Worklog First N64 Portable - N64HH Build

Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
Over the past month I've been gathering together the things I need to do an N64 build. I am finally ready to start a worklog now that I have most of the necessary parts. I wanted to start with what I have done so far up to this point. This post might be a little scrambled and all over the place, hopefully it serves as a good update.

I first started with the main open source boards for the N64. I knew I would need the RVL-PMS, N64 Amp, and PIF relocations boards.

I wanted to redesign the RVL-PMS to get rid of the 1v, 1.15v, and 1.8v lines since they aren't needed for the N64. I have never done anything with KiCad before and it took me a little while to learn how to move things around properly. It was fun to modify a design, but I think it would be sweet to make my own pcb from scratch now. Once I had something I thought would work I sent off my order for the PCBs.

Screenshot 2024-01-03 at 3.44.40 PM.png
Screenshot 2023-12-07 at 9.26.10 AM.png


This was my first time ever buying blank boards and populating them by hand. The N64 Amp and PIF boards were done by hand and I did the PMS with a stencil. I wanted to try out some soldering methods that were new to me. After doing both methods I would say the stencil is the way to go. It was much faster and easier with less need for reworking after blasting the components with the hot air station.

IMG_3702.JPG
IMG_3743.jpg


IMG_3724 (1).jpg
IMG_3727.JPG


IMG_3744.jpg


Now that I had the boards populated, I had to learn how to program the PIC chips. It took a bit of research to learn what I needed to do exactly but I eventually found the MPLAB IPE program that would interface with my PICkit 3 clone. My first attempt with the N64 Amp didn't go well. I didn't understand the power settings needed to power the chip and kept getting short errors. I eventually took a break and moved onto the PMS instead. With sheer luck the PMS connected first try and I was able to successfully program my first chip! I went back to the N64 Amp and reworked things a bit more and finally got that one to program after changing the power settings to 3.3v.

I then started to work on the N64 motherboard with first doing the RAM swap. I haven't done drag soldering before and it was a new technique I've been wanting to try. It started off a little rough with everything bridging like crazy. After a generous amount of flux and the help of some solder wick, I was able to get the chips soldered on.

IMG_3749.JPG

IMG_3751.JPG
IMG_3734.JPG


I believe I am ready to start trimming the motherboard down to finally test everything I've done so far.

IMG_3750.JPG


I next would decide on what I wanted to do for a case, and as luck would have it @Nicholas298 released his models right as I started this project. I have never done any 3d modeling myself and would like to learn one day, but for a first N64 build I figured it would be easier to use someone else's shared work. I will likely build another in the future to refine what I learn this first go around.

IMG_3737.jpg


I am excited to see if all these new things I learned worked or not. I'm a bit nervous about the PMS working right, since that was the one thing I had to customize myself.

I'll keep updating here as I do things. I appreciate all the help from everyone so far!

Edit: I have now trimmed the motherboard as well. I still need to remove the cut through components. Hopefully I didn't cut anywhere I shouldn't have.

IMG_3753.jpg


IMG_3754.jpg
 

Attachments

Last edited:
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
Alright everyone, I am having a super weird issue.

My voltage drops whenever I connect to the N64 with a power supply.

I have tried an RVL-PMS and a PowerMii Lite.

The weirder part is that they get low voltages on different lines when connected.

When I connect the RVL-PMS to the N64 I get a clean 5v but the 3.3v line drops to 2.59v
When I connect the PowerMii to the N64 I get a clean 3.3v but the 5v line drops to 4.24v


I've looked for shorts but the resistance between the lines to ground seems fine.

3.3v to GND gets 754 ohms
5.0v to GND gets 1150 ohms

Both the RVL-PMS and PowerMii get the proper voltages when not connected to the N64, so clearly there is an issue on the motherboard but I can't seem to figure out what is going on.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
Well, I tried and tried to figure out what was wrong with my board but I had no luck. I should have tested things along the way before I trimmed. I made the mistake of not testing the RAM swap or the PIF relocation before trimming the board.

I ended up buying another N64 and doing things better this time.

I was able to get the RAM swap working after a couple of attempts reworking the chips.

IMG_3775.JPG



Once I confirmed that the RAM swap worked, I did the PIF relocation.

IMG_3779.JPG


Now that the PIF and RAM have been done, I am back to trimming the board. This time I have a revision 3 board instead of the revision 5 board so the trim is a little wider. I still need to remove the components on the board that I cut through, but I was working on this all day and now I need a break.

IMG_3780.jpg
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
After another 15 rounds of troubleshooting the same issue as before, I finally got the N64 to boot!!!

IMG_3787.jpg


Even though there was no short, I must not have sanded enough after trimming.

I went back and sanded a little more and BAM, it worked.

I wonder if my first trim is the same issue. I may go back to it and see.

Regardless, I am glad to be able to finally move forward with this project!
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
22
Likes
32
I'm guessing you couldn't get the board to boot on 5V? I have the exact same board and was hoping the buck converter would cope with 5V input...

What's the additional links for from the capacitor if I may ask?
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
I'm guessing you couldn't get the board to boot on 5V? I have the exact same board and was hoping the buck converter would cope with 5V input...

What's the additional links for from the capacitor if I may ask?
I was able to finally get it to boot on the 5v yesterday. My issue was that I didn't sand the trim enough. Are you getting a low 5v when powering on the N64?

I'm not sure what you are asking for about the capacitor. Do you mean the PMS?
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
22
Likes
32
Apologies, I had to rewrite my message yesterday after my browser refreshed unexpectedly; I was meant to have said:

Were you not able to get the Screen Board to boot off 5v. I've got the same screen and exact same control board, but haven't tried it on 5v yet...
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
22
Likes
32
You absolute star! :D:D

I thought I'd already found as much info as I could on these screen boards; definitely think it could do with a sticky/ compendium of all the variants.

I'm guessing the jumper between the capacitor and the surface mount component was needed after removing L1?
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
You absolute star! :D:D

I thought I'd already found as much info as I could on these screen boards; definitely think it could do with a sticky/ compendium of all the variants.

I'm guessing the jumper between the capacitor and the surface mount component was needed after removing L1?
That jumper is because I ripped the pad when removing L1. If you remove it clean it just needs the 1 wire on the capacitor and 1 to ground.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
After a couple of weeks putting off the RCP cartridge relocation, I finally got around to giving it a go.

I used the compendium to make sure I got all the wires done correctly. I also followed this guide for where to wire the 3.3v lines: https://bitbuilt.net/forums/index.php?threads/rcp-27-28wiring-guide.1516/

At first the console would not boot. I thought my wires might have been too long, but I decided to look for shorts first.

I initially had a short with one of the 3.3v lines. After fixing the short I still couldn't get the N64 to boot so I continued to look for other shorts. After checking each wire on the RCP, I found that I had another short on pin 41 to ground.

Once I got rid of the shorts, the console booted right up!!!

IMG_3824.jpg


Now that I have a working RCP cartridge relocation, I can finally do the last bit of the trim. I will likely need to rewire everything after I do the last part of my trim. I would like to keep everything the way it is, but I have too much spaghetti going on for my liking.
 
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
128
Likes
118
Portables
2
Decided to try my hand at making a custom breakout PCB for the RCP.

I tried to make the footprint based off of the compendium image, but it was super difficult to scale down correctly.

I ended up finding a github with all the N64 footprints (https://github.com/dmkfasi/nus-cpu) in it luckily so I didn't need to reinvent the wheel.

We will see if my design works for what I'm wanting to do.

Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 2.51.22 PM.png
Screenshot 2024-02-20 at 3.11.27 PM.png
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 12, 2020
Messages
121
Likes
209
I was thinking of designing something like this to take the edge off tedious wiring. Fantastic work! now we just need a flex cable for the cartridge pin-connector that will fit the N64HH design.
 
Top