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Atari VCS has arrived!
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slaapliedje 26 Dec, 2020
So I'll start by saying that I got my VCS yesterday morning as a slightly early Christmas present. I also was going to submit an article, but don't feel like changing my username on any forum to use my real name :P

Atari Consoles

As we can see in the image here, the size is quite small in comparison to the 5200, 7800 and the Jaguar+CD. Pretty compact and has some heft to it. (yes, I've already pulled it off my TV stand a few times, it's built pretty sturdily).

I bought the collector's edition, which are all numbered (6000 in total). It has two USB ports on the front, and two in the back (they're either 3.0 or 3.1, depending on which spec sheet you read). Includes power and an HDMI cable. The controllers (I bought the 'Modern' and 'Classic') come with exceptionally well built cables, and they are long! Both are micro-USB though. But they have a square cut out in the controller with the matching cable filling that, to strengthen the connection.

Controllers feel great, with the modern one having rough edges around the top of the analog sticks, so slipping doesn't really occur, though they may be a bit rough for sensitive thumbs. The classic joystick has a spinner built into it, fantastic for games like Tempest, but it is a bit sensitive and takes some practice to getting used to it (either that or I suck at Tempest). It lights up the direction that you're pointing, and also the circle around the base will light up showing the battery power left when you first turn it on.

Upgrades of the machine seem like they may be a little difficult, but you can apparently swap out the Bluetooth / Wifi adapter and the memory can be upgraded to 32gb of ram (2x16 DDR4 2400), and there is an m.2 SATA internal connection you can use either for the 'PC Mode' or you can add to the AtariOS storage (which is only 32gb of space on an eMMC drive(? not 100% sure about this, only know the size) I'll open mine up once I get the drive / memory delivered.

So now onto the software!
AtariOS is Linux based (once you hook a hard drive up to it, you can even see a bit of the kernel loading. Right now it's pretty basic, upon booting it up, it asked to connect to the WiFi, but since I couldn't find the MAC address, I couldn't set this up. There is no way to find it currently either (that I've seen, or have gotten answers from Atari on yet).
PC Mode also only really just restarts your system, you still need to press ESC on start up to get into the bios, to then select Boot Manager.
Outside of some lock ups (Antstream and Boulder Dash Deluxe are the two I've probably played around in the most, but both of them crash when you hit the Atari button on the joystick, which is supposed to take you back to the dashboard). Keep in mind, the backers basically got a beta version of stuff, so that bugs could be ironed out before they're shipped out to Walmart / Gamestop (still don't understand how they still exist...)

Now for the interesting part for a lot of people here. "Does it do Linux proper?" Well yes and no. My initial attempt was to get GamerOS installed! So I first create the USB stick, tell it to boot and get a big 'nope!' Seems they have enabled Secure Boot and have not given out the passwords to unlock it. So any Linux distribution that does not support signed keys for Secure Boot will not work on the VCS. Now you can potentially set up something on a hard drive (usb or the m.2 SATA) and fix the secure boot first, but I figured I'd wait until my m.2 shows up then I'll try that on my main desktop.

Since GamerOS was out, I installed Debian Buster. Upon reboot GDM was black. So I dropped to a shell, enabled the non-free and contrib and backports repo, ran 'sudo apt install linux-image-5.9.0-0.bpo.2-amd64' rebooted and the gnome login started right up.
Only other issues I had were that it complained about some realtek firmware, (sudo apt install -t buster-backports firmware-realtek) and that it wouldn't recognize the Bluetooth adapter, so I stuck in a USB one I had laying around that I know worked. After that I had my bluetooth Thinkpad keyboard connected to it.
I was able to download Steam and launched Streets of Rage 4 and played with my Steam Controller. Otherwise it was a pretty straight forward install.

Biggest complaints so far are the lockups when trying to exit games, and that PC Mode is more or less useless at this point, only really rebooting the system. Every time you want to boot into an Alt system, you have to have the keyboard plugged in, hit escape until the bios pops up on the screen, select Boot Manager, then select the partition you want to boot from.

My next thing to test out is the controllers on standard Linux / Steam (I have Debian Unstable).

Also of note, they did modify the Atari Vault from the normal PC version, as it now shows the Atari VCS logo, and the onscreen pictures of buttons diagrams, etc are all of the Atari Modern controller (or the Classic if you have that connected). I'll have to test out some other peripherals on it as well, after all Centipede and Missile Command need a trackball!
ageres 26 Dec, 2020
What about its performance? Can it emulate PS2, Gamecube, Wii fine? What CPU does it have? Are controllers wired only? Can it be used with other controllers in its default Atari mode?
Too overpriced though, IMO.
Quoting: slaapliedjeit asked to connect to the WiFi, but since I couldn't find the MAC address, I couldn't set this up. There is no way to find it currently either (that I've seen, or have gotten answers from Atari on yet).
Why is the MAC address needed to connect? To get whitelisted on your router? I suppose you have already looked for it in Debian and can connect to the Internet in the 'Atari mode' as well.
slaapliedje 26 Dec, 2020
Quoting: ageresWhat about its performance? Can it emulate PS2, Gamecube, Wii fine? What CPU does it have? Are controllers wired only? Can it be used with other controllers in its default Atari mode?
Too overpriced though, IMO.
I'll test out some emulation on it. I think I have some stuff to test Gamecube and PS2 things on it. As far as being overpriced? PS4s for some reason are going for insane prices right now. (Anywhere from 400 to 670) The Walmart special version of the VCS is going for 389 (which comes with the two rather nice controllers). Also does come with a free trial of Antstream (thousands of games) and the Atari Vault (which you may or may not already have on Steam, though they did tweak it for the VCS to support vibrating controls and such (something I never knew I needed in Asteroids until I tried it!)

Side note about Antstream, the set up is currently rather buggy and you have to do it while wired on the controller, or it doesn't accept keyboard input, even with a physical keyboard plugged in.

Quoting: slaapliedjeit asked to connect to the WiFi, but since I couldn't find the MAC address, I couldn't set this up. There is no way to find it currently either (that I've seen, or have gotten answers from Atari on yet).
Quoting: ageresWhy is the MAC address needed to connect? To get whitelisted on your router? I suppose you have already looked for it in Debian and can connect to the Internet in the 'Atari mode' as well.
Yeah, I have MAC whitelisting enabled. Was just an observation. They do have a ticketing system I need to look to see if others have already reported the issues. They also have an invitation only to the backers for their Discord, which they've been quite active on.

Last edited by slaapliedje on 27 December 2020 at 9:53 am UTC
cdnr1 26 Dec, 2020
bit of topic but
waarom in gods naam slaapliedje? :)
fagnerln 26 Dec, 2020
It's so adorable, if can make a good media center with emulation, it fits perfectly on the TV room.

Talk more about the AtariOS.
What kind of software they have on their store? YouTube? Spotify?
It has a web browser?
And about the games? It already has third party games?
As it's based on linux, it support alternative controllers, like dualshock or xbox?
slaapliedje 26 Dec, 2020
Quoting: cdnr1bit of topic but
waarom in gods naam slaapliedje? :)
It is just the name of a song, by a rather odd band. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=W6szYF857PI
slaapliedje 26 Dec, 2020
Quoting: fagnerlnIt's so adorable, if can make a good media center with emulation, it fits perfectly on the TV room.

Talk more about the AtariOS.
What kind of software they have on their store? YouTube? Spotify?
It has a web browser?
And about the games? It already has third party games?
As it's based on linux, it support alternative controllers, like dualshock or xbox?
(Okay, let's try this again (stupid Fennec on my phone crashed mid typing up the post...)
Apps in the store are:
Discord, Plex, Netflix, Disney+, Twitch, Hulu, HBO Max, Prime Video, VRV, YouTube.
It does have Chrome, and others have said they have played Cyberpunk 2077 through Stadia on it.

There are some third party games, thkugh most are already on Steam. I have mostly been playing Boulder Dash Deluxe, which may or may nit be a renamed version of one of the other versions of that game, but I have always loved Boulder Dash! I think the other exclusive one is Guntech, which I haven't bought yet, but looks like an intense Asteroids based game.

Last edited by slaapliedje on 26 December 2020 at 1:09 pm UTC
slaapliedje 27 Dec, 2020
Quoting: ageresWhat about its performance? Can it emulate PS2, Gamecube, Wii fine? What CPU does it have? Are controllers wired only? Can it be used with other controllers in its default Atari mode?
Too overpriced though, IMO.
1) Perfomance: I only tested Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. But for Dolphin it got 30-60fps, PCSX2 ran it at about 40-60. Mainly depending on scene, etc. If I could figure out how to display framerates from the actual PS2 hardware I have, I would see if it has similar issues. The sound issues with the game appear to not be anything on the VCS end for Dolphin, as it did the same on my beefy desktop.
2) Hardware specs are here https://shop.atarivcs.com/hardware-specs
3) Controllers are wired or Bluetooth.
4) PS4 controller seems to work great (only tested wired juat now, but the touch area works like a mouse.) AtariOS is Linux based, so in theory any device that works in Linux should work.
slaapliedje 29 Dec, 2020
Nice! So tested Vulkan (through Mad Max's Beta) and it does run decently at 1280x720 with High preset.
Also found out that AtariOS is Debian 10.6 (after the update, it looks like it creates a fallback of 10.3) and has a 5.4.0 kernel.
dubigrasu 23 Mar
So how is that thing going? Any updates for the system, store etc? I'm curious how your opinion changed (for the worse or the better). Atari VCS took such a beating in press before it arrived, so I'd be curious what an actual user still thinks about it after all this time...
Points for extra Linux details :)
slaapliedje 23 Mar
Quoting: dubigrasuSo how is that thing going? Any updates for the system, store etc? I'm curious how your opinion changed (for the worse or the better). Atari VCS took such a beating in press before it arrived, so I'd be curious what an actual user still thinks about it after all this time...
Points for extra Linux details :)

I've been swamped with work and other things, so haven't hooked it up since they released the new update which hosed all saved games... It runs Linux quite well, though the update apparently changed the UEFI password, so you won't be able to run non-secure boot capable distributions until Atari releases the password again. But at least this means they are caring a bit about the security of the system, which is good actually.

People complain that the memory is hard to install, but you basically do it once, it's actually quite easy, you just have to be cautious about the wifi antennas becoming disconnected. I put a 1tb m.2 SATA drive in mine, and it works very well in Debian Bullseye.

I'll try to hook it up again today after I'm done working for the day and update and take a look at some of the newer games that have been coming out for it. I did buy an extra set of 'Classic' and the other gamepad. I do like controllers!
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