An unnecessary update? Hyperkin Retron 1 AV Clone NES review

Published April 2, 2021 463 Views $4.78 earned

Rumble / Tech ReviewsThe Nintendo Entertainment System is an extraordinary little machine. One of the things that made it so remarkable was it's amazing library of games. People are still making games for it today, 35 years after it's initial release. The folks over at Hyperkin have been creating systems that can play NES cartridges for 10+ years, and their latest is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Here, in early 2021, Hyperkin has released the Retron 1 AV, a composite-only clone NES system.

This new version of the Retron 1 AV is available in two different colors. Gray, which is inspired by the original system's color scheme, and the Hyper Beach Edition which you see here. Either color scheme includes one wired Cadet controller, RCA cables, and a micro USB cable for power. No power supply is included, and with any cartridge based system you must supply your own games. I was left scratching my head as to why there was no power supply included, is that shouldn't increase the cost of goods sold tremendously. Also, there's a typo on the back of the box which indicates you need a 5 amp, 1 volt power supply when in reality it is a 5 volt, 1 amp that you will need.

The overall look and feel of the system is, well, budget feeling. On the back of the unit, you have a set of mono RCA jacks for audio and video, and your micro USB port for power. There is no PAL switch, and no aspect ratio switch. The power and reset buttons, while functional, don't have the cool aesthetic that the Retron HD's power and reset buttons do, which are directly inspired from the original NES.

Since there is no terrific way to capture composite video at 240P, I had to run the system through my RetroTink2x with line doubling turned on. So if anything, my results here will look better than yours running straight into a television.

Performance is about as expected for a unit such as this. Prior to many of the HDMI equipped systems, there are a lot of games that simply would not work on clone systems. Castlevania 3 is a perfect example, and it did not work on this system either. Battletoads locks up on level two like it has with every other clone system I've ever tested. If you're looking for something extraordinary, remember the saying that you get what you pay for.

For the most authentic testing possible, I actually borrowed a CRT from Adrian at Live Action Games. I split the signal coming out of the system so that I could both capture footage and play on the CRT. I have to admit, the colors looked better on the CRT then going to my flat panel television. They were much more vibrant and robust. Plus, and this is exciting, light gun games will work on a CRT! Both Duck Hunts and Hogan's Alley both worked flawlessly, not something possible with an HDMI system.

I did run into a very major issue when it came to the controller one port. First and foremost, the port is extremely tight on the included Cadet controller. It really shouldn't be that much of a fight to plug a controller into a system. In addition to this, no other controller worked plugged into the player one port. My NES Advantage would work but only when I plugged in both player one and player two ports. This is a major concern, and something Hyperkin needs to address.

Why it RoX
- Inexpensive
- Cadet controller is very good
- 2 color scheme options
- Compatible with light gun games
- Cartridge pins did not have a death grip

What could be improved:
- I could not get other controllers to work
- No performance difference over previous models
- Only a 5 ft long controller wire
- No power supply included
- Tight controller port
- For less than $10 more you can get the Retron HD

Should you buy one?
I am typically of the belief that there is a customer for just about every product, however this system has me stumped. The cost savings over the Retron HD is not that significant, less than $10, and that system includes a controller with a longer cable, an HDMI output, and I think overall a more robust design. The Retron HD does not have the games compatibility issues that the Retron 1 AV has. Plus, the Retro HD still includes composite video output. If you are considering the Retron AV, I would either buy a standard NES front loader, or I would go for Hyperkin's Retron HD. This is a product that I look at and I don't understand why it exists.