Mister is an open project that recreates several video games, computers, FPGA and classic arcade, allowing you to use your games, softwares, original controllers and accessories, with TVs and modern hardware.
In this article I show how I started building my Mister, initially only with the motherboard, a Terasic de10-Nano and the IO board, with a cooler Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V.
The items were purchased at Terasic e na MiSTer Addons, respectively. They were initially sent to my US address, which is provided by Direct Shipments. The company then consolidated both into a single package and redirected them to my address in Brazil.. Package arrived tax free.
What is MiSTer?
MiSTer is based on a card called DE10-Nano, that has an HDMI output for connection to TV or monitor. This card can be expanded with several add-ons developed by the community. A DE10-Nano has an FPGA chip Altera Cyclone V, the same used in Analogue Super Nt and no Analogue Mega Sg, where the cores of the various consoles are implemented, computers, and supported arcades.
FPGA is the acronym for Field Programmable Gate Array -something like "Programmable Ports arrangement in field". Is a type of chip reprogramável designed to be configured by a designer, or even a consumer, after manufacture. This programming is done at the level of logic gates, that correspond to the basic unit any digital circuit.
An FPGA implementation by itself does not guarantee quality, but she has some intrinsic benefits. Normal processors take advantage of clocks far superior to the original hardware to scale between the various chips being emulated, paying attention to one at a time. In many cases make a higher level emulation, without emulating each chip individually, often making use of some hacks. But they suffer from the synchronization between the components and the latency inherent in the operating system (Windows, Linux, etc.) It was not designed for real-time tasks. FPGAs are parallel in nature, and that guarantees MiSTer very low latency, depending on the TV / monitor and accessories used.
MiSTer is not for everyone, many casual players are content with the emulation made in a Raspberry Pi, for example, which turns out to be a cheaper solution than a MiSTer. But Raspberry Pi uses an ARM architecture, like traditional computers, without the benefits of FPGAs. Give way, who wants a more faithful experience to the original hardware, should consider MiSTer.
Note that MiSTer is a project in constant development. While some cores are practically perfect, still others need more development to reach the level of fidelity of the best emulators. It's good to check the cores of your favorite systems before you venture to build a MiSTer.
Analogue versus MiSTer
MiSTer has a certain resemblance to the consoles of the Analogue, in particular the Analogue Super Nt and the Analogue Mega Sg, that I also have and have done the analysis here on the Skooter Blog (click on the links to see them). Both use the same FPGA chip, the Altera Cyclone V, to implement the original hardware in all its details.
But the differences are also noticeable. A Analogue is a trading company, what a profit visa. Their products are more of the type Plug-n-play, so that the user just needs to connect them to the TV, like a traditional console and play. They accept cartridges, controllers, and original accessories of the consoles that implement. Each console is focused on one or a few systems, to Analogue Super Nt implementing the Super Nintendo and the Analogue Mega Sg implementing Sega consoles: Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, e SG-1000.
The only somewhat unusual thing that the Analogue user needs to do is download the firmware on an SD card and update the system. Advanced settings are present, but can be ignored by the least demanding, because the default settings are good enough.
All the software behind the consoles Analogue It is closed, and is in the hands of a single developer, which is Kevin Horton (kevtris). Luckily he is a very good guy at what he does and quite a perfectionist, so your FPGA cores are almost perfect. Unfortunately he is just a guy, so some bugs pending tend to persist or take time to be fixed. And there's nothing that anyone else can do, because the code is closed.
On the other hand, MiSTer is a community project, non-profit. All software is open and freely available, so that anyone with the necessary skills can join the project to fix bugs and implement new cores.
But MiSTer's hardware is not quite ready. Although the DE10-Nano enough for some cores, most of them need an SDRAM module. Other add-ons, although they are not mandatory, also bring other advantages and features to the system. Nothing needs to be welded and anyone who has already installed a card in a computer must be able to mount a MiSTer, but still the user needs to like to dig a little, to assemble the hardware and install the software.
Some vendors sell the MiSTer assembled and configured, often with customization options to the taste of the customer, but it all comes at a price, and I prefer to save and assemble myself, my way.
MiSTer is not focused on supporting the original cartridges, so games and software can only be loaded from ROM or CD image files. Original controllers can be used with the use of USB adapters or more complex low latency solutions, but far from the practicality of the Analogue that have the original control inputs.
Regarding prices, a DE10-Nano can be purchased for $ 130,00, or US $ 110,00 for academic users, which is considerably less than a single Analogue console. But with the addition of add-ons, case, etc. the investment may end up being considerably higher than that of an Analogue console. But, whereas MiSTer supports a large number of cores, this investment can pay off a lot.
Nights from MiSTer
Below I list the cores already implemented in MiSTer until the time of writing this article. Note that if you are reading this article in the future, it is possible that many others have already been added:
Below I list the main components that can be used in MiSTer. Note that only the DE10-Nano is mandatory. This list also reflects the current moment. If you are reading this article in the future, other components may have arisen.
The MiSTer project includes the schematics for building the additional boards. Who has the knowledge and the necessary means can build them on their own. There are vendors who sell the plates ready to use and others who sell only the plates without the components, for those who want to solder them on their own.
A list of several vendors in various countries can be found in this Atari forum topic.
This is the main board of MiSTer. In addition to the FPGA chip Altera Cyclone V, it also contains an ARM processor and DDR3 memory, which are used with an optimized Linux kernel to interface with files and other basic tasks.
There are already HDMI output, the microSD card slot, USB OTG, RJ45 connector for Ethernet network, etc. There are groups of pins for expansion, where IO cards and SDRAM memory are connected.
The card comes with Type A to Mini-B and Type A to Micro-B USB cables, power supply, 8GB microSD card, and four silicone feet.
Note that because it is intended for academic use, this board is subsidized by major manufacturers like Analog Devices, ISSI (Integrated Silicon Solution Inc., Würth electronics, e Panasonic. Because of this it is sold for a much lower price than a commercial board with similar components. The price at which it is sold probably doesn't even pay for the components.
The DE10-Nano can be purchased directly at Terasic, or in large electronic components stores, as Mouser and Digikey, the cost of US $ 130,00. Buying directly from Terasic is possible to benefit from Intel FPGA University Program, that offers discount for students and university professors. In this case the card costs US $ 110,00.
The Altera Cyclone V comes without heatsink. It is highly recommended to add one to avoid problems with overheating. A heatsink is usually supplied with IO cards, who also usually have a fan.
The IO board is optional, and offers the following items:
- VGA connector;
- Audio jack 3,5 mm com TOSLink;
- 3 Buttons;
- 3 LEDs de status;
- Secondary SD card slot (for some cores);
- FAN (fan) to cool the FPGA;
- Expansion connector (in the form of a USB connector 3.0, but it is not USB!);
- Additional connectors to integrate MiSTer into cases.
The IO board is sold for $ 50,00 no site MiSTer Addons U.S., and also includes a heatsink for the Cyclone V. For US $ 20,00 the more it is possible to acquire the plate with the fan Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V, instead of the traditional little-known brand cooler. Noctua is one of the leaders in the coolers and fans.
The IO card connects to one of the groups of 20 input and output pins of the DE10-Nano. It is already designed to fit perfectly and stay on top of the DE10-Nano, in place of the acrylic cap that comes with it.
The SDRAM memory card is optional, but it is used by most MiSTer cores, being practically essential. It connects to the group of 20 input and output pins of the DE10-Nano, and the IO card has already been carefully designed to make room for the SDRAM card.
Note that the DE10-Nano already has DDR3 memory in its ARM part, but SDRAM memory is faster because it can communicate directly with the FPGA, being required by most cores, while others can optionally use it.
The SDRAM card is available with 32 MB e 128 MB. GBA and NeoGeo colors are, no time, the only ones using over 32MB, Depending on the game.
Two cores (ao486, Minimig) use real time clock, so MiSTer offers real date and time for these cores. MiSTer can get them from the Internet if a connection is present. This plaque only serves to do the same with MiSTer offline, using a battery to keep track of the time when MiSTer is off. It costs £ 15.49 at UK MiSTer FPGA.
ADC-on freckles (Audio/Tape input)
Allows the use of an external audio source, as a cassette tape input. It used to be common to store computer programs and data on cassette tapes. This plaque costs US $ 10,00 in MiSTer Addons.
To connect keyboard, mouse, drivers and other USB devices on MiSTer you must use a USB Hub, because it has only one microUSB OTG input.
A wide variety of USB Hubs can be used. An OTG cable can be used to convert the microUSB OTG input to a USB Type A. Depending on the number and type of devices being connected, it is recommended to use an external powered USB Hub.
The MiSTer project includes a USB card that can be fitted under the DE10-Nano, giving a more professional look and avoiding having to leave a traditional USB Hub hanging on the block.
Another interesting alternative is the BlisSTer, which is a sign that can also be placed under the DE10-Nano and offers, plus a USB Hub, low latency ports to connect original controls using the LLAPI protocol.
Note that low latency ports use the HDMI connector, and need additional cables with the desired control connectors.
BlisSTer was not integrated into the original MiSTer project, because the project leader has some resistance to some unopened aspects of BlisSTer. Because of this, support for the LLAPI protocol is not implemented in the cores available in the branch official. Versions with LLAPI support need to be obtained separately.
A keyboard can be used to configure MiSTer and can be mapped to perform the functions of controllers and mice. It can even be dispensed with on a daily basis, since controllers can also be used for menu navigation, and the IO board buttons can be used for some basic functions.
A Bluetooth adapter is required to use Bluetooth controllers and keyboards. Adapters based on CSR8510 and BCM20702 chips are supported. Most of them use one of these two chipsets.
An alternative to traditional Bluetooth adapters is the 8BitDo Wireless USB Adapter that deals with the issue of pairing internally and passes the control inputs to MiSTer already filtered.
The DE10-Nano does not have a switch, so that the MiSTer is always on when the power is on. So, a useful addition is some type of switch that can be installed between the power supply and the MiSTer, or before the power supply.
BlisSTer has a switch that can be used for this purpose, connecting the power supply to it and using its power output to connect the DE10-Nano.
A MiSTer Addons sell one switch to be installed between the power supply and the board. Costs $ 5,00.
Who does not want to leave MiSTer naked can put it in a case. The project includes cases that can be printed on 3D printers. Subsequently, cases acrylics, as those from AliExpress.
The cases of the time are those made of PCB, which were also made available by the project leader. Adapted versions of it are available at MiSTer Addons for $ 50,00. Note that there are different models, depending on the use of USB Hub card, BliSTer or none of them.
HDMI Cable and Network Cable
Remember that the DE10-Nano does not include an HDMI cable, then it is necessary to purchase it separately. I'm using a HDMI out 2.0 da Vention.
The network cable, for those who will use wired network, it is also not included. I assembled one with cable and RJ45 connectors from Furukawa.
Purchase of Terasic DE10-Nano and IO Board w / Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V
I purchased the Terasic DE10-Nano board directly from Terasic in Taiwan, taking advantage of the academic discount through Intel FPGA University Program.
The plate cost $ 110,00, and paid another $ 25,84 by shipping to the USA, through FedEx. Purchase made in 30/01/2020, with next day shipping. Arrived 04/02 at headquarters Direct Shipments.
The IO board and Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V were purchased from MiSTer Addons. Cost $ 70,00 and paid another $ 5,00 pelo envio via USPS First Class. Request made in 27/01/2020, coming 01/02 at headquarters Direct Shipments.
Redirect to Direct Shipments
Both Terasic and MiSTer Addons ship directly to Brazil, but there is a good reason to use the services of Direct Shipments: Terasic only ships via courier, like FedEx, and this ensures that the product will be taxed at approximately 100% no Brasil, including import tax, ICMS and other fees.
MiSTer Addons also ships directly to Brazil, but declares the real value on the customs form, which also maximizes the chances of taxation.
Redirecting with Direct Shipments using ePacket I managed to consolidate the two packages, saving on freight and still escaped taxation, because small packages via ePacket are less targeted in the institutionalized theft of the IRS.
In each package the Direct Shipments He sent me two photos, one from the package and one from the product. Check out:
The MiSTer Addons package weighed 4 ounces and the Terasic package weighed 1 Libra. The consolidated package weighed 1 pound e 4 oz, and cost $ 23,99 to be sent to Brazil by ePacket, already counting on the service value Direct Shipments.
The package was sent on 05/02/2020 and got my hands on 03/03.
Unboxing and Mounting the MiSTer
Check out the photos unboxing da Terasic DE10-Nano e da IO Board c/ Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V:
See also the video with unboxing and the MiSTer assembly:
Assembly was relatively simple. First I removed the acrylic cover from the DE10-Nano and glued the heatsink over the main chip, o Altera Cyclone V:
The IO card came with the cooler stock installed and the cooler Noctua NF-A4X10-FLX 5V came apart, so my second task was to change the cooler. With the right tools it was simple. Some of the rubbers on the edges of the cooler came loose, so I had to glue them again. So I fitted the IO board to the DE10-Nano and replaced the screws.
Por fim, I put the four little silicone feet. And so the hardware was ready for testing:
First tests with MiSTer
Note that at the same time that I purchased the DE10-Nano and the IO board, I also acquired three other items that have not yet arrived. They are:
Due to the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, these items delayed. A Placa SDRAM de 128MB wasn't even sent, and the other two items are still in transit.
So, for now I'm using only the 8GB microSD card that comes with the DE10-Nano, and I ended up acquiring one another Bluetooth adapter in Brazil, thinking that the Chinese seller had not yet shipped, when in fact he had made the shipment but had not updated the system.
Because of these setbacks, my tests are very limited, since most cores need the SDRAM module to function. Other systems I ended up leaving for later so I wouldn't have to keep selecting which ROMs I would put on the card and which ones I would leave out. This is the case with arcades, that work without the SDRAM, but I didn't want to take the trouble of taking each of the ROMs whose cores are already implemented. Even the people who make packs already gave up on this job and recommend placing the entire MAME ROM package in the folder.
The core that I ended up using the most is the PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16, that is practically perfect. I didn't find any bug. To improve even more, we only need to support games on CD-ROM. I also did some tests with the Atari core 2600, but this one is still raw. Some games run well, but others don't run or are missing sounds.
I also did some quick tests just with the Streets of Rage at the core of the Mega Drive, to check how the sound was and if you could play it without the triple buffer. The audio is very cool, including filters to simulate the two models of Mega Drive, for those who insist on low-pass filters. I still prefer the clear, unfiltered sound.
As I still don't have the USB Hub card, used a Hub USB 2.0 I bought at DX in 2010 and was standing here, along with an OTG cable that came with my Minix Neo U1 and it was not being used. I'm not using external power, since I am only using Bluetooth and keyboard receivers, requiring very little current. I'm using a wireless keyboard with touchpad, that works at the frequency of 2,4 GHz, acquired in DX in 2012. It's working perfectly.
To make MiSTer easy to turn on and off, I'm using the Line filter with resettable circuit breakers Individual Force Line.
Installing the System and Cores on the microSD Card
You don't even have to worry about updating the menu core or downloading the system cores. Simply connect MiSTer with the system installed and use the script update. It already checks all core updates and automatically installs them. It's good to run this script daily, whenever I play, because there is almost always news.
With the system running, it is not even necessary to remove the microSD card to insert new ROMs, as MiSTer has FTP and SSH / SFTP servers that are already enabled by default (username: root, password: 1).
It is also possible to activate the Samba server just by renaming the file /media/fat/linux/_samba.sh to linux/samba.sh, and then restart MiSTer. Sharing can be accessed at \\mister.
Configuring Resolution and other options
At first I was looking in the menus for a way to go from the standard resolution (720p) 1080p, but then I found out that these settings are not in the menu, but in a file called mister.ini. Fortunately it is easy to edit it directly on MiSTer with the help of Samba.
I adjusted the video_mode to 8 to use 1920×1080 in 60 Hz. I also set up hdmi_audio_96k=0 to use audio from 96 KHz (the default is 48 KHz).
Another interesting option is the vsync_adjust. By default it comes in 0, which corresponds to a more compatible mode, with the refresh rate locked in 60 Hz. Many old equipment does not work exactly on 60 Hz and benefited from the increased tolerance of CRT TVs and monitors. LCD TVs are less tolerant, so the compatible mode keeps the rate at 60 Hz and uses a triple buffer (2 frames), at the cost of frames being lost / added eventually to keep in sync.
But it is possible to adjust the vsync_adjust to 1, what keeps the triple buffer (2 frames) but adjust the refresh rate to the native of the system, making the movement smoother.
Por fim, you can still adjust the vsync_adjust to 2, that uses the native refresh rate and a single or smaller buffer (0~ 1 painting).
Note that not every TV or capture card is compatible with the less compatible modes. And TV and card compatibility also depends on the system's native refresh rate. Some are little out of the ordinary, others are more abused (Super Nintendo). Fortunately this configuration can be done by core, so:
On Mega Drive and PC Engine I adjusted the vsync_adjust to 2 and I had no problems with my Sony XBR TV-55X905E 4 k, nor with the Elgato Game Capture HD60. The only drawback is that the capture loses the sync in the resolution change, as well as the TV, that remains without image for a fraction of a second, but then everything goes back to normal.
I also adjusted video_info=10 to see on the screen information about the native resolution and the resolution being used in a comic by 10 seconds, every time the resolution changes. The other options I left in their default values.
Synchronizing Drivers Bluetooth
I did not succeed in synchronizing controllers Bluetooth using the menu functionality (F11 on the keyboard or holding the OSD button on the IO board for 3 seconds). Instead, I've been using one of scripts that are installed by the update script.
Synchronizing Bluetooth controllers must have been the most frustrating part, because in some cases I had to do the procedure more than once to finally be able to pair. At least once the pairing is done, just turn on the MiSTer and turn on the controller so that it connects almost immediately.
The controllers I tested were the Dualshock 4 and the 8BitDo m30 Bluetooth, and both worked perfectly. It is possible to map the control buttons freely, including menu features, and to simulate a mouse. It is also possible to customize settings within each core. MiSTer remembers the mapping done on each control, there is no need to redo it.
Using Original Controllers with Adapters
To use the original controllers it is necessary to use adapters to connect them to the USB ports, or any of the low latency solutions that I mentioned earlier. The good thing is that almost any USB adapter works. It's plug and play, no need to install drivers. I tested three of mine here, all have shown here in Skooter Blog, and all worked perfectly:
With the adapter connected to the MiSTer and the controller connected to the adapter, just use the mapping function to be able to use it.
Capture and Playlist with videos of all tests and training sessions gameplay
All of my MiSTer tests and training sessions gameplay were and continue to be broadcast live on our Youtube channel. A playlist The following includes all videos, and new ones will be added as the new streams end:
Sign it our Youtube channel and enable notifications to watch live streams.
All catches are made with the Elgato Game Capture HD60. She apparently doesn't get along with the static noise effect that MiSTer uses by default in the menu, when no core is loaded. In this case, the captured image “calm”. Other than that it worked perfectly, including the vsync in low latency mode on PC Engine and Mega Drive and with audio on 96 KHz. I just don't know how it will behave with the other nuclei.
This is the tracking information for the Terasic DE10-Nano shipment from Taiwan to the USA, through FedEx:
• Tuesday , 2/04/2020 12:56 pm RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, CA Delivered • 8:53 am IRVINE, CA On FedEx vehicle for delivery • 7:49 am IRVINE, CA At local FedEx facility • 5:14 am LOS ANGELES, CA At destination sort facility • 4:00 am INDIANAPOLIS, IN Departed FedEx location • 3:14 am SENNAN-SHI JP In transit • 3:05 am SENNAN-SHI JP In transit • 1:07 am INDIANAPOLIS, IN Arrived at FedEx location • 12:58 am INDIANAPOLIS, IN International shipment release - Import • Monday , 2/03/2020 9:13 pm TA YUAN DISTRICT TW In transit • 8:25 pm TA YUAN DISTRICT TW In transit • Sunday , 2/02/2020 6:45 pm TA YUAN DISTRICT TW At local FedEx facility • Saturday , 2/01/2020 7:29 pm TA YUAN DISTRICT TW At local FedEx facility • 7:27 pm TA YUAN DISTRICT TW In transit • Friday , 1/31/2020 8:46 pm HU KOU HSIANG TW Left FedEx origin facility • 6:09 pm HU KOU HSIANG TW Picked up • 1:52 am Shipment information sent to FedEx
This is the tracking information for the consolidated package, from the USA to Brazil, According to the USPS:
March 3, 2020, 2:08 pm Delivered BRAZIL Your item was delivered in BRAZIL at 2:08 pm on March 3, 2020. February 21, 2020, 7:51 pm Processed through Facility CURITIBA, BRAZIL February 21, 2020, 10:36 am Processed Through Facility BRAZIL February 9, 2020, 10:44 am Departed SAO PAULO, BRAZIL February 8, 2020, 10:33 pm Departed WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES February 7, 2020, 11:31 am Departed LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES February 7, 2020, 2:00 am Arrived LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES February 5, 2020, 10:37 pm Processed Through Regional Facility LOS ANGELES CA INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER February 5, 2020, 10:37 pm Arrived at Regional Facility LOS ANGELES CA INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER February 5, 2020, 9:18 pm Shipment Received, Package Acceptance Pending LOS ANGELES, SUCH AS 90009 February 5, 2020, 4:45 pm Departed Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item BELL GARDENS, SUCH AS 90201 Shipping Partner: ASENDIA USA February 5, 2020, 12:47 pm Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item BELL GARDENS, SUCH AS 90201 February 5, 2020, 9:38 am Arrived Shipping Partner Facility, USPS Awaiting Item BELL GARDENS, SUCH AS 90201 Shipping Partner: ASENDIA USES
And this is the consolidated package tracking information, from the USA to Brazil, According to the post office:
03/03/2020 14:08 [REMOVED] / SP Object delivered to the recipient 03/03/2020 10:56 [REMOVED] / SP object out for delivery to the recipient 28/02/2020 10:09 INDAIATUBA / SP Objeto encaminhado de Unidade de Tratamento em INDAIATUBA / SP for distribution Unit in [REMOVED] / SP 21/02/2020 19:56 CURITIBA / PR Objeto encaminhado de Unidade de Distribuição em CURITIBA / PR for Treatment Unit in INDAIATUBA / SP 21/02/2020 19:54 CURITIBA / PR finalized Customs supervision 21/02/2020 10:49 CURITIBA / PR Objeto recebido pelos Correios do Brasil Informar nº do documento para a fiscalização e entrega do seu objeto. Click here My Imports 05/02/2020 22:37 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / Objeto postado Informar nº do documento para a fiscalização e entrega do seu objeto. Click here My Imports 05/02/2020 22:37 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / Objeto encaminhado de País em ESTADOS UNIDOS DA AMÉRICA / countries in International treatment unit / BR Informar nº do documento para a fiscalização e entrega do seu objeto. Click here My Imports
Por fim, This is the table-summary of purchase:
|Package Home Country:||
|Time in Transit:||
|Declared content:||electronic parts|
|Type Marked Content:||None|
|Declared Value:||US$ 35,98|
But just from what I saw of the PC Engine cores I can already say that I am satisfied, and eager to play in the other cores, mainly NES, GameBoy Advance e NeoGeo. Almost every day we have news from the community, like bug fixes, new features and eventually new cores.
I hope that some of the developers also pay a little attention to the core of Atari 2600, that needs improvement so that I can put aside the original hardware. I would also like to see a Playstation core 1, which seems to be a great possibility.
Over time I intend to complete my MiSTer also with a USB Hub or a BliSTer, because the external hub is not a very elegant solution, e também temo danificar o conector OTG. Por fim, pretendo colocar meu MiSTer em um case bonitinho, de PCB ou acrílico.
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