Dan Ackerman/CNET

Like the storied brand this takes its name through, the new Atari VCS has a complicated history. Originally a crowd-funded task, now years overdue, is actually finally starting to deliver to crowdfunding backers plus, soon, to the common public. Just factory-like Atari company got swept up attempting to figure out in the event that it was a video game console manufacturer, a software program publisher, a computer producer or just an ethnic icon, the Atari VCS feels similarly conflicted. It might be a video game console. It might end up being a DIY-friendly, small-form-factor desktop computer PC. It doesn’t completely satisfy as either, actually at a modest $399 (which includes a wi-fi gamepad and a wi-fi retro joystick). 

I first tried one associated with these systems out 2 yrs ago, when I has been intrigued by the concept of a console that will could also be the Windows or Linux PERSONAL COMPUTER. The idea of inclined so heavily on traditional Atari games was possibly the least interesting component of it for me personally, especially as these video games are available in a lot of other places. If I actually want to play Asteroids, Crystal Castles or Centipede, actually in various home gaming console and arcade iterations, which easy enough to perform on almost any various other platform. 

That said, there are a real vintage, authentic feel here, to both the particular hardware and software. This looks and feels such as an Atari product, straight down to the clever re-implementation of the classic Atari 2600 joystick. But remember that the Atari brand is simply corporate IP now. It’s been bought and marketed over the years, and it is now owned by the French game company formerly called Infogrames

A confusing identity 

In our hands-on time with this, it’s obvious that the particular Atari VCS is suffering from a good identity crisis. One presentation for it is because a casino game console. There’s the lot of competition within that space, from the particular PS5 and Xbox Series X towards the Nintendo Switch and the particular Xbox Series S. The Series S i9000 is $299 while the particular Switch Lite is $199, plus both are far a lot more capable pure gaming devices than this. If old style games are your issue, systems like the SUPER NES Classic and Sega Genesis Mini are usually both under $100 plus do a great work of making classic video games simple to play on contemporary TVs. 

Read a lot more: PS5 and Xbox Series X are still marketed out: Here’s things to purchase instead


The Atari VCS setup because a Windows 10 pc. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The Atari VCS is much better believed of as a little physical proportions desktop, with the heavy DIY element. It runs an AMD SoC (system on chip) known as the Ryzen R1606G, along with just enough graphics muscles for light gaming plus some expansion options like a good internal M.2 slot machine. More importantly, you may skip the built-in Atari OS (basically a Linux-based catalog of games plus a web browser) plus run full Linux, Chrome OS or Windows ten on this. Technically it supports the semi-abandoned SteamOS, too, but I didn’t recommend that. 

But there are a catch. The program only comes with the own Atari OS plus a small 32GB SOLID STATE DRIVE. To turn it straight into a real mini desktop computer, you need to set up your preferred OS upon either an external generate (connected via USB) or even by adding an indoor Meters.2 hard drive. It’s a lot to inquire on most people, and the particular entire project would create more sense shipping because a Windows or dual-boot machine. 

I proceeded to go through the process, setting up Windows 10 on a good external drive, after the little troubleshooting, it worked well fine. You could evaluate it to something such as a Mac Mini, although the particular new M1-powered Mac Mini will be much more powerful — and more expensive. 

Once I actually had Windows 10 running, naturally I installed some Steam video games. Since its initial creation around traditional Atari games, it’s the stretch to ask this to do much contemporary gaming, I suppose. Recent indie darling Hades didn’t run, neither would THREE DIMENSIONAL Mark benchmarks. But our go-to low-power PC preferred, Deep Sky Derelicts, ran fine, because did Skyrim, at 1080 pixels and medium settings. I actually also tried the brand new Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming beta, which worked well well, as it’s loading from the cloud. 

I could see personally using the Atari VCS connected to a keep track of, keyboard and mouse because a fun mini desktop computer (and in fact, which what I did with regard to a few days). But you can also discover more powerful hardware within a similar compact package deal. You’re really paying with regard to the console-like design, which usually is a fun conversation-starter at least. If occur to be using this as the desktop, however, keep within mind the internal enthusiasts is going to be cranking almost just about all the time and they also may get pretty loud. 


Two USB-A ports, HDMI and Ethernet (don’t worry, it offers wifi). 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Recreating the past

Taken as the standalone game console, the particular Atari VCS is the tough sell. It appears and feels nearly the same as the particular classic console (there’s actually a wood grain version), but once you switch it on, the offered options are limited. 

There are a large amount of preinstalled Atari games, both in gaming console and arcade versions. The recreations feel authentic, yet really most of these types of will wear out their own novelty value quickly. I actually like the ability in order to play, for example, the particular Atari 2600 version or even arcade version of Asteroids. But most of the games, specifically the more obscure types, need instructions, that you’ve in order to click through and go through on-screen. If you’re anyplace close to my age group, you’ll recall those older console games all included instruction booklets. 

The menu and navigation seems fine at 1,920×1,080 resolution, but upping the particular output to 4K, while supported by the OS, leads to a slower, stuttery experience. Not that will Centipede must be in 4K. 

A small, with regard to now at least, storefront offers more classic video games, plus a few more recent ones, but nothing that will you can’t find upon other platforms, as well as the more recent or remastered games tend to be not anything you’re likely in order to walk out your way in order to track down. The environment feels underpopulated at the particular moment, that is another cause why the system can make more sense as a desktop computer. 

The wireless gamepad is a perfectly great undertake the Xbox control style. Much more interesting may be the semifaithful recreation associated with the classic one-button Atari joystick. It’s frankly not really that useful outside associated with the classic Atari gaming console games, but it’s furthermore an excellent tribute to a good iconic design. 


A vintage Atari 2600 joystick next to the brand new VCS version. 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

The new version has its own additional features not located on the authentic, including a second glenohumeral joint button, and it’s cellular. It also replicates the particular old Atari paddle controllers — just rotate the particular center stick between fingertips and it acts just like a paddle. On the various other hand, it lacks that will classic Atari controller tightness, so doesn’t have the particular same muscle-memory feel because the particular original. Both the gamepad and joystick are usually available as separate $60 purchases, or come incorporated in the current $399 bundle.

If you are usually an enormous Atari or old style gaming fan, there’s the decent chance you currently backed the crowdfunding strategy or else preordered the VCS system. For everybody else, it’s an fascinating device that doesn’t very nail it as the standalone console nor because a desktop PC. It’s better to me right today as a fun Mac Mini alternative, although you’ll certainly be having to pay a premium to create your 2021 computer appear like it came through 1977.