games / Columns

The Top 8 Console Variations: Sony PSX, Game Boy Advance SP, More

March 31, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Sony PSX

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! I’m back again to finally talk about console variations/variants. Most console tend to only come in a few colors and such, but some of them are re-designed to add in new features, get slimmed down, etc. That’s what I’m here to talk with you about today. Let’s begin:

#8: TurboExpress

The Sega Nomad and TurboExpress are pretty much the same idea: make a handheld form of a home console so people can play it on the go. Between the two, the Express was the cooler console, the batteries lasted a big longer than in the Nomad, it had a TV Turner addon, and it just looked cooler. Also, it was a plot point in that Will Smith movie “Enemy of the State”, so that’s something. There are unofficial consoles out now like the “SupaBoy” console from Hyperkin, but the TurboExpress is still cooler than that.

#7: HDMI Xbox 360

Unlike most other consoles on this list, the HDMI Xbox 360 (Zephyr) doesn’t look functionally different from the other models, aside from the obvious extra port. The reason it is on this list is because the console fixes two of the more glaring problems of the original 360. The first is the small/blurry text size. Anyone who tried to play Dead Rising on a CRT TV with composite cables knows what I am talking about. The second issue is generally (not always but generally) fixing the “Red Ring of Death” issues that plagued the first few runs of the Xbox 360 console. Zephyr units might still Red Ring, but it was far less likely to happen than with the old units.

#6: Game Boy Light

A few of these variants never made it to America and this is one of them. The Game Boy Light was a version of a Game Boy, only it has a blue backlight you can turn on. Remember watches and digital readouts in the mid 90’s with the back light? Think that. Size-wise, it’s extremely similar to the Game Boy Color, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used the mold for the Light for the GBC. I actually got one of these consoles years later because I just thought it was a cool looking screen.

#5: Sony PSX

The PSX is another Japan-only console. It is basically a PS2 with a TV tuner card and a hard drive so you can record programs onto it. Think basically a PS2 + a Tivo, and you get the idea. It was the first Sony console to have that Cross Media Bar that the PS3 and PSP ended up using. The problem(s) with the PSX was that it was really expensive, delicate and complicated. Like, say the hard drive failed, the PSX would become a heavy paperweight because the console was locked to the drive. Still, considering the thing came out in 2003, it was a forward-thinking console, to say the least.

#4: Panasonic Q

The Panasonic Q is still one of the best looking consoles ever. Featuring a metallic front, a LCD screen and a tray-loading DVD drive, this specialized Game Cube is just “cool”. The fact it can play DVD/full-sized discs is probably the best touch, but the Q just had a lot of things packed into a fairly small package, especially with the light up controller ports. This is another console that only came out in Japan, and for a very hefty price, which is a huge bummer since I’ll probably never get to own one.

#3: Treamcast

The Treamcast is the only “unofficial” console on this list. It was done by a Chinese company, you would mail in your Dreamcast and they would bolt a screen on top of it and add speakers to the side. Basically, it was making the Dreamcast into a “portable” unit, for stuff like going on long car rides (coming also with a car adapter), and stuff like that. The Treamcast was just a chunkier version of the Dreamcast but I thought it looked neat and I wish I could have grabbed one.

#2: NES Top Loader

The Top Loader might not look as iconic as the original NES but it does fix a flaw. Mainly the cartridge pin connector getting loose and the games not always being able to work. So…that’s nice. There are some small problems like the stupid wishbone controllers, or the lack of certain AV inputs, but that’s fine. It’s better than having to keep re-seating the connector to get your NES games to work.

#1: Game Boy Advance SP

This is the big one because it not only corrected a design problem but was also one of the best looking/functional Nintendo consoles ever made. The original Game Boy Advance had an issue of the screen being…not great due to a lack of light. Earlier Game Boys also had this problem but you didn’t really care since graphical fidelity wasn’t too important. It became an issue with the GBA though because games got more detailed and people actually wanted to see what the hell they were playing. The GBA SP added in a backlight and shrunk the size of the console down by giving it a clamshell form factor and it was great.

Bonus: PlayStation 1 Debug

This is a bonus entry since it is actually a console I have. I have this PS1 debug (the photo is also mine) that I got a few years ago. The blue color is great, and it has a few special features the regular PS1’s don’t have. It has a different power connector/cord. It kind of looks like a laptop power brick that you have to plug in. Also, the PS1 can play import (Japanese) or burned games without doing anything. So…that’s neat. Of my current video game collection this is probably one of the coolest things I own.

For comments, list your own favorite console variants and why.

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