Hardware Review Atari VCS

We've had a chance to unbox the Atari VCS, plug it in, and see if it lives up to the hype. Here's our take on whether you should invest in a blast from the past or save your money for the latest and greatest in modern consoles.



So you're interested in the new Atari VCS gaming console, huh? We don't blame you. Atari was an icon of the early gaming industry, and the chance to get your hands on an updated version of their classic system seems too good to pass up. The sleek, modern design is a far cry from the wood paneling of your youth, but it still evokes a sense of nostalgia. Before you drop a few hundred bucks to relive the glory days of Asteroids and Centipede, though, you probably want to know if this thing is worth it. We've had a chance to unbox the Atari VCS, plug it in, and see if it lives up to the hype. Here's our take on whether you should invest in a blast from the past or save your money for the latest and greatest in modern consoles.

Atari VCS Specs: What's Under the Hood?


So what's powering this retro reboot? The Atari VCS comes with some decent specs for casual gaming and streaming.
  • It runs on a custom AMD Ryzen processor with Radeon graphics that can handle 4K HDR graphics. Not the highest end but capable.
  • You get 8GB of RAM which is enough for most gaming and certainly for streaming movies and shows. If you're a hardcore gamer, you may want to consider upgrading to 16GB.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi supports 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO so you'll have a fast, stable connection for online play and streaming.
  • The VCS comes with 32GB of internal storage which won't get you far if you have a big game library. Luckily, there's an open M.2 slot so you can easily add more storage. A 1TB SSD is probably your best bet.
  • In terms of connectivity, you get 2 USB 3.1 ports, Bluetooth 5.0, and HDMI out. That covers the basics but a few more USB ports would've been useful.
  • The VCS ships with two retro-inspired controllers that are responsive and feel sturdy. They're no match for an Xbox or PS5 controller but get the job done for casual gaming.
All in all, the Atari VCS should handle everyday tasks, streaming, and some lighter gaming just fine. For more graphics-intensive AAA games, you'll need to lower some settings. But with its blend of retro nostalgia and modern specs, the VCS is an affordable little box that covers both work and play.

Setting Up the Atari VCS

So you've got your slick new Atari VCS - congrats! Now it's time to set this bad boy up.
  1. Find the perfect spot. You'll want to place your VCS somewhere with plenty of ventilation and within easy reach of your TV and power outlets. Make sure any vents on the unit remain unobstructed so it can stay cool.
  2. Plug in the power cable. Connect one end to your VCS and the other to a wall outlet. Flip the switch on the back of the unit to turn on the power. A blue light on the front of the VCS will come on, indicating it's receiving juice.
  3. Connect to your TV. Grab the HDMI cable that came with your VCS and plug one end into the HDMI out port on the back of the unit. Plug the other end into an available HDMI input on your TV. Use your TV's input button to select the correct HDMI input.
  4. Pair your controller. Take the Atari VCS Classic Joystick and press the pairing button on the top, then press and hold the Atari logo button on the front of the VCS for a few seconds until the controller light flashes. Your controller is now paired and ready to game!
  5. Download updates. Once everything is connected, turn on your VCS. It will automatically check for system and firmware updates which can take several minutes. Let the updates install, then you'll be ready to start gaming, surfing and streaming to your heart's content.
With your Atari VCS all set up, it's time to start enjoying this modern classic! Dive into the curated collection of retro games or check out the variety of apps, streaming services and more. Welcome back to the fun!

The Atari VCS User Interface


The Atari VCS features an easy-to-use interface that's simple to navigate. The UI has a minimalistic design with large menu icons and text that is readable on both small and large screen televisions.

Home Screen

When you first boot up your Atari VCS, you'll be greeted by the home screen. This features various menu options like the App Store, Game Store, Settings, and your library of installed apps and games. The home screen has a retro feel with throwback Atari branding. From here you can quickly access everything on your system.


The Atari VCS uses a standard d-pad or analog stick to move through menus and make selections. An "A/B/X/Y" button configuration is used to confirm choices and go back a step. This simple control method harkens back to the original Atari consoles many grew up with. For some, it may take a few minutes of adjustment coming from a PlayStation or Xbox, but feels second nature for retro gaming fans.

Apps & Games Library

Your library of installed apps, games, and media are displayed with large thumbnail images for easy browsing. Atari has populated the system with many classic games from their vault that come pre-installed. You can also access and download additional games from the Game Store. The Atari VCS supports many retro and modern PC games, giving you a wide range of options to choose from.


The Settings menu allows you to customize various options on your Atari VCS like screen resolution, audio, network connectivity, and account preferences. You can also pair Bluetooth controllers, configure storage, check for system updates, and more. The settings are laid out in a straightforward way that should be familiar to most users.

With its simple and intuitive interface combined with full support for classic Atari games and modern PC titles, the Atari VCS aims to appeal to both retro and contemporary gamers alike. The system software provides an enjoyable user experience that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages.

Gaming on the Atari VCS: Classic Atari Games and More

Classic Atari Games Galore

The Atari VCS allows you to play over 100 classic Atari games, just like old times. Revisit childhood favorites like Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Tempest, and Warlords. The nostalgia factor is strong with this system. Some games hold up really well and are still incredibly fun and challenging today.

Modern Indie Games Too

In addition to the retro options, the Atari VCS also offers a selection of modern indie games to play. While not as robust as other platforms, there are some gems like Danger Zone 2, Gravitar: Recharged, and Yars' Revenge Recharged. The lineup continues to grow over time. If you enjoy casual, arcade-style experiences, you'll find a lot to like.

Apps and Streaming

The Atari VCS isn't just for gaming. You can also install apps for streaming movies, TV shows, music, and more. All the major services are available like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and Spotify. The system runs on a custom version of Linux and has an app store where you can download various apps and utilities.

Play How You Want

The Atari VCS caters to different types of players and input preferences. In addition to the classic joystick, you can connect PlayStation, Xbox, or other Bluetooth gamepads. Some titles also support keyboard and mouse. Whether you prefer retro controls or modern options, you can play the way you like.

Overall, while limited in scope, the Atari VCS offers a fun, nostalgic experience for retro gamers and Atari fans. Between the classic games, modern indies, streaming apps, and flexibility in inputs, there's enough here to keep casual players entertained. The system continues to receive updates, so hopefully, the game selection broadens over time. If you go in with the right mindset, the Atari VCS can be an enjoyable little retro-inspired console.

Streaming on the Atari VCS

The Atari VCS provides several streaming options to enjoy your favorite movies, TV shows, music, and more. Whether you prefer subscription services or free options, the Atari VCS has you covered.

Streaming Apps

The Atari VCS comes pre-loaded with several popular streaming apps, including:

  • Netflix - Access a huge library of movies, TV shows, documentaries, and Netflix originals. Subscription required.
  • YouTube - Watch an endless selection of videos, music, gaming livestreams, and more for free.
  • Twitch - View livestreams of gaming, music, creative, and IRL streams. Free to watch, with optional subscriptions for ad-free viewing and emotes.

Add Your Own Apps

If the pre-installed options don't meet your needs, you can easily download other streaming apps on the Atari VCS. Some recommendations include:
  • Hulu - Stream popular TV shows, movies, and Hulu originals. Subscription required.
  • Disney+ - Enjoy movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Subscription required.
  • Crunchyroll - Watch a huge library of anime and Asian dramas. Free with ads, or ad-free with a paid subscription.
  • Spotify - Listen to millions of songs for free, or go ad-free with Spotify Premium.

Cast from Your Mobile Device

Don't want to download an app directly to your Atari VCS? No problem. You can cast content from streaming apps on your mobile device to your Atari VCS. Enable casting in your streaming app, select your Atari VCS as the device, and your show will begin playing on the big screen. Most major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube offer mobile device casting.

With various subscriptions and free streaming options, as well as the ability to cast content from your phone, the Atari VCS provides an affordable all-in-one streaming media solution. Sit back, relax and start streaming your favorites.

Using the Atari VCS as a Mini PC


The Atari VCS isn't just for playing retro games and streaming media. This versatile mini PC can also handle basic computing needs, allowing you to browse the web, check email, edit documents, and more.

Using Your Own Keyboard and Mouse

The VCS supports Bluetooth and USB keyboards, mice, and other PC peripherals. Pair your Bluetooth keyboard and mouse or plug in wired USB versions. Either way, you'll have a familiar setup for tackling tasks.

Installing Productivity Apps

In addition to the pre-installed apps, you can download productivity programs like word processors, spreadsheets, email clients, and web browsers. options include:
  • LibreOffice for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more
  • Thunderbird for email
  • Firefox or Chrome for web browsing
  • Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts for video calling

Saving and Sharing Files

The VCS comes with 16GB of internal storage, enough for basic productivity and file storage needs. Save documents, photos, videos and other files right on the system. You can also connect external storage like USB flash drives or portable hard drives for more space.

To share files between the VCS and other devices, enable file sharing on your home network. This will allow you to transfer files back and forth from Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets on the same network. You can also upload and download files using cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive which offer apps you can install on the VCS.

While not a full-fledged desktop replacement, the Atari VCS can work in a pinch for everyday computing and productivity when needed in addition to all its entertainment features. With the ability to connect a keyboard, mouse and install useful apps, this versatile mini PC has more to offer than just retro gaming.

The Atari VCS Controllers


When it comes to the Atari VCS controllers, you have a few options to choose from. The modern console comes with a classic-style joystick and a modern controller, allowing you to play both retro and current games.

The Classic Joystick

The classic joystick controller pays homage to the original Atari 2600, with a simple stick and single button. This minimal design is perfect for playing classic Atari arcade and 2600 games that only require basic controls. The comfortable grip and familiar layout will transport you back to the golden age of arcades.

The Modern Controller

For modern PC and console ports, the Atari VCS modern controller is the way to go. This Bluetooth wireless controller has a layout similar to Xbox and PlayStation controllers, with dual analog sticks, d-pad, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. The rechargeable battery provides up to 12 hours of gameplay. The modern design and full range of controls open up the Atari VCS to play thousands of modern games.

Other Compatible Controllers

In addition to the packed-in controllers, the Atari VCS works with many third-party Bluetooth controllers, keyboards, and mice. Some compatible options include:
  • Xbox One Wireless Controller - The popular Xbox controller connects seamlessly for a familiar feel.
  • DualShock 4 Wireless Controller - For PlayStation fans, the DualShock 4 is fully compatible.
  • Arcade-style joysticks - Many USB or Bluetooth-enabled arcade sticks and fight pads also work with the Atari VCS.
  • Wireless keyboards and mice - If you prefer a keyboard and mouse for some PC ports or browsing, most standard wireless options will pair and function.
With the variety of first-party and third-party control options, the Atari VCS has you covered whether you're feeling nostalgic or modern. The built-in controllers provide a balanced experience for all the games and entertainment the Atari VCS offers.

A Closer Look at the Atari VCS Hardware Design


The Atari VCS has a sleek, modern design that pays homage to the classic Atari 2600 console. The hardware is meant to seamlessly blend into your home entertainment center.

Compact and Simple

The Atari VCS has a minimalist, compact design so it doesn't take up much space. It's a small, square console that's easy to set up and start playing quickly. The simple, intuitive interface makes it accessible for players of all levels.


Atari aimed to tap into nostalgia for the Atari 2600 and its place in video game history. The Atari VCS has a similar boxy shape, wood paneling on the front, and the iconic Atari logo. These retro touches combined with a contemporary, all-black color scheme give it a timeless feel that both modern and old-school gamers will appreciate.


The Atari VCS is highly customizable. The interchangeable faceplates, called "skins," allow you to change the appearance. Additional skins with different designs will be available for purchase. You can also install apps, play PC and mobile games, stream shows, listen to music and more. The open nature of the console means it will continue to become more capable over time.


The Atari VCS comes with an upgraded classic joystick and modern controller for dual analog stick gameplay. Additional controllers, mics, cameras and other accessories may eventually be released to enhance the experience.

Overall, the Atari VCS hardware provides a blend of retro-cool style and modern functionality. While still a new product, the open and customizable nature of the console offers a lot of promise to shape it into the ultimate all-in-one entertainment device. The compact, user-friendly design makes it ideal for any living room. If you're looking for a dose of nostalgia in your gaming and streaming, the Atari VCS aims to deliver.

Atari VCS Review FAQs: Your Questions Answered

What types of games can I play on the Atari VCS?

The Atari VCS gives you access to a variety of games, from classic Atari titles to modern indie games and AAA blockbusters. You can play:
  • Classic Atari games like Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command through the Atari Vault collection. Relive the glory days of arcade gaming right on your Atari VCS.
  • Popular indie titles like Lumines Remastered, Tempest 4000, and Beyond a Steel Sky. The Atari VCS has partnerships with several indie developers to bring their games to the platform.
  • Major franchises like Borderlands 3, The Division 2, and Mortal Kombat 11 thanks to streaming through Stadia, GeForce Now and other services. If you have a subscription to one of these game streaming platforms, you can play many recent PC and console games on your Atari VCS.
  • Retro remakes and remasters of popular Atari franchises. New versions of games like Pong, Breakout and Swordquest are available to give a modern spin on classic titles.
  • Homebrew games created by independent developers. The open nature of the Atari VCS means hobbyist game designers can create their own games for the system. Some homebrew titles are already available to download and play.
So whether you're feeling nostalgic for the games of yesteryear or want to play the latest blockbusters, the Atari VCS has options for you. Between the built-in Atari Vault, streaming services, indie games, and homebrew titles, you'll never run out of games to play on your Atari VCS.

How much does the Atari VCS cost?

The Atari VCS comes in two models with different specs and price points:
  • The Atari VCS 400 model with 4GB of RAM starts at $249.99. This base model is designed for casual gaming and streaming media playback.
  • The Atari VCS 800 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $279.99. The upgraded model has extra memory and storage for playing more resource-intensive games. It provides the best experience for gaming on the Atari VCS.
In addition to the upfront cost of the Atari VCS hardware, you'll need subscriptions to streaming services like Stadia or GeForce Now to play many modern PC and console games on the system. Atari VCS owners can get special introductory offers for some streaming gaming services. Classic Atari games are included for free with the purchase of an Atari VCS.

So you're looking at paying between $250 to $300 for the Atari VCS itself, plus the cost of any streaming subscriptions you want to use.


Should you run out and buy one right now? That depends on what you're looking for. If you want to rekindle nostalgia for the good old days of Asteroids and Centipede, the Atari VCS will scratch that retro itch. But if you're looking for a hardcore modern gaming rig, you'll probably want to pass on this one. At $300, the Atari VCS tries to blend nostalgia and modernity, but it doesn't quite succeed at either. Still, for a fun retro blast from the past in your living room, the Atari VCS delivers. Just don't expect it to replace your Xbox anytime soon! The Atari VCS won't revolutionize gaming, but it's an enjoyable ride down memory lane.


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