte-Mix Lab

A tiny, open hardware, ESP32-powered retro-gaming console

$8,805 raised

of $3,750 goal

234% Funded! Order Below

Product Choices

$45

microByte Eco Edition

A white microByte. If you already have a USB Type-C cable and a MicroSD card, this version saves you money and helps us reduce the amount of electronic waste produced.


$60

microByte Premium Bundle

This kit includes a microByte in your choice of three colors—translucent, yellow, or blue—as well as a USB Type-C cable, an 8 GB MicroSD card, and a second enclosure (white with gray buttons).

Details

Recent Updates


As Featured In

microByte is an open-hardware, battery-powered, handheld console that allows you to play games—from the NES, GameBoy, GameBoy Color, Game Gear, and Sega Master System platforms—on a backlit, color IPS display using built-in controls. And if you’re more interested in doing your own thing, microByte can help with that too. Not only is it fully compatible with Arduino IDE, it allows you to run your own sketches from a microSD card without having to reflash the device! And if you prefer MicroPython, you can access an open source library that you can use to make your own games (or whatever else you’re into).

Whether you’re looking to play games, design games, build a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth traffic analyzer, monitor your home-automation system, control robots, or display sensor data—to name just a few sample applications—microByte is a great place to start. It’s also a perfect platform for those who want to learn (or teach others) about the Arduino ecosystem, about MicroPython, or about programming for the popular ESP32 module.

And it all fits in a 7.8 x 4 x 1.7 cm package!

A Compact, Ergonomic, Retro-Gaming Device

You might be wondering if it’s even possible for such a tiny device to deliver a pleasant gaming experience. A reasonable question and one that we asked ourselves when we first started working on microByte. Designing a pocketable game console requires a careful balance between ergonomics and cuteness. After five revisions of the PCB (and 30 of the enclosure!), we think we’ve finally nailed it: microByte fits in your pocket, but not on your keychain; it’s adorable, but it’s not that adorable; and you can actually play games on it. Without tweezers and a magnifying glass…

The Controller

Our controller design was inspired by popular full-size gamepads, which we tried to emulate as much as possible without blowing past the 8 x 4 cm footprint that we consider to be an upper bound for "highly portable" devices. And, after testing a huge variety of pushbuttons, we decided to go with rubber button membranes rather than dome switches. You only have two thumbs, and we take them very seriously.

The Screen

What about the screen, you ask? microByte includes a 1.3" IPS display with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution. It’s plenty small, but you’ll be impressed by the sharpness of the image when you see it. This is a screen that you can trust to render the tiniest details of your favorite games in vibrant color and with a wide viewing angle.

The Games

Which favorite games, you ask? microByte emulates the following consoles at 60 frames per second:

  • GameBoy
  • GameBoy Color
  • NES
  • GameGear
  • Sega Master-System

And, if you want to push the envelope, we invite you to help us optimize microByte for higher-end games like:

  • Doom I and II
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • A proof-of-concept SNES emulator
  • The various classic graphic adventures powered by ScummVM

Learn, Hack, and Enjoy

microByte is not just a retro-gaming device, it’s also a peripheral-rich, open-hardware development platform based on the popular ESP32 module. To make it more accessible, we’ve published an Arduino library that you can use to develop your own software or to modify ours. And if you need more control over the hardware, you can use Espressif’s ESP-IDF development environment instead. Finally, as mentioned above, we’ve published a tutorial for MicroPython as well.

And best of all, you don’t need to flash your device to run your applications! Just compile them, copy the .bin files onto a microSD card, insert that card into the slot, open the Applications menu, and launch your apps. When you reset microByte, it will return to its previous state, removing any apps that you’ve installed this way.

Image creating a Bluetooth controller, a Wi-Fi analyzer, or an Internet radio—or even just making an LED blink—without having to learn a new toolchain, install additional software, or wire up a breadboard. To help you get there, we’ve begun publishing tutorials and sample code, and we intend to release more of both over the coming weeks.

As Open Hardware, microByte Gives You Full Control

We’ve all experienced the frustration of finding an interesting device and being unable to add that one sweet feature (or fix that one annoying flaw), either because doing so would require obscure knowledge or because the device itself is an unholy abomination of black boxes and binary blobs. This is not a problem with microByte. Everything we do is open source, and we provide all of the documentation you might need to modify the hardware, the software, or the enclosure.

Prefer headphones to speakers? No problem. Have a look at the PCB layout, grab your soldering iron, and add a 3.5 mm jack. Porting an emulator and looking for a hardware platform on which to run it? Preferably one with a screen and some buttons? microByte’s modular software design makes it easy. Want to print an enclosure using your fancy new filament? Have at it! Our STL files are public, and our case design is optimized for easy printing.

Features & Specifications

Hardware Specifications

  • Processor: ESP32 Wrover E
    • Two main cores with a max frequency of 240 MHz and an ultra low power core
    • 8 MB of RAM
    • 16 MB of flash
    • Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antenna
  • Display: ST7789 IPS Screen
    • 1.3" diagonal
    • 240 x 240 pixel resolution
    • 60 Hz max refresh frequency
  • Sound: On-board speaker powered by a MAX98357AETE+T I²S amplifier
  • Storage: MicroSD card slot
  • Controls: 13 onboard buttons, including:
    • 8 Inductive direction and action buttons with rubber membranes
    • 3 additional buttons (Start, Select, and Menu)

Emulators

  • NES
  • GameBoy
  • GameBoy Color
  • GameGear
  • Sega Master System
  • Work-in-progress emulators:
    • Atari
    • ScummVM

Additional Software Features

  • An Arduino library
  • A modern looking graphical user interface based on the LVGL library
  • Integrated firmware updates
  • Support for running applications on a secondary memory partition
  • The ability to save game state
  • Work-in-progress features:
    • MicroPython support
    • Additional external applications

Comparisons

microBytePocket SpriteOdroid-GOESPlay Micro V2
Processor ESP32-WROVER E ESP32-WROOM ESP32-WROVER-B ESP32-WROVER
Dimensions 78 x 40 x 17 mm 55 x 32 x 14 mm 90 x 148 x 32 mm 100 x 50 mm
RAM8 MB 520 KB 4 MB 4 MB
Flash Memory16 MB 16 MB 16 MB 4 MB
Display Size1.3" 0.96" 2.4" 2.4"
Display Resolution240 x 240 px 96 x 64 px 320 x 240 px 320 x 240 px
Pixels per Inch261.09 ppi 120.19 ppi 173.91 ppi 173.91 ppi
MicroSD SlotYes No Yes Yes
Battery Life6-7 hours 3-4 hours, estimated 5 hours, estimated N/A
Sound SupportYes Yes Yes Yes
ConnectivityUSB Type-C, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Micro-USB, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Micro-USB, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
Number of ButtonsDirection, Start, Select, Menu & 6 action buttons Direction, Start, Select & 2 action buttons Direction, Start, Select, Volume/brightness & 2 action buttons Direction, Start, Select & 3 action buttons
Rubber ButtonsYes No Yes No
Open SourceHW, SW & enclosure SW only HW & SW HW, SW & enclosure
Price$45 $69.95 $32.00 $32.90

Support & Documentation

Please help yourself to the following:

And if you have any questions, please drop us a line using the Ask a technical question link on our campaign page.


Credits

Byte-Mix Lab

I'm an embedded-systems engineer and PCB designer. In recent years, I've been working on open source robotics projects and contributing to the development of an ROS2 port for micro-controllers called micro-ROS.


Juan Flores


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