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.
Watch the video:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). ;)
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.
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.
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.
Who needs a Raspberry Pi case when your controller can be the case?