Quick review: Retroflag NESPi Case

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Today I have (yet) another Raspberry PI case sitting on my workbench: the Retroflag NESPi case is a Raspberry PI case for retro gaming enthusiasts.

I’ve accidentally ordered the bare minimum one, without fan or heatsinks. How hard would it be to add some heatsinks and a fan? My initial guess is that it would be reasonably simple to add the missing things, as I already have a lot of heatsinks and fans in my part inventory. As such, I thought it wouldn’t be such a big issue.

So, let’s take a look at some pictures of this case first:

NESPi case: front view

NESPi case: front view

On the front side, we have the power and reset buttons and two USB ports. The power button is a simple ON-OFF button; it doesn’t perform a soft power-off. So one still has to use the keyboard to power off the Raspberry PI properly.

Hidden behind a cover (the cartridge cover in the original NES) we find two more USB connectors and the Ethernet port. Except for the very old Raspberry Pi boards, we have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity so that the Ethernet port will remain unused. The two USB connectors can be useful when more than two players are using wired controllers.

NESPi case: back side

NESPi case: backside

On the back side, we find the power, HDMI and audio connectors. A nice design, I can wire the whole case while keeping the cables least visible.

Now, let’s see what’s inside:

NESPI case interior

NESPI case interior

Quite a lot of space. Only one USB port is used, one can use the other three ports to expand the Raspberry PI system using some (small) USB stick that remains hidden inside the case. The Ethernet port is occupied by the small patch cable that connects to the front Ethernet port. Another connector is used to power the Raspberry Pi board using its GPIO connectors. Please bear in mind that the power connector can be inserted in the wrong way, and you can damage your Raspberry PI board if you are not careful.

The case has a decent airflow; regarding the cooling, I can say it’s one of the best cases I have tested until now.

My case came without the fan, so I took a 6mm Sunon fan from my collection. I hadn’t had the required connectors, so I have soldered the fan wires directly to the pins, as in the picture below.

Connecting the fan

Connecting the fan

I have found that there are some versions of this case delivered with the fan and heatsinks, and they cost only a few dollars more. So, if you can, get the complete version. My fan is pretty silent, but one can lower the fan speed by inserting a 25Ω resistor in series with the red wire to decrease the noise level.

NESPI case fan mounting

NESPI case fan mounting

Another issue is that, at least with the Raspberry PI 3, the fan holders are just above the heatsink on the PI, and you might have some issues when closing down the case. My approach was to remove (break) the holding tabs and attach the fan with hot glue. This way I was able to use a 10mm high heatsink, and I still have 1mm of clearance between the fan and the heatsink.

So, overall a good case, with forced ventilation I can play for hours without getting the Raspberry Pi too hot. And it looks pretty nice too.

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