When it comes to mysterious new handheld consoles, nothing can beat the rumours surrounding the Digi Dock handheld.
Try as you might to find some information about this elusive console on the internet, you usually come up with the same vague news and guesswork about what this thing actually does, and it’s not hard to see why.
So far while scouring the web for the latest and greatest Digi Dock news, we’ve come across names such as the H+ Handheld, The N+ NP Open Source Handheld, the Rich Game Handheld, the Digi Dock, and various amalgamations of the above.
Now, I’m no expert in games console marketing strategies, but surely not having a fixed name for a product isn’t a solid business plan and makes it hard for eager retro gaming websites to glean that all-important juicy information that our readers crave!
Still, perhaps the developers of the Digi Dock are keeping things under wraps and hard-to-find until they’ve tested out all of the problems surrounding this console?
The plot thickens, however, because customers are already receiving orders and playing them first-hand, sending pictures of them using their Digi Dock handhelds to YouTube channels and uploading video feed of what this little beauty can do.
We’ve dedicated the past week to unravelling the shroud of secrecy around this portable retro gamer; check out the rest of the article to find out what the Digi Dock can do and also to see it in action!
Getting To Grips With The Digi Dock
Here it is folks, the Digi Dock in all its glory. First impressions are always so important with new consoles, and so far this one is continuing to impress and intrigue me.
I like the fact that it looks a little more rugged and sturdy than some of the other cheap plastic handhelds that we’re seeing on virtual shelves at the minute, and while I wouldn’t advise trying out any ‘drop-tests’ with it if you manage to get your hands on one, I think it will feel like a nice bit of kit.
So, let’s talk more about the device itself. The Digi Dock uses a 5-inch IPS screen and works with a resolution of 800×400.
That should provide pretty clear gaming no matter what ROM you’re currently working your way through or what console you’re emulating.
Gaming on the go won’t be a problem with the console’s built-in battery, which is strongly rumoured to be a Sony 8010mAh battery.
That’s some serious firepower for a new player on the block and it gives us a good feeling about how the Digi Dock might perform.
Look At All Of Those Buttons
I’ve shown this image to a lot of people now, and their first reaction has always been to mention the large array of buttons on the front of the console.
If the developers get stuck for a name, then they could always call this handheld the ‘Marmite N+ Open Spread’, or something along those lines, because, like Marmite, people seem to either love or hate the button layout on Digi Dock.
Personally, I think it looks great, and once you know what each button does, I’m sure that you will agree.
Let’s take a look at the left-hand side of the console first. Since the arrival of the Nintendo Switch in March 2017, we have seen a lot of handhelds using the ‘left Joypad’ set up or Pro Controller layout of ‘joystick on top, followed by a D-Pad underneath’.
I’ve played with some poor joysticks in my time, but this one looks as though it should feel pretty nice under the thumb and has all the signs of providing fluid movement that won’t impede gameplay. The same goes with the gamepad and the dips in all the right places.
If I’m going to be picky, the screw up by the L shoulder button looks a little rough and I’m not sure how that plastic button is going to feel, but I guess we’ll have to answer that one when we test the console out first hand.
A nice little touch that you can see from the picture above is the HDMI out, a feature that we’re seeing on more RetroPie Handhelds such as the GameBoy 1UP and other consoles that have realised the benefits of being able to port up to your TV Nintendo-Switch-style.
On the right-hand side of the console, we have the standard ‘A, B, X, Y’ configuration that has seemingly become the new norm when it comes to new console developers planning their designs.
It’s a universally recognized format, and more importantly, it’s the perfect combination for emulating most console controllers such as the PS1, GameBoy, SNES, and more.
We’re unsure as to whether the Digi Dock can emulate the Best N64 Games on the planet right now, what with the lack of any C-Buttons on the front-facing panel, but we’ll be going on to look at software options and some hidden surprises more closely as we move through the article.
Can you see the other raised button on the bottom of the screen? That is actually a second joystick, and at first, I thought this red mushroom-looking control looked a little pointless and frankly quite useless.
But then I saw a video of it in action and took a screengrab for you to check out below. The Digi Dock manages to include two joysticks while keeping the main face of the console nice and tidy, allowing for the player to use the console both horizontally and vertically.
That little mini joystick turns what looks like a Switch-style handheld into a super-sized GameBoy so that you can play your favourite forward-scrolling titles on an epically large screen!
The side of the console itself has two USB ports for plugging in external controllers, allowing users to hook up to a big TV and play their favourite multiplayer games from years-gone-by.
I really like the combination of handheld and couch-co-op combined, and while it’s not a new feature on the block, it’s one that we look for when we’re checking out new gaming devices.
What Are All Those Other Buttons?
This is where the Digi Dock starts to feel more like a console crossed with a widescreen TV. Can you see those 5 buttons at the very bottom?
From left to right, the first two are for lowering or raising the volume of your games, and the one in the very middle is the power button which operates the console.
One thing that a lot of these new digital devices don’t have is the ability to change the brightness of the screen while playing, but the fourth button on the Digi Dock does just that, giving you the option of being able to still play on sunny days or to turn the brightness down when you’re playing in bed at night.
The fifth button looks as though it is for changing the size of the screen, but that’s just based on my knowledge of TV controllers through the ages.
This would make sense if the Digi Dock will be emulating multiple consoles with different screen sizes and resolutions, but it might also be a button that allows the user to flip the screen between horizontal and vertical modes.
The bottom of the console shows two charging ports; USB C and Micro USB. All signs point to this console being able to be charged by either method and also both at the same time.
That seems a little overkill to me, and I would always go USB C as more often than not I have my Switch or Drone charger to hand. You can’t see it on this picture, but just to the right of the power label is an area where you can input a TF Card, which is a Micro SD card for all of us who aren’t clever enough to use TransFlash in day-to-day conversation.
That will allow you to move your save data to other devices if you want to show your mates where you’ve got to on a certain game without taking the console with you, and it will also give you the option to back up your data to other cards.
Overall, I like the rounded top and bottom edges on the Digi Dock, but I’m not too sure about those L and R buttons or the flat edges on the side of the console.
I guess I’m not going to be able to give you a definitive answer on how this thing will feel until I’ve held one in my hands, which I hope will be soon. The L and R buttons can apparently double up as L2 and R2 buttons for games that require multiple triggers.
Perhaps this might be through double-tapping or by using the start and select buttons that can be found under the D-Pad.
Let’s Talk About Software
This is where the Digi Dock starts to get interesting. Some of you may well have heard the rumours or even seen the footage of this device playing PS2 games.
Again, everything that we’ve found and read over the past few weeks points towards this theory being true, but the way in which you set up your console to play games seems less than straight forward.
As far as we can understand, the Digi Dock can use Raspberry Pi, Windows, and Android as it’s main operating systems.
It doesn’t appear that you can just boot up the console and just pick which one you want to use before you start playing, rather that you have to build your console to use one of the above systems from pulling it out of the box.
The Digi Dock comes with a kit and instructions that allow you to make the necessary changes if you want to switch your style of play, but it does seem like a little bit of a farce to me.
Raspberry Pi is by far the most popular system for playing retro games, but the fact that you can use Windows as an operating system does mean that you can get your favourite PS2 and maybe even Xbox games up on here.
It’s the first handheld that I’ve come across that has more than one operating system option; this could either be the feature of the future or a massive waste of time, but I guess only time and PS2 fans will be able to figure this out.
So Who Makes The Digi Dock?
I had a feeling that this question would be on your mind, but the fact is that we just don’t know who is making these devices.
I’ve tried searching for a way of ordering a Rich Game Handheld, an N+ Handheld and a Digi Dock pre-order system, and nothing is popping up anywhere.
All references to the developer are ‘he’ or ‘him’, which leads me to think that this is not a large-scale operation and rather another home-grown company with one or two people behind production.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; most companies start in the same way, and lots go on to be a great success.
Could this be why we can’t find much about the Digi Dock online? Are the developers worried that they won’t be able to meet the demand for orders once word gets out about the device?
As aforementioned, people are receiving orders and giving us a sneak-peek into what the Digi Dock can actually do, but I wonder how long it might be until we get our hands on one over in Europe and the US.
This cloak-and-dagger business plan could either be the most sensible thing that the Digi Dock team could have ever done, or it could be a huge mistake that sees this handheld get swept aside as newer consoles with bigger budgets trample onto the scene. Only time will tell, but how much time will they have?
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.