If you are of a certain age and played videogames in the late 1980s or early 1990s the Competition Pro was a very familiar sight in the UK. Particularly with the rise of the 16-bit home computers such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. Along with other sticks like various Quickfire models, the Cheetah 125+ and Zipstick. You would always bump into these joysticks and the Competition Pro was just one of those popular and iconic controllers of the era.
And despite owning various arcade sticks and joypads over the years I’ve never got around to picking up any of the more modern re-releases of this classic from Speedlink. So I let out a squeal of delight this week when I accidently found on Amazon that Speedlink has released a new updated Competition Pro Extra USB Joystick. It is a perfect time and excuse to pick one up.
It has been 25 years or so since I last held and used one of the original Competition Pro joysticks. So my memory may be hazy, but essentially this feels like I’ve picked up the same joystick. The microswitched stick feels as tight and stiff as ever. And the clicky microswitched big buttons on the front of the base are still faithfully there. This is a genuine Competition Pro updated for modern USB devices.
The stick is advertised as working with Microsoft Windows and Google Android operating systems. However I’ve been using it exclusively with a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ and RetroPie and it works fine (I assume it also works on Linux but haven’t had a chance to check).
Essentially a digital joystick with 4 independent buttons and an auto-fire switch. The joystick has a 1.8m (just under 6ft) USB cable. This isn’t the longest length depending on how far away you are from the computer or box you are plugging the stick into but should be enough for most use cases. This new release has an increased polling rate over earlier USB versions and to be fair it shows. I didn’t feel any lag on inputs when playing with this joystick.
My only issue is the red ‘speedlink’ logo near the back of the base behind the stick. This feels like it is in the wrong place and does spoil the overall look of the controller a little bit in my opinion. All that said hopefully there is a chance of a clear transparent and red version in the future (which is obviously the best looking colour scheme for the Competition Pro).
The quality and feel of this stick is fantastic. It feels robust and well made like it was from the 1980s. And in many ways it makes the experience of playing older 8/16-bit games much more authentic than using a modern controller, like a Microsoft Xbox 360 joypad or similar. The price of around £30 is perfect for what you get. Which also includes 20 retro-style Windows compatible games.
So hats off to Speedlink and thank you for releasing this wonderful product.
More information can be found on the Speelink website here.
As mentioned in my recent update I ordered some System on a Chip (SoC) hardware and one of these items was the Odroid Go by Hardkernel. It cost me £39.99 + postage from Odroid’s UK website (arrived within 3 days). The Odroid Go is a kit form handheld console which includes a small SoC mainboard and all the parts required to build your own handheld console. It was released to celebrate the Odroid’s 10-year anniversary.
The system itself doesn’t take long to build although you need to be careful with certain parts, i.e. not scratch the screen or over tighten the screws to damage the plastic (there is a really good YouTube video from ETA Prime I followed here) although the main store page mentioned earlier has some detail instructions on how to put everything together and how to compile the micro SD card. The micro SD card is the only other hardware you need to add to make everything work.
The main CPU is based on the Arduino MCU ESP32 and means that it is capable of emulating 8-bit systems from the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s. With the latest firmware the system supports: Nintendo Game Boy & Gameboy Color, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, and the ColecoVision. In addition it can also runs apps to support other systems such as the Atari 2600 and 7800 amongst others. However these aren’t accessible from the main menu and have to be loaded separately.
The hardware itself feels good. The clear plastic shell has a nice feel to it, and with everything built the unit feels relatively robust. The buttons and D-pad are fine, although I particularly like the D-pad itself which feels really responsive and a little bit more springy than the buttons. The screen is clear and well lit. It’s clearly an easy machine to modify and fit your own suitable buttons or transform the look with a custom paint job.
Emulation performance is really good and stable although there is noticeable screen tearing on the NES and Sega Master System emulation. Although you can resize the screen ratio to reduce the tearing slightly (START + Right on the D-pad) the tearing is worse on side scrolling games. It is bearable but it means that the machine isn’t ideally suited to emulating the home 8-bit consoles and there are probably other better options available. However emulation of the handheld systems is really good and this is where this little machine absolutely shines. However whatever system you are playing the machine is very quick to load and you can be playing a game in seconds. It is worth mentioning my Odroid Go is running the latest October 2018 firmware and the process to update the firmware is very simple, in that you just copy over some files from PC and upload to the machine. It also includes save states slots for every game and a quick system wide save state if you want to resume the last game played with a simple press of the ‘B’ button from the main menu.
There are a few things the machine could do better, for example the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack and it would be great if the machine had a bigger LCD screen. But overall any complaints are really minor. Particularly when you factor in the very reasonable price.
For me probably the perfect modern Game Boy emulation machine. Great value for money, nice hardware and ideal formfactor with all the benefits of modern hardware and software. Even as a Game Boy Pocket owner I would rather reach for this machine simply because of the modern backlit screen. I would love Hardkernel to release a more powerful Odroid handheld machine kit in the future, perhaps allowing emulation of newer systems. In the meantime though I am really happy with this great machine. Thank you!
SD card is easy to create
Firmware update process is very simple
Game Boy, Game Boy Color & Game Gear emulation is very good
Long battery life
Modding and customisation should be relatively easy
Could do better
Noticeable screen tearing on NES and Sega Master System
ColecoVision emulation feels pointless without number-pad controls