ZX Spectrum Vega Console Review by Jamie Battison (zapiy)
The Sinclair Vega was developed after a successful Indiegogo campaign which raised a staggering £150K. Soon after the Indiegogo campaign, SMS Electronics was chosen as the company to build and bring the console to market. One thing to bear in mind is that the Vega has been developed with the full blessing of Sir Clive Sinclair and that, in itself, gives the console a huge "must-have" appeal - to me at least.
The Vega is being marketed by Retro Computers Ltd, which Sir Clive’s company, Sinclair Research Ltd, is a shareholder of. As some of you may know, the intellectual property rights to the Sinclair computers was first sold to Amstrad and is now under the ownership of Sky In-Home Service Ltd. Sky has allowed the Spectrum name to be used for this product under licence.
The design of the box, with its black cardboard sleeve and iconic rainbow stripe in the corner, has been made to look just like the original 48k home computer box. This really is certainly a nice touch from the creators. When you look inside the box you will first notice how the Vega is designed to look a little like the iconic 48k Spectrum. You'll also notice how light the console feels when picked up. This was slightly worrying to me, perhaps for the wrong reasons. I guess my mind was saying this is light and therefore made cheaply but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, on further inspection, you really can see the level of detail that went into creating this device by designer Chris Smith and his team.
The Vega takes advantage of major advances in technology to achieve huge savings by using a low-cost micro-controller to run the console's clever piece of software as well as, more or less, every Spectrum game. Some 14,000, if you want to play them all! All the games that come with the Vega have been pre-mapped and work instantly. A virtual keyboard has also been included for any games that require more inputs from a keyboard such as text adventure games.
The Vega is a simple Plug-and-Play console that will work with pretty much any TV. There is no HDMI output and, sadly, there is no SCART adapter supplied so you will need to have one of these at hand if you want to connect via that connector. Power is supplied via a USB cable. I am lucky enough to own a TV with USB ports that supply enough power to the console but I can see others having issues with this, which will require finding an external source. Upon powering the console you'll not have much time to make a cup of tea anymore as this is pretty much an instant boot up. Within seconds you can be playing any of the 1000 games that come pre-loaded onto the Vega, including some greats like Horace Goes Skiing, Skool Daze and Jet Pac. The controls come pre-mapped for all of the games so there are no issues setting up the controls.
If I am to be critical of the Vega it will be on the selection of games supplied. Most of the big software houses of the Spectrum-era are missing which, I guess, is understandable considering the difficulty the creators would have faced concerning copyright ownership and so on. Also a Favourites option would have been great for filtering through the games list as this would have cut down on the time looking for games you want to revisit. One nice addition, though, is the MicroSD slot for you to add any Spectrum games you want. Being a huge homebrew fan I will certainly be making use of this feature! Be sure to check our homebrew forum for links to games for you to try.
Reliving your childhood, though, does not come cheap. The Vega will cost you £99.99 from Funstock Retro. Priced at £60 may have been a better price point but you get a 1000 games, a piece of nostalgia, MicroSD slot for games galore, and potential in the future to create your own games for it. I do have to say that The Vega does have some other flaws for me personally. The software could have had more functionality and maybe that will be fixed with some possible future updates. I'm still not convinced by the mini keyboard layout but it may grow on me and it certainly has not deterred me from playing it.