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The FunKey S is an interesting console — it’s not a true replacement for the retro console you regularly carry, but it does serve a unique enough use-case that it can’t be defined as a gimmick or a one tricky pony. Where the Blaze was expensive for its size and had too a far more limited game library from which you could play, the FunKey works by the nature of its even smaller physical dimensions – which make it something reliable to carry with you, even though its biggest flaw – its battery – heighten the anticipation for a model refresh.
Harkening back to the classic GBA SP design, the FunKey S has a nearly fully full-featured input set. The console comes in a clamshell design that comes with four face buttons, a D-Pad, two shoulder buttons, Start and Select, and a function key which permits you to access system-level commands. While cramped, the arrangement is surprisingly workable for short gaming sessions on the go; that said, the buttons can be finicky, with the L and R buttons being the most difficult to consistently press. The packaging comes with additional plastic parts with which you can swap out the D-Pad and face buttons if you so choose – I personally went with the classic Famicom colour arrangements for the face buttons, but wish that the box had also included the dark gray D-Pad that comes with the gray console – and the official Wiki has a simple tutorial that shows you, step by step, how to make the step. Make sure to invest in a good screwdriver to avoid stripping the two small screws that sit in the back of the console that you will have to take out!
This small, compact console comes in three separate colours at the time of writing: gray, atomic purple (akin to the original Game Boy Advance colour in its heyday), and transparent purple. I personally have it attached to my keychain and I regularly take it out when I’m on the commute to call or to the hospital; there’s nothing like a short bout of Pokemon Crystal and hanging out with my Totodile while keeping socially distanced from everybody else on the train!
Games-wise, the FunKey can emulate up to the PS1 era, the latter surprisingly functional, though the lack of analog sticks and physical L2/R2 buttons can become challenging. The bigger issue will be the screen; small as it is, it can be hard to make out text in certain games that are really meant to be played on a TV set. While Gameboy games will display readable enough, even at a distance, PlayStation games can be a challenge, especially with what I’ve noticed to be the most comfortable scaling option – cropped – cutting off edges of the screen that you need to see for most common gameplay scenarios. A number of early backers – myself included – have also noticed that the screen can also be rotated by a few degrees in this first initial batch, which makes the viewing experience doubly frustrating at times.
You won’t be left wanting with the sound, though – despite being small, audio comes through crisp and clear, and the games sound as good as you remember them. Be aware that there is no headphone jack or option for Bluetooth audio for the conscientious or private gamer, though — most of meaning those looking to tune in to their favourite melodies might be forced to get through them in silence.
Stepping back, I’m in love with this little machine. For the asking price, it’s a steep barrier to entry — but the promise of future updates (with the most recent already permitting users to have more options with the Sega Genesis emulator, among other noteworthy updates) makes this a product to look out for in the future. Revision 2, anybody?