As a huge retro gaming fan I’m usually something of a purist when it comes to how I prefer to play old games, choosing to using original hardware and software rather than emulators or any other method. That being the case, I have a strange fascination with plug and play consoles…
The low cost units designed to provide gamers with a handful of games from a solitary platform in an all-in-one unit certainly have their appeal. Cheap, familiar games and easy to use – it’s no wonder that they’re huge sellers – but they’re not without their downsides.
These devices may be affordable and offer a great selection of games, but they’re not indestructible and need some care and attention to keep them in good working order. To get the most out of yours, we’ve put together some top tips and a survival guide when things go wrong…
Plug and play consoles are all-in-one one devices and while this makes them convenient it also means that damage to any part of it renders the entire unit useless. When not in use, how you store them is vital and the AV cable is one of the most critical components. Many will wrap these around the unit itself but this places an incredible amount of stress on the connection point between the unit and the cable itself which can lead to breakages. Instead, wrap the cable around your hand, leaving a few inches clear of the console, before securing the rolled cable with an elastic band.
The Battery Compartment
Not many people think about this, but the housing for the console is made from moulded plastic, including the screw fixings to hold the battery cover in place. The problem is that these can be prone to damage quite easily. When opening and securing the cover, it doesn’t need a great deal of effort with the screwdriver to keep the screw in place – too much and the hole for the screw will wear down to the point that it will no longer be secure and you’ll be left with no way of holding the cover in place.
Choosing the right batteries for the console is essential. Unfortunately most household batteries are alkaline which isn’t ideal from the point of view of protecting the consoles, there are a few things you can do. Disposable lithium batteries are still too expensive to consider for most gamers, costing double their alkaline counterparts. Rechargeable batteries are an option although these won’t last as long before needing recharging.
There are more expensive alkaline batteries available now that promise to be “leak free” although this is dependent on storage although I have found that brands can vary as well. Avoid cheaper brands and certainly don’t use unbranded batteries as they will be more prone to leakage.
Most importantly though, don’t store batteries in the unit when it’s not in use. If you’re planning on using the console over a period of a week or two then it’s fine but if you’re not using it for more than a few weeks, take the batteries out.
The Dreaded Leak…
We’ve all had it happen… a battery operated device has been left unused for a while and when we come to use it again we find that it’s dead. Worse still, the batteries have leaked and potentially ruined the device holding them. It’s not necessarily the end of the world though as most leaks can be dealt with if caught in time.
All you need are a couple of basic items you’ll find around the house that will cost a few pence and your unit should be back to full working order. Bear in mind that even though your console might work with a leaking battery, this needs to be done as a matter of urgency.
This is an incredibly simple set of tools. Vinegar, cotton buds, a screwdriver to open to console and a thin screwdriver. Apart from that you just need a small dish and paper towels to clean up and protect the surface you work on. So time to get started…
First get the console and open it up and take a look at the battery compartment and the terminals to see what damage has been done from the leakage.
Not looking good but it could be worse and this one is a relatively easy fix. So we.need to get rid of the alkaline build up on the terminals and clean it up so get the vinegar and pour a small amount into a dish.
Apply a small amount to one end of one of the cotton buds and gently wipe the build up on the terminals. It should fizz up as the acid in the vinegar counteracts the alkaline. Don’t leave this for too long and rub quickly with the clean end of the cotton bud, repeating as necessary. Apply all over the contacts and any areas affected but you need to clean the vinegar quickly to ensure that non seeps into the console.
If there’s too much build up, use the small flat screwdriver to scrape off some being careful not to damage the contacts or use a fine nail file. You may also need this to get any cotton that gets caught on contacts during cleaning.
Hopefully after a short while you should have a relatively clean set of contacts. While some won’t be perfect, they’ll be clean enough to make uninterrupted connections allowing the console to work perfectly.
Finally, just allow some time for the console to try naturally and you’re ready to get back to some retro gaming.
We hope this has breathed some life back into your old units and saved you from a few premature disasters. We’d love to hear your success stories if you’ve managed to rescue any units as well.
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I’m an animal lover and vegetarian.
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