A500 Mini review
This A500 Mini review, or the Amiga 500 Mini, to give this retro console it’s long-form name, takes us back to late 80s and 90s for a hit retro game perfection. What sets the A500 Mini apart from other plug-and-play retro mini consoles is the option to download and install games. It’s also not a ‘console’ but a home computer, which means the games are slightly more in-depth than the arcade games found on Sega and Nintendo retro consoles.
To get an idea of what these kinds of miniaturised retro game consoles can offer, then take a look at our guide to the best retro game consoles. If you’re looking to take your love or retro games further, then read our advice for how to break into pixel art. Some of the best retro games can also be played on Nintendo Switch, take a look at our buyers guide to the best deals for Nintendo Switch.
This A500 Mini review will take a close look at the design and recreation of the Amiga 500, I’ll focus on its peripherals and ease of use, as well as the games that come preinstalled. If you love retro games, or have an interest in classic design, you’ll want to read on.
A500 Mini review: in the box
The A500 Mini comes in a neat little, compact box that hides a lot of content. Inside the box you’ll find the A500 Mini neatly sitting inside a plastic tray, below are two boxes that contain the USB Mouse and USB gamepad designed to fit the Amiga styling. Warning, if you’re averse to 90s beige design then turn away now. If you want a modern add-on, take a look at our best USB-C mouse guide.
There’s a clear effort here to make the unboxing of the A500 Mini a small event in itself. There’s a tacit sense of discovery here as you unpack the portions of the box and find each component.
It’s a small thing too, but I love the attention to detail in the A500 Mini’s manual. In a nod to the Amiga 500’s user manual we get a ring-bound 40-page booklet that will explain everything you need to know about this mini retro console, from setup to downloading and installing new games (see A500 Mini review: the games for more). It is a sign the makers, Retro Games, really understands its market.
The setup of the A500 Mini is incredibly easy, and is as simple as plugging in the included HDMI cable into a TV or monitor and hooking up the console to a power supply. I have a minor gripe that while the USB-C power lead is included the power adapter isn’t, which assumes to have a spare one.
A500 Mini review: design
The original Amiga 500 launched in 1987 but really became popular and affordable in the early 90s. This was a gaming platform that side-stepped the 90s console wars, and filled a gap for players who grew up on micro computers like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. As such, this miniature recreation of the A500 features design notes of an age that loved brown, grey and beige. This model contains three shades of beige, and I love it.
This mini recreation of the Amiga 500 is a tiny 10 x 7 x 3 inches and is light in the hand. Don’t let the size fool you into thinking Retro Games has skimped as this mini retro console looks incredible. The A500 Mini is a tiny recreation of the original computer right down to the little keys, side-loading disc drive and iconic slats running the length of the machine.
All the modern features are hidden to the rear of the A500 Mini. A small power button is built into the design, and the USB-C, HDMI and three USB 2.0 ports sit along the rear of the console. It’s neat in approach and also manages to rekindle the fuzzy feelings of using an Amiga 500 all these years on. (For the record, I still own an A500.)
The A500 Mini console is complemented by a USB gamepad and mouse that mimics the design of the Amiga brand. This means more beige but also a uniquely Amiga hit of nostalgia as the gamepad has been modelled on the original Amiga CD32 pad. It looks and feels good in the hand, and the notch in the middle is a design *chef’s kiss* as it not only gives the pad a unique look, but can be used to wrap the cable around for neatly packing away.
Design aside, both the USB gamepad and mouse can feel a little ‘clicky’ and lack the solidity of more expensive devices. But they work fine for the types of games you’ll be playing on the A500 Mini, and the design matters – in this respect they are perfect.
A500 Mini review: user experience
Beneath the immaculately designed Amiga 500 miniature console’s looks is a decent setup geared around emulation. Inside the A500 Mini’s shell you’ll discover an All Winner H6 ARM chip and Amiberry emulation software, and this runs at a base resolution of 720p.
The hardware used, and its dependence on the WinUAE Amiga emulation software ensures the games run incredibly well. Better still there’s room to fiddle and tweak the performance. You can switch between 50hz and 60hz frame rate performance, but given Amiga games were designed around lower frame rates this can be overkill (but it’s always nice to have).
It’s the other options and the slick UI that make the A500 Mini fun to use and play. The main menu mimics what we’ve come to expect from streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, so it’s very user-friendly. While there are options to adjust the screen – fixed size, moderate zoom and screen fit – and the usual CRT effect and image smoothing filters, these are limited.
But it’s the ease-of-use that I enjoy. Particularly loading in my own games from USB which is stress-free. Simply plug in the USB stick – you can have three in at once to host your larger Amiga collection – and select and play from the menu. (You’ll need a device formatted to FAT32, take a look at our guide to the best USB flash storage for ideas.)
A500 Mini review: the games
The A500 Mini comes with 25 pre-installed games that aim to offer a taste of what this classic computer was capable of, and as you’d expect it’s a little hit and miss. The standouts include games that are still playable today, the game design has been aped many times over the years and is worth studying still.
The picks would be those games that demonstrated what the Amiga could do back in the 90s and made it different to console; I’d suggest first playing Another World, Cadaver, Stunt Car Racer and Simon The Sorcerer. The likes of Zool, Alien Breed, Worms: Director’s Cut and The Chaos Engine can still hold the attention. I’d avoid California Games, unless hacky sack is something you really miss about the 90s.
A500 Mini game list
Alien Breed 3D
Alien Breed: Special Edition 92
ATR: All-Terrain Racing
The Chaos Engine
F-16 Combat Pilot
Kick Off 2
The Lost Patrol
Project-X: Special Edition 93
Simon the Sorcerer
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe
Stunt Car Racer
Super Cars II
Titus the Fox
Worms: The Director’s Cut
What’s missing are greats of the era, such as Lemmings, Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder but the import feature means you can play this on the A500 Mini so long as they’re saved in the right format – WHDLoad – and the manual explains it in detail.
It’s worth noting that while the pre-installed games feature a virtual keyboard at the press of a button and are tailored to work with the A500 Mini gamepad and mouse, many games running from USB need some setup and trial-and-error to get them working. In terms of compatibility it’s also hit-and-miss, I found The Secret of Monkey Island and Battle Isle failed to load but Sensible World Of Soccer ran wonderfully, which is a relief.
A500 Mini review: the price
The A500 Mini sells for $139.99 / £119.99 but you can find it for under $100 / £100 if you shop around. Unlike some mini consoles, such as the Nintendo Classic Mini, that saw wild price increases after release the A500 Mini is fairly even-headed. There is a limited supply but at present the A500 Mini is easy to find at a reasonable price.
Interestingly you can use the chunky C64 Mini joystick, also made by Retro Games, so if you need a second pad or simply prefer the older styled controller you may want to buy one of these too – priced $50 / £45.
A500 Mini review: should I buy one?
Generally with all these retro mini consoles how much attachment you have to the era or the old hardware will determine how much enjoyment you get from the model. Yet, there are some clear standouts with the A500 Mini; it looks fantastic, comes with everything you need out of the box (USB-C power adapter aside) and its installed games have been optimised for use with the UI and controllers.
The option to install your own Amiga games from USB is excellent, but even those that are compatible can be trial-and-error to get them working fully. The emulation of the pre-installed games is excellent all round, however, and makes the Amiga 500 Mini a hassle-free trip down memory lane.
From a design, UI and UX perspective the A500 Mini is excellent, though some may prefer more options for the emulation and go deeper into the history and design of the games and the Amiga 500 in general. But for anyone looking to take a step back to the peak of 90s gaming, the A500 Mini is an excellent place to start.