Thursday, November 12, 2020

Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. - Teardown & Observations

While Microsoft and Sony are launching new hardware this week (Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5), so too is Nintendo with the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. This Game & Watch "Classic" of sorts provides yet another way for fans new and old to play the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka "Lost Levels" outside of Japan), and a recreation of the original Game & Watch Ball game.

See Nintendo's product page for more information as we dive into the technical details of this nifty new gadget.

Packaging & Contents

The G&W:SMB is packaged in aptly themed gold box with a thick plastic film outer box with graphics that makes the package pop with a subtle sense of depth. The inner lips of the box present the user with a special message "Special thanks to you!" flanked by Mario and Luigi in G&W Ball style.

The contents are fairly simple:

  • Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. unit
  • USB-C to USB-A cable for changing (no charger included)
  • User Guide

Fit & Finish

The G&W:SMB meets the bar of quality found on all with Nintendo throwback products such as the NES and SNES Classic Editions. The unit feels solid, buttons are responsive, and weight of the unit is appropriate. Like the Switch, the G&W:SMB uses a USB-C connector for charging. The outer case is held together using 4 tri-wing screws that have been used in the past by Nintendo for items such as Game Boy Advance cartridges.

Picture & Sound

Overall, the picture quality is reasonable. SMB and SMB2 are both 1x vertically scaled as the LCD contained in the G&W:SMB has a resolution of 320x240. All 240 rows of pixels are displayed. Typically NTSC NES games are only expected to display the inner 224 rows of pixels. On the horizontal, interpolation is employed to stretch the 256 original pixels to the displays 320. Since this is a 1.25x stretch, there is some amount of shimmer, but this is partially masked by the softening of some columns of pixels instead of a hard repeat. This in combination with the pixel response time being low enough, horizontal "shimmer" scrolling is minimal given the display's resolution. On the flip side, it is unreasonable to expect Nintendo's $50 device to contain a 1600x1200 2.4" LCD capable of 5x integer vertical scaling and ~6.25x horizontal scaling with horizontal filtering to fill a 4:3 aspect ratio screen and while also minimizing non-integer scaling artifacts.

Left: G&W:SMB 1.25x1 display (Lens convex distortion)
Right: 4x4 Integer scale with all 240 rows displayed

During my time so far with the G&W:SMB I haven't subjectively noticed any serious deviations or problems with the sound output quality. There's a single mono speaker that fires from the left side of the unit and is able to get sufficiently loud. Watch the following clip to get a sense of sound quality.

The pause menu allows the user to adjust picture brightness and volume.

Teardown & Technical Specifications

Now for the juicy bits of this post - hardware details. Here is a list of the main components found inside the G&W:SMB.
  • LCD Module - Innolux ZJ024NA-17A 2.4" 320x240 resolution
  • MCU - STMicroelectronics STM32H7B0VB
    • 32-bit Arm® Cortex®-M7 core up to 280MHz
    • Integrated LCD controller
    • Integrated USB controller
  • Storage: Macronix MX25U8035FM2I 8Mb Flash
  • Battery - Nintendo HAC-006 3.7V 525mAh 1.9Wh
  • Battery Charger  - Texas Instruments BQ24072
  • Speaker Amplifier - TBD (Device Marking 315 B01 023)
  • IO - USB C connector (Note: only voltage and ground appear to be routed)


For $50, Nintendo's Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a must have item for retro gaming enthusiasts, and makes a great gift during this holiday season (assuming one can find and purchase at MSRP). Is is the best way to play SMB1&2? Is it an Analogue Pocket "killer"? No to both of these, but it is a fun gadget to have and experience none the less!

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