Worklog Nintendo GAME BOY 64 (M-Boy)

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Aug 28, 2020
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Hey Everyone,

This is a retroactive worklog of building my "Nintendo GAME BOY 64" which I call the: M-Boy. It's probably unnecessary to mention: but my inspiration came from the amazing G-Boy that got me into this hobby. Moreover, the design is heavily inspired by the original Game Boy and of course Gman's G-Boy. More-moreover, most of the parts used in this design have been produced by the man himself, supported by the BitBuilt and and 4layertech stores and people behind them. So to start things off: a huge thank you to Gman and all of those involved in the BitBuilt and 4layertech community and stores.

Let's start with the final result and then followup with the chronological order of getting this from start to finish.

Here she is: a vertical handheld, GAME BOY style Nintendo 64 portable!
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Featuring a 4-color inlaid logo! I've not seen many, portables that feature multi color 3D printing, and this came out really nicely. Looks even better in person and can't be felt at all on the back.
The buttons on the back use a grey, very familiar to the original N64 controllers. Not all is great, as the curves on the sides are printed on supports, they aren't perfectly smooth, but it looks worse in the photo I swear :D
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Some more multi-color action: the volume buttons match the inlaid + and - symbols: this came out super nicely. What's less nice is that there is a bit of color bleed into the body, which could've been better, but my prototypes used a different color where this was not noticed.
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Here's the top: yellow means power but the POWER text didn't come out very nice: nothing in life is perfect. At least there is USB-C charging.
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And then the one you've all been waiting for: the nude shot. Please see below for a full parts list; but it should be obvious here that the BitBuilt and 4layertech stores were definitely involved here.
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So what's inside:

  • 3.5" 480 wisecoco IPS display. This thing is gorgeous and I need to put it in my G-Boy as well. Beautiful bright colors and sharp as a whistle (see also shot below).
  • NTSC N64 rev 5 with 2x 4.5MB RAM chips, advanced trim and a 90 degree cart slot bend. I started with a PAL model but had compatibility issues with the LCD; had to retrim an NTSC model to get it working right (worth it!). Getting the trim to boot up for the first time after the RAM replacement was a very stressful, but very rewarding journey.
  • Gman's N64 PIF Breakout Board. Used my 'original' BitBuilt pre-populated breakout board on my PAL one (which is still on there and functional: N64 mini perhaps?) so I ordered another version from JLCPCB (not a sponsor) and soldered the components on there myself. For me this was a huge achievement, and thank you Gman for making the design open source to make this possible.
  • An Arduino nano clone running controller emulation software. Works really well, but does not offer Controller Pak support. Will link the source if I can find it.
  • 4layertech RVL-PMS-2: Yes you read that right: a Wii power system driving an N64. Why? Well, because I ruined my N64 PMS by a ground loop short, which was the same time I learned that's a thing. Expensive lesson learned.
  • Sparkfun USB-C PD breakout board for USB connectivity. Fitted my design a bit better than the one made by the community, but uses the same chip.
  • BitBuilt N64 AMP. Another beautiful design by Gman. Perfect digital audio that sounds outright amazing. Hooked up to two little phone replacement speakers and a 3.5mm jack for automatic switching. Volume up and down is controlled by the buttons as seen above. Works really nicely and the audio is so crisp.
  • N64 Advanced provides that incredible 480p image. Really nice piece of technology. Converts directly from the digital signals on the N64 to VGA which is then fed into the LCD driver board. Huge thank you to the people involved creating this.
  • Krikzz amazing EverDrive-64 X7. Rather than going for a cartridge based design, I wanted to follow the G-Boy style of having everything built in. As amazing as it is, it also is the cause of most of my pain, since the menu system hard-defaults to the screen resolution native to your system; since I started with a PAL system, it would output 576p, which the screen does not support; even though it supports loading games from a NTSC region (which would then output 480p); the menu system could not be altered. The backup battery cell has been relocated to make it flatter.
  • DPAD, CPAD (I just made that up), A,B buttons are hooked up using BitBuilt DSL breakout PCBs. Figured I just leave the two other buttons on the board unused.
  • Nintendo Switch analog stick hooked up to a BitBuilt breakout board. Now on 4layertech.
  • Volume, Power and Start buttons are your common 6x6 tact switches mounted on a piece of perfboard.
  • Samsung 21700 5000mah lithium ion cell giving a 1h45m play time.
  • The power indicator LED is the actual LED from the N64 that gave its life for this portable, added a lot of resistance to make it nice and dim so it doesn't shine in your eyes.
  • Custom designed (but very much G-Boy inspired) 3D-printed shell. Features embossed logo on the front, multi-color logo on the back, colored button labels. Custom buttons with embossed letters printed with .25mm nozzle, others with .4mm. Printed on Prusa i3 MK2S+MMU2. (The MMU came later, otherwise I would probably have printed the front embossing with color as well.
Some things I'm aware would have liked to improve, but will let them be:
  • Color bleed into the case, some uneven areas on the bottom.
  • POWER inlay text on the case not being crisp.
  • No Controller Pak support.
  • Start button should be red.
That's pretty much it! In the next post I will detail some more about the journey, but it's been more than a year, hundreds of hours in Fusion 360, prototyping, soldering, gathering parts and tools and finally putting it together. It's far from perfect, but I'm very happy with it. Love to hear what y'all think.
 
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Reserved post for the WIP story and pictures.

This is where is starts: The original Nintendo GAME BOY
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The timeline is a bit messed up, because there was no fixed order in which I did things for the most part. Here is one of my original tests: the PAL N64, N64 PMS, some cheap composite screen, a rando 18650 and a power meter. The only parts that made it into the final portable are the USB-C PD board and the RAM chip from the expansion pack!
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Heres a little test board I made to test the digital audio from the N64 AMP. Speakers are on the bottom.
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One of the earlier prototypes that was using an embossing.
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One of the earlier prototypes testing button fitment.
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Buttons! Printed with .25 nozzle so the letters come out quite sharp and layer height is really small so they are smoother.
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A later protoype next to my G-Boy for comparison. It's his bigger older brother.
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The inside of the front panel with the breakout PCBs installed.
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A closeup of the perfboard holding the start button tact switch.
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Power button
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And volume buttons
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We fast foward a bit to the second N64. Here she just received her RAM transplant. Notice the lifted trace? I was sweating a lot and then confirmed that's actually a NC pad. Crisis averted.
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Trimming the Jumper Pak PCB. I wanted to get rid of that top trace, so I rewired that trace below.
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And there it is even shorter.
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The NTSC mainboard trimmed and PIF relocated.
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And the backside. Came out pretty clean
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Running a test with the new screen, the N64 advanced and the NTSC N64; all working and all RAM detected!
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This step I think I put off for weeks but managed to do it (again) in the end. Scoring a line in the PCB and bending 90 degrees. Horrifying but insanely cool.
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Here's the printer producing the first protoypes with color.
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When I saw this, I was getting very excited.
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Prototyping completed, time to put everything together. Here you see the Everdrive 64 X7 mounted below the N64 mainboard. You might think those cartridge wires are a bit long, but apparently that's not an issue! Some kapton to prevent shorts and the battery is now become a dongle.
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Here's the battery holder that fits into the 'slot' above. It camp-fits a 21700 battery perfectly.
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Here the battery, N64 and power are installed. I saw another build using these sort of 'clips' to hold in the mainboard and I used a similar approach. Here its still wired up to an external composite display for testing.
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After that the rest is installed (N64 advanced sits on top of the capacitors with some hot glue) and cables are managed. Then later, I added a heatsink to the RAM and a fan on top of the GPU, aiding the upward draft. This really is effective as the case feels cooler to the touch. Also routed the power cables more directly to the PMS.

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As promised a final pic of that very sharp display:

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And from a distance: Banjo just blinked unfortunately :D
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Love the build, looks fantastic, how are those thermals though?
Thanks. The thermals, well I'm not totally sure to be perfectly honest. I've browsed a lot around to find out what the thermal situation is around the N64, it seems overheating is quite rare.. There is some convection going on after the N64 warms up a little bit, I feel the heat coming out the top vent. Since I have to reopen the system at least once more, I will most likely stick some heatsinks on the RAM and GPU, CPU is probably fine. I don't think I will do a fan, but maybe I can fit it in (there is some space above the RAM/GPU for sure since I designed it to have heatsinks), but maybe it will fit.

That being said it runs for couple hours at a time without any issues and feels warm to the touch very similarly to how the G-Boy feels.
 
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Excellent work! I really dig Game Boy styled portables they look the best IMO. Great job on the multicolor N64 logo, it looks incredible!
Where’s the L button?
Do you have a size comparison pic with a Game Boy or a GBoy?
Looking forward to reading more on the design process
 
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Where’s the L button?
Good question: It's hidden! When I was a kid, we played a lot of N64 games, and I never used it in my life. Nevertheless, some games may need it and the N64 advanced has some button-press combinations to bring up the menu, so I mapped it to 'analog stick pressed'. Having Z and R mapped to the shoulders just made more sense that way.

Do you have a size comparison pic with a Game Boy or a GBoy?
Looking forward to reading more on the design process
I've updated the second post with some pictures, including it next to a G-Boy. It looks very big compared, but it's only a couple of cm bigger (giving it a much greater volume), but is actually more comfortable due to it being wider. The ratio is the same though.
 
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This portable is beautiful especially the screen and the N64 Logo.
 
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