Amidst the personal computer boom of the mid to late 1980s, the Amiga stood out. Commodore’s superpowered successor to the immortal C64, it debuted in 1985 and fostered unique creative and technological achievements that remain remarkable to this day, despite the platform’s surprisingly rapid downfall. Its library and software, while unforgettable to those who grew up with it, has been woefully underrepresented when it comes to retro gaming content. Today, Retro Games Ltd. provided us with a brand new plug-and-play solution, the A500 Mini, which promises to provide easy and comfortable access to the Amiga library for all ages and interests. Let’s see what it offers and how it performs.
The A500 Mini is inspired by the Amiga 500, a 1987 version and the most popular of the Amiga family. The original device ran on a Motorola 68000 clocked at ~7 MHz with 512 KB of RAM, the latter spec giving the console its name. The A500 Mini is a bit more modern, with an All Winner H6 ARM chip and Amiberry emulation software running at a base resolution of 720p. Like other recent “mini” releases, this is a full emulation solution, in this case closely based on Raspberry Pi 3 hardware support with somewhat higher accuracy and compatibility due to its roots in WinUAE, the de facto emulation solution for Amiga as a whole.
The A500 Mini is directly inspired by the full-size console, with a small non-functional keyboard, a small power button, three USB ports, HDMI and USB-C for power. It’s a nice little device that brings me warm fuzzy feelings, and the plastic is pretty high quality, but the power button lacks feedback and feels cheap.
The system contains the A500 mouse and gamepad needed to play all the games provided on this device. The mouse is a smaller replica of the original mouse and feels authentic, if a bit light, and now uses an optical sensor rather than a rubber ball. The controller is inspired by the Amiga CD32 controller which debuted in 1993, which offers something of a new “standard” for the Amiga with its release. Again, the build feels serviceable and the button layout has been modernized from the 1993 original. The d-pad has also been replaced with the original disc-shaped design, opting for a more PlayStation-style alternative precise but too rigid.
To find a better solution, I tested dozens of controllers – but often the device mappings were incorrect. Only the 8BitDo SF30 controller was able to work perfectly with the device, and I ended up switching to it entirely. Hopefully it’s something that can be improved with future firmware, and if mouse emulation could be added – say, to an analog stick – we’d be really in business.
When the device starts up, you are greeted by a Netflix-like interface displaying the 25 games on offer. Not all of them are bona fide classics, but the messy licensing situation means some obvious inclusions might not have been viable. Each game is broken down in the video embedded above, but I’d like to recommend Another World as the standout pick here thanks to its unique atmosphere and reliance on a CPU-controlled character. In general, games are emulated correctly, with only small differences in graphics, sound, and running speed between the A500 Mini and the original unit.
You also have access to a menu of options. Note that when given a choice between 50Hz and 60Hz output, don’t assume the latter is better. Most games were designed for the European 50Hz standard and therefore work more accurately here. You can also adjust the screen size to dynamically crop and zoom the image to better fit modern screens, which works quite well. There are also filters, including a CRT filter, but these are a bit coarse and probably best avoided. Finally, the unit lights can be set to respond to disk activity, which is useful for distinguishing between a game that has crashed and a game that is just loading the next level.
The final big selling point of the A500 Mini is WHDLoad support. It’s basically an archived image file of a game, optimized and configured to work best on the original hardware. It is sometimes quoted as an emulation solution, but in fact WHDLoad is developed for the original hardware and works the same as on any emulated device. Most importantly, WHDLoad compiles floppy disks into a single drive image, essentially eliminating any need for disk swapping and creating a single file solution for any game on the system. For the A500 Mini, this effectively means that it further consolidates the gaming experience with the easy setup and running them is a simple drag-and-drop effort.
Retro Games itself provides the WHDLoad profile on its website for download to a USB stick, and from there you can prep and dump your own Amiga floppy disks in what is an admittedly complex process. From there, the whole world of Amiga is basically at your fingertips – you even get additional options per game to dial in the emulation to your liking.
So, in the end, we are left with the usual double answer when reviewing these mini devices. For rekindling childhood memories or exploring the Amiga library for the first time, the A500 Mini is indeed a very welcoming device – especially given its open nature when it comes to side-loading games. It offers a more modern console experience, providing access to amazing games that were previously hard to find as original copies and difficult to compose under emulation. But for those who have already tried the stock hardware or extensively configured their emulation boxes via Recalbox or MiSTer devices, there is nothing new here and you are probably better served within your own setups infrastructure. personalized.
Like the C64 Mini before it, it will be fascinating to see if the A500 Mini leads to a boom period for new commercial versions based on Amiga hardware. With this mini console, developers saw an opportunity to target a ‘new’ platform for their modern retro releases, and sales have steadily increased as fans new and old saw new software specifically optimized for the game. aftermarket device, something that could be taken even further. the A500 Mini with WHDLoad. The A500 Mini could usher in a new wave of Amiga fans and software, but it remains to be seen if Retro Games Ltd. makes this possible.