Raspberry Pi CM3L Single Board Handheld

Single board design for a RetroPie handheld gaming device.

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Many attempts at making a RetroPie handheld gaming device have utilized off the shelf boards from Adafruit and other vendors. Combining these individual boards works well but requires a lot of time to put together and may not be accessible to a first time hacker. Many people seem to be looking for a RetroPie device that is ready to play off the shelf, not a kit that requires assembly. Therefore, this project aims at creating an all-in-one board for a possible large(r) production device that lowers the level of entry compared to other DIY kits currently available.

This project is ongoing. I have currently made v4.0 of the board and it works with minor errors. The next version of the board will fix the battery management circuit and add audio and HDMI output.

The files for a blank CM3L project can be found here.

  • 1 × Battery 2500 mAh
  • 1 × LCD Screen 480x272
  • 1 × Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite

  • Sorry for the delay!

    tmtr creations09/07/2017 at 01:31 4 comments

    We apologize for not posting any updates recently. Summer was quite busy for us. We are currently working on v4.1 of the boards.

    This revision will address the following:

    - Battery charging circuit issues

    - Button locations and sizes

    - Add audio out

    - Add HDMI out

    Here is a teaser of what the new case design is looking like!

    We will try to be better about posting more frequent updates. Check us out on Instagram to see more day to day progress!

  • Case Design v1.0

    tmtr creations07/23/2017 at 23:13 0 comments

    We've also been slowly working on a case design! Here is a picture of the early prototype.

  • Starting work on v4.1!

    tmtr creations07/19/2017 at 01:14 0 comments

    This version will incorporate the HDMI out and the audio out. Also should fix the issues with the battery circuit.

  • Version 4.0 Built!

    tmtr creations06/20/2017 at 02:20 0 comments

    The most recent version of the board has been assembled and tested! There has been a design flaw identified with the load sharing feature of the battery management circuit but otherwise the board is a success. The next version will fix the battery management and add audio and HDMI out capabilities.

  • Version 4.0 Boards Ordered

    tmtr creations05/04/2017 at 00:56 0 comments

    We have ordered the new boards and already have all of the required components. Hopefully we can get the boards put together ASAP. In the meantime we have begun work on the case design.

  • Blank CM3L Project Available

    tmtr creations05/01/2017 at 01:34 0 comments

    I have made a blank Kicad project that has all the parts necessary for jumpstarting a project based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite. All of the files are available at our GitHub. If anyone has an issue using these files, please let us know so we can help fix any issues.

  • Version 4.0 Started

    tmtr creations04/20/2017 at 01:54 3 comments

    The process of designing v4.0 of the board has begun. We have chosen to modify the design slightly with this update. This update will also bring the battery management circuit onto the board, a power switch, and buttons that are better suited for manufacturing. This version will also add test points and holes for mounting the device in a case. Here is quick look at the proposed board redesign:

  • Version 3.0 Complete

    tmtr creations04/07/2017 at 02:28 0 comments

    The first prototype is complete. There are some minor issues with the layout and some features that still have yet to be added. The next version of the board is in the works and should be closer to the final version.

View all 8 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1


    A requirement of this project is having the ability to reflow surface mount components on a PCB. I chose to go with the ControLeo2 Reflow Oven Controller. I ordered the full kit from their website Whizoo. I decided to use the exact same toaster oven that the tutorial on their website uses. This took some of the major unknowns out of the equation for the build. I bought the toaster oven off of Amazon for pretty cheap.

    Some tips based on my experience of putting together the reflow oven:

    1. Read the full tutorial multiple times before starting to make sure you understand the process.
    2. Look at the pictures in the tutorial carefully. A couple of times I assumed I knew what the instructions were saying only to look at the pictures after doing something to realize I had done the step incorrectly.
    3. Avoid the temptation to work on steps out of order. I tried to skip ahead a couple of times thinking that I could save some time. This did not always work well. The tutorial has the steps in the best order.
    4. DON'T CUT THE WIRES UNTIL YOU ARE CERTAIN. You will need to reuse the wires you remove from the oven so do not cut them into sections for reuse without first making sure they are the correct length.

    Here are some pictures of my final build of the reflow oven:

  • 2
    Step 2

    Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 Lite:

    The only design needed for using the Raspi CM3L is the power supplies, pull-up resistors for some of the I/O, and the micro-SD card slot. This setup is pretty straightforward following the schematics for the I/O board given here. A KiCAD project with a blank schematic for the CM3L can be found here. Customizing the board for a particular use then only requires adding whatever else is needed for the specific application.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Enabling the DPI on the Raspi CM3L:

    I decided to drive the LCD display with the GPIO in case I wanted to make a dock for the handheld in the future. The dock would allow for HDMI out to a larger screen as well as a USB hub for Wifi and Bluetooth. This would enable updates to the device as well as wireless controllers for playing games on a bigger screen. To this end, using the GPIO to drive the screen keeps the HDMI lines free for future use.

    Getting the screen to be driven by the GPIO was pretty straightforward. I suggest looking at the Raspi documentation here and a good tutorial here. The thing that I had to spend the most time on was the pixel timings. I tried using the exact frequency as suggested by the data sheet for the screen I was using. However, it turns out that the Raspi does not support arbitrary clock frequencies for this purpose. The only explanation I found is given here.

View all 5 instructions

Enjoy this project?



DeanChu wrote 05/23/2018 at 13:31 point

Amazing project! I also found cm3l is a wonderful choice to build a retrogaming console and certainlly you have found that much earlier (^_^) #RETRO-CM3: A POWERFUL RETROPIE HANDLED GAME CONSOL 

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Laetitia BEL wrote 03/26/2018 at 15:30 point

Your project rocks! (⌐■_■)–︻╦╤─ rocks rocks rocks

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bademux wrote 11/07/2017 at 11:47 point

Project is absolutely great!
Do you think about using some cases, buttons, components available on market?

For example there are a lot of cheap GBA, GB Advance SP, cases and parts.

It will be much easier to assemble handheld having ready to use case\parts available to buy.


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Timo Birnschein wrote 11/01/2017 at 15:09 point

I love it. I would also be very interested in the schematics and board files for replication! Great job and I can't wait to see updates!

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vladpox wrote 09/05/2017 at 21:19 point

Dude !!! can you share finished pcb with schematics ? I'd like to show my son what can raspberry pi do.

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tmtr creations wrote 09/07/2017 at 01:25 point

We will definitely open source this once it's finished!

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Craig Hissett wrote 08/25/2017 at 00:14 point

Love this buddy! Keep up the amazing work!

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tmtr creations wrote 09/07/2017 at 01:25 point


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oshpark wrote 08/24/2017 at 06:51 point

Awesome project!

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tmtr creations wrote 09/07/2017 at 01:25 point

Thanks! Love your boards!!

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daniel andrade wrote 07/19/2017 at 11:55 point

Really nice project, congrats!

Are you committing the project anywhere? Would love to take a look at the datasheet. :D

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Luis Diaz wrote 08/23/2017 at 08:58 point

This is indeed a cool project. Will love to check it out as well.

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tmtr creations wrote 09/07/2017 at 01:26 point

Thanks! We haven't yet but will once the final design is complete.

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Kyle Brinkerhoff wrote 06/20/2017 at 03:30 point

holy crap dude! good job! cant wait to see a proper shell for this too !

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tmtr creations wrote 06/21/2017 at 00:56 point

Thanks! The shell is in the works.

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