PiStation Review: RetroFlag’s Tiny PlayStation Case for the Raspberry Pi 4

RetroFlag’s PiStation is the go-to station for PlayStation on the Pi.
Ash Ash (357)
0
Our rating: 4/5

Retrogaming on the Raspberry Pi goes together like peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, or potatoes and cheese. If you haven’t tried it before, you absolutely should, as these two things were seemingly made for each other. Even smaller models like the Raspberry Pi Zero perfectly capable emulation devices, but nothing beats the raw power of the Raspberry Pi 4. This quad-core single board computer (SBC) can handle everything from your favorite 8-bit titles to more complex systems like the PlayStation 1 which brings us to our review today of RetroFlag’s super tiny PlayStation case.

Like many tiny consoles that came before it, this one is made for fans of old school hardware that want something a little bit smaller for their collection. This isn’t Retroflag’s first foray into tiny console cases, either. They’re responsible for other beloved console replicas like the Super Nintendo and original Game Boy DMG.

This super small PlayStation was made just for the Raspberry Pi 4 and is known as the PiStation. There are two models available, one with a screen and one without. In this review, we’re covering the edition with a screen and tearing it apart to see how well it stacks up and whether or not it’s worth the investment—spoiler alert, it totally is.

Raspberry Pi 4 Model BRaspberry Pi 4 Model B ×1

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PiStation Specs

The cool thing about this case is that it has a few PCBs inside that move access to Pi ports to the outside. So instead of taking it apart just to plug something in, you can use ports fitted on the outer shell that connect internally with smaller cables made just for the PiStation. The port access changes slightly with the LCD screen attached, so I’ll cover the basic model first and delve into the differences with the screen model.

PiStation Specs
Safe Shutdown Button
Safe Reset Button
Power LED
Micro SD Card Slot
USB Type-C Power Port
2x Micro HDMI Ports
3.5mm Audio Jack
Installation holes for Pistation LCD
Access Panel for USB 3.0 Ports and Ethernet Port

The screen attaches to the base model but comes with a few extra buttons, modules, and even a different video output option. In fact, the only way to use a regular HDMI output with the PiStation is to attach the LCD screen, as the base model only has access to the two Micro HDMI ports.

PiStation LCD Screen Specs
Display Scale Switch Button
Volume Adjustment Buttons
Screen Brightness Adjustment Buttons
2x Stereo Speakers
4.3” 800 x 480px LCD
USB Type-C for DC Power
HDMI Out
PiStation Box

When you order the PiStation from RetroFlag, you can, of course, expect the PiStation case itself, but you get a few extra things to help with the assembly process including:

  • 1x Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Various connector cables
  • Instruction manual (also available as a PDF)
  • LCD Screen (optional)

The LCD screen is only available if you specifically purchase this edition. Otherwise, you will only receive the basic case model. It takes more than what’s provided by RetroFlag to get off the ground with the setup. We’ll dig into must-have accessories later but at minimum you will need to provide your own Raspberry Pi 4, microSD card and any input devices for setting up the OS including a USB keyboard and cursor input device of some kind.

PiStation Hardware

The PiStation case is made from plastic, but despite the somewhat cheap material, it’s sturdy enough to serve its purpose. I wouldn’t be too rough with it, as with any other plastic case, but it definitely feels solid and has little give when flexed. Given that the original PlayStation was also made with plastic construction, it would be out of place to use any other material. The color is spot on, as well, with a light gray look and the texture is smooth to the touch.

The PCBs inside, like RetroFlag’s other retro game cases, are made just for mounting the hardware inside this particular case. They serve their purpose well and connect the Pi to the outer ports just as intended. I didn’t have any difficulty wiring the interior, nor did I experience any connection issues with the peripherals using these PCB connections. It’s worth noting, however, that these boards are designed to work with the Pi 4 and Pi 4 alone. They are incompatible with older models, including the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

The LCD screen serves its purpose well, but isn’t ideal for setting up the OS as the text is rather small. Once your Pi is configured with an emulator, however, it works great. The colors look vibrant and games look wonderful on the 4.3-inch display wtih a resolution of 800 x 480px. The biggest benefit to the LCD screen, in my experience, is the HDMI output it provides. If you don’t have a Micro HDMI cable around, this option is a huge plus.

PiStation Design

The case is designed to resemble the original PlayStation 1994 edition, albeit with a few changes that help RetroFlag presumably avoid copyright issues while adding a few features that cater to the Pi user. There are power and reset buttons that work as intended, along with a power LED that illuminates when the Pi is turned on. Overall, the shell is beautifully retro and is guaranteed to quench the thirst of original PlayStation 1 junkies jonesing for an old school experience.

It even has a disc slot like the original that pops open, but instead of accepting discs, it serves as an additional microSD card storage space—ideal for switching operating systems without having to dig through your drawers to find your extra cards.

The LCD screen is a seriously nice touch. We can’t emphasize enough how fun it is to have an all-in-one device that also pays homage to the old PlayStation screen add on. While it isn’t round like the original, it lines up well with the PiStation case design, folding open and closed as needed, which is super useful for preventing the accumulation of dust and debris while not in use.

PiStation RetroPie

Software-wise, you can run anything you want on this. If it can run on the Raspberry Pi 4, you can use it here. I recommend installing Raspberry Pi OS because of the flexibility it provides. With Raspberry Pi OS, you can use any emulation platform you want, from Retro Pie to Emulation Station or just plain Retro Arch.

However, if you want to get creative and run something else, you should definitely give it a shot. I would recommend something specifically catered to gaming, like Lakka. But if you wanted to use this as a general case for other things not-related to gaming, that’s also an option. I had no trouble using the Pi as a media streaming platform to watch videos using Plex.

PiStation Add Ons and Accessories

As with any retro gaming case, your experience will vary greatly depending on the accessories you decide to use. This includes everything from the power adapter to any input devices used to operate the system. I highly recommend using the official Raspberry Pi 4 power cable with this case—especially if you plan on using the LCD screen attachment. The official power cable is necessary to supply enough juice to both the Pi 4 and screen without any unexpected shutdowns.

You will need a keyboard and mouse to set up the Pi but USB controllers are critical for playing any retro games. You can always use aftermarket USB controllers but if you want to use original hardware, you definitely can with the right adapter. There are PlayStation controller to USB adapters, as well as ones for other systems like the SNES and even older consoles like the NES.

An unnecessary but totally awesome addition I recommend is an HDMI to RCA adapter. With one of these, you can get video output from the PiStation directly to an old-school CRT TV. Is it critical? I would argue yes, but that largely depends on what you want out of the PiStation system.

RetroFlag PiStation

Overall, this is a very cool case and well-designed to suit the needs of retro gamers looking for a PlayStation themed asset for their nostalgic console collection. It has a sleek design and solid setup for emulating not only original PlayStation games, but pretty much anything else the Raspberry Pi 4 is capable of emulating. It looks great on a shelf and has plenty of features to work as a standalone retrogaming device.

The biggest drawback in my book is that it’s designed only to work with the Raspberry Pi 4. The Pi 4 is much harder to get a hold of, and it would be nice to see a little flexibility and backwards compatibility with older models. That said, the Pi 4 is an excellent option for retro gaming and I can understand why RetroFlag would optimize the case for it seeing as it ensures better performance—especially when emulating PlayStation games.

If you want a retro gaming case for your Raspberry Pi 4, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one as versatile and feature-packed as the PiStation. Throw in the LCD screen, you’ve got an all-in-one system made for gaming with or without an external screen. This case is downright fun to play with and more than suitable for PiStation fans or general retrogamers alike.

Put some juice in your Pico project!
Ash Ash (357)
0

The Raspberry Pi Pico is a little board with a lot of room for creativity. But like your brain, the Pico needs the right juice to work properly!