Nintendo's NES Classic Edition Console Hands-On

Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition may be hard to find, but I managed to get my hands on one of the miniature consoles for a little gaming fun. Although the NES Classic Edition gives you an enjoyable retro gaming experience, the system does have a few bothersome flaws.

Console Flaws

Let’s start off by discussing what’s wrong with the console. The most obvious problem is that the controller’s 30-inch cable is ridiculously short— it’s really only sufficient for extremely small rooms. If you plan to use the system in a larger room, you are forced to either pull up a chair within arm’s reach of the TV or use an extra long HDMI cable so you can take the system further away from the display.

I opted for the latter method and pulled out a 15-foot HDMI cable. This introduced other problems, however, as you also need to connect the NES Classic Edition to a power source. The system uses an ordinary USB Type-A cable for power, and it is meant to be powered from a wall outlet using a basic adapter. This cable is a standard sized 36-inch USB cable, but it too becomes a problem if the short controller cable forces you to move the console.

Here you can get an extension cable of some kind or try the system connected to a computer or power bank. Technically, the NES Classic Edition isn’t meant to be powered by these devices, but it works just fine while connected to a PC or power bank and provides enough extra freedom to move away the console away from the wall.

I suspect the controller cable is so short because the Reset button on the NES Classic is used to switch between the games installed on the device. Nintendo probably didn’t want to deviate from the original NES controller’s design, and forcing gamers to get up every few minutes to switch between games would be frustrating, so it likely shortened the cable to keep the Reset button close. It’s too bad the company didn’t think of a better method for switching between games, like holding Down + Start for five seconds, to sidestep both issues with a single tweak.

These problems with the lengths of the console’s cables--both the controller cable and the power cable--probably won’t stop you from enjoying the NES Classic Edition. They are bothersome, though, and we recommend investing in a wireless controller like Nyko’s to avoid these issues entirely.

The NES Classic Edition also doesn’t support 4K. Granted, I didn’t expect the console to render at 4K, but I did expect that it would work with 4K displays to scale 1080p content to fill the screen. This is something my Xbox 360 and Wii U do without issue over HDMI, and my original NES and SNES consoles can do the same over component or coaxial cables. Instead, the NES Classic Edition console limits itself to a small 1080p square in the middle of the screen.

This also shouldn’t be a serious problem, however, as most people are still using 1080p displays.

Retro Gaming The 2016 Way

Although the NES Classic Edition has a few issues, it runs the NES games installed on it flawlessly. I tested Dr. Mario, Galaga, Kirby’s Adventure, Metroid, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and The Legend Of Zelda, and all of them performed well. At times, the games probably ran a bit smoother than the originalsm actually; where the originals stuttered a little at times and had occasional graphical glitches, their emulated counterparts had no problems.

The audio is similar to the original NES as well, but it's actually arguably better now. Up until last year, I used an older CRT TV for the NES. When that CRT TV died and I moved to the 4K TV, I noticed a difference in the audio due to reduced noise and the improved speakers. I hear even less noise in the NES Classic Edition’s audio. Of course, typically you don’t want to hear noise in audio, but that static is part of the classic NES experience.

The NES Classic Edition controller felt somewhat stiff and sounded kind of clicky in comparison to the original NES controllers I have on hand, but that may be due to roughly 30 years of wear.

Overall, playing games on the NES Classic Edition is a pleasant experience that brings back feelings of nostalgia for the original NES. Some may even prefer it over the original due to its flawless video and audio, but just because something isn’t beautiful doesn't mean it's perfect. At times, the NES Classic Edition feels notably different due to the lack of imperfection in the video and audio and the way the new controller feels. I suspect that many gamers will enjoy the NES Classic Edition, but those who have strong feelings for the original will miss the bugs and hunt down an NES to get the true nostalgic experience.

Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • ern88
    Good luck finding one. Unless you want to pay a ridiculous amount for what the scalpers want on ebay!!!
  • guardianali
    Or you can buy a RasberryPi, install RetroPie on it, get a wireless controller....all for about the same price and play any game u want.
  • turkey3_scratch
    I was always under the impression that the monitors/TVs themselves had chips inside that would upscale the image to its native resolution. I know the GPU of the PC/console can upscale, but I always thought there was that alternative for if the PC/console failed to upscale by itself, where the monitor would automatically do the dirty work then by sensing the resolution of the output.
  • Eximo
    At least on my 4K TV I have the single HDMI 2.0 port for 4K @ 60hz, the remaining 4 are normal 1.4 ports and handle lower resolutions a lot better. Would be a bit disappointed though to have 1080p not scale to the screen. Only resolution I have found that has issues is 640x480, for that I just run in 720 and deal with the borders.
  • photonboy
    Upscale to 4K in your HDTV settings. I guarantee that's there or else non-4K aware DVD, BluRay, gaming consoles, and uh... oh come on pretty much 95% of the HDTV input stuff is only 1080p capable but your HDTV can upscale.
  • wifiburger
    you know what !? hope it explodes in your face !
  • IInuyasha74
    18868400 said:
    Upscale to 4K in your HDTV settings. I guarantee that's there or else non-4K aware DVD, BluRay, gaming consoles, and uh... oh come on pretty much 95% of the HDTV input stuff is only 1080p capable but your HDTV can upscale.

    There isn't a setting for this in my TV. It's an issue with the console. I use several devices connected to that TV. Wii U, Xbox 360, NES, SNES, Playstation 2, PCs, mini-PCs both ARM Android and x86 Windows based. This is only the second time this issue has occurred, and the first time was due to some outdated Intel HD Graphics drivers. When a wide selection of devices that render in 1080p or lower resolutions work flawlessly in full screen on the TV, then the issue is with the one device that it doesn't work on.
  • KrisWragg
    I got one of these the other day, I made a goofy video of setting it up and playing mario:
  • synphul
    Yikes, those are short cables. I've seen the comparison of the cable lengths, the original nes controller cables were roughly 3x that length. Given the size of the tv's many people use in their living rooms these days that does create a problem. You don't want to be tethered to the tv screen that close.

    They're currently out of stock but Nyko has cable extenders for $10 as well. It gives the extra 6ft of cable missing from the nes ce cables to make them 9ft long.

    What would be nice is if other controllers came out for the classic edition. I know the original controllers are nostalgic but they suck. There couldn't be a more non-ergonomic controller anywhere and even atari's joysticks for the 2600 were more ergonomic lol.

    Back in the day I used an nes max with the cyclops thumb pad and turbo buttons with a much nicer shape to it. It wouldn't connect to the new controller inputs though. Also used the nes advantage for a few games though that one had its issues too. The big platform base wasn't very friendly unless you had a table top to set it on or set it on your lap.

    I guess the wireless controllers are an option but I'm not personally a fan. Weak batteries, dead batteries, signal glitch at the worst possible times, no thanks. I had a pair of wireless controllers for the original nes and they were a royal pia.

    Great pics of the side by side size comparisons, the classic edition is a lot smaller than I pictured from photos of it by itself.
  • spiketheaardvark
    I wanna know how a source can prevent a TV from up scaling it. I could imagine the NES sending a 4k image and only drawing to a small portion of it. Which would be absurd for Nintendo to do and would still require it to set to send a 4k signal. The mood in the comments suggest a fair amount of skepticism to the claim that the image can't be upscaled. This being Tomshardware, I think a technical explanation is due.