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blog:2018-10-15

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15-Oct-2018

I was pleasantly surprised today with a belated birthday gift from my son. Apparently, he placed this pre-order earlier this spring and, today, it was finally delivered by the retailer. I am now the proud owner of a new TheC64 Mini specifically released for the North American market.

This was a product that I was “on the fence” over ever since I saw first mention of it on the Internet. It was an intriguing idea and would be an interesting addition to the Commodore collection, but did it present anything unique that I couldn't achieve with my ASUS netbook and VICE emulator?

Now that I have one and I've had a chance to play with it for a little while, here are my thoughts on it.

Although I think it's a little bit on the high-side for price, I am really impressed with the quality of TheC64 Mini, both in the device itself and the attention to detail in its packaging. When I first began opening the box, it was very clear to me that this product was produced by people who really seemed to appreciate and value the legacy left by the Commodore 64. In my opinion, TheC64 Mini was produced by fellow C64 enthusiasts.

After taking my time at opening and unfolding TheC64 Mini's packaging, I got to the console, itself. Once again, I could tell that this was a labor of love. Although the keyboard on the C64Mini is purely cosmetic, the console is really well made and very authentic to the original C64 (apart from it's size). It's solid and doesn't feel like a cheap empty shell, as some other mini gaming consoles I've seen on the market.

When I compare TheC64 Mini, as a complete package, to the SNES Mini (which I also own) I can say with confidence that I feel like there's better value for the money with the C64Mini. And, it simply puts the mini consoles produced by AtGames to shame.

With TheC64 Mini, you only get one joystick controller, where as the SNES Mini I have came with two controllers. However, I have to say that TheC64 Mini's joystick is higher quality. That's not to say that I particularly care for the style of the joystick, as I much prefer either my Wico TheBoss or Epyx 500X joysticks, but I think it's just a matter of me getting used to it. I find the position of the fire button(s) somewhat uncomfortable, as I prefer to have the fire button on top of the stick. This detail aside, I think the joystick is well made and feels quite solid.

Where the experience fell short with me was in the selection of games. Perhaps the games included in the C64Mini are more popular in Europe or the UK (where the C64Mini originated), but for me, they do not reflect the games that I've been enjoying on my real C64 and C128 all of these years. Retro Games claim that these games represent “the best C64 retro games”, but I feel that there are much better games that should have been included over the ones they chose. The games that appealed to me the most included, Impossible Mission, Boulder Dash, Jumpman I and II, and Pitstop II.

The saving grace, to what would have been a disappointing experience for me, was with the latest upgrade to TheC64 Mini's OS. After just a few minutes of unpacking and hooking up the console, I upgraded the OS to the latest build, v1.1.4, which now makes it very easy to play your own game images off of a USB storage device.

In no time, I was playing my favorite C64 games on TheC64 Mini and it was a great experience. This particular C64Mini, from what I can tell, emulates the NTSC C64 very well, so the speed and sounds of my game images played as I expected; rather than running slower as they would on a PAL system.

So, is TheC64 Mini worth having in your Commodore collection? I think it is, as long as you understand that it isn't a replacement for a real Commodore 64. This console should be seen as a simple and convenient way of playing some C64 games on your modern-day T.V. or monitor, without having to worry about floppy disks, data cassettes or tinkering with SD2IEC peripherals.

The other situation in which I think TheC64 Mini fits nicely is when someone new to the Commodore 8-bit scene wants to see if this hobby is something they'd enjoy. If it were me just starting out, unsure if I'd really enjoy using a C64 and not having a lot of cash to spend on one from eBay, that may not be in the best condition, I'd consider TheC64 Mini. I think it's the perfect choice for something just to get your feet wet. They still seem to be available on Amazon at a reasonable price (as of 2023), especially when you consider what people are asking for vintage Commodore hardware today on eBay. Yes, you will have to plug in your own USB keyboard to use it to write programs, but it's all new hardware that can work with digital disk images of the old C64 software, as well as new content being produced to this day. Also, TheC64 Mini performs virtually perfectly the same way as a vintage C64 (minus the keyboard), regarding software.

There's also a few advantages that TheC64 Mini offers over vintage hardware. The first being, not having to find or maintain vintage storage devices (like datasettes, floppy disk drives, or RAM expansion units) to load and save software. You're also not confined to the limitations of PAL or NTSC specific software and games, as TheC64 Mini can easily run both.

So, there are some pretty good advantages for the 8-bit computing novice that TheC64 Mini provides. Plug it in to a modern T.V./monitor, boot it up into BASIC mode and start programming… that's all there is to it. Then, if you really get the vintage Commodore computing bug, you can then decide on how much you wish to invest in vintage equipment (if at all).

It's not a perfect solution, but it may save you some frustration and expense in the long run.

I like it, but it will in no way take the place of my real C128 or C64. If you just want a simple way to play a quick game every now and then, and save a bit of wear and tear on your aging Commodore system, then TheC64 Mini is a good option to have at your disposal. If you're looking for a modern-day replacement for your aged or broken C64, then I suggest you look at the full sized TheC64, IF you can find one. But, if money and resources are limited, with a USB keyboard plugged in, TheC64 Mini is at least something that can get you by.

Configuration Information

Name your disk images with these flags, in order to get the required functionality. Example: ghostbusters_J1.d64

Disk Image Flag Purpose
_J1 This sets the primary joystick port as port 1. With a second Joystick connected, it automatically uses port 2.
_J2 This sets the primary joystick port as port 2. With a second Joystick connected, it automatically uses port 1. Note that port 2 is the default set by THEC64 Mini, so it doesn’t *have* to be specified by this flag.
_AD This flag turns ‘accurate disk drive’ mode on (for original slower disk loading) and turns off the fastdisk mode which is ON by default.
_RO This makes the disk appear as read-only (which prevents THEC64 Mini writing to the disk image).
_NI This flag disables the drive icon from appearing on-screen during disk loading.
_TN This runs as an NTSC C64. It doesn’t affect the HDMI output.
_TP This runs as a PAL C64. It doesn’t affect the HDMI output.

apdc1296.jpg

Composed with ArcheType on my C128


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blog/2018-10-15.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/26 20:29 by David