K1 GBA SP – First Hands-on Impressions

by dsiso on July 27, 2012

Before we begin I need to thank K1GBA for providing the review sample. http://www.K1GBA.com is the first site on the Internet selling the new upgradable K1 GBA SP. Unlike previous sites selling a different upgradele unit, K1GBA offers free worldwide shipping without the need of a intermediate shipping proxy. I have received confirmation from the K-Team that the unit they are selling is indeed upgradable and from K1GBA that their unit will be supported by the same person behind the 00610601 unit upgrades. Now, let us begin a brief hands-on impressions of the K1 GBA SP!

Ask a gamer what handheld they feel most nostalgic about and chances are the answer will be the Gameboy Advance. It is not surprising to hear this considering the GBA was on the market for 7 popular years, resulting in 3 different incarnations, which sold upwards of 82 millions units worldwide. GBA games continue to have a strong following today thanks to the DS Phat and Lite, emulation, and various “hardware” clones.

Up to this point we have not seen a 3rd party GBA clone that offered a true hardware solution. Gamers have instead dealt with compatibility issues brought on by software emulation. While some software/hardware solutions have provided excellent experiences (SCDS2 and PSP) they are never perfect and often require time to set-up and maintain.

The K-Team’s K1 GBA SP is a System on a Chip (SoC) solution that promises near perfect compatibility for all normal hardware GBA game cartridges. The K-Team has designed a solution that mimics the GBA on a hardware level, allowing for games to run at full speed without the need of hacks, patches, or emulation updates. If required, the SoC can be upgraded with firmware releases that not only add additional features to the system (such as MP3 playback) but may also address any compatibility issues. The system reads all data off the K-Card, a simple transfer device that allows information stored on a microSD/SDHC card to be read into the DRAM.

The shape of the unit mimics a GBA SP in a variety of ways. The shell has a similar feel of a retail GBA SP, and the button placement, speaker holes, logos, etc, make the unit look and play very much like the original. Thanks to a modern high resolution LCD, smoother graphics are presented across multiple aspect ratios, as well as 5 levels of brightness. The K1 GBA SP battery holds about 5 hours of charge and is interchangeable with the official Nintendo GBA SP battery. The official link cable, battery charger, and headphone adapter can also be used. In addition the K1 offers TV out via AV cables utilizing 640×480 scaling.

When not playing actual retail GBA game carts, the system can load ROMs into a menu system with options including such things as in-game text file guides, cheats, and an auto-fire mode. The system also supports direct ROM booting of embedded 8-bit emulation. The included emulators are enhanced copies of popular GBA Homebrew such as PocketNES and Goomba Paletted. Overall there are currently 8 supported types of classic games including NES, PC-Engine, Master System, Game Gear, Gameboy, and Gameboy Color. GBA Homebrew has not been forgotten as the hardware solution allows for hundreds of free games and applications to run without a problem.

Every game I have thrown at the system has performed as expected. Problems titles like the Classic NES Series, Golden Sun, and the Mother 3 English Fan-Translation, run at full speed and without any issue. Any problems that have arisen have been related to the in-game menu availability but never with actual ROMs running or performing as expected. Homebrew has also performed perfectly including various emulation and interpreters. The system supports 2-player games via a link cable (both official and unofficial), and while this has yet to be tested early reports are that it works perfectly.

Additional features like MP3 playback and text reading have been included in the most recent firmware revision. So far I have tested both CBR and VBR encoded MP3 files and found that neither caused any issue. The system supports only mono-audio via the built-in center speaker and AV-out cable. I have yet to track down a GBA SP headphone adapter, but early reports state that only the K2 (a future form factor revision) will support full stereo sound.

An official GBAtemp review is in the works which will include a round of ROM, Homebrew, and emulation testing. While the review will focus on the K1 GBA SP itself, some comparisons may be made to the original retail Nintendo GBA SP. If you have any questions about the K1 GBA SP please leave a comment in the on-going discussion, linked below. If you have a comment about this first impressions post or the upcoming review, please leave them in this thread. Finally, if you own the K1 GBA SP let us know your thoughts and comments.

Posted ImageK1 GBA SP On-going Discussion
Posted ImageReview of the Prototype Build
Posted ImageK1GBA.com (Resale, Facts and Information)

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