Worklog Slow Progress on my First N64 Portable

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Hey y'all,

I figured I would make a work-log on my N64 portable project as I have been making some steady progress recently and as a way to properly introduce myself to everyone.

A bit of back story; I began collecting parts for this project when I was still in high school and shelved it maybe a month later as it seemed really over my head at the time. Fast forward 4-5 years I got back into modding when I was able to incorporate one of my broken GC controllers into a SNES controller body to use on my Wii for some authentic feeling gaming. Broke out my box of 64 stuff and made humble progress on the case and trimming the board, as well as relocating the cartridge port. Later I came across an unused original PS1 screen and console combo for $20 on craigslist. As amazing as that sounds I traded the console and controller for an expansion pack and a game at the flea market lol. I kept the screen for the project but it again got shelved as college took priority. Another 4-5 years and here we are in the today-times. After getting my PS1 screen trimmed and shoved into my case, I bumped the desk and the portable tipped over and landed face down on the desk, it didn't fall to the floor thankfully. Unfortunately that was enough to kill the screen (sorry Shank) and made me look around the web for some possible fixes. I came across Bitbuilt and was impressed with the advances in portablizing everyone has made. It made me want to step up my game and make a portable worthy of standing next to the best of the best.

For the past couple of months I have managed to get my case design set, most of the controller button holes in place, replacement screen fitted, N64 board cleaned from my old horrible soldering work, set it up for rgb (I have a PVM I want to use when docked), got my batteries in and tested, and performed a ram swap just last night.

I still have a ways to go but I'm adamant about finishing this thing once and for all.
Some pics:

The first trim
3.jpg

Board compared to my GameGear case.
2.jpg

The case idea forming and the now dead PS1 screen :(
IMG_20141230_221120.jpg

Close-up of the cartridge port bend. I had 2 lines break but was able to repair it
IMG_20141230_221447.jpg

Me admiring how cool the GameGear cutout shows the cart label when inserted.
IMG_20141231_200023.jpg

The ram swap
IMG_20180319_165559626.jpg IMG_20180319_165540080.jpg IMG_20180319_204524067.jpg

The current state of the case, might need to be thicker
IMG_20180320_170958772.jpg IMG_20180320_171027079.jpg

That's it! Any helpful critiques appreciated. Still waiting on some parts to come in but I'm currently thinking about finishing the case before I move forward. As for planned features I have a few;

- Cart relocation (maybe built in Everdrive, still debating this)
- RGB mod
- RAM swap
- Dual Z buttons with possible switch to swap L and R to their respective Z's and the Z's up to the shoulders
- Full AV out for docking (Composite, RGB, maybe S-video?)
- built in rumble if the space allows
- Stereo speakers with headphone jack
- Expansion port for docked 4-player
- Ultra HDMI built in????

IMG_20180320_170842964.jpg

Let's see how this will work out ;)
 
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Update time!

Decided to fix my novice soldering skills that were present on my n64 board as well as patch in the jumper pak. I used straight lines wherever I could and magnet wire where appropriate.

Old and new
IMG_20180324_155500164.jpg IMG_20180403_230456356_HDR~2.jpg

Jumper pak relocation
IMG_20180325_125322653.jpg IMG_20180403_230718026.jpg

Close up of the 2 repaired lines from the cartridge points
IMG_20180403_230809479.jpg

Do you fellas think the jumper pak lines are okay being slightly different lengths? They are all under 1.5cm but I remember reading that the memory is very picky about impedance.

One other thing I did was return some of the capacitors I had relocated when I did the board bend. An odd thing though was that they were leaking upon closer examination. This could have happened when I relocated them as I'm sure I yanked on the leads a little too hard while doing it.
Replaced them with new ones from a kit just in case. Have any of you had leaking capacitors on your boards before?

IMG_20180324_191014086.jpg
 

MRKane

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The N64 is crazy finicky about the lengths for the RDram, and despite heaps of messing about in that department myself I cannot really offer any golden advice here. If it works then you've managed something that few of us can get right! And if it doesn't then it's simply the wrong length :(
 
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I know, I'm a little worried that all that work might be for naught. I can't test until I get the cartridge slot re-relocated and my batteries wired up.
 
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Okay so small update. I have my batteries wired up and they are outputting 7.4v but when I wire them up to my PTH8000 I get ~1.4v on my 7.4v line and nothing on my 3.3v line. Anyone have any ideas? I'm thinking it might be my capacitor but I don't know how to test it with my multimeter, if it's even possible. Sucks because I just finished my cart relocation and this issue is stopping me from testing.

Thinking back I've never even connected my PTH8000 since I got it many years ago. Can these go bad?

Edit: Also my batteries refuse to power my screen now :/ When I test them with my multimeter they read 7.4v but the voltage drops slowly every second, 7.4 to 7.3 to 7.2...etc. Is this normal?
 
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Stitches

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Okay so small update. I have my batteries wired up and they are outputting 7.4v but when I wire them up to my PTH8000 I get ~1.4v on my 7.4v line and nothing on my 3.3v line. Anyone have any ideas? I'm thinking it might be my capacitor but I don't know how to test it with my multimeter, if it's even possible. Sucks because I just finished my cart relocation and this issue is stopping me from testing.

Thinking back I've never even connected my PTH8000 since I got it many years ago. Can these go bad?

Edit: Also my batteries refuse to power my screen now :/ When I test them with my multimeter they read 7.4v but the voltage drops slowly every second, 7.4 to 7.3 to 7.2...etc. Is this normal?
Photos pls
 
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Sure thing. Unfortunately I dismantled the regulator already but I did my best to show how it was wired up.
IMG_20180429_002857897.jpg

This is my battery pack..
IMG_20180429_002939386.jpg

.. and I might have spoke too early, voltage seems to have leveled out at 7.05v. Maybe they need to be charged again?
IMG_20180429_003039320.jpg

Edit: I don't know what I did but everything is working again. I redid the regulator and it works although because of my resistor choice I'm only getting 3.2v. Charged the batteries and my screen powered right up.
 
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So a bit of bad news, I can't get my board to function. I've been trying to figure out what's wrong but I'm at a loss. I have the cartridge slot relocated, voltages are fine, have it wired to the screen using composite and checked for shorts. The only thing I can think of is the ram swap. I'm currently in the process of rewiring the jumper pak with exactly equal lengths magnet wire. 0.9cm lengths to be exact.

Does anyone have close up pics of a RAM swap, especially of the jumper pak reconnection? I want to compare my work to others.

Edit: does anyone know if I must connect all of the ground pins on the expansion slot individually? Or can I just ground the jumper pak to the board? I ask because my multimeter says the pins are already connected to ground elsewhere

Edit x2: Okay so I completely redid the jumper pak relocation and unfortunately it still refuses to boot. I'm at a truly complete loss right now with this board. The only thing that I can find that is unusual is that I'm getting 0.5v on the 5v line and the part of the board that has all the capacitors (the part people sometimes trim) get really warm. The gpu and ram don't get warm at all as well.

I'm calling it a day on this board and I'm going to try another one. I'm posting this info in hopes of someone finding it useful.

IMG_20180507_004012435.jpg
 
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Miceeno

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Oh the woes of the Nintendo 64. I've pretty much given up on relocating the Expansion/Jumper Pak on these because there's a trick to getting them to wake back up when they refuse to boot. What you have to do is remove the Cartridge and Expansion/Jumper Pak. Turn the system on for 5-10 seconds. Turn it off for 5-10 seconds. Reinstall the Expansion/Jumper Pak. Turn the system back on for 5-10 seconds. Turn it off for 5-10 seconds. Reinsert the cartridge and presto it will boot. This is basically impossible with a hardwired Pak.

Something else to look into would be to verify the lengths and gauge of your cartridge slot wires. They need to be equal length and under 6ish inches if you can help it. Have you had it work after your most recent fix of the two wires? They look like they are coming from the RCP so I'm assuming (I'm not looking at a pinout at the moment) they are part of either that address bus or data bus. The address and data bus wires are extremely important to get all equal length, power and ground don't matter.

You might try a different game before rewiring. I know first and second party games are more resilient to cartridge slot wire length then 3rd party games.

Good luck.
 

MRKane

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Hey Miceeno: I wish I'd known that when I was developing a region mod for the N64! The damn thing just kept on bricking up and would come right days later!
 
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Oh the woes of the Nintendo 64. I've pretty much given up on relocating the Expansion/Jumper Pak on these because there's a trick to getting them to wake back up when they refuse to boot. What you have to do is remove the Cartridge and Expansion/Jumper Pak. Turn the system on for 5-10 seconds. Turn it off for 5-10 seconds. Reinstall the Expansion/Jumper Pak. Turn the system back on for 5-10 seconds. Turn it off for 5-10 seconds. Reinsert the cartridge and presto it will boot. This is basically impossible with a hardwired Pak.

Something else to look into would be to verify the lengths and gauge of your cartridge slot wires. They need to be equal length and under 6ish inches if you can help it. Have you had it work after your most recent fix of the two wires? They look like they are coming from the RCP so I'm assuming (I'm not looking at a pinout at the moment) they are part of either that address bus or data bus. The address and data bus wires are extremely important to get all equal length, power and ground don't matter.

You might try a different game before rewiring. I know first and second party games are more resilient to cartridge slot wire length then 3rd party games.

Good luck.
Thanks for the tips dawg. My cartridge wiring lengths were 4in, all the same (I remember sitting at my desk for about an hour measuring and cutting these 50 lines lol). The 2 repaired lines were in fact working but that was years ago.

Unfortunately in a fit of frustration I ripped off my jumper pak from the board after completely re-doing it and having it not boot, destroying the memory traces. I wish I knew about that expansion trick beforehand but all well, it still felt good though.

I have already been working on a new board and have it confirmed working with my trim and ram swap. I'm still hesitant on hardwiring my jumper pak so I'm working on my case first to see if I need that extra clearance.
 

Miceeno

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I'm still hesitant on hardwiring my jumper pak so I'm working on my case first to see if I need that extra clearance.
I design around the pak, the cartridge is 3/4" thick and that has to go somewhere (18650 cells are 3/4" diameter as well). I'd only concern myself with getting the N64 thinner than that if I had a large enough screen to justify not stacking the cartridge on the N64; or if I was hardwiring a 64drive or everdrive64.

Jumper Paks can easily be shortened and Expansion Paks can be bent to fit this dimension.
 
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