The Makerbuino is, as a glance at its picture will reveal, effectively a Gamebuino, taking the open-source design of the original and converting it into a kit that you can solder yourself using easy-to-handle through-hole components (a pre-assembled version is available for an extra charge). In doing so, however, it has improved on the original in several areas.
A key enhancement is in the handling of sound: while the Gamebuino has a preset volume and can only output to its built-in speaker, the Makerbuino has a physical volume control and a 3.5mm headphone jack with a physical mute switch to disable the rearfacing speaker when the jack is in use.
Another improvement comes in the battery, which has had its capacity doubled from 300mAh to 600mAh. As a result, you can expect a rough doubling of runtime, from an already impressive 12 hours for the Gamebuino to 24 hours for the Makerbuino.
Not every change is for the better, though. The move to a physical slider for the display frontlight – as with the Gamebuino, a recycled Nokia LCD – has cost the Makerbuino the light-dependent resistor, and programming the device directly requires the use of a bundled USB-to-TTL serial adapter rather than a simple micro-USB cable.
Direct programming, though, would be an unusual way to use the Makerbuino. As with the Gamebuino, games are stored on a bundled SD card – full-size this time, to make soldering the slot onto the board easier for beginners – and you’re free to switch between them at any point without the need for a PC.
With mostly through-hole components, the assembly process for the Makerbuino is straightforward but time-consuming: expect to spend between two and five hours depending on your soldering experience. One particularly tricky part comes when soldering the lithium polymer charging circuit to the main Makerbuino board, which requires you to use previously cut-off component legs to create links between the two.
None of this is aided by outdated instructions. Despite having only recently launched following its crowdfunding campaign, the Makerbuino has gone through a few minor changes including the pre-soldering of the battery connector – something that will soon be addressed in updates to the documentation.
For its feature set, accessibility, and the selection of games on offer, though, the Makerbuino is unarguably the pick of the bunch.
KEY SPECS 16MHz Atmel ATmega328p 32KB program memory 84 x 48 single-colour front-lit LCD display seven buttons four-channel audio 24-hour battery multi-game SD card storage 139 x 26 x 66mm (WDH) 155g