PC Pro - - November 2017 Issue 277 -

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

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