The teardown artists at iFixit got their hands on the banana-yellow plastic Playdate, the runaway retro throwback handheld game system we previewed last month before launching later this year. And just like Game Boys of yore easy to take apart, repair and rebuild, the Playdate will be relatively easy to repair if you ever need to replace the battery or buttons.
The most interesting findings: The Playdate’s signature crank uses a Hall-effect sensor rather than a spring or other sort of wear-resistant physical mechanism, so it shouldn’t suffer from drift over time like some console controller joysticks do. And while there is a warranty sticker in the Playdate, it specifically states that you will void the warranty of the system if you break something in it, not that you invalidate it by taking the system apart. This strikes a good balance between “don’t come in here if you don’t know what you’re doing” and “we trust you to do your own repairs if you need to.”
The teardown also gives us some details about the Playdate’s intentionally power-efficient hardware, including a 216MHz ARM Cortex M7 processor, 128 megabits (or 16MB) of RAM, and 4GB of eMMC storage. The only major complaint iFixit had is that the LCD screen appears to be glued to the front of the Playdate – replacing the screen will likely require the entire rest of the case to be replaced as well. But since the front of the Playdate is simply yellow plastic rather than metal and glass, this part shouldn’t cost as much as if your phone’s screen breaks.
This do-it-yourself repair mentality is consistent with how Panic, the producer of the portable system, has advertised the system’s coding-friendly ethos. Once the portable system is out, enterprising game makers can use Lua or C — or a beginner-friendly, web-based development platform — to code games and then freely upload and test them on real hardware with an included SDK.
We had a lot of fun with the Playdate in our hardware preview – it’s an intentionally simple, ingenious, toy-like system that has a lot more in common with Tamagotchi and Tiger Electronics handhelds from the 90s than with complex modern systems like the Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck. The Playdate is currently available for pre-order for $179, which includes the hardware and a total of 24 games. Some orders will ship later in 2021, but preorders placed today won’t arrive until sometime next year.
View image by iFixit