Nintendo Dingoo [][][]  

After getting side tracked from my plans to build a  Dingoo A380 powred mini arcade cabinet with my GBA SP mini arcade project I briefly entertained the idea of re-housing  the Dingoo internals in a NES pad but after realising it was just too big, my  thoughts turned to painting the case to at least look like one instead. (I am however fairly confident i could get a  Gameboy Micro squeezed in there so that project is definitely on the cards for the future). Anyway below are my instructions for 'how to build a portable Nintenendo entertainment system' in a NES pad........sort of.  





Step [1] - Stripping the Dingoo

 Well.... first thing to do is to strip the Dingoo. This was relatively easy to do and no funny screwdrivers or other special tools where required. Remove the 4 screws on the back and open from the bottom, press firmly where the SD card slot is to release the plastic catch inside and gently  prize case halves apart. The battery and speakers are attached to the back and everything else to the front. The speakers just pop out of their mouldings but the battery is stuck firmly to the case with double sided and is not rigid so be careful. Prize the battery up slowly with something plastic like a credit card or plectrum. Once the battery was free I put the back half of the case to one side and removed the 3 screws that hold the PCB to the front half. You should now be able to remove all the internal components from the case. 


Tips : - 

  • Do not remove select, start and shoulder buttons - you will do more harm than good.
  •  Use a Screen protector (you can use iPhone Screen protector cut to size) to mask of the screen area 
  • Prep with 800 grit paper  or better still a Red sanding pad (looks like a green scouring pad but red and less abrasive) 
  • Slide Masking tape or paper  between SELECT/START &  L/R buttons and the case before sanding and painting. 
  • Be gentle with the speakers (unlike me) as the solder pads and wires connecting them  are very small and will break meaning will have a really fiddly job re-soldering than later..






Step [1] - Design layout and Paint mask

Next step is to design the layout and create a mask for painting the shell. Obviously the goal here was to get it to look as much like Nintendo's classic pad design as humanly possible within the constraints of the Dingoo's own layout and features. As the NES pad only has 2 buttons (+ stat and select) i decided the best thing to do was to try and make 2 of the buttons as inconspicuous as possible by making them black and having 2 red buttons with a grey surround as on the original although at this stage I wasn't exactly sure how I was gonna do this as the Dingoo's buttons are red, yellow, blue and green. I think my hope was that I could get hold of a couple of black Dingoo a320 buttons which I hoped would fit, and possibly  beg a spare red button from a broken Dingoo A380 off of someone from the forum. 


I created the design template by simply scanning in the Dingoo's top case  and then used Adobe Illustrator to mark out the outline, controls and screen. From here it's just a case of drawing on and refining the design elements that make up the NES pad onto the Dingoo template. 






Step 3 - Painting the Base coat

Ok, so with the layout designed it's time to mask up the Dingoo for paint. I happen to own a cutting machine so it was just a case of running the vector image I created in illustrator through the machine using some paint mask film. Although I used illustrator and a cutting machine to create the mask for this, there is no reason you can't do it with a pencil and paper, some masking tape and a craft knife. 


After applying the mask and clipping the case halves back together, the first coat of paint to go on is some plastic primer which happens to be the right colour for the darker grey stripes down the middle. The black parts of the design wont be painted at all and will be just be the unpainted plastic shell. After the plastic primer  dries, I use fine line tape to mask of the dark grey stripes and then sprayed the whole thing with lighter grey. It's important to remember to mask up the holes for the D pad and buttons so the screen doesn't end up getting caked in over spray on the inside. 







Step 4 - Adding Nintendo logos


 With the main bulk of the design painted all that remains is to add some Nintendo logos. Along with the small red logo on the front I thought it would be a nice idea to add a big one on the pack painted to look like it was stamped into  the plastic. It's just the same mask sprayed 3 times in dark grey, white (slightly offset) then the main gray colour on top.









Step 5 - Clear Lacquer


 Last step in the painting stage is get some lacquer on. If you use spray cans to paint the design  you can probably get away with skipping this stage but as i use water based airbrush paint this step is essential to seal the paint. I gave the case a light rub down with a sanding pad just to knock the high spots and dust off then sprayed the whole thing with a light coat of Halfords rattle can lacquer. Normally when I  am lacquering something I will spend a lot of time wet sanding the lacquer between coats to stop any orange peel and then sand and polish the whole thing to a mirror shine, but with something like this it's really not necessary. With this project it made much more sense to spray only light coats from a bigger distance than usual  to give a grainy textured finish which is much closer to matt, textured finish on the original NES pad. Also it's worth noting that you need to give spray can lacquer 2 weeks to properly harden, it will be touch dry after a few hours but there is a lot of thinner in rattle can lacquer which takes a long time to properly evaporate. 







Step 6 - New Buttons

Ok.... so with all the painting done the time had come to source some suitable buttons. After receiving no reply to my call for help at  I had a bit of brain wave (can you say brain wave these days? or is that like Brain Storm or should I say 'thought shower'......not that I give a shit). Most dodgy Chinese electronic products like the Dingoo just rip of existing product design and often even get them made in the same factory from the same molds as the products they are ripping off. In this case the Dingoo a380 bares a striking resemblance to Half a Nintendo DS lite so I took a gamble and ordered a couple of sets of DS buttons from eBay. 


 As it turned out the gamble paid off. With a couple of  slight modifications to the case to accommodate the differently placed tabs which stop the buttons spinning round, The DS buttons where a perfect fit. I also had to use the DS's rubber contact pad in place of the Dingoo one to get them to sit at the right height but this was a straight forward swap with no need to cut or modify the contact pad. 



Step 7 - Solder Wires


The very last thing I had to do was re solder the battery wires and speakers which wouldn't have been necessary if it wasn't for my cack handedness. This was really fiddly so if you have a go at this project try not to be as clumsy as me and save yourself some effort and frustration. That's it....Job done, Time to screw the case back together and load up Mario Brothers.  





Step 8 - Play & Enjoy