At the end of 2020, everyone who pre-ordered Atari VCS on the Indie Go-Go resource (a crowdfunding platform) received a gift. The release date of the console is June 15. And while everyone is still talking about new consoles from Sony and Microsoft (which will soon be joined by Nintendo’s new Switch), let’s find out about Atari VCS.
This console will be perfect for those who remember old-school games and consoles and feel nostalgic about them from time to time. You will also be happy to know that Romsplanet.com offers the possibility to play numerous games you have played in childhood. Choose something to spend several great evenings playing.
Initially, the release was planned for July 2019 but the general public will only be able to access the console in the second half of 2021. The design of the VCS dates back to the original Atari 2600. The device is smaller but has the same wood front panel and louvered ribs. And many believe that this design is more attractive than the consoles of the supposed competitors.
True, the wooden panel comes in a limited edition and the general public only has a simpler version of the design – completely in black.
Atari has partnered with gaming peripheral manufacturer PowerA to develop two controllers. The “classic” joystick is similar to the controller from 2600. It is now wireless with a built-in battery. There are more keys: a second “fire” button, a power key, and a couple more to control the console menu added to the side. Around the handle, an LED backlight appeared, which reacts to its position.
Despite the attractive design, the joystick lacks functionality. How many modern projects can you play with one stick and two buttons? Thus, the controller is only intended for classic games. The modern controller resembles an Xbox One gamepad with a pilot disc that replaces the traditional D-pad.
The set-top box is powered by an AMD Ryzen Embedded R1606G processor with a Vega 3 video chip. These are laptop components designed for office use. Thus, the Atari VCS is not able to compete with the latest generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Outdated hardware can be attributed to a release delay of more than a year. Nextgen consoles are also inferior in performance to modern PCs, but not in comparison with budget processors.
The box comes with 8 GB of RAM: two 4 GB DDR4 2400 SO-DIMM strips. The volume can be expanded up to 32 GB (16 GB x 2). The console is equipped with a 32GB eMMC drive, but there is an M.2 slot inside for installing a hard drive. You can also connect an external drive via USB.
It is clear that the Atari VCS is not able to compete with Sony and Microsoft but it has a chance to become a replacement for Apple TV or Nvidia Shield. In PC mode, you won’t be able to run modern games, but the indie Steam library projects will run smoothly. And of course, the console does an excellent job of emulating old games.
The Debian-based Atari operating system is extremely simple and not very instrumental. The OS serves as the interface for launching applications and games installed from the store. It looks nice but has performance issues. Although the console supports 4K, the interface is slow in this mode. Again, this will be fixed with firmware updates, but such hardware will not pull 4K even in an undemanding game. Obviously, this functionality is designed for streaming and watching videos.
The console comes with the Atari Vault Vol.1. There are several applications and games in the store, but the selection does not impress with variety. The Atari Vault app has classic games that you can add to your library.
The Atari VCS is simply a nicer version of the mini PCs present on the market. However, unlike these, a locked BIOS does not allow users to use the console for their own purposes. The raw state of the standard OS from Atari and other problems, so far do not allow it to be recommended. Unless you have extra money (a complete set with gamepads will cost $400) and want to tinker with a wonderful piece of hardware.
Atari has announced platform-exclusive games, but big-name studios won’t go with the unpopular platform. The console will attract retro gamers but the modern generation will pass by. However, it is still has a good chance to become popular. Everything depends on the final version of the console and on the games that will be released. Moreover, Atari has its own fanbase that may help it.