Pixel Vision 2.1

Last year, I purchased a Pixel Vision 2.1 by Love Hulten. I’ve been watching Love Hulten with interest for quite some time–it overlaps with the aesthetics I aspire to with devices like the Anytime Clock, and my love of retro video games–and I was excited to get my hands on one. It’s an opportunity for me to see what other people do in this space; what quality others can achieve, what works well, and what can be improved.

I’m writing this very much for myself–from the perspective of a maker. While it may seem critical, I adore everything Love Hulten is doing and I really hope that they continue. It feels like the Pixel Vision was let down–in large part–by the an attempt at scaling which simply didn’t work. Ultimately, the device was let down by poor execution and inconsistent attention to detail–the product marketing and brand image sets the expectation of a high quality device and the reality is otherwise. I ultimately decided to return it, and appreciate how willingly the

Industrial Design

The overall design of the Pixel Vision 2.1 is beautiful.

The back of the Pixel Vision really is very attractive. I d find the logo a little strange from a design perspective: I’d have expected it to be more like ‘P [2] V’ since having the ‘V’ in the box changes the balance between ‘Pixel’, and ‘Vision’, which are both part of the key name.

The textured material / faux stone is a little strange, and I would prefer something cleaner.

Software

Not going to review the software; seems to be a tweaked Retro Pie?

Comes pre-loaded with games? While this is a great off-the-shelf experience, it’s disappointing from a legality point of view–I would like the freedom to simply use the ROMs I physically own as is often the guidance with copyright content and emulation.

Display

The shape of the screen pairs well with the software to

Unfortunately, the screen is a poor choice for a console as it has a terrible viewing angle–the above photo is taken only about 20º off perpendicular, but it’s already hard to make out details. The Pixel Vision really has to be viewed straight on.

The Love Hulten boot screen is a great touch

Controls

  • The spacing seems off.
  • The controls would appear to be 3D printed; I’m not sure why wouldn’t use the replacement Nintendo Game Boy controls that have flooded the market these days; these feel great and perfectly capture the period of the time.
  • Controls are set too low down and don’t have a great action.
  • Placement of the shoulder buttons is weird.

Ports

One detail I adore on the Pixel Vision is the fit-and-finish of the ports. The holes look to be laser cut, and the ports themselves fit snugly. It would be great to see the headphone jack sit

USB Micro, not USB-C. It’s changing over time.

Case

Case front

The device ships with a leather case which is a wonderful addition to the experience, and certainly something an idea I would like to borrow for personal projects in the future. Disappointingly, it uses a fake leather, which feels cheap, and–while it is clever–the use of a single stud to hold the whole case together leaves it feeling insubstantial.

Case back

There are so many wonderful opportunities for some matching stamped branding on the case,

Packaging and Accessories

A large part of any product experience comes down to first impressions–the excess of unboxing videos you YouTube is testament to that.

While the use of bubble wrap is inelegant, it’s an understandable choice–especially when shipping long distance–the use of torn masking tape to hold it all together cheapens the experience. I’ve seen other handmade or bespoke brands use a combination of brown paper and hand-printed branded stickers which, not only being better for the environment, leads to an overall feeling of

Shipping with a regular USB cable; including it in the USB bag feels cheap. It would be so much nicer to include something with a higher quality feeling, like the fabric cables from Monoprice. These are not expensive, and better carry through that vintage and premium feeling of the overall Love Hulten aesthetic. To take that one-step further, a handmade USB cable could be beautiful.

Defects

The device is predominantly glued. While this isn’t how I like to assemble my own products, it’s a perfectly reasonable, and common choice. This approach goes wrong, however, when that choice of manufacture is visible.

  • Glue is visible to the right of the device, along the seam between the textured front and the wood.

  • Glue smudge on the screen; it’s a plastic screen, so I was unable to remove it without risk of scratching the screen.

  • Seems to have a box / picture frame construction? This seems time consuming to manufacture and can lead to rough edges. The joinery at the wood corner leaves gaps

  • Rough edges, holes

  • Glue

Alternatives

Over the last year-or-so, we’ve seen an explosion of handheld emulation consoles, meaning that from a pure hardware perspective, it’s increasingly hard for something like the Pixel Vision 2.1 to stand out–the key differentiator really must be aesthetics, attention to detail, and execution. Unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed there.

While it’s a very different kind of device, the XXX by Analogue seems like it might be a wonderful alternative. Analogue feels like they started in similar place with, I would assume a much larger budget–but they have a track record of execution and the evolution of their product pushes ever more into mass production. This still leaves a space for something like the Pixel Vision 2.1, but

Final Thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to give things this unique hand made feeling, while also ensuring that each-and-every part is reproducible, high quality, and quick to make. It’s a very hard balance to strike [and definitely not one I’ve managed myself].

The one thing I didn’t get a chance to see is the state of the internals. There’s an image online which captures the integrals pretty well. It seems the that electrics are a bit part of the