I’ve been getting a lot of questions and requests lately regarding keyboard Famiclone machines, so I thought I would comment on a few of the different keyboard models, which I personally own. To be honest, I am not exactly a huge fan of these machines – while impressive and fun to tinker with from time to time, the actual use of a keyboard Famiclone is quite limited, for a Westerner with a proper computer, and to use the machine solely as a gaming device is also a bit overkill. Although it can be hard to imagine someone using one of these machines as an affordable alternative to a computer, the keyboard clones are still fun to have around.
My favorite keyboard Famiclone (to date, I have a second potential favorite that we will briefly take a look at later) has to be one that was marketed by Asder during the mid-2000s. Asder Korea distributed the clone I own, but rumors exist of some Arabic-language variants as well.
One of the first things I noticed about this machine, the Little Com, is the outstanding quality of the product. Opening the package reveals two joy pads, as well as the main unit itself, a full-sized keyboard made of durable plastic. Peering towards the back of the machine, I spot a printer port, suggesting that the Little Com could actually be used to print out documents. Also included is a massive instruction manual, containing information on how to use the machine, programming information and more. If only I could read Korean!
Powering on the machine loads up a screen, which allows one to access the built-in software included in the Little Com. Included in the package are a variety of applications, such as several mathematics games, a music program, a text editor, and F Basic and G Basic programming tools. There are also several games dedicated to teaching children the English alphabet.
For a Famicom fanatic like me, though, the most interesting games built into the unit are none other than Porter, Balloon Monster, and Magic Carpet 1001, three of our favorite selections from the infamous Caltron 6 in 1 cartridge. Since this produce was developed by Asder, all three of these games are legitimately included in this product.
Asder would also publish an additional software pack for their keyboard machine, known as the PC-95. Included on this cartridge are more games aimed at teaching children English. If you tire from all the computer applications, the machine has a Famicom cartridge slot built in as well, so that you can enjoy playing your favorite Famicom games of yesteryear.
Overall, I find this product to be worth the money. Although a bit limited in capability, the Little Com would be the perfect way to familiarize children to the world of computers.
Another keyboard Famiclone I have is known as the Cyber Computer. Unlike the Asder machine, this one looks a bit cheesier. The Cyber Computer is basically a fake laptop that you plug into your TV. The built-in keyboard has a cheaper feel to it than that of the Little Com, and unlike the Little Com, there is no additional software or applications built directly into the machine. Aside from the cheesiness, this machine has nothing going for it. Let’s move on, shall we?
Diamond Leopard King-
Before examining the Famiclone itself, we know that things are going to get a bit ugly just by examining the box. Although the machine is the Diamond Leopard King, there certainly aren’t any leopards or diamonds in sight. Instead, we see Shrek and crew in the corner, while a picture of the game machine takes up the other two thirds of the box.
Unlike the other two clones examined, this one comes with a mouse. Yes, now we have a mouse for our Famicom. The control pads and gun are standard fare. In terms of quality, the keyboard itself feels very cheap imo, and there are no games built into the machine. Instead, two cartridges came with the Diamond Leopard King. The one cart is quite generic, containing many classic Famicom games, whereas the second cart is a bit more interesting.
The 48 in 1 game pack contains many interesting applications. There is an English-Spanish dictionary, Solitaire, and IPA program, Mine Sweeper, Poker, etc. As with the Asder programs, it is interesting to see these games on a Famicom cartridge, but I find it hard to imagine that people would actually crank out a game of Mine Sweeper on the Famiclone than on an actual computer. I can’t really say much else about this machine, as it is PAL formatted, and my TV is only NTSC compatible. Like the Cyber Computer reviewed previously, the Diamond Leopard King really doesn’t offer much of interest for Famicom collectors.
The last clone I am going to make mention of tonight is the SB-2000, which was developed by Subor, a Chinese Famiclone manufacturer. Before continuing forward, I just want to say that I owe Patrick a big thanks for this one, and that I hope to examine this beast closer in the near future, after I get paid (and can thus try some ways of getting around the PAL / NTSC problem). When I can work around the compatibility issue, I think that I will find that this will become my favorite keyboard Famiclone, kicking the Asder machine to slot two.
The box itself shows the Subor machine hooked up to some sort of monitor, as well as a printer. From this image, it becomes easy to view the SB-2000 as a valid replacement for a computer from the start. When I open up the package, I also see a few differences between this machine and the others that I have examined tonight.
Unlike the other keyboard clones, where everything was directly built into the keyboard (sans the controllers), the SB-2000’s keyboard is an add-on, just like everything else. The controllers, mouse, keyboard, etc. all plug into the disk drive, located at the back of the box. As well as containing a disk drive (and several floppy disks containing some mysterious programs, which I have yet to discover), the SB-2000 also has a cartridge slot, and a printer port. The SB-2000 seems to be well-built, and as a machine, certainly appears to be capable of being used as a replacement computer. I hope to be able to investigate the SB-2000 more in the near future. And by then, I might also have a few more keyboard Famiclones to examine as well, so stay tuned.