We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for this product. That campaign may provide additional details about this product, so please check out the Freeplay Zero / Freeplay CM3 Kickstarter Campaign Page to learn more.
You will need to supply several accessories to successfully assemble a working Freeplay CM3 using this kit.
*** If you are purchasing a unit without a Raspberry Pi CM3+ Lite attached, please note that you must supply your own CM3+ Lite or CM3 Lite. This will not work normally with Compute Modules that have eMMC (8GB, 16GB or 32GB) attached, unless you have a way to burn an image to the eMMC (and then the SD card socket will be rendered useless).
The Freeplay CM3 DIY Kit Includes
- Freeplay CM3 Circuit Board (shown in red)
- Raspberry Pi Option
- Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3+ Lite (pre-attached) OR
- No Pi Attached (You must attach your own Raspberry Pi CM3 Lite or CM3+ Lite)
- X/Y Button Option
- Long-Clicky X/Y Buttons with 2 Gray X/Y Button Caps and X/Y Button Drill Guide OR
- Rubber-Nipple Buttons already soldered to the main board for Boxy Pixel builds OR
- Rubber-Nipple Buttons that you can solder to the main board during your “Soft Rubber Feel” install (or leave them out of the build if you choose to use Silicone Conductive Pads)
- Battery Option
- Freeplay “Perfect Fit” 2000mAh Battery OR
- No Battery Included (You can use your own battery, but please note that we can not support builds that use alternate (non-Freeplay) batteries. Be very careful when choosing and using any other cells.)
- 3.2″ LCD
- Freeplaytech Glass LCD Lens Screen Cover (except for Boxy Pixel configurations)
- Built-in Brightness Controller
- Freeplay CM3 Keychain/Charm
- Micro SD Card
- GBA-Style Shell (Examples: Plastic From RetroModding or Machined Metal from BoxyPixel)
- Battery (we carry this perfect fit 2000mAh battery)
- Full set of Rubber Button Pads (Some plastic shell kits include the pads or we carry them here.)
- Extra A/B Rubber Button Pad, if using silicone pads for X/Y buttons (we carry rubber button pad sets)
- Extra Set Of A/B Button Caps, if you are doing a soft-rubber X/Y build
- HDMI Adapter (for playing on the big screen or testing your build before you use the built-in LCD)
- USB WiFi Network Adapter (the RPi Compute Module 3 does not include WiFi or Bluetooth functionality)
- Tri-Wing Screwdriver (the GBA-style shells often use tri-wing screws)
- Freeplay CM3 L2R2 Slim Dual Analog (4 ADC) Add-On Board OR Freeplay CM3 L2/R2 Analog Add-On Board (if you want to take your build to another level)
- Colored X/Y Button Caps (RetroModding.com external link)
Please see https://www.retromodding.com/collections/freeplaytechs-freeplay-zero-cm3/products/build-to-order-freeplay-zero-cm3 for any accessories that you may need that we don’t offer. On that page, you can also request to have Retro Modding build your Freeplay CM3 DIY Kit for you.
Freeplay CM3 DIY Kit X/Y Button Options
You can choose to not install X/Y buttons. That will make the shell modification process easier. If you choose to install X/Y buttons, you have 3 main options: silicone-rubber pad, rubber-nipple buttons, or long tactile sub-PCB. Check out this Freeplay CM3 Build Video Detailing The New X/Y Button Options, if you want to see how the build will work and look.
- The “long tactile sub-PCB” method is the most tried and true method, because it has been implemented on MANY Freeplay Zero/CM3 builds up until this point and is probably the easiest way to add 2 buttons to a plastic shell. You must make 2 holes in your shell (one above A and one above B) and you may choose to install button caps in these holes or just leave the small tactile button shaft protruding through the shell.
- The “silicone-rubber pad” method uses a second set of the normal A/B button caps and a second A/B silicone rubber pad from your GBA-style shell to create another 2 buttons. We now carry sets of the silicone-rubber pads here. You must create new holes in the shell and cut up the rubber pads. Note that you will need extra A/B button caps to implement this option. You will also need to move the speaker away from the bottom button to implement this option.
- The “rubber-nipple buttons” method uses a second set of the normal A/B button caps from your GBA-style shell and a set of 4 rubber-nipple buttons to create another 2 buttons. You must create new holes in the shell, modify the 2 sets of A/B button caps, and modify the existing A/B button holes in the shell. Note that you will need extra A/B button caps to implement this option. You will also need to move the speaker away from the bottom button to implement this option.
This option will come with 4 square-base rubber-nipple buttons (as shown in the photo below). If you want to build using the rubber pads instead, you will need to supply a second silicon-rubber A/B button pad (as shown in the photo below). You can choose which you would like to use for your build. The rubber-nipple buttons will need to be soldered on, if you choose to use them. If you choose to use the silicon-rubber pad, the build can be solderless.
This option will be just like the pre-2019 Freeplay CM3 models. The long clicky X/Y buttons will be on a sub-PCB that sits under the main PCB. If you choose this option, the buttons will come pre-soldered to the board. Your kit will come with an X/Y button drill guide to assist you with your build and 2 gray X/Y button caps.
Boxy Pixel Pre-Soldered X/Y Buttons
Only select this option if you are using the machined aluminum Freeplay CM3 shell that Boxy Pixel provides. This option will come with the rubber-nipple buttons already soldered to the board. This configuration option should make the install completely solderless when used with the Boxy Pixel shell. This and some other configuration changes may make the board more difficult to use on a normal GBA-style shell. Please choose the “Soft-Rubber Feel X/Y Buttons” configuration if you may want to use the Freeplay CM3 DIY Kit in any other shell (besides the one made by Boxy Pixel).
Dave C (verified owner) –
Went together pretty easily, and was a lot of fun.
Downloaded the incorrect base SD card image, but support helped me figure that out right away. And having a forum to go to, and ask questions(and get answers) is also very nice. So if your on the fence, take that into consideration.
Also, the quality of the kit itself is very nice. Love the options you have! You can build it right out of the box, or go wild with addon boards, joysticks etc. And you don’t have to re-invent the wheel to do it. Good documentation available. Very happy I didn’t chicken out, and took the plunge.
David Covey (verified owner) –
Fun build, great results!
I received my CM3 kit very quickly, and was excited to start putting it together. The video documentation is great, and the build went very smooth.
It takes a little bit of patience and the proper tools to clean out the Gameboy Advance case, but once you get it done the board / screen fits perfectly!
I can’t be more please with the outcome, and I even used my 3D printer to make an IO Cover and Cartridge cover for my case to really complete the look. ( You can find the models on Thingiverse )
I will definitely be purchasing a few more kits for my family!
Mitchel Davis (verified owner) –
I’ve built 13 of these now and love them. The product is top notch and customer service has been the best I’ve ever had. I will buy more to make for family and friends because of this. I’ve bought a Retro CM3 and this is definitely a million times a better product. Especially if you get the boxy pixel case. Worth the price difference and time. One feels like a cheap chinese knockoff and the Freeplay doesn’t. Also, the other is locked down. The free play leave the possibilities up to you. And has so many more features the other can never have. Also the free play can be updated as new compute compute modules come out. The others are locked down. I’ve tried. My friends, siblings and nieces and nephews love them. No regrets.
Carl (verified owner) –
Mixed this with a Boxy Pixel shell. Trying to figure out the limitations of the CM3 as far as emulation capabilities but overall happy with the product!
A Endsor (verified owner) –
I have been blown away by how well-thought-out this kit is and the support that is available from this website, youtube and best-of-all, from Ed himself. I am based in the UK yet postage has been both quick and affordable.
It’s worth buying a second shell as they’re pretty cheap, and the second one I used was already modified for a larger screen, so although cutting was still required, it was a little less, but it’s no drama to use an original, either. The quality of the Freeplay components supplied is brilliant, which really helps it to feel like the properly engineered item that it is when complete.
Software is where my ambitions far exceed my abilities, but Ed has this covered; the disk image supplied by Freeplay means starting the CM3 is as straightforward as burning the right image onto a microSD card, and that’s it. The boot-up and shutdown is quick, and even the entry level CM3 is more than capable of running turn-of-the-century 32-bit 3D games with ease, even for somebody with next to no knowledge (like me). The in-game image quality is exceptional and thought has been put into getting the display properly centred when running to match the aperture in the shell (so don’t be alarmed that when the screen physically is not centred and first lights-up in white, the software compensates for this). Even the hot-key combined with the on/off slider is extremely well thought out and works instantly.
With little more than the recommended knives and a small file familiar to modellers and hobbyists, anybody can build a CM3 in original GBA-two-button layout, and adding the extra pair of buttons wasn’t much more difficult thanks to the template supplied, I was able to use a hand vice / pin drill rather than power tools to do this as well (hint: heating the drill bit gently can make this even easier).
The finished product has removable batteries where they need to be, ports in an accessible location, buttons placed as best a possible and looking like they should be there, volume control and headphone matching the original, as is the on/off switch.
The key thing with this kit is that once built, it’s going to feel like this console was always designed this way, it feels professional and it is capable. I can’t recommend this kit highly enough and look forward to what’s coming next from Freeplay