Hardware Review: Revo K101 Plus (Game Boy Advance Clone)

Review-Revo-K101-PlusWith or without permission from Nintendo, cloned hardware has become a common sight in the gaming world ever since the arrival of countless Famiclones in the late 80s. These production lines have since spread out to cover 16-bit systems and beyond, with the more recent offerings mimicking the Game Boy line up. One of the more recent releases in this grey-area is the Revo K101+ Plus Game Boy Advance clone - a handheld promising everything the original had, and more.

Having already made their debut several years ago with the K1 GBA SP, Revo have been hard at work addressing the issues which their older hardware presented. The Revo K101+ Plus is a direct answer to the fans feedback and Revo’s attempt to provide the ultimate alternative to the Nintendo Game Boy Advance.

Introducing the Revo K101 Plus

If the thought of a Game Boy Advance clone is quite confusing, we’ll break it down. Simply put the Revo K101 Plus is a copy of the Game Boy Advance handheld offering full support with Nintendo’s library of software. With its very own cartridge slot, you’re able to plug in and play Game Boy Advance games on the handheld, all of which working exactly as they would on Nintendo’s original.

While a simple clone of the Game Boy Advance might not sound too appealing on its own, the Revo K101 Plus comes with a selection of added features which Nintendo’s system doesn’t offer. The most notable of these additions being an incredibly bright and vibrant screen, and the addition of an SD card ready flash cartridge known as the K Card. This Revo exclusive cartridge allows you to place Nintendo Game Boy Advance game ROMs onto an SD card, and then load them into memory to play. Furthermore, the K Card also features some built in emulators allowing the Revo K101 Plus to play NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000, and PC Engine ROM files too.

Review-Revo-K101-Plus-GBA

The Handheld

Starting on the outside, the Revo K101 Plus is surprisingly well built for a clone system. Time and time again we’ve seen Famiclones on offer with flimsy cases, unresponsive controls, and ugly exteriors. The Revo K101 Plus if anything is proof that unofficial copies of gaming hardware can be special. This is down to the rather attractive form factor this handheld brings, with a good sizing and button placement around the handheld’s screen. The D-Pad is responsive enough to get going with more demanding games, and the main array of buttons feel great to press. The shoulder buttons on the otherhand feel somewhat loose upon pushing down, although at the same time the smallest bit of pressure registers as a press. Nevertheless this is hardly an issue as the Revo K101 Plus features an additional two face buttons which act as alternatives/replacements to the shoulder buttons.

Elsewhere around the exterior is a headphone jack, charging port, and volume control - everything you’d expect from a direct copy of Nintendo’s hardware. Adding to these features, the Revo K101 Plus not only brings along a brightness control and a link cable port - one compatible with the original Game Boy Advance when linked - but also a TV Out port for gaming on the big screen.

The last area to explore on the Revo K101 Plus is its display. Armed with a 3” TFT LCD screen running and an impressive backlight, the handheld’s screen is unfortunately the only aspect of the handheld which lets it down. With the Nintendo Game Boy Advance running at a resolution of 240 × 160 pixels, it puzzles us as to why the Revo K101 Plus uses a display which doesn’t match the specifications of the original hardware. This means that by default games are stretched to match the screen’s ratio and resolution, resulting in slightly blurred visuals. Luckily this can be addressed in a couple of ways. With a combined press of the brightness button and down on the D-Pad, you can change the screen’s output to either match the ratio of the original hardware (putting black borders above and below the gameplay, still with blurring), or to be exactly that of the Game Boy Advance (which results in a tiny bordered display with pixel perfect output). While both of these might be solutions, the purists amongst us will no doubt be disappointed that there isn’t a crisp and perfect picture filling the screen.

Gaming on the Revo K101 Plus

As mentioned previously the Revo K101 Plus features some of the most responsive and comfortable controls seen on a cloned system, which making gaming on the handheld all too easy. Boasting perfect compatibility with Nintendo’s back catalogue, we were pleased to say that their promise may indeed be true. 2D games such as Final Fantasy I & II Dawn of Souls to Super Mario Advance ran exactly as we remembered, as did more intensive 3D releases such as Doom II, V-Rally 3, and Super Monkey Ball Jr. We continued to throw a wide selection of classics at the handheld and each and everyone worked just fine.

Our tests then moved on to the accompanying K-Card. This flash cartridge works like many others like it with a menu-driven interface capable of cycling through folders and offering ROM selection. Using the exact same games as above, we found all of them to work exactly like their cartridge counterparts with not a single issue in sight.

The perfect compatibility also continued with various ROM hacks and fan translations we tested via the K-Card too. Most importantly we’re leased to report that the Mother 3 English language patch worked a charm, potentially making the Revo K101 Plus the best was - as of now - to play GBA fan translations on the go.

Review-Revo-K101-Plus-NES

Moving on to the other features on offer, we were massively disappointed with the emulation side of things. Although promising to support a wide range of classic consoles, playing Nintendo NES and Master System ROMs on the Revo K101 Plus was nothing short of a disaster. Instead of utilizing the resolution on offer the handheld attempts to play the other consoles it supports in Game Boy Advance mode. This in turn saw Nintendo NES games crushed down vertically so much that lines of pixels were missing, whereas Master System games suffered from blurred pixels. Further investigation (and button mashing) saw us finding emulation menus popping onto screen - all of which confirming that the Revo K101 Plus has packaged up various emulators such as PocketNES (a NES emulator for Game Boy Advance) onto the handheld. If that wasn’t enough to put you off yet, the sound emulation of these systems was woeful and left a lot to be desired. Various samples refused to play (Alex Kidd’s iconic jump noise), whilst other melodies appeared off key and slowed down in places. Luckily the emulation of classic consoles isn’t the main purpose of this handheld, but still you’d hope it would hold up well having been advertised as a feature.

The next feature we moved onto was the TV Out support. Given that the only other way to play Game Boy Advance games on the big screen is through a Nintendo GameCube and pricey Game Boy Player, the Revo K101 Plus is a refreshingly cheap alternative to this setup. Simply plugging in the cable to the handheld and the opposite end to the composite ports on our CRT TV, we’re pleased to say that the video output was as good as you’d expect for composite. Offering two modes of resolution, the handheld appeared to output video much better on the TV than on its own built-in screen. Our only gripe with this functionality was that the cable provided only offered mono audio output.

Conclusion

Having now spent a bit of time with the Revo K101 Plus we have to admit we’re rather impressed with the handheld's core features. With countless Famiclones and other hardware clones out there lacking any form of quality, the Revo K101 Plus is a refreshing step in the right direction. Offering incredible compatibility with the GBA library and an all in-one-solution, the only device which will better it is a more modern Game Boy Advance flash cartridge.

While it does come with a few hang-ups mainly relating to its display, these are issues only the true purists and RGB-fanatics will struggle with. On a similar note the lack of decent classic console emulation is frustrating, however, there are plenty of other more suitable alternatives out there for this purpose.

Priced up at just $79.99, this pocket money handheld might be the next best thing to the original - especially for long journeys where you want to leave the cartridges at home. For everyone else, there’s the GPD XD or the upcoming Everdrive GBA.

Link: Revo K101 Plus Official Website


Last Updated ( 04 May 2016 )  

Cauterize

Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) jake74 2016-05-04 14:07
Had a 101+ since July last year, and love it. Sturdy, great GBA compatibility, good battery life. The TV output is brilliant, I bought a 14" Sony CRT in Spain at Easter for €10 to play Fire Emblem on :D

If you can get over the slight screen stretching and distortion, you'll really enjoy the Revo.
(Link to this comment) Shugo 2016-05-04 17:33
Ugh. I see so many sites praise this thing for being as good as or even better than a real GBA, but it's not.

First off, performance is terrible. Lots of frame stuttering and slowdowns. I'm surprised you played Mother 3 and didn't notice the slowdowns. It's bizarre that a supposed SoC clone runs like a poor software emulator, but that's Chinese clones for you. Other games have huge graphical glitches, such as Aria of Shadow's map. They claim 100% compatibility, but that's a lie.

The sound is also garbage. They didn't replicate the GB sound chip channels, so any GB chip sound is replaced with loud bleeps on the Revo. Major examples: Pokemon (most sound effects) and Game & Watch Gallery 4 (makes heavy use of the GB chip in all of its music).

At least you noticed the poor screen and terrible non-GBA emulation, but the system overall is garbage and terribly overpriced. Get a real GBA and wait for the Everdrive-GBA. That setup will be a hundred times better.
(Link to this comment) DarakuTenshi 2016-05-05 00:41
Thank you for your info Shugo. I was almost ready to put the money down until I read this. I bought a clone system back around 2010 that looked like the original GBA but had a great screen on it. The problem was as you said, slowdowns and stuttering.
+1 (Link to this comment) Revo k101 2016-05-05 07:44
We offer 1 year warranty for this unit. In case you have any issue on this unit, you can email us and we will replace you a working one. You can try to search this unit on Google before your purchasing.
+1 (Link to this comment) Revo k101 2016-05-05 07:42
Hi this is Andres from Revo K101 team. I am sorry if the unit that you got have the issues like what you said in your post. In that case, you can write me message and tell me your order ID. I will apply to ship you a new unit.

For games, You can see the testing that GBAtemp run here: http://gbatemp.net/threads/k101-revo-official-gbatemp-review.339019/

For the frame stuttering and slowdowns, it is not happening on each game, right? If possible, please tell me the games' name that you had such issues. I will report to our technical men. Firmware will be updated to make sure things can be solved.

Concerning the sound, I think people will have their choice. Did you test the sound on GBA? For now, we don't have any issue on GBA/ GB and other games sound issue. Maybe the one you got is different? Please note that REVO K101 plus is only the GBA hardware clone for GBA not for GB. You can not think it like the original GBA. But it is good for now.
(Link to this comment) DarakuTenshi 2016-05-05 14:28
Thank you for your reply. I've decided to give you a shot. I hope shipping won't take long as I'm moving in about 6 weeks.
(Link to this comment) Revo k101 2016-05-06 02:52
Just shot me! Will not let you down :lol:
(Link to this comment) jake74 2016-05-05 07:09
Reading up on the Mother 3 slowdown, this is NOT an issue with the Revo. It's an issue with the translation patch, see this quote from the Mother 3 Translation Project —

"One unfortunate thing about this confirmation screen is that once you select “Yes” from the menu in the translation patch, the game will start to slow down and sputter all weird-like. This isn’t an emulator bug, sadly. It’s the result of one (or more?) of our hacks causing unknown issues."

http://legendsoflocalization.com/mother-3/game-start/

So giving the Revo a kicking for the slowdown and spluttering from an unlicensed fan project is disingenuous.
(Link to this comment) Revo k101 2016-05-05 07:43
Thanks for your comment!
+1 (Link to this comment) jake74 2016-05-05 07:15
The games I have played a lot are Fire Emblem Sacred Stones, Mr. Driller A, Astro Boy, Guru Logi Champ and Drill Dozer. The K101+ hasn't missed a beat (in speed or music).

Yes, Game & Watch Gallery 4 does have squeals where notes should be in the audio. Unfortunate, but they're not show stoppers. I've played Pokémon Emerald (original cart) on the Revo a lot and never noticed any out of place sound effects.

Perfect emulation is hard. Virtual Console GBA titles on the New 3DS only, anybody? And to expect 100% perfect emulation from a $80 clone is folly. The Revo is a great handheld, with a much better screen than a standard GBA, as you'll need to find an AGS-101 if you want a decent screen. That alone will likely cost more than the Revo, and won't do TV output.
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