Playdate, the quirky $179 handheld console from Panic, will be shipping to 20,000 early adopters later this year, but a unit has already been sent to the folks at iFixIt to see what makes it tick.
Arriving with no games included (“a teardown was about all it was good for”) and the serial number #1255, it seems that Panic has acknowledged that people will want to undertake repairs and mods themselves. To that end the warning included on the inside is quite specific.
“Hello! My job is to remind you that Playdate is delicately assembled,” a sticker on the inside reads. “Breaking anything in here will void your warranty. Please be careful!”
And just how repairable is it? Well, it depends on the part. The battery – a 740mAh cell, around a quarter the size of what you’d get in an iPhone 12 – comes out with a little force, and should be easy to sub out. Ditto the headphone jack, which is modular.
But there are other bits which could prove trickier. The monochrome display is reported to be a Sharp memory display that should be replaceable for under £50, but it’s so firmly glued to the housing that iFixIt’s experts weren’t confident of removing it without causing damage. “If you need to replace your display, you’ll probably need a whole new plastic face,” the site explains. “Probably not expensive, but not ideal.”
The same is true for the buttons. “All of the controls are aggregated onto a single FPC — easy to swap, but a bit wasteful if only one thing breaks,” the site observes.
All of this contributes to an overall 6/10 score – though the site notes that the device doesn’t really fit within its typical repairability guidelines, due to its unique place amongst handhelds. “It exists in a category all its own, and, like the device itself, we dug in mostly for fun.”
Speaking of the unique qualities, the crank is one aspect that’s certainly worth highlighting. There are no gears or mechanical parts here: instead, it uses a Hall effect sensor, where turning the crank rotates a cylindrical magnet which activates a sensor. That means it won’t ever ‘drift’ like other handhelds’ controllers, and should be less likely to fail over time.
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The site took the time to compare it to another monochrome yellow handheld from yesteryear. It’s a bit more pocketable, but has us hoping for a Tetris port all the same.
You can still order a Playdate, as Panic previously told us that it would make as many units as there’s demand for. But if you order today, your handheld won’t arrive until 2022, unfortunately.