Bacteria's N64/GBA combined portable - Nintendo 64 Advance

Includes but not limited to: SNES, Genesis, Sega CD, PlayStation 1, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Game Gear and I guess the Virtual Boy.

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bacteria
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Bacteria's N64/GBA combined portable - Nintendo 64 Advance

Post by bacteria » Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:08 am

Ok, as I am getting somewhere on my N64p project I thought I would start a thread about it, as others do with their projects

I play games at home or at work, so I am nearly always near a power supply. Batteries are fine, but have their problems - including getting everything in the N64 working as it should, battery life, weight, etc. I will retain the power in socket from the PSone supply for the casing of the N64p, so I can, if I want to, run everything off batteries (external) via the input.

I figured that as you can run everything (screen, fan, PSone screen, N64) off one powerful battery or set of batteries, at 7.5v, that it was worth trying to run everything off the mains 7.5v power adapter supply you get with the PSone screen. The power supply that comes with the N64 fills its case - it is big, heavy and thick - and outputs 10.98v and 3.4v (mine anyway) so needs to be stepped down on the larger line for the PSone screen (max 9v). Using the PSone power supply, it is 7.5v, so runs the PSone screen and the larger voltage N64 line (7.5v is fine, as others have posted), but needs a converter for the 3.3v line (which some say run fine v. 2.8v - 4v). We all have one of these power supplies doing nothing - everyone who has used a PSone screen for a mod anyway.

The car adapter works fine - gives just under 3v on load, which is enough. Only thing I can't test yet is that it outputs max of 1 amp, the N64 needs (from what I understand) from 0.8amp - 1.3amp on full load - so it might be that most games run fine, but maybe not the ones where the N64 has to work hard, like Donkey Kong 64. Does anyone have a list of the high performance games (eg DK64) which put the N64 under more strain than other titles please?

I have a dead mobo from my 1st attempt yesterday; fried the 3.3v line trying to use a step-down regulator which rose over 4v and fried the mobo, giving off smoke on the mobo! I can use this dead board to experiment with relocation of the cartridge slot and removing the expansion port. Really pleased I bought a special screwdriver off E-bay to take off the pesky N64 screws - saved me lots of time! Fortunately, N64's are easy to buy on E-bay and cheap, I paid about £14 for one, delivered, with 2 controllers and a few games!

The serial number of the N64 starts with NUP13....... which means, according to posts I read, I might be able to output in RGB mode (NUP17 or under you can, later models not apparently). Composite is ok, not great, so I want to make this RGB via the PSone screen. Time will tell!

Progress to date - ignore the rubbish on the desk!

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Crude diagram below. Functional, not pretty....

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Lots of work to do yet, and it may be a few days before I have a decent update (may have some minor ones in the meantime).
Last edited by bacteria on Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:41 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by bacteria » Fri Jun 22, 2007 6:54 am

Small update:

Playing about with the dead mobo.

Cartridge slot - easy to remove. Lift off. Turn mobo over for the expansion port (don't need it) - pry the metal cover from the plastic at the top of the two ends gently, this frees the metal. Move it back and forth to snap if off the motherboard. Prise the plastic cartridge slot from its two ends, it pops off the motherboard, exposing the metal contact pins. Bend these gently with your finger, back and forth, quickly the pins snap off, leaving nice clean contacts - nice and flat. Just then a matter of soldering the cartridge slot to the pins above and below, on the solder points - before you snap off the pins from the old expansion port you can see clearly they make contact between the soldered joints above and below the cartridge slot.

Jumper Pak - doesn't seem an easy way to remove this, however if you remove the tiny mobo from it, there is no real need to worry - it is only about 1/3 the height of the Jumper Pak. Easy to remove the to security screws - use a diamond cutter (Dremel) to cut a groove in the screw top, then unscrew using a normal screwdriver!

Illustration:

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Picture a bit fuzzy - tried to show the screw with a slot Dremel'd out.

Why does the tiny board have the metal from the heatsink around it normally? Hardly anything on the board! Does it really get that hot?? Can any of the tiny mobo be grinded down and made smaller without causing a problem? (anyone done this?).
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Post by So Many Kinds of Bagels » Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:50 am

Lookin' great. Can't wait to see how this turns out.
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Post by Twisted Warthog » Fri Jun 22, 2007 1:49 pm

Yeah looks like you got a nice setup going on so far. :D By the looks of it, the finished portable is going to be pretty sweet looking.

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Post by timmeh87 » Fri Jun 22, 2007 2:51 pm

the jumper pack doesn't have a heatsink does it? I thought it was just RF shielding.

the real jumper pack gets hella hot, they might have just made one standard part for both kinds of pack. sometimes big companies are lazy (efficient?) like that.

anyways the system runs fine without any shielding. its just not "good engineering practice" to do so

people have made the board smaller, the tabs on the side can go, and a little off the top maybe. use common sense and dont sever any connections. there are no inner layers on that board.

oh also in response to some other post you made about heatsinking, dont bother using the crap piece of metal that came with the system if you are going for compactness. The idea they had is that its so freaking huge it dosent need to be efficient. you should just grab some real heatsinks from an old computer or something. I guess you could mod out those aluminum blocks that sit on top of the chips, but its a lot of work to avoid using a <$1 part.

it also looks like you have the RGB chip on that system. that is if I remember where it is. Im pretty sure its the longer one to the center-right of the board - to the right of the CPU (middle chip w/heatsink)

oh, also you only need to hook up one each of 3.3v, 12v and ground. no need for 4 ground wires unless they happen to be really really thin. ground is common to everything, you dont even need to run a separate line from the 3.3v converter.
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Post by bacteria » Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:35 pm

Thanks for your comments, guys.

timmeh87 - thanks for the notes. Nice to see the jumper pak is ok without its casing - great. I thought it would be, but it is nice to have confirmation.

Someone posted the pinouts on the video out connectors for RGB, hoping to use them.

The car adapter needs to be wired to the ground on the N64 to complete the circuit. It needs positive and negative in and out. I could have just wired the two wires to two ground pins, instead I soldered one negative to three grounds and soldered the other wire on top.

Yes, I will get some heatsinks, small ones, hot-glued on top of the existing metal plates on the microchips (as per photo above). Fan will be mounted above this (bottom half of case) and the cartridge slot directly above it (top half) - same thickness anyway, so no real issue. Having the fan like this will make it easy to keep the cartridge slot firmly in place too.


Image Updates:

Just ordered some heatsinks via E-bay - they are 14mm x 14mm x 8mm so should be fine for the job. I can stick these onto the current plates on the N64 mobo.

Interesting, read up about the memory expansion pack vs the jumper pak. Appears you can't run the N64 without either, so the jumper pak basically just completes the circuits in the N64; whereas the memory expansion pack (I quote from a site I found):

"This hard to find 4 meg Memory Expansion Pak increases the graphic performance of the N64 system. It replaces the Jumper Pak that comes with the system. The Expansion Pak is required to play many of the newer Nintendo 64 games.

* Required for
o Zelda: Majora's Mask
o Donkey Kong 64
* Compatible with:
o Turok 2
o Southpark 64
o NFL Quarterback Club 99
o Star Wars:Rouge Squadron
o Top Gear Overdrive
o Perfect Dark
* 4 MB RAM cartridge that inserts into top of Nintendo 64
* Brings console to 8 MB of contiguous main memory
* Can increase screen resolution from 320 x 240 pixels to 640 x 480 pixels
* Can allow games to have larger worlds, longer animation sequences, and more complex gameplay."

What is interesting, is that the Memory Expansion Pack is thick and covered in the metal plating - took it apart, it has the same mobo size inside as the Jumper Pak - the only real difference is there is a processor on one of the sides. This processor is the one people mention gets very hot indeed. The Jumper Pak doesn't have this processor, which rather looks like it therefore stays cool.

As the Memory Expansion Pack is no bigger than the Jumper Pak, there is no need to move this elsewhere - after all, a fan has to be incorporated, so there is no extra height to worry about. The processor also faces the right way to get cool air, which is handy!

The heatsinks I have ordered (two packs of eight) are designed as memory heatsinks, 14mm x 14mm x 8mm - four of these will cover each of the N64 processors (using 12 heatsinks) and 2 for the Memory Expansion Pack. Gives me 2 spares! Look at the weight - 14 of these heatsinks only weigh a total of 28g in total, which is nothing! Copper ones would weigh 140g in comparison.

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Worth using the Memory Expansion Pack. I had one lying about, which was handy, although you can still buy them.
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Post by bacteria » Sun Jun 24, 2007 11:21 am

Ok, more update.

I wired the power-out plug from the dismantled official N64 power supply (didn't need the rest of it) before, so I can just plug it directly into the power-in plug on the N64 board.

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Removing the Expansion Port:

Remove the cartridge slot from the top of the N64 board but lifting it off. Turn mobo over to show the Expansion Port (which isn't needed).

Using a small screwdriver, free the metal casing from the ends of the Expansion Port
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Jiggle the metal pieces (top and bottom) back and forth until they snap off. use a screwdriver to pry the Expansion Port off the N64 mobo.
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to expose the pins
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Bend the pins gently back and forth until they snap off.
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which leaves a nice area, all original pins making their original contacts (no need to desolder anything). Job took literally 5 minutes, and is nice and neat.
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Next job will be to turn the mobo over solder the areas above and below the pins to connect to the pins on the Cartridge Slot. For this I will use a couple fo ribbon cables (old IDE cables) as the wires are very flexible. Can't so this today, will try to do it tomorrow.

I can't turn my N64 back on now until I rig up the cartridge slot and fit the heatsinks to the processors and the RAM chip; when the heatsinks arrive. Assuming everything works, I will then move to the next part of the project, which is likely to be RGB output. No point doing lots of steps to find out the thing fried and not knowing why! I will do each upgrade part of the project and then test it; if I make an error, I can correct it on the next mobo.
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Post by timmeh87 » Sun Jun 24, 2007 12:17 pm

You mentioned you were going to hot-glue the heatsinks on. That is a bad idea for two reasons

1) hot glue is a good thermal insulator and the heatsinks will have little or no effect

2) hot glue will melt.

They sell special epoxy that you should use to attach the heatsinks properly.
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Post by bacteria » Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:14 pm

Ah, I wrote the text with another meaning meant. The heatsinks are supposed to come with sticky surfaces to stick to the processor and take the heat from the processor. I meant using a little hot glue on the corners of the mounted heatsinks to stick them to the mobo - just extra protection, so they don't dislodge during hectic gaming sessions. I think someone suggested something similar to this on an old posting somewhere. Other people use superglue mixed with Arctic Silver I notice!
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Post by marshallh » Sun Jun 24, 2007 4:37 pm

What I did to hold down the heatsinks is to run a small bare wire across the heatsink and solder both ends to grounds on the N64 board.
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Post by bacteria » Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:53 am

marshallh - Yes, good idea. Simple and effective.
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Post by bacteria » Mon Jun 25, 2007 5:05 am

Ok, heatsinks not arrived, yet, done the cabling to the cartridge slot now. I was careful not to wire it the wrong way around (easy mistake to make). When I finished testing one side of connections, I hot glued them to the mobo, then did the other side of connections, tested them, then hot glued them also. I also hot glued the wires onto the cartridge slot to make sure they don't come loose.

I checked each wire connection with a multimeter to check each wire worked and had connected fine. Using IDE cables is great as the cables are so flexible; however, the downside is that there is only a single strand of wire in them, so it is very easy to break the wire when stripping the plastic off the ends to expose the wires to solder.

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Needed to check it all worked, so ran system for about 30 seconds before turning off system. Picture absolutely fine on PSone screen, didn't wait for a nice image to be on screen before taking photo as I don't want mobo to fry!

Really, I just need now to add the heatsinks, and get the video cabling working and sort out the controller - then onto making the case. The video plug (on photo) is large, but you can snap it off easily by bending it back and forwards. Removing the controller connections will need dremeling off as the pins are strong.

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One issue I might have is that the computer fan is designed for 12v, it runs on 7.5v fine but isn't too strong on its airflow. I have bought a 60mm fan which is silent (8.9 decibels); if this doesn't work fine on 7.5v I might have to run the fan off a single 9v battery - don't really want to do this, but a 12v computer fan seems to need at least 9v to run well. What do you guys do to combat this problem? You get some airflow from 7.5v, not too bad, question is if it is enough airflow.
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Post by ghosstt » Mon Jun 25, 2007 7:34 am

not trying to hijack your thread, but what are you going to use to run this portable? or are you never gonna have batterys, and just run it from the adapter all the time?

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Post by bacteria » Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:49 am

ghosstt - fair question. Problem I have is that I can't get hold of the TI card as I live in the UK (the site keeps wanting to send me to a dead web site) and the car adapter, whilst it provides enough power to the 3.3v line to work in the N64 via batteries, reduces the 12v line right down to about 5v, which is far too low to power the N64. It also would drain the batteries anyway. This means this project will only work via mains with the car adapter.

If I get a TI board (can you help?) this project could run either off mains, or an external battery pack. An option of an external battery pack would be nice, but as I am not away from a power supply when I would be playing this console, using mains power is not a problem, after all, with this method, I don't have to worry about battery life, failing power, video distortion and the weight of the batteries (I can save about 500g by not incorporating batteries) as well as reduced airflow. What is also nice is that the console will not lose power before I get a chance to get past a part of a game so I can save progress (unlike the BigBoy Advance I did, where you can save anytime in any game).

Incidentally, ignoring all the research time, doing this blog, etc; the actual time it would take me to convert an unmodded N64 from scratch, to the current state, would be approximately as below:

1] Hacking the power in plug (one-off) and soldering wires 10 mins
2] Removing the N64 mobo and removing all screws 5 mins
3] Remove the cartridge slot and expansion port 5 mins
4] Preparing the wires for the cartridge port, soldering them to the connections and hot gluing the end result 2 hours 15 mins (if I need to start a new N64 again, I would only need to cut off the wires on the cartridge port, strip wires and resolder - about 1 hour
5) Dismantling the jumper pak / expansion pack for the mobo about 3 mins

Just had confirmation that my heatsinks should arrive recorded delivery tomorrow, so I can crack on with installing these. I can then get the answer to the question about the fan - I will position the fan about 1/4" above the heatsinks, let everything run for a while, and see if it all works fine. At the moment, without heatsinks, the N64 works for a few seconds, then keeps resetting the game; putting the fan currently over it makes the game play longer (so it has to be heat). Heatsinks (thanks guys) and the fan will work. If on my test, the N64 resets itself again by itself, I will try a 9v battery on the fan instead, and see what difference that makes.

? - If I used the current power for the fan (7.5v) and also connected the wire from the PSone screen (the 5v wire you connect from the back of the PSone to the pin on the front), would that equate to 12.5v as power would be from two sources and thereby give the 12v to the fan for the fan to work at full power? Would this work??
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Post by bacteria » Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:11 am

Got my 60mm fan today, testing it, ariflow seems similar on 7.5v as with 9v, so should be ok. Fan is small, but about same thickness as an N64 cart. Nice and quiet fan! Easier to mount as smaller than the 80mm one I had.

Also arrived, the heatsinks, will have fun installing these later!

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Will post pics when installed, later.
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