Introduction: Recalbox Portable

This is a very easy to build and fairly cheap portable retrogaming console. The purpose of creating this was to make it a lot easier for everyone to build a portable game console. Especially if you don't have a lot of tools. So, if you managed to build one, share it with me.

I am going to list the pros and cons, so you are aware of it before you build it.


  • Only takes 2.5 hours to build and assemble it (excluding the printing time)
  • Very high quality LCD (DPI LCD 800*600 res) and a 2.8" LCD
  • Uses Original SNES gamepad.
  • You don't have to build a gamepad, print buttons, solder push buttons etc.
  • 5 to 6 hours of battery life
  • No screw needed for assembly. Parts interlock to each other and you can disassemble them for repair/enhancement.
  • Only costs about $50 to build one.


  • Mass distribution is not the best
  • You can't charge it and use it at the same time. (Unless you use another charger and batt)
  • The lcd is not in the center. (see pics)

Step 1: Software

his is rather easy.

you should download recalbox and burn it to the sd card first Download recalbox from here You can use something like etcher ( to burn the image to your sd card. Once that's done. remount the sd card and replace the config.txt with the one provided in the files. both display and sound should work. Remember to copy mzpi.dto and mzts-28.dto to overlays folder.

Step 2: 3D Print

I used mod-t. The hotend diameter is 0.4. You should be able to print it with most 3D printers. Use a raft to print the bottom and top if it does not stick to the build plate.

print the following parts with 0.1mm layer height.

  1. Top
  2. Bottom
  3. Handle
  4. power btn

Step 3: Parts

I bought all of the parts on Amazon. Some parts like the speaker I got from the headphones sold on dollar Tree. But you can find everything on eBay and/or Amazon.

Here is the list of parts you need: (Click here for my public amazon list )

Notes about parts:

Please note that you can find some of these items like the raspberyy pi zero w for cheaper. For instance, in the US, you can buy a pi zero from microcenter for $5. You can also use any internal speaker upto 40 mm in diameter.

Step 4: Tools

You don't need a lot of tools in order to complete this project. You can re use parts from the portable charger and SNES gamepad.

What you will need:

  1. Thin tip solder iron and solder
  2. 3d Printer + PLA or ABS filament
  3. Small philips head screw driver
  4. Hot GlueSuper glue (optional)
  5. Electric tape and/or heat shrink (optional)

Note: You don't need any screws and wires. We can reuse the remaining wires from the gamepad controller.

Step 5: Raspberry Pi Zero and Display

First, ensure that the display is not damaged and both your pi 0 w and display are working.After the enough tests. Insert the pi 0 w at the back of the display and solder all 40 pins.You can also add a heatsink to the processor, and it will fit into the enclosure without touching other parts.

Step 6: Mount Display

Mount the display to the top of the enclosure, same as picture bellow. If you have difficulty inserting the display, you can etch the edges of the mounting window with a knife. Follow the picture for the direction of mount.

Step 7: Portable Charger

To make it even cheaper, we are going to break apart a portable charger, (the one in the parts) and use it's battery and charger breakout for our project.

BEFORE ANYTHING, FULLY DISCHARGE THE BATTERY. THEN, gentry remove the top and bottom of the portable charger enclosure. You can stick a screw driver in between them. But be careful not to damage the battery and the interior components. Do this at your own risk. Once the enclosure is disassembled, cut the battery wires. We are going to need longer wires. Also cut the wires that goes to the wall charger. We don't need that.

From the parts, keep the ones bellow:

  1. the two mounting screws
  2. charging breakout
  3. battery
  4. the transparent LED shield
  5. the sticky label that attached to the battery.

We will re use all of these parts in our project.

Step 8: Connecting the Speaker

  1. solder 1 leg of potentiometer to one of the speaker inputs and one of the amplifier output
  2. solder the speaker with one wire (you can use) to the PAM amplifier speaker output
  3. Solder the GND and the negative of the audio to a GND pin on your pi zero
  4. Solder the VIN of the amplifier to pi zero 3.3v pin
  5. Solder the positive audio input of amplifier to GPIO 18 of your pi zero.

Note: You can use GPIO 18 and 19 or one of them.

Turn on the pi and test that your audio works good. If you have problem, follow this guide

Step 9:

Solder the battery to the charging breakout and measure that the wire is long enough to fit like image bellow.

Use the sticky label to attach the battery to the bottom enclosure.

After that, insert the 3d printer power btn to the center hole on the wall of the enclosure, and fasten the charger breakout with the two original screws we took from the portable charger.

Notice: don't mess the positive or negative wires, or you might blow your battery or charger.

Use a voltmeter to ensure you are connecting the right polarities.


  • The bottom enclosure is yellow in some pics and black in others. Don't worry, they are the same not different parts.
  • In the picture bellow, you don't see the micro usb charging cable that is originally attached to the charging breakout. You don't have to cut it. The picture is misleading here.

Step 10: Gamepad

Cut the usb cable coming from your USB SNES gamepad. Make sure it is 140mm long.

You can always make it shorter, but it does not work the other way. So make sure you don't cut it too short at the beginning. Besides, you can use the extra wires in the cable for other parts to connect the speaker and the potentiometer etc.

Follow the images below, to mount the gamepad to the bottom enclosure, using the 3d printer handle.

Step 11: Connecting Gamepad

once the cut end of the usb cable is inside of the enclosure, solder it to the USB to micro usb adapter, follow the image bellow for the position of the wires.

Make sure your SNES gamepad used the correct color codes for USB.

Use heatshrink or electric tape to isolate and protect the soldered parts from interfering with other components. See pictures bellow for an example.

Step 12:

Connect the power micro usb and the gamepad micro usb to pi 0, put the top enclosure on the bottom enclosure, Make sure all wires in inside and press them.

The top and bottom enclosure will snap into each other.

Next, charge your battery, then turn it on and enjoy retro gaming!