Picade Raspberry Pi arcade cabinet

Picade review: The Raspberry Pi arcade cabinet from Pimoroni

A tabletop arcade cabinet full of Pi!
4.75 - Our rating

The Picade from Pimoroni brings new meaning to tabletop gaming. This tiny box is built for DIY gamers with a touch of class. It's powered by a Raspberry Pi and looks just like an old school arcade cabinet!

The cabinet is delivered as a kit, meant to be assembled by the recipient. The kit comes with everything you need, except for the Raspberry Pi itself, a Micro SD card, and AC adapter. The cabinet is perfect for retro gaming. With the right software, you'll be gaming like it's 1989.

Are you looking for a DIY project to satisfy your unquenchable thirst for nostalgia? Look no further. You need a Picade!

Note: This guide primarily features the original Picade. The new Picade model has a few differences that I've noted throughout the review.

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Picade raspberry pi arcade cabinet

The Picade is a tabletop arcade cabinet made to house a Raspberry Pi. What began as a Kickstarter campaign soon raised over $95,000.00, making the project a successful reality. Today you can purchase your own Picade kit for under $200.00. Pimoroni also runs sales a few times a year so it can be had for less, making it a great gift for the video game lover in your life.

The standard kit includes a professionally finished cabinet, your choice of 8" or 10" display screen, buttons, a joystick, dual speakers, and all the circuitry needed to make the magic happen.

As I stated earlier, you will need to supply your own Raspberry Pi and related peripherals.

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picade chip

The guts of the Picade are easily accessed using a brilliantly hinged back panel. Inside you'll find plenty of room to house the Raspberry Pi, wires, and additional components as seen fit. The display can be tilted into one of three positions, allowing you to get an ideal viewing angle no matter your height. This also makes it much easier to move the Picade to different tables or surfaces where height may vary.

There are a lot of small design and functional details that you'll notice along the way, which highlights that the design was iterative—which is always great the end product.

The new Picade is a bit smaller than the original, both in width and depth—but it comes with some much-needed improvements. It appears that the Pimoroni team is listening to feedback and tweaking the design. You'll notice big changes like improved sound and display quality, but also minor improvements like the addition of a power button. Previously, you needed to bring your own Pi power button or shut the system down using the RetroPie UI.

Overall, the design is brilliant. It was obviously created by a team of designers; it's aesthetically pleasing while functionally sound. It's small enough to fit in small apartments, yet large enough to adorn the progressive startup.

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picade assembly
The Raspberry Pi actually mounts to the back door. In this photo I still have it in its case.

Time to assemble: 90 Minutes

Picade assembly takes approximately 90 minutes. The instructions provided by Pimoroni aren't very helpful. Be sure to check YouTube for more thorough assembly guides. Heads up: this project has some tight fits. I hope you have small hands! If you don't, then I'm sure you're used to this and will make do.

All in all, assembling the cabinet is rather fun. You definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when you're done, much like putting together a Gundam or Erector set.

The new Picade is even easier to assemble, with components arriving in color-coded boxes. Bonus: these boxes are reusable and are not flimsy plastic. Prepare to take them with you on your next fishing trip!

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Picade build quality
The Picade uses powder-coated MDF, which looks a lot like metal.

The panels comprising the cabinet sides are made from powder coated MDF (medium density fiberboard). The finish is so professional, most people can't tell it isn't metal once it's been assembled.

Despite the smooth finish, the parts used to build the Picade are not super precise. It's hardly noticeable in the end product, but you will notice small things like each bracket having two pre-drilled holes despite the bracket having four total. This is likely a tolerance issue from manufacturing and is not a big deal.

The actual buttons/controls are sturdy; this is definitely arcade-quality hardware. I'll touch on this more later. The overall quality is reliably solid. You'll be hard pressed to find a competing Pi arcade cabinet of this caliber.

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picade display screen
The IPS display comes in 8-inch and 10-inch versions.

The display on the Picade comes in two different sizes: 8" and 10". The 8" display features a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is perfect for retro gaming. But with a low resolution of 800x600, it's not ideal for newer titles.

The photos in this guide show the 8" model, but I recommend upgrading to the 10" display if you can afford it. You can always upgrade the display later using just about any aftermarket display. You'll just need to cut the [paper] bezel to accommodate the larger display,

The latest Picade model has an IPS LCD display with a resolution of 1024x768.

Unfortunately, we discovered upon arrival that our Picade's screen was broken, so we had to put in a replacement request. Thankfully, the Pimoroni team was able to get one out to us quickly and free of charge.

The Picade comes with an integrated driver board with attached controls. These controls can be using for calibrating the screen. The screen is powered using a USB port on the Raspberry Pi. Make sure you have an adequate power supply (2.5A+).

Note: To get the display working properly with the Pi, you must edit /boot/config.txt on the Pi's microSD card and uncomment the following line: hdmi_force_hotplug=1

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picade joystick buttons
This Picade has been upgraded with a new joystick and buttons.

The Picade kit comes with a circuit board called the Picade PCB and wiring harness. These components make it super easy to integrate the joystick and buttons.

Joystick

The Picade joystick is very sturdy, responsive, and has reasonable sensitivity. It uses a total of four limit switches. Our joystick was damaged in the mail (long trip from the U.K.!). But again, Pimoroni gave us no problems when issuing a replacement.

Buttons

There are 12 buttons total that come with the Picade kit. It's worth noting that these buttons do not have the desirable mechanical click of classic arcade buttons. If you prefer haptic feedback from your hardware, replacement buttons are a worthy and inexpensive upgrade. Just about any other arcade buttons, including LED buttons, will be plug-and-play.

The new Picade model also includes a power button for shutting down your Pi safely, preventing data corruption.

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Picade speakers

The Picade comes with dual stereo speakers, providing excellent volume using the Picade PCB's built-in amplifier. This setup connects directly to the Raspberry Pi's 3.5mm stereo jack inside the cabinet.

The cabinet is designed with an externally-accessible stereo jack. If you want to play while your significant other is sleeping or use bigger speakers, this is the feature for you. Just plug in your device and start playing!

If you really want to step up the audio quality, consider pulling audio through the HDMI port. This method would also provide better amplification.

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The Picade is full of Raspberry Pi guts. It should go without saying that RetroPie is easily the most convenient emulator to run on your Picade. Be sure to visit our guide on how to setup and install RetroPie to get started.

The video game systems you can emulate will depend on the model of Raspberry Pi you use. I recommend using the Raspberry Pi 3 or higher. Looking for games (also known as ROMS)? Check out our master list of free ROMs that work with RetroPie.

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picade modding

Below is a list of what I think the Picade is missing—however, this being an innately hackable product, omission of these features was likely intentional. Therefore, these issues shouldn’t reflect poorly on the Picade; rather, they present an opportunity for some great modding and learning opportunities.

We will be posting guides for each of the following mods in the near future. Be sure to follow howchoo on Facebook to get a notification when they're up!

Power button (missing on original only)

The new Picade has a power button, but the original Picade does not. This isn't too abnormal, seeing as the Raspberry Pi itself doesn't have a power button, either. But it would have been nice to include a simple shutdown/wake circuit in the Picade PCB.

Lit marquee

That's right, I said it. This cabinet deserves to be flashy. A backlit marquee is just one more way to bring your cabinet closer to arcade quality.

Portability (battery)

Without a proper battery, this cabinet leaves you tethered to an outlet. With a little work, you too can have a mobile arcade!

LED buttons

Why bother with opaque hardware when you can bring a little light into the equation? One thing is for sure: LED buttons are lit.

You can see a good example of LED button use in our DIY arcade stick guide.

External USB buttons

Have a specific function? Why not give it a specific button? Adding additional USB buttons is a great way to add custom functionality.

Second gamepad

The Picade is an awesome setup—but what about player 2? We have plans in the works to create an awesome experience for those must-play multiplayer titles. While you can connect a second controller by plugging it into the Pi in the back of the Picade (or via bluetooth), it would be great if there were USB ports up front!

Volume control

Presently, the Picade volume is adjusted via two buttons on the left side of the cabinet. This is a bit confusing for new players; we're definitely ready to upgrade this component by adding a volume wheel using a Raspberry Pi potentiometer.

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Picade on decorative background

Ultimately, the Picade is a wonderfully capable setup and a must-have for your personal arcade. Don't be intimidated by the hands-on nature of the kit. It's not as hard as it looks to put together and the rewards are beyond substantial.

If you want a tabletop arcade cabinet, the Picade is an excellent choice!

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