It’s been two years since Aurelio built a portable. In 2016, Aurelio took 3rd place with the original Piizza portable, the first portable to feature his custom GC+ board. In the two years since then, GC+ has become a necessity for all Wii portables, but Aurelio has never been one to stick to the norm. By pushing the bounds of modern portablizing further than ever before, Aurelio snagged the first non-Gman victory in the 2018 contests.
Custom PCBs are one of the latest and greatest tools in portablizing at this time. In 2016, they were virtually nonexistent. 2017 saw them begin to become more and more common among veteran portablizers like Gman and JacksonS, but in the later half of 2017 more and more modders began to tap into this awesome source of potential features and cleaner internals. Aurelio, being Aurelio, utilized advanced custom boards in virtually every aspect of his portable.
Right off the bat, Aurelio replaced the legendary GC+ with a revamped GC+ 2.0, seen loosely assembled in the picture above. Aurelio rewrote the entire program in C, rather than Assembly like the original. This change allows for easier changes to the firmware, whether it be by Aurelio or someone else. Additionally, the new version allows for new features such as button remapping on a game by game basis, as well as improved stick scaling. The GC+ 2.0 also features pull-up resistors built into the chip itself, which drastically cuts down on the overall footprint of the GC+. As seen above, Aurelio mounted all the buttons, joystick connectors, and circuitry onto two PCBs, allowing for a wire-free controller solution to help keep the internals organized.
The portable also features crisp 480p video with the help of the Eyoyo 5 inch monitor. Aurelio went to great lengths to make the driver board as thin as possible.
Aurelio wired the screen directly to the driver board with dozens of pieces of magnet wire, thus shaving off a few millimeters by eliminating the FFC connector. For reference, the connector has a pitch of 0.5mm per line, so Aurelio getting this working first try is a testament to his soldering abilities.
On the other side of the board, Aurelio tested to determine which sections of the driver board could be removed and ended up powering the entire screen off of voltages from his custom regulators. Anything that was tall but necessary was relocated in order to make the driver board as slim as possible. The final board is clean, organized, and most importantly: thin.
The features don’t stop there! One of the drawbacks of almost all portables is the wide range of charging ports they generally use. Specialized smart chargers and DC power supplies have been the go-to for portablizers since the dawn of time, but unfortunately this usually means that there’s the extra hassle of having to carry around another charger that is only used to power a portable. Aurelio took a stab at changing this and succeeded in incorporating USB-C into his portable – the first person to do so. Aurelio’s portable is charged by the Nintendo Switch power supply, thus allowing his portable to piggyback off of a charger he will already have with him. The USB-C port can also be connected to a computer to access his internal flash drive, allowing him to flash new games and test software to the Piizza 2.0 without having to open up the portable and extract the drive.
You can’t have a top-of-the-line Wii portable without trimming a Wii! Aurelio’s trim features a custom NAND relocation board that allows him to relocate the NAND with the vias on the custom board lining up perfectly with the vias on the Wii, allowing a quick and relatively painless relocation. More importantly, relocating the NAND like this makes it very unlikely that a wire could pop loose and render the whole thing useless.
The final trim is tiny and still features four screw holes which allow the Wii to be held securely in place.
Aurelio’s method of cooling is piping hot. Or is it piping cool? All I know is that it uses a heat pipe to cut down on the overall area the cooling system needs and allows the hot air to go directly to the outtake of the portable where the warm air is blown out by a fan.
Here’s the final system. the fan is the black circle and the air is guided with the green tube that Aurelio designed and 3D printed specifically for this project. Overall, it’s an extremely elegant solution. More heat pipes and other similar cooling systems are likely going to become common in new portables.
The last main feature that Aurelio’s portable has is a slew of features in and of itself: PowerMii. PowerMii is an all-in-one board for charging batteries, regulating voltages, controlling sound, and several other awesome things that make his portable more akin to a modern device.
This is a picture of PowerMii next to an SD card. It is minuscule, especially when you look at the extensive list of functions this little guy does. Here’s a summary:
- Efficient voltage regulation for all voltages the Wii requires, making it no longer necessary to relocate the LDO (1.8v regulator) on the Wii for trims that go beyond the basic OMGWTF trim.
- Safe battery charging for any number of batteries. Also allows any DC power supply between nine and fifteen volts to be used to power the Piizza and charge the batteries simultaneously. Beyond this, PowerMii is able to read the exact capacity of the batteries, and can take this information and display on the screen of the portable with the help of one of Aurelio’s custom Wii programs: WiiHUD. This is a major step up from what most portables have, if they have a battery indicator at all. The board is also capable of notifying the user of deterioration in the batteries, as batteries do begin to wear out after many cycles. Between these two features, PowerMii can also tell how long it will be before the portable will run out of juice and how long it will take for the portable to be fully charged again. That’s more than my iPad can do…
- The board is able to take a temperature reading from near the CPU and GPU where all the heat is and can identify when the fan should slow down or speed up in order to maintain a proper temperature that will keep the Wii from overheating. This means that portables no longer have to choose between borderline safe cooling systems or overkill ones – fans can simply take their cue from PowerMii and run at whatever speed is ideal for the situation. Should the portable become overheated anyways, PowerMii can identify this and safely shut itself down. The Wii loses it’s overheating protection after trimming, so this added feature adds another level of safety to a portable.
- A built in digital audio amp that seamlessly switches between headphones and speakers. Volume is controlled through a combination of buttons on the GameCube controller, which eliminates the need for external volume control buttons.
This is PowerMii mostly wired up inside of his portable. If you weren’t excited for the board’s release to the public, well now you are!
Here’s a video Aurelio made showing off his portable and a lot of the features it contains. Be sure to give it a watch and leave a comment calling it GameCube!
That’s about all there is to say about the Piizza 1.5 right now, but Aurelio is still working on a variety of software to improve this portable and bring new features to other people’s projects. He is personally working on a software patch that will allow GameCube controllers to be used to emulate Wiimotes, with fully remappable buttons, functions, and other awesome features. He is continuing to work on WiiHUD software for both his individual amps and PowerMii. These improvements along with a bunch of extreme hardware mods will be coming together to create what could very well be the most legendary portable of all time – the Piizza 2.0.