Awesome Stuff: Artisanal Handheld Games

This one’s for collectors and folks with a little cash to spare: Pixel Vision, a beautiful hand-made game emulator from Sweden.

The Good

Love Hultén is a designer who makes incredible video game cabinets both large and small, and the Pixel Vision is a Kickstarted attempt to make some of his very desirable work available to more people with his smallest device yet. It runs on a Raspberry Pi board inside a handmade walnut casing — in fact everything about the Pixel Vision is handmade by one person. It has controls much like a classic Nintendo, runs emulators for a bunch of classic game systems, all controlled through a special minimal front-end interface that lets you access emulator functions like Reset and Save/Load State via hotkey combinations. It comes with some pre-loaded ROMs and you can load more via USB.

Given the completely hand-made nature of everything Hultén makes, all his products are ultra-limited edition, and this is no exception: there are only 500 Pixel Visions, and a few extra special versions with even finer materials. Nothing here is revolutionary, but all the elements are top quality and put together with style to create a product I suspect many gamers — and especially those with nostalgic memories of their Game Boys — would love to have in their collection.

The Bad

There was no way a lovingly hand-crafted, limited edition, solid wood handheld gaming device was going to be cheap, was there? Alas, the Pixel Vision costs around $470 (but is priced in Swedish Krona). Considering the nature of its construction and the fact that it’s essentially an art piece, this isn’t an unfair price — and indeed this is Hultén’s less expensive offering, given that his other even-more-impressive designs cost considerably more — but it will certainly discourage most would-be buyers (that is, after all, more than a Playstation 4). Though, with only 500 on the market, that’s not exactly a problem.

The Details

What really caught my eye about the Pixel Vision is just how much Hultén’s attention to detail permeates every aspect of its design. This isn’t just some electronics crammed in a nice hand-made wood box by a woodworker hoping to find a market — it’s actually a complete design by someone who clearly cares about all the elements of the device, hardware and software included.

The best example of this is the 3.5″ LCD screen. Anyone could stick a small screen in a box, but this one is mounted in a bezel that is ever-so-slightly curved outwards to evoke old-school TVs — but it doesn’t stop there. The curved bezel is a great vintage look, but the screen would still clearly be modern, so the Pixel Vision runs custom OpenGL software that applies barrel distortion and a soft shader to all the emulator’s graphics, giving it the genuine bulged look of an old CRT television. That’s the sort of detail that ties the whole thing together and makes it not just a gimmick but a cohesive piece of great design.

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