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10 Best Retro Game Consoles (2024): Evercade, Polymega, Analogue Pocket, and Controllers

10 Best Retro Game Consoles (2024): Evercade, Polymega, Analogue Pocket, and Controllers

It’s a shame that two of the best retro gaming consoles in recent years, the NES Classic Mini and the SNES Classic Mini, have been discontinued. Both feature great designs with a miniaturized look that’s true to the originals, silky performance, and strong game lineups of Nintendo’s greatest hits. You can still buy them online (usually from third-party resellers), but prices are seriously inflated. The SNES Classic Mini, for example, was $80 at launch, but a reseller has it for more than $300 on Amazon right now. You might have better luck buying one used.

Nintendo fans keen on some classic gaming action might be better served by snagging a Switch and buying a Nintendo Switch Online membership ($20 for a year) to access more than 100 NES and SNES titles (here’s the full list). Add the Expansion Pack ($50 for a year) and you can get these N64 games too. If you’re craving some old-school pocket-sized Nintendo fun, check out the revived Game & Watch ($50) line. They are limited to a couple of games each, but when those games are Super Mario or Zelda titles, that can be enough for hours of fun.

The Analogue Mega SG ($200) (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is expensive, and it doesn’t come with any games or controllers (they cost $25 apiece). But it can play old Sega Genesis cartridges, so it’s a solid choice if you have a box of them in the basement. Thanks to an FPGA chip, this console runs the original games just as you remember them.

There are plenty of classic arcade games available on PlayStation 4 or 5. If you opt for a PS Plus Premium subscription ($18 for a month or $160 for a year), you get the Classics Catalog, packed with old PlayStation games.

The Xbox Series X|S boasts the best backward compatibility, as Microsoft’s newest consoles can play Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox titles. You can also find classic titles included in our favorite gaming subscription, the excellent Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($17 per month).

If you have Valve’s Steam Deck, check out the comprehensive EmuDeck to emulate a wide variety of old systems in style.

PC gamers also have an enormous choice of emulators. I like RetroArch because it emulates multiple systems, but if you have a favorite old console and want to get close to that original experience, you can likely find a tailor-made emulator to scratch that itch.

Do you miss all those Flash-based browser games you used to play in the office when you were meant to be working? Read our guide, How to Play All of Those Old Flash Games You Remember.

The Panic Playdate ($199) (7/10, WIRED Recommends) isn’t strictly a retro console, but it is fun, creative, and quirky, and it has a distinct retro feel. It even has a crank for an all-new way to interact with games!

The Analogue Duo ($250) (6/10, WIRED Review) makes TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine games look incredible on any HDMI screen. It boasts HuCARD and CD-ROM functionality, so existing games work regardless of media, region, or other requirements. Sadly, it’s pricey, controllers cost extra, and there’s no openFPGA support.

24 Mother’s Day Gifts We’ve Tried and Love (2023)

24 Mother’s Day Gifts We’ve Tried and Love (2023)

SPEAKING AS A mom myself, I know that the best gift you can give your mother is you. Whether you plug in your hybrid or hop on a cheap electric bike, you should see her if you can (we get it if you think air travel is scary, though). If you think you’d like to bring her a gift, now is the time to start thinking about it, because Mother’s Day is approaching on May 12. Scrambling for ideas? We’ve got a bunch of gift recommendations below.

Your mom may be the person who loves you the most in the world, but she’s probably got a lot of other things going on, like traveling for work, working out, or hanging out with friends. I consulted other WIRED parents for their favorite picks. These are our top gift ideas to help moms work from home, annotate their books, or dip into the world of gaming in their downtime. While you’re at it, check out our many other buying guides, like the Best Gift Ideas for New Parents, Best Kid Podcasts, or the Best Kid Tablets.

Updated April 2024: We significantly revamped this guide by deleting old picks and replacing with newer ones, including the Creative Aurvana 2, the Tom Bihn Nomad Tote, and many others.

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Arturia AstroLab Review: World-Class Synths in a Keyboard

Arturia AstroLab Review: World-Class Synths in a Keyboard

But perhaps AstroLab’s best trick for finding what you need is playlists and songs. These are grouped presets that you’re able to bounce between with the push of a button. So if you need a quiet pad from an Ensoniq SQ-80 for the verse and a razor-sharp lead from an MS-20 for the chorus, you can group them into a song, which turns the instrument type buttons into direct shortcuts to specific presets. Songs are then further organized into playlists. You just press the arrow buttons below the screen encoder to jump to the next track in your set and load up another batch of presets.

If you can’t find what you need among the factory sounds or any of the countless sound packs available from Arturia, you can always design a patch from scratch in one of the instruments as part of the V Collection. Then you can save it as a preset and load it on the keyboard. Granted, this requires shelling out for V Collection, but it frequently goes on sale, and if you already own Analog Lab Pro, which is included with AstroLab, you get an even steeper discount.

World-Class Soft Synths

I’m halfway into this review, and I haven’t talked about the sound at all. This is partly because, well, it’s Analog Lab. It’s an industry staple and sounds fantastic. If you’re not familiar though, rest assured you’re getting some of the finest emulations of vintage instruments available. When you compare the price to even one of the iconic keyboards it’s recreating, the value is undeniable.

The Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and Hammond B3 compare favorably with what you’d find on a Nord stage keyboard, but for almost half the price. It convincingly delivers that percussive dizzying effect you’d get from an organ running through a Leslie and the smooth chime of a Fender Rhodes.

In addition, you get rather faithful versions of basically unobtainable synth gems like a Moog Modular, a Yamaha CS-80, or a Fairlight CMI II. Not to mention mass-market classics like the Yamaha DX7 and Casio CZ-101. Plus Arturia’s Pigments and Augmented lineup, which marry orchestral, piano, and vocal samples with a robust synth engine. You’ve got access to everything from crunchy lo-fi piano and EDM bass wubs to soaring string pads perfect for scoring a sci-fi thriller.

The only real weak spot is the acoustic pianos. They’re not terrible and have definitely improved over the years, but they still feel a touch thin and flat compared to the real thing. The chances that anyone would complain about them at your next gig, though, are slim to none.

It’s worth noting that this is currently the only way to get Arturia’s Pigments in hardware form. That’s something that gets me personally really excited. I think it’s the best softsynth on the market, and it can easily go toe-to-toe with other giants in the space like Massive and Serum.

Some will speak of things being a VST but built into a MIDI controller derisively. But that feels reductive here. For one thing, this isn’t just some bare-bones digital synth. And the hardware it’s crammed into is luxurious. The semi-weighted keys feel incredible, and they have aftertouch (though sadly not polyphonic). The pitch and mod wheels are solid pieces of aluminum, and the screen, while small, is bright and colorful. There are even some handsome wooden cheeks on the side. This looks and feels like a high-quality piece of gear.

6 Best MagSafe Power Banks for iPhones (2024): High Capacity, Slim, Kickstands

6 Best MagSafe Power Banks for iPhones (2024): High Capacity, Slim, Kickstands

Here’s the low-down on the MagSafe standard and MagSafe power banks.

What is MagSafe?

MagSafe is the name of Apple’s accessory system that’s integrated into the iPhone 12, iPhone 13, iPhone 14, and iPhone 15 range. A ring of magnets on the back of the phone (and in MagSafe-enabled cases) lets you attach various magnetic accessories, like a battery pack that recharges the iPhone wirelessly, so you don’t need to hold it or carry a cable.

Does MagSafe reduce battery life?

There isn’t much evidence that MagSafe charging negatively impacts battery health, but it is less efficient than wired charging and can sometimes generate heat, which may degrade your battery faster. But other factors are more important if you want to preserve battery health (such as never fully draining your battery).

What rate can MagSafe power banks charge at?

Most MagSafe power banks we have tested wirelessly charge at a rate of up to 7.5 watts, but Anker’s Qi2 power bank can charge at up to 15 watts.

Is USB-C better than MagSafe?

Wired charging is faster and more efficient than wireless charging, so if you plug your phone in via cable to any of the power banks above, you can expect to get more power more quickly than you will using MagSafe or Qi2. MagSafe is simply more convenient.

What are the downsides of MagSafe?

Only some of Apple’s iPhones (12, 13, 14, and 15 series) support MagSafe, and it’s not officially compatible with Android phones. MagSafe is also less efficient than wired charging. Lost energy during wireless charging generates heat, which can have a negative impact on battery health.

Why do MagSafe power banks get hot?

MagSafe is not as efficient as wired charging, and power lost during wireless charging generates heat. MagSafe’s magnets reduce this problem, compared to Qi wireless charging, by ensuring the charging coils are aligned.

Cherry MX2A Review: A Revamped Classic

Cherry MX2A Review: A Revamped Classic

The Cherry MX switch is, arguably, one of the most important mechanical keyboard switches of all time. Some might argue it’s one of the best mechanical switches ever. No other switch has quite the same legacy. It’s been around for decades and is one of the few switches that run the whole gamut of keyboards. You can find it in everything from point-of-sale systems, office cubicles, and police cars to gaming setups and even premium, limited-run custom keyboards.

Until recently, nearly every mechanical gaming keyboard shipped with MX Reds, Browns, or Blues. For a long time, Cherry’s switches were the best option—mechanical switch or otherwise—for building a keyboard, and they had a reputation for their outstanding typing feel and longevity when compared to their rubber dome and scissor-switch contemporaries.

I have a love for the original Cherry MX switches. They still have a personality and charm no other switch has been able to replicate. I type on them regularly, almost every day, and always find them a treat to use, despite their shortcomings. So it came as a surprise when Cherry announced a successor with the MX2A. How could one of the most beloved and long-lasting mechanical switches suddenly change so drastically? Could these changes make the MX better?

Closeup view of computer keyboard missing a button with black keys and gold color trim

Photograph: Henri Robbins

Cherry’s Legacy

The Cherry MX Black is the mechanical switch. It’s a fairly heavy linear switch made entirely of Cherry’s proprietary blend of plastics and has been in production since 1983 with only minimal changes until now. Cherry rates its MX switches for 100 million keypresses, and it’s not unheard of for MX Blacks to be in operation even after two decades of near-constant use. They eventually became a signifier of quality: If you saw a keyboard with MX switches, you could be pretty sure that it would be both reliable and enjoyable to type on.

As the custom keyboard scene started to form in the early 2000s, people realized something interesting—the longer you used MX switches, the smoother they were to type on. This was true for all of them but most noticeably for MX Blacks. They were the most common in high-use office and point-of-sale systems and had a heavier spring that required more force to be pushed down, resulting in the plastics seeing large amounts of wear.

These “vintage” MX Blacks—which had to be desoldered from older keyboards—became incredibly sought out by enthusiasts for their smoothness, and their scarcity increased demand even further. At the time, Vintage MX Blacks were the best switches possible for a custom-built keyboard kit.

It’s worth noting that these worn-in switches are fairly scratchy by today’s standards. Modern switches, made from higher-end materials and lubed from the factory, are leagues ahead of MX switches in smoothness. However, many keyboard hobbyists today see the MX Black as having a “good” scratch compared to the scratchiness of other switches. It’s consistent, subtle, and rather charming as long as you don’t expect perfection. There are no sudden bumps or catches, but instead a consistent friction that feels more “real” and satisfying than something engineered for perfect smoothness.

Open clear plastic box with mechanical pieces from keyboard keys spilling out

Photograph: Henri Robbins