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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, they have 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, also 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 COMPUTER. The idea of inclined so heavily on traditional Atari games was possibly the least interesting component of it for myself, especially as these online games are available in a lot of other places. If I actually want to play Asteroids, Crystal Castles or Centipede, also in various home gaming console and arcade iterations, gowns easy enough to perform on almost any some other platform. 

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That said, there’s a genuine vintage, authentic vibe right here, to both hardware plus software. This looks plus feels like an Atari product, down to the particular clever re-implementation of the particular classic Atari 2600 joystick. But keep in thoughts that the Atari brand name is just corporate IP now. It’s been purchased and sold through the years, plus is now owned with a French game company formerly known as Infogrames

A confusing identity 

In my hands-on time along with it, it’s obvious that will the Atari VCS experiences from an identity turmoil. One pitch for this is as a game gaming console. There’s plenty of competition within that space, through the PS5 and Xbox Series X in order to the particular Nintendo Switch and the Xbox Series S. The Series Ersus is $299 while the particular Switch Lite is $199, plus both is much more able pure gaming machines compared to this. If retro online games are your thing, techniques like the SNES Classic and Sega Genesis Mini are below $100 and do an excellent job of making traditional games easy to enjoy on modern TVs. 

Read more: PS5 and Xbox Series X are usually still sold out: Here’s what to buy instead


The Atari VCS set up since a Windows 10 personal computer. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

The Atari VCS is much better believed of as a little type factor 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 such as an 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 would not recommend that. 

But there’s a catch. The system only comes along with its own Atari OPERATING SYSTEM and a small 32 GB SSD. To turn this right into a real mini desktop computer, you should install your favored OS on either a good external drive (connected through USB) or by having a good internal M.2 hard disk drive. It’s a lot in order to ask of most individuals, and the entire task would make more feeling shipping as a Windows or dual-boot machine. 

I went through the particular process, installing Windows ten on an external hard disk unit, plus after a little maintenance, it worked fine. You could compare it in order to something similar to a Mac Mini, even though the new M1-powered Mac Mini is much more effective — and more costly. 

Once I experienced Windows 10 running, normally I installed some Steam games. Since it has been built around classic Atari games, it’s a stretch out in order to ask it to do much modern video gaming, I suppose. Recent indie darling Hades wouldn’t operate, neither would 3D Mark benchmarks. But my first low-power PC favorite, Deep Sky Derelicts, ran fine, as do Skyrim, at 1080p plus medium settings. Also i attempted the new Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming beta, which worked well, since it’s streaming from the particular cloud. 

I can see myself using the particular Atari VCS hooked upward to a monitor, key pad and mouse as the fun mini desktop (and in fact, that’s what I actually did for a couple days). But you can also discover more efficient hardware in the similar compact package. You’re really spending money on the console-like design, that is a fun conversation-starter at least. If you aren’t using this as the desktop, however, keep within mind the internal followers will be cranking nearly all time and these people can get pretty noisy. 


Two USB-A three or more.0 ports, HDMI plus Ethernet (don’t worry, they have 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 a great deal like the classic gaming console (there’s even a wooden grain version), but as soon as you transform it on, the particular available options are restricted. 

There are a great deal of preinstalled Atari online games, in both console plus arcade versions. The recreations feel authentic, but actually many of these will wear out there their novelty value rapidly. I like the opportunity to enjoy, for example, the Atari 2600 version or game version of Asteroids. But many of the online games, especially the greater obscure types, need instructions, which a person have to click via and read on-screen. If you’re anywhere close in order to my age, you’ll remember those old console online games all came with training booklets. 

The menus and navigation feels good at 1,920×1,080 resolution, but upping the particular output to 4K, whilst supported by the OPERATING SYSTEM, results in a sluggish, stuttery experience. Not that will Centipede needs to end up being in 4K. 

A small, for now a minimum of, storefront offers more traditional games, plus a couple of newer ones, but absolutely nothing that you can’t discover on other platforms, plus the newer or remastered games aren’t anything you are likely to go out of your own way to track lower. The ecosystem feels underpopulated right now, which is an additional reason why the machine can make more sense as being a desktop PC. 

The wifi gamepad is a flawlessly good take on the particular Xbox controller style. Much more interesting is the particular semifaithful recreation from the traditional one-button Atari joystick. It’s frankly not that helpful outside of the traditional Atari console games, yet it is also a great homage to an iconic style. 


A vintage Atari 2600 joystick close to the particular new VCS edition. 


Dan Ackerman/CNET

The new version has some extra functions not found on the particular original, including an additional make button, and it’s wifi. It also replicates the particular old Atari paddle controllers — just rotate the particular center stick between your own fingers and it works like a paddle. On another hand, it does not have that classic Atari control stiffness, so doesn’t have got the same muscle-memory really feel as the original. Both the gamepad and joystick can be found as separate $60 purchases, or come integrated in the current $399 bundle.

If you might be the huge Atari or vintage gaming fan, there’s the decent chance you currently backed the crowdfunding strategy otherwise preordered a VCS system. For everyone otherwise, it’s a fascinating device that will doesn’t quite nail this as a standalone gaming console nor as a desktop computer PC. It’s best in order to me right now being a fun Mac Mini alternative, even though you’ll be paying the premium to generate your 2021 computer appear to be it arrived from 1977. 

See the Atari VCS on GameStop

See also
  • PS5 evaluation: Exclusive games power Sony’s sky-high space-age console
  • Xbox Series X review: Game Pass is the key weapon
  • Xbox Series S review: The console making next-gen video gaming more affordable
  • Oculus Quest 2: Facebook’s $299 VR headset seems too good to end up being true
  • Nintendo Switch review: Pure enjoyable on the big-screen TV or even around the go
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