Knowledge for the World

NES Mini Raspberry Pi Case Review (Kintaro/Old Skool Tools)

I wanted to do a quick review guide of the NES Mini Raspberry Pi Case from Kintaro (formerly known as Old Skool Tools). This little case houses a Raspberry Pi for playing retro games using RetroPie and looks like an original Nintendo Entertainment System. It's a great alternative for people who don't have an NES Classic Edition and want to build their own! Simply install RetroPie, add ROMs, and you're good to go.

As you probably know, Nintendo released the NES Classic Edition at the end of 2016 to much fanfare; it included 30 emulated games and was a smash hit. However, Nintendo only intended it to be a limited release promotional item, and thus discontinued it despite consistent demand. As a result, you can now expect to spend about $200 on eBay for an NES Classic Edition.

I was lucky enough to get one through a friend, but before I did, I explored a few options for making my own -- I was going to 3D print one, but this is very time-consuming; eventually, I found an NES case for my Raspberry Pi made by a company called Kintaro (formerly known as Old Skool Tools).

I contacted the manufacturer offering to review the item for them and they sent one to me (well, they sent me 15 so I'm giving a bunch away -- more on that later in the guide). As always, I was not paid to review the item and will do so impartially. :)

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I spent a good amount of time making a video for this review guide, so check it out! Also be sure to check out the text-based version of this guide below.

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Overview

The Kintaro NES Mini case can house the Pi B+, 2, or 3. It won't fit the Pi Zero without modifications, anyways).

As far as quality goes, it appears to be a solid build. It doesn't feel like cheap plastic. Where the cartridge slot was on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, you'll now have access to the Pi's USB and Ethernet ports.

And, of course, it unmistakably looks like a tiny NES!

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Unboxing

Inside the box you'll find the case itself, a seat of aluminum heatsinks (one for the CPU and one for the Ethernet chip), a few stickers, and a set of 4 screws for putting the case together.

There's also a card letting you know that the company is changing its name to Kintaro (a Japanese folk hero) rather than Old Skool Tools. I definitely like the name Kintaro better.

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Pros

Size and shape

The case is about the same size as a "normal" Raspberry Pi case, which is about half the size of the already tiny NES Classic Edition. One thing I found a bit odd is that it's more of a "portrait" oriented rectangular shape, whereas the NES Classic and original NES were "landscape" oriented. It's shaped this way so that the USB ports on the Raspberry Pi can be accessed through the cartridge slot, which is a nice touch. However, they could've made the case larger and still accomplished this to keep the original form factor.

Port accessibility

The power, HDMI, and audio ports are located on the side and are all accessible externally -- including the Micro SD card, which is great. However, for RetroPie, you really won't need to access the SD card after installation since you'll want to add RetroPie ROMs via USB instead.

Color

I compared the original NES, NES Classic Edition, and Kintaro NES Mini Case side-by-side. The gray and black plastic colors are definitely consistent between all three. Because my original NES is yellowed from the previous owner's indoor smoking habits, I ended up taking it apart to access the original gray plastic inside to confirm the color match.

Cost

The Kintaro NES Mini case retails for around $20. You'd expect to pay around $10 for a "normal" Raspberry Pi case of similar quality. However, since the Kintaro comes with heatsinks (normally $5 alone), you're really only paying $5 more for the Kintaro case. Not a bad deal, really.

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Cons

Unconventional form factor

The original NES, NES Classic Edition, and Kintaro case are all rectangular -- but in order to keep the case small and allow the USB ports to be accessed through the cartridge slot, the Kintaro case is longer than it is wide. This makes it a completely different form factor from the original, which was disappointing but understandable. The alternative would be to make the case wider (and then I'd probably complain about all the wasted space). ;)

No LED

Though the case features a spot for an LED, there's no LED included. This isn't surprising (as it wasn't advertised), but it is nice that they left a hole so that you can install your own. I actually wrote a guide on adding a Pi power LED in case you want to add your own. Since I didn't have any LEDs handy that were small enough, I simply ran some fiber optic filament to the front of the case -- check out the video if you'd like to see how I did that!

No power button

Again, not advertised, but this would be nice to have. You can still shut down your Raspberry Pi properly through the RetroPie UI or add your own power button.

No rubber feet

I normally use a bluetooth controller for playing RetroPie, but while I was playing this thing with a wired controller, it was sliding all around the place since it's so light. Adding some rubber feet (and maybe some weights) would make a huge difference, but I imagine this wouldn't be that hard to do myself.

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Overall opinion

For $20, you definitely won't be disappointed with this case. It takes a fun piece of retro gaming history and puts it into the modern Raspberry Pi lens. Be sure to check it out on Amazon!

After speaking with Kintaro, I learned that this is their first product -- so it's great to support small businesses. Apparently, they also have a case coming out soon that looks like the SNES Mini, to coincide with the release by Nintendo of the SNES Classic Edition.

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We're giving a bunch of these away!

After I asked Kintaro to send us a case to review, they actually sent us 15 so we could give a bunch away to our fans. Since I'm keeping one, this means we're giving away 14 of them on our Facebook page! :) Don't miss out on your chance to win one for you and a buddy.

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Also see

I wrote a few other guides that are definitely related to this NES Mini Pi case -- check them out if you're a retro gamer who loves Raspberry Pi projects: the Pi Cart, Gamepad Zero, and Retrobox.