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The Atari VCS Disappointed Me - But I Found A Way To Fix It


The Atari VCS began life as an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, eventually going on sale in 2021. This AMD Ryzen mini PC features the Atari Vault, a collection of classic 2600 and arcade games from Atari, as well as its own storefront, streaming apps and Antstream Arcade.

Here are my genuine first impressions of this machine, overcoming some problems, and eventually finding a solution to all of my woes - by replacing the entire OS…


Hello and welcome back to the channel and I’ve got something ever so slightly different for you in this video in the form of an unscripted and off-the-cuff exploration of a piece of hardware - and quite a modern piece of hardware by my standards as well - although of course it is Atari branded so I guess it is on brand for this channel.

But yeah, this is it, this is the Atari VCS from 2021.

Not the 1977 games console of the same name, which of course famously went on to become the 2600 - this has kind of a passing resemblance to that, but other than that it has absolutely nothing in common - and I will tell you what little I know about this just before we go into the video.

So this was initially a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo back in 2018, of course run by the then owners of the Atari brand - the remnants of Infogrames, a French game publisher and developer from back in the day - and of course still own the Atari brand today.

And this was their triumphant return back into the hardware world, and unfortunately they didn’t have the money to bring it to market, so did it as a crowdfunding thing.

The crowdfunder was successful, the development of the VCS wasn’t quite so successful - I think it had a bit of a tumultuous and twisted path to market: they lost their original designer under some not so positive circumstances and ended up bringing on one of the Xbox team to finish off the hardware and it underwent quite a few revisions I think from that initial vision to the final version that we have here.

But as you can see it did make it out and this is actually the collector’s edition which Atari briefly sold back in April of last year and I’ve read some rumours online that these were actually unsold stock from that initial campaign - I don’t know if that’s true or not but I thought it was quite interesting.

And the difference with the collector’s edition is that it has apparently a solid teak front on it as well as an individually numbered collector’s certificate and some nice things like that so that’ll be quite cool to check out - and of course I also had to buy some controllers with it so I have the joystick controller which is based on the original Atari CX-40 joystick - but this is an updated Bluetooth version for the 21st century.

Apparently it has a few tricks up its sleeve so it’ll be interesting to see what that’s all about, and of course I got the Wireless Modern Controller which is Atari’s take on a modern Bluetooth gamepad.

And this is essentially an AMD Ryzen PC inside.

It runs an Atari branded Linux operating system - still supported, although apparently they’re not manufacturing these anymore. I don’t know whether that means there’s a revision in the pipeline, or whether they’ve just got plenty of stock of them, I’m not quite sure.

But they are also quite heavily discounted as well at times, which kind of gives me the impression that they’re trying to sell them off.

And on top of that Linux-based operating system, they also run an Atari branded storefront which sells a selection of old Atari games and modern homebrew stuff and apparently some exclusives and things which will be quite fun to check out.

And of course being a Ryzen PC you can also run Windows and your PC operating system of choice on it.

It has upgradable RAM, upgradable storage in the form of an M.2 SSD, so we’ll take a look at that.

And Yeah, looking forward to getting my hands on this thing and seeing firsthand what it’s all about - so I think without further ado, as they say on YouTube, we’ll start with the unboxing and then get this thing hooked up and have a little play.

So here it is, the Atari VCS, still sealed in its original cellophane packaging - I wonder how long this has actually been in here?

I’m not quite sure when this particular one would have been manufactured, but there we go.

So on the back of the box here we’ve just got the details of some of the stuff that you can do with this console:

Of course it’s got the Atari Vault, which is that storefront that I mentioned earlier.

It’s got PC mode, which allows you to install a PC operating system like Windows on there, which is all officially supported.

Of course you can play games - “Includes 100+ Atari Classics” straight off the bat, which is really cool.

You can stream your favourite 4K video streaming services and stuff.

Obviously you can discover the new controllers with rumble and all of that nice stuff that you would expect from a modern console.

And yeah, just advertising there that you can customise this: you can upgrade the storage and the RAM in it, and that storage, that upgradable storage is of course, where the PC mode stuff actually installs, so you can install it alongside the Atari operating system so you can actually dual boot it, which is really cool.

And I just love the styling and the branding on these boxes - this kind of modern Atari stuff - I think they’ve done a really nice job of making it retro and connecting it to their past without it being a sort of a pastiche or a direct copy of any sort of specific Atari era.

And I know I said that about the 2600+ box as well, but I think it just bears repeating - I think they’ve done a nice job with the branding.

So let’s get this out of the box…

So we’ve got Asteroids on here, nice little throwback to Atari’s history, very cool to see.

We’ll just get this open, and we’ve got some quick start “getting started” diagram here, get straight in there, nice QR code that you can scan that takes you to an online version of that.

…and inside we have the device itself.

So we’ll just take that box to one side.

And here it is - the Atari VCS Collector’s Edition, this is the bottom of course. I’ll just show you the serial number there because I did have some questions about the serial number when I unboxed my Atari 2600+ - people wanting to sort of track down the history of it and whatever else, so there you go.

There’s that solid genuine teak front - oh, that’s got a really nice texture to it, I quite like that!

It’s got the classic Atari logo - I think that lights up when you power the thing up.

It’s got two USB 3 ports in the front - I think that’s USB 3.1 or 3.2, whatever the latest is. We’ve got two on the back, we’ve got HDMI, we’ve got that gigabit ethernet port, the AC adapter and power button, of course.

And yeah, it looks like this has got this hologrammatic collector’s edition sticker on, and this is number 103 of 6000 - I don’t know if you can see that there.

But there you go - vidently I was I was quite early on that.

That’s quite nice, That holographic effect on that sticker.

So that’s the console itself - we’ll just take a look at what else we have in the box.

I’ve got this certificate of authenticity with another hologram on there, and that’s got my serial number and stuff on there as well, so that’s quite cool to see.

A fairly standard off the shelf power supply - I think that white certificate’s messing up the ISO setting on the camera… I tell you what, let’s get that out of the way. There we go. I should have fixed that, but there we go.

Got an HDMI cable - that’s just a very cheapo bog standard one.

Bit of a shame that it isn’t Atari branded like we saw with the 2600+ but there you go - this is, of course, an earlier product.

Perhaps they hadn’t quite got to the point of custom cables at that point.

We have the power cable - of course, like I say, this was a US import, it’s not officially available outside of the USA and Canada. So I’ll have to use that-

I don’t know if I have to use that with a step down transformer or if that’s dual voltage…

…no, this will work on UK voltage as well so I just need one of these cloverleaf power cables so I’ll track one of those down. That should make my life a bit easier.

And that’s it - that’s the complete contents of the box.

So very minimalist, but I suppose that’s all you need.

So we have the console, the certificate, and the various cables and things that we need to get this hooked up.

So let’s take a look at the controllers.

So this is the Wireless Classic Joystick - as you can see, that lovely Branding on the box there, it just says on the back: “Engineered in partnership with PowerA, Atari’s iconic game controller is reborn as the new Atari VCS Classic Joystick, with features like rumble, LED light effects, and a second fire button to give retro gaming new life.”

So rumble - a joystick with rumble - that’s quite cool, isn’t it?

And again, let’s get this out of the box and see what we have in here.

So, again, that VCS branding with the Asteroids on the top and the basic Atari logo on the back. Very nice - nice bit of design there, it’s quite a cool thing to see.

I know there were some problems with early units of these, where the actual stick was snapping off. I’m not sure if it was overenthusiastic gamers or what, but I think they revised the hardware design.

And one thing that I have heard about these is that the quality can be very variable with them having scratches and things on them from the factory…

…and I can actually see - I’m not sure if you can see that on camera - but I literally just took this out of the box and the plastic’s a little bit discoloured around here and there are actually a couple of scratches on the top.

So, yeah, I guess that’s true.

I mean, the build quality of this, compared to the CX40+ joystick that came with the 2600+ it doesn’t quite feel quite as solid and quite as nice. But it is what it is, of course. We’ll test that out when we get the chance.

And the other thing in the box - and again, we’ll get this out of the way - is a USB cable.

Now from what I gather, this has its own built in rechargeable battery, but it’s always good to have a nice long cable.

Of course, that’s USB A to… that’s actually a micro USB there rather than USB C.

So that will plug straight into the console for charging, and I’m guessing you can probably use it as a wired joystick as well, so we’ll have to investigate that possibility.

And finally, of course, we have the Wireless Modern Controller, which is this very swanky looking modern gamepad type thing. Of course, gamepads weren’t really a thing back in Atari’s heyday - they did do the two button controller for the 7800 here in Europe - but other than that, this is a very new development for the world of Atari.

Again I just want to look at the branding and stuff on the box - it’s quite quite nice and modern. I do love the look of this, a nice kind of matte finish to it with the glossy controller detail. So, nice bit of design this.

Again, “Engineered in partnership with PowerA…”, and yeah, “…designed for full featured wireless gameplay.”

Not quite as interesting that one, but there we go. Similar Asteroids inspired branding on the box, again, all very nice and consistent.

And here is the pad itself.

So, yeah… I suppose I’ve got to do it that way up, haven’t I?

So there is- what’s it called?

The Wireless Modern Controller by Atari.

And of course this was designed and manufactured by PowerA, it’s just Atari branded, but it’s quite nice, got a nice feel to it, nice tactile buttons, it’s got the red buttons on it - of course a throwback to those original Atari joysticks, so that’s quite a nice thing.

And again, I’m guessing…

So, yeah, same again, that comes with a USB A to micro USB cable for charging.

So let’s get the console hooked up and check out what the out of box experience and that first boot looks like.

“Have you played Atari today?” So that was all painless enough to set up anyway,

and yeah, I genuinely haven’t fired this thing up yet, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when I do, I haven’t tested it in advance or anything like that.

I had a couple of questions about this Bluetooth speaker last time I showed it in a video - it’s called a Divoom Tivoo Max, and I don’t even know if they sell them anymore, but yeah, there you go. I’ll put a link to that down in the description because I had a few people who thought it looked cool and wanted to know where they could buy one, and that’s just hooked up by a 3.5mm cable to the monitor - of course, this is a computer monitor not a consumer TV so it doesn’t have built in speakers or anything.

So this is this is just so we can hear the audio.

Anyway, let’s get this thing fired up and yeah, we’ll see what happens…

Oh, very good - so I don’t know if you spotted that, but it very briefly had some Linux startup stuff there showing in the corner of the screen.

Interesting, so I guess I’ll use the gamepad - do we hold this button down? Yep, that got some- it’s got these little orange LEDs on, that’s quite cool.

I just fired the joystick up as well and I don’t know if that’s attempting to pair. Oh, it has paired. Very cool. I may as well let this one run because I want to test it at some point anyway.

Very interesting.

So of course, just connected to the WiFi and it’s detected that it needs some updates, which isn’t really surprising. I don’t know if these come up to date from the factory or if this thing’s never been updated since 2021, but thankfully I do have quite a fast internet connection here.

I noticed the screen looks like it’s kind of strobing a bit on camera? I don’t know if that’s coming through in the final video…

I’ll just check that and see if I can do anything about it.

Well, I mentioned in a second channel video a couple of weeks ago that I was going to be testing this thing soon and I actually had a comment from someone warning me that there’s basically an issue with the out of the box experience and that it gets stuck trying to update.

And guess what? That’s exactly what happened to my unit.

So that’s a really terrible, terrible experience - thank you, Atari.

It turns out the solution - I Googled this and went onto the AtariAge forums - the solution is to basically download the latest OS image, or at least the one I found was from May 2023 - and basically copy that to a USB flash drive and boot from that, and basically update it to a more modern version of the OS so it can actually complete the update process.

But yeah, pretty, pretty terrible experience so hopefully this is going to work when I reboot it - let’s have a look.

Well, it didn’t freeze partway through the boot animation that time, so that’s a good start. I must admit, I did spot that last time and kind of gave them a pass on that.

So we’ll just reconnect the controller again - and run through the process again.

Well, this looks slightly different to last time, although it does look like it’s actually making some progress so hopefully that’s fixed the problem. One thing you probably can’t hear is that the fan in this thing - and it seems like it’s got a tiny little fan in the back - is running flat out at the moment.

I’m not sure if that’s just because it’s in the setup process, or if that’s a bug to do with the firmware, or what but yeah…

…again it’s not loud, but you certainly can hear it and I’m not quite sure why it needs to be running at full speed just downloading updates, but there we go.

So, the system did eventually reboot - I think it took about 10 minutes - no sort of notification that that was about to happen or that anything was actually happening, but I thought I’d leave it and it did reboot and booted into this BIOS update screen. I was just reading on AtariAge that there was a December 2023 update that apparently fixed that initial issue. And some people are reporting that actually brand new units out of the box will update - eventually - if you leave them, but some people are reporting that you actually have to leave it overnight, which of course I couldn’t have done today.

So maybe it would have worked in the end if I’d left it long enough.

So… Current status:

I am fully updated. I’ve plugged a USB keyboard in because this thing keeps asking me to log in and rebooting and asks me to re-enter my email address every time for some bizarre reason - it’s a pain to enter it all on the controller so I’ve got that plugged in.

I changed the HDMI cable from the one that was included to a different one because I had some weird interference on the screen, like weird kind of sparkly speckly stuff at the bottom of the screen which I’ve never seen before.

Still got this weird banding issue - I have changed this to 4K output - this is a 4K monitor but it’s still doing that. And I just went to install the Atari VCS Companion app on my Android phone by scanning the on screen QR code and it’s telling me that my version of Android isn’t supported - and this is a Google Pixel 6a and it’s running whatever the latest version of Android is and yeah, it’s saying that it was made for an older version, so I can’t use the VCS Companion app either.

But I shall persevere!

Okay, apparently not.

Apparently once you enter this screen you can’t actually get out of it again without installing the app, which I can’t do. So I guess I’m going to have to power cycle the console. Wonderful.

“Something something plumbing…”

“Giant turtles out to get him, creepy crabs, I dunno…”

“Fireflies, something something they’re all coming out the pipes”

“Mario, where are you?”

Okay, so the monitor thing was getting on my nerves so much that I’ve decided to switch to direct screen capture for this, just to go through some of the other stuff - I tried a few different graphics settings and things, and I’ve never seen anything like it to be honest, I’ve recorded this monitor with quite a few different things hooked up to it and never had a problem with it, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on there, but there we go.

And it occurred to me that I do actually have an AntStream account, so as this comes with AntStream installed I thought I would give that a go. I think I still have an account.

Of course, this will be US keyboard layout. I have to see if I can change that.

Oh, apparently I’m not apparently I’m not a paid user anymore, that’s fine.

So we’ll have to see what we can play for free. So this looks like an Atari branded version of AntStream, which is cool.

Looks like there’s a competition on there that ends in seven seconds, so that’s useful to know.

But anyway, let’s let’s see what we have on here and play a quick game of something…

Something that’s hopefully not going to get me in trouble with the Copyright Police.

So, Chip’s Challenge, is this the Atari Lynx version?

Oh, I’m not allowed to play that, okay. Oh no, did that say Amiga there?

What can I play on the on the free version?

Ten hours left…

Pac-Man, can we play Pac-Man?

Nope, we’re not allowed to play Pac-Man. We have to be a paid user to play that. What can we play on the free tier? How do we find out?

So the Atari button at the top is just a link to a text search for “Atari”.

That’s er… Yeah.


Check out some Asteroids?

Play on premium.

Right, so I’ve just done some Googling, and apparently free tier users can only play in challenges and tournaments, and can’t actually just fire up a game and play. So, can I do the Pac-Man One Chance Challenge?

I must admit, I haven’t had…


…I haven’t had much luck with AntStream Arcade in the past at home, my internet connection at home is pretty terrible and most of the stuff on there is actually pretty unplayable - which isn’t great - but I do have decent internet here at the office.

So there you go, the VCS does come with AntStream Arcade preinstalled and there is a free tier and if you want to partake in some challenges for some retro arcade games that does indeed appear to work so - hey - first bit of good news today I guess!

Now, I must admit, I actually went into this video fully prepared to spend some real money on stuff to test - to actually run on this - but yeah, now I’m not so sure but I thought I’d at least check out the store and see what’s on here.

So of course this does support 4K60 video output over HDMI and it supports HDCP 2.2 High Definition Content Protection which of course you need for streaming services and things like that so I wanted to Let’s see what streaming services we had available on here.

So there’s Nebula, of course, that’s a YouTube competitor, really high quality service. I am actually a paid member of Nebula - obviously I won’t go on there and play any actual content.

We’ve got Apple TV+ on there, which is good, we’ve got Peacock, we’ve got Twitch… We’ve got a Discord app…

So plenty of apps on here.

Pandora - I think that’s a music thing?


Load some more…

Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+ and Netflix.

It seems like the big streaming platforms are all actually supported on here, which is actually really cool to see, so you could plug this into your TV and use it as a streaming box for watching all of that streaming content, which is really cool to see.

I guess I should check out some of those Atari games and things though.

Now, this is kind of the main selling point of the Atari VCS - it’s called the VCS Vault and it has a collection of old Atari games.

Obviously, as we can see here, we’ve got the arcade games here that we can play - we’ve got a good selection on there - some proper classics: Tempest and Warlords, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Black Widow, Centipede…

So yeah, there’s actually a fair few on there, which is cool to see.

Can we go to the gallery? Will this give us a list?

Oh, okay. So, if you’ve played the Atari 50 Collection which I have and I’m quite a big fan of on the PC, then this is this is quite reminiscent of that: you’ve got a very similar sort of menu interface.

But you can press X and you can switch to different platforms so we’ve got the Atari 2600 games on here:

I’ll just have a quick scroll through those and see what we have - we’ve got Breakout, all of that good stuff.

Yeah, that’s quite a good selection of games on there, that’s quite good to see.

Very nice.

And we’ll just go through, obviously I’ll try some of these.

So we’ve got Atari 2600, we’ve got those sorted by genre. And we’ve got arcade. I heard rumours that this did 7800 games as well - I don’t know if I need to actually buy some of those somehow, not quite sure where I would buy those.

So let’s continue with the Asteroids theme and we’ll try out Asteroids Deluxe and see how that runs.

So this modern controller has analog sticks on it, but it seems Asteroids only works with the D-pad, which seems like a bit of an oversight, I would have quite liked to have played that with the analog sticks, but there we go, it’s perfectly controllable.

Runs quite nicely, emulation’s quite nice and smooth.

Yeah, it’s Asteroids - if you want to spend $300 on a piece of hardware to play Asteroids, then this is the device for you.

And just in the name of completeness, I thought I would also check out the Atari 2600 version, although I can’t quite work out how to start the game.

That’s the menu.


…any ideas?

Oh, is that working?

Oh oh.


There’s something weird going on with the emulator here - that seems to be working. Of course, this flickering effect was in the original game, that’s how it managed to draw so many sprites on the screen at once with the limitations of the 2600 hardware.

Bit of an odd default setting, though, for the emulation - let’s see if we can change that.

Oh, that’s just quit out. OK.

One thing I will say navigating through these menus using the Modern Controller is that the button mappings and things are very inconsistent between the- I have no idea what button does what.

I did manage to bring up a menu at one point with some settings for this…

Okay, let’s try a different game.

So Breakout works!

It’s very difficult to control with the- this does use the left thumbstick on the modern controller. But yeah, it seems to just move a fixed amount very quickly and then- you’d think the mapping would be a lot smoother on this, there’s no nuance to it at all, it’s either all out or nothing.

Well that’s quite disappointing considering that’s the official first party controller with the built in emulator - you’d think the default controls would work better than that.

Let’s quit. Let’s quit.

So, back in the Store now, and I just wanted to mention that there are quite a lot of modern games available on this platform - I don’t know if any of them are exclusives, to be honest I’m kind of losing the will to live playing with this thing at the moment - so yeah, there’s some games, you have to load the rest of the list.

Oh, Mr. Run and Jump, I’ve heard of that, that was also released on the 2600, wasn’t it?

But yeah, Akka Arrh, that’s a remake of an Atari prototype that never got released.

So in the store we’ve got these “recharged” versions of classic Atari games - I don’t know if there are demos available?

Doesn’t seem like it.

Also, the fan’s just kicked in again.

Right, I have found a free game, and it seems like it might be the only free game on the VCS - on the platform - and I couldn’t see any demos for anything, just scrolling through, which is a bit surprising. If they’re asking us to pay £12.99 for a remake of an Atari 2600 game, then you’d think that the least they could do is give us a couple of minutes’ worth of demo to play but there we go, trying to remain positive throughout this.

This is PolyGunR - I don’t know anything about this but I’m looking forward to checking it out!

Yeah, that’s kind of fun actually, I enjoyed that, good game! It seemed to run a little bit jerkily but obviously it is a pre-alpha build as it said on the initial loading screen so I don’t think we can judge them for that.

Fan running absolutely flat out on the VCS as always, of course, if it’s on the other side of the room under your TV, you’re probably not going to notice that but I just thought I would point it out because it is on the desk right in front of me here.

But yeah, I guess that was…

…that was that.

“Out here we entertain ourselves at home - so we got an Atari video game. There’s so many different games to play. We especially like Space Invaders. Zapping those little devils from outer space. It’s fun!”

I must admit by this point in the video I was hoping to have some more positive news - I was really looking forward to checking this thing out and having to play with it and seeing what it was all about, and it’s not been great so far as you’ve seen - particularly that out of box experience with the update that got stuck.

Now, some people are reporting that they have left theirs overnight and it has actually recovered eventually - I haven’t had time to do that today, obviously, but I did give it half an hour and it was stuck.

And as I mentioned, someone had already warned me that that was going to happen so I was kind of mentally prepared to run the update process and flash a USB flash drive just to recover this thing and get it onto a more up to date firmware and OS.

I have to say that if they’re selling these things brand new now and this is the experience that people are having as a first time user, it’s horrific - it’s not acceptable at all.

But hey, this is just my experience - like I say, other people have reported that as well, maybe it’s a thing that’s sorted, maybe I’m doing something wrong, I’m not quite sure. I do tend to give things the benefit of the doubt on this channel and I don’t like to be negative, but moving on to perhaps slightly more positive things, we’ve got the Atari VCS Vault on here, that’s quite cool with the 100 included games, a good selection of Atari 2600 and arcade games on there.

Bit weird with the the mappings with the Modern Controller - it would have been nice to have seen things support the thumbsticks as they’re on there, but yeah, a bit of a minor gripe there. Perhaps a bigger issue is to do with the button mappings to do with menus and options and things like that in the games and starting the games.

They seem to be a little bit inconsistent between the 2600 and the arcade games, which surprised me. You’d think that being a first party product and with Atari making the controllers and the console and the software, that it would be a bit more of a coherent experience, but again, maybe it’s just me, and I did try out the joystick as well, and that’s quite a cool little thing actually, it sits quite nice in the hand, quite good to use, the stick itself actually rotates which I thought was quite cool, so you can use that as a paddle controller in the games that support that.

Again, one thing that I noticed during the unboxing, and one thing that I can’t help but notice when I’m playing with this, is just the quality of the moulding - there’s some really weird kind of moulding marks around the buttons, and just some scuffs and scrapes on the top of it - literally brand new out of the box.

And again, it’s something that other people have commented on online and doesn’t really seem ideal for a brand new console straight out of the box.

Moving on to the rest of the software, one thing that I thought was very conspicuous in its absence was the Atari 50 Collection, which is the Digital Eclipse collection of Atari games and interviews and historical information which I really love, I think it’s a really great historical thing and it’s got a really good selection of games on there as well which are really well emulated and some remakes of some classics as well.

From what I gather it is available for the VCS, but I can’t find it and you’d think that if it was available they’d put it first and foremost, you know, front and centre on the dashboard and say, you know, “try this, it’s amazing, you can see all of our history and play all of these old games and things!”

But yeah, it’s not there - why is it not there? I don’t understand. I’m getting the distinct impression here that either something is very wrong here or I’m doing something wrong and I’m going to get called out on it in the comments.

So a bit of a mixed experience really, but one of the reasons that people buy these is because it comes with the PC mode. Now I know that Windows is very well supported on this - you can install Windows 10 and all the hardware will work perfectly fine and you can use it as a Windows PC - and of course you can run your games and Steam and stuff on there and that’s all good.

But, on that note, I thought I would try something a little bit different because…

Yeah, I think I have a project in mind for this - if it works - and I’m very keen to try it out.

But first things first, to use PC mode and to be able to install an OS, ideally we need to install an M.2 SSD internally - you can install it to a USB drive, but I’ve got a spare M.2 SSD, so I’m going to stick one in there, and it also gives us an opportunity to have a look at what’s inside this thing - so let’s do that now.

So, let’s get inside the Atari VCS - and yes, the first step is to lift up these little flappy rubber feet here. I quite like this - these kind of slot into the screw holes and plug the holes, which is quite a clever design, actually - I’m quite impressed with that.

Oh, and by the way, I should point out that these are actually Torx screws, interestingly enough. You’d think they’d be Phillips as they’re kind of advertising this as a user upgradeable thing, but I thought that was an interesting choice - and I guess it does keep the amateurs out.

Although, it doesn’t keep me out, so I guess they need to try a bit harder on that!

So apparently the next step is to snap off this front and back part, which I must admit, I’m not really looking forward to…


Yeah, it looks quite nice and compact and solidly put together. We’ve got the WiFi module there - that plugs into one of these M.2 type slots. Interesting thing: no screws included with the M.2 slot, and I had actually read that this was a thing on these collector’s editions, and apparently the retail ones that you can buy now do have that.

So yeah, I’ll have to see if I can find a suitable screw for those.

Here we go! So, I did manage to find this box of random M.2 screws and risers and whatever else - and it turns out that I do actually have the correct screw in here, so that was very lucky.

This is a full length one, so this will screw into the end slot here, and then this just slots into the slot here, I believe, and then there will be a screw to hold that in place.

So I will reassemble this and boot it up and start with the installation.

Oh, so I just went to put the lid back on this and I noticed that there are two antennae in the lid here I presume for the Bluetooth and the WiFi and I’ve obviously just pulled those out when I pulled the lid off when I was tearing it down and I guess they connect to the module just here, so I need to make sure I reconnect those as I put it back together.

“Just last night I was lost in the jungle with Pitfall Harry - surrounded by giant scorpions and man eating crocodiles!”

“Well, Harry and I just grabbed a vine, swung through the trees and over the tar pits and found the jungle treasure. It was really neat!”

Right, now that’s all back together we can try out the PC mode as promised - and I’ve been into the device settings and I’ve seen that that internal SSD is recognised, so that’s good. So it says “To boot to a new OS, we need to plug in a USB thumb drive and then press A to restart.”

So that’s the thumb drive in - I guess I can press Enter.

And we’ll see what happens when it reboots…

Right, because I’m not using Atari’s official PC Mode USB key of course there was a security policy error that came up there, but you can actually get into the BIOS just by holding down Esc while pressing the power button, and it will go straight into the BIOS screen here, which is great to see.

It used to be that there was quite a complex password on this, I think, based on some of the stuff that I’ve just been reading online, but yeah, it hopefully seems like that password’s been removed. So we need to disable secure boot and then hopefully it should be able to boot from that USB flash drive.


So, as mentioned, I’m not going to install Windows on here because that has been done to death - but what I have here is something called HoloISO, which is actually a repackaged distribution of the version of SteamOS that runs on the Steam Deck, of course that PC based handheld from Valve, and the hardware apparently is very well supported on the VCS because of course it’s all AMD based, similar to the Steam Deck - and, yeah, that’s been my experience so far, in fact I’ve just booted it up and realised that I didn’t have a USB mouse available, so I’ve actually gone through and managed to pair this Bluetooth mouse with it and that works fine.

And this is the- we’ve got an installer here so we should hopefully should be able to install this on the internal SSD - and this is the KDE Plasma Desktop running quite happily from a USB device on the VCS. So I’m going to go through and get this installed and then hopefully we can see how well it works.

So, no problems at all pairing the controller, that all works perfectly fine in Steam.

This thing thinks it’s a Steam Deck, which I guess is completely understandable being HoloISO, but it’s still quite funny to see - no options to change the resolution and stuff, of course, but apparently that works with this monitor just fine, so that’s not an issue. I’ve still got this weird banding issue going on, and I don’t really understand if it’s something to do with the graphics hardware or Because I’ve recorded this screen before with different devices and yeah, I’ve never come across this before, it’s very strange so sorry about that.

But yeah, just trying some stuff out. This is - it’s so - it’s nice, it’s smooth, it’s responsive enough for what it is. And yeah, I’ve been in and tried out and played some games and it’s all working great. It’s such a good experience!

Well, not the outcome I was expecting from today’s testing, I must admit - in fact, the whole thing’s been completely flipped on its head and it’s kind of left me a bit confused with this conclusion part at the end, but we’ll give it a go.

I must admit, on the Atari side of things, with the bundled software and that update process that got stuck and all of that, very, very underwhelming and very disappointing actually for what it is - considering it’s been out for a few years now, you’d think they would have ironed out a lot of the issues and it’s just quite a frustrating experience really.

Quite disappointed with that - obviously the official app doesn’t work.

Yeah, just I don’t know, just, just a bit underwhelmed really but I think the real winner here, as you’ve seen is Holo ISO and Steam, and SteamOS. Which, I must admit, I was expecting to be a bit of a second class experience and have issues with drivers and with software and you know, it’s always the case when you’ve got a Linux-based thing that’s kind of been hacked about and made to run on a piece of hardware that it’s not really designed to run on but actually it’s an incredibly polished and well rounded experience, and I was not expecting that at all and if anything, I would probably use that as the primary OS and the primary environment on this thing, over and above the bundled Atari stuff, which is just - it’s madness.

I can’t believe I’m stood here saying this, but there you go.

Of course, you’re not going to be running the very latest and greatest AAA games and stuff like that on it - it is just a fairly low end AMD APU type setup, but you can upgrade the RAM in it, so at least that’s something. And you can set it in the BIOS to boot straight into SteamOS, so you never need to see the Atari stuff ever again.

Works with the Atari controllers, works with Bluetooth and all of the hardware just straight out of the box with no issues whatsoever - plus it also has the Atari 50 collection, so you can actually play that under Steam if you want to.

But yeah, that’s just my personal experience with the VCS - of course yours might be different - but I have seen a lot of complaints and a lot of issues with this out there - even now - and a lot of people that have run into the same problems that I have, so I can’t say that I recommend it but it’s a fun piece of hardware and I suppose if you have one that’s gathering dust because it’s not been working for you, at least you’ve got the option of installing SteamOS on it now.

So yeah, I guess that’s the silver lining.

So thank you ever so much for joining me for this ever so slightly different video - I hope you’ve enjoyed it, of course you’ve made it to the end, so I guess that’s a positive sign - and if so, don’t forget to give it a little thumbs up, and of course make sure you’re subscribed to the channel so you see more of my retro gaming and computing coverage.

That’s all I have for you today - big thanks as always to my supporters of course on Ko-Fi, Patreon and of course YouTube channel memberships, it’s all very much appreciated and helps to fund silly little projects like this.

Thank you ever so much for watching and I’ll hopefully see you next time.

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Relevant Links:
Atari VCS:
Divoom Tivoo Max:
AtariAge Update Issue / USB Firmware Flash Thread:
HoloISO (SteamOS):

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