The Freeplay CM3 kit was gifted to us by Freeplay Tech in exchange for a review and build video. This post also contains affiliate links, which means our site makes a small commission based off of resulting sales. All opinions are my own. See bottom of post for the full disclosure.
Today, I am going to be sharing with you a little experiment I completed recently for my husband. I took part in a collaboration with the wonderful people over at Freeplay Tech, who sent me one of their cool handheld gaming kits to review: The Freeplay CM3. We purchased the Boxy Pixel aluminum shell to house it.
This kit, along with the sleek aluminum shell created by Boxy Pixel, contains almost everything that you need to easily assemble a premium Raspberry-Pi powered portable gaming system. It can play all sorts of retro games, ports, and freeware – perfect for the videogame fanatic in your life!
In spite of my very limited technical skills, I was able to make this awesome device in under an hour. In fact, watch my video tutorial below to see just how easy it is!
Freeplay CM3 Assembly & Build
As you can see from the video review, assembly of the CM3 is pretty simple! I don’t do much regarding technology at all; in fact, I’m happy if I can turn Netflix on!
However, the instructions included with the kit are very straightforward and easy to follow. I used this guide from Boxy Pixel since it is made specifically for this aluminum shell. In addition, you can reference the build guide from Freeplay Tech, especially when it comes to the software setup.
I really appreciated how all of the parts fit so well together. Nothing in this build requires a deep understanding of electronics or tools. Though one or two times I had to maneuver a piece around a bit, almost everything clicked right into place.
Additionally, the few items required to complete this project are things you may already have:
- Hex Bit & Phillips Screwdrivers
- Micro SD Card
- GBA Buttons, Rubber Pads, and GBA LED Light Pipe (It’s usually cheapest and easiest to get these all together in a replacement shell kit)
- Kapton Tape (I didn’t end up needing this in my build, but Boxy Pixel recommends having it – just in case)
Pros & Cons
My husband Max absolutely LOVES this product. According to him, it is the best Raspberry-Pi gaming system on the market.
The all-aluminum shell from Boxy Pixel is premium and high-quality; it adds a nice weight that makes the system feel sturdy. Overall, it just feels really good in your hands as compared to a plastic shell.
However, the Freeplay CM3 really shines when paired with an analog stick (or two), as well as L2 and R2 buttons. This is already available with the Freeplay CM3 add-on board, but there is no Boxy Pixel configuration for it yet; Max would love to see this in the future!
The Boxy Pixel custom glass screen lens gives us a little more screen size than the standard GBA or included Freeplay screen lens. This may not seem important, but it makes a big difference!
Max also loves the feel of the Freeplay CM3’s pre-soldered tactile buttons in comparison to the standard GBA rubber button pads. In other words, the buttons feel nice and clicky! Although, we’d love to see the Boxy Pixel shell include aluminum versions of ALL the buttons needed for the system (L/R shoulders, start/select, and power switch.)
The Freeplay CM3 kit itself was nicely bundled, with all the main components individually packaged in what looks like static-protected plastic. My husband has had several CM3 kits in the past, and they have all been of great quality and still function properly.
Furthermore, with the plethora of available information and build guides, it really makes this project easy for beginners. The system is designed super well, and Max really likes the layout of the ports on top. It’s a DIY project that, when finished, looks and feels like a legit consumer product.
The Freeplay Tech community is always active, positive, and helpful, especially Ed Mandy. He’s the owner and is always quick to respond and communicate with his customers.
Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same about Boxy Pixel. We received the product we purchased on time and without issue, but we reached out to the company about working with us on this collaboration and never received a response. 🙁
All in all, the Freeplay CM3 and Boxy Pixel aluminum shell are both fantastic products, but they aren’t cheap. A project like this will cost you somewhere between $300 – $350. However, you definitely get what you pay for.
There really isn’t anything bad that Max or myself could say about the Freeplay CM3. Here are some “wish list” items we would love to see in the next version:
- USB-C charging and data (instead of Micro USB)
- Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth (maybe with a physical switch to toggle them on and off)
- Upgrade to an IPS screen
Freeplay CM3 For You
The Freeplay CM3 is such a great idea for the videogame/electronics fan in your life – even if that videogame fan is you! It would make a superb anniversary present for your special someone, or a fun gift for a recent graduate.
The CM3 is easy enough that you can assemble it yourself to give away or let the recipient enjoy a fun DIY project on their own. Less than an hour spent on the assembly is sure to return exponential hours of fun.
As always, thanks so much for tuning in!
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Take care guys! Until next time…