The Atari VCS is close to seeing a general release date, meaning the public can soon get its collective mitts on the impressive machine.
It might look like a games console, but it is actually capable of a lot more than just playing games. So, with launch day on the horizon, here's what we're expecting to see from the Atari VCS.
What Is the Atari VCS?
We first officially heard about the Atari VCS in 2017. The device—part PC, part console, part anything else you want it to be—was one of the standout exhibits showcased at the Techfluence Pre CES 2021 event.
Despite looking like a games console, the Atari VCS is quite a different beast. Yes, you can play games on it—it even has two dedicated game controllers—but it is also capable of a lot more.
Currently, we don't have an official release date for the Atari VCS, but AtariVCS.com has it listed for a Spring release, meaning its arrival isn't far off.
What Will the Atari VCS Do?
Atari is calling the device a living room PC. So, instead of "just" running games, the device can also run your Google suite apps, so Docs, Sheets, and the rest are all fully conversant with the VCS.
Not only that, but Atari's David Lowey has cited the device as one that will "liberate the user," with cord-cutters, hackers, tinkerers among the intended users of the device.
Put it this way, you can run Plex and RetroArch on there, so you can see exactly how liberated Atari intends VCS users to be. You can also shop, email, and do a range of other everyday tasks.
In terms of movies, you'll be able to enjoy playback in 4K, which is excellent if you subscribe to any services that have 4K content, such as Netflix.
How Much Will the Atari VCS Cost?
Currently, you can pre-order the Atari VCS bundle for $399.99. This will net you the black/mahogany version of the console, alongside the wireless joystick controller and the wireless game pad.
If you want to add another control method, then you can opt for pre-ordering the wireless joystick as a standalone product. This is $59.99. Likewise, the control pad is also available to pre-order on its own, at the same price.
Don't forget, you're getting more than the console, here. The Atari VCS also has access to a wide range of games and apps that really opens the device up and makes it good value for money.
How Will You Play Games on the Atari VCS?
There will be several methods available to you for playing games. Obviously, as you can run Chrome on the device, you can access any games services you would access via your web browser. This means you can access streaming platforms like Stadia and GeForce Now.
However, you will also have access to a boatload of Atari games via the Atari Vaults 1 and 2. This will contain a wide range of Atari classics, which you can play with the joystick (for a retro feel) or with the control pad.
For a further retro fix, you will also have free (ad-supported) access to Antstream, meaning you can access and play legal versions of classic titles like Earthworm Jim, Speedball 2, and Fatal Fury. This way, you can avoid gray-market ROMs and fiddly emulators.
However, if you want to run homebrew software on the Atari VCS, you can. In fact, we know the machine will have its own version of applications such as RetroArch; an emulating environment capable of running a wide variety of games and programs from heaps of different devices.
What Specs Will the Atari VCS Have?
You won't be able to do all of this stuff without some decent specs to back up the capabilities of the device. While you will be able to upgrade the storage and such, here are the specs as they stand. These might change slightly on general release, but that is unlikely at this stage.
- Operating System: Atari Custom Linux OS (Linux Kernel)
- APU: AMD Raven Ridge 2
- GPU: AMD Ryzen
- Storage: 32GB eMMC fixed internal; internal M.2 SSD slot; unlimited external USB HD/stick; cloud (subscription required)
- RAM: 8GB DDR4 RAM (upgradable)
- Compatible Systems: Linux, Windows, Steam OS, Chrome OS
- Wireless Connections: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4/5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0
- Wired Connections: HDMI 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, 4x USB 3.1 USB Ports 2x front, 2x rear
- External Inputs: Classic Joystick, Modern Controller, Microphone, Others TBD
- Mouse & Keyboard Support: Yes, USB or Bluetooth
- 4K video with HDCP 2.2 Integration: Yes
- Internet Connection Required: Not for classic gaming but required to access all features
- Dimensions: 11.6 x 5.9 x 1.9 inches (Approx.)
- Weight: 3 lbs. (Approx.)
- Materials: Plastic, Metal, Wood
As you can see, there is plenty to shout about in terms of what this unassuming device is actually capable of.
The addition of an internal M.2 SSD slot is a real boon if you plan to use the device as an all-in-one unit. This means you can store your games, movies, and music on the VCS, should you want to, alongside apps and other files.
You'll notice that it supports wireless keyboards and mice. Given that the VCS is touting itself as a mini-PC with clout, we expect that you'll need the computer-console to converse with such peripherals so you can get full use out of it.
However, what the other TBD (to be decided) external inputs are remains to see. Will we see Atari VR in the near future? Or will it be conversant with Oculus and Valve Index? Will it support other Bluetooth peripherals like the DualSense or Switch Pro Controller?
Right now, we can't say, but these specs have really whetted our appetite.
We Can't Wait for the Atari VCS!
Looking at everything the Atari VCS has to offer, it is a safe to say that we are hotly anticipating its arrival.
Given that the PS5 and Xbox Series X are now available, will you plump for a straight-up console or would you rather have an all-in-one device like the VCS? The case is surely there to own both, if you've got the cash to do so.
You have to admit, the Atari VCS sounds like an excellent device on paper, and early adopters have reported positively on its capabilities. Hopefully, it will live up to its hype.
Which of the next-gen consoles come out on top in terms of specs? Let's find out...