Last updated
TurboExpress/PC Engine GT
TurboExpress Logo.png
PC Engine GT Logo.png
TurboExpress handheld
Manufacturer NEC Home Electronics
Type Handheld game console
Generation Fourth generation
Release date
  • JP: December 1, 1990 [1]
  • NA: December 1990
Introductory price$249.99, ¥44,800
Units sold1.5 million units
Media HuCard
CPU HuC6280 @ 7.16 MHz or 1.79 MHz
Memory8KB RAM
Display400×270 pixels
Graphics512 color palette, 481 colors on-screen
Sound6-channel PSG
Power6 AA batteries or 6 volt AC adapter
Related articles TurboGrafx-16

The TurboExpress is a handheld video game console by NEC Home Electronics, released in late 1990 in Japan and the United States. Released as the TurboExpress Handheld Entertainment System in the States and as the PC Engine GT in Japan. It is essentially a portable version of the TurboGrafx-16 home console that came two to three years earlier. Its launch price in Japan was ¥44,800 and $249.99 in the U.S.


The TurboExpress was technically advanced at the time, able to play all the TurboGrafx-16's HuCard games, featuring a TV tuner, and a backlit, active-matrix color LCD screen. [3]

The TurboExpress primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, Sega's Game Gear, and the Atari Lynx. However, with 1.5 million units sold, far behind its two main competitors, NEC failed to gain significant sales or market share in the handheld market. [4]


The TurboExpress's codename was Game Tank. A working prototype was revealed in the April 1990 issue of VG&CE. [5] It was eventually released in December 1990 in both Japan and the U.S. Its price in the U.S. was briefly raised to $299.99 in March 1991 due to higher costs of the display, [6] before dropping back to its launch price of $249.99, and lowering the price again to $199.99 in 1992.[ citation needed ]

Regardless of its technical advantages upon its release, the TurboExpress was not widely recognized or adopted by consumers. [7] In addition to NEC's marketing issues, the handheld was initially released for $299.99, significantly higher than popular competitors. Because of this price tag, it was labeled as the "Rolls Royce of handheld systems". [8]


The PC Engine GT PC Engine GT.jpg
The PC Engine GT

The screen is sized 66 mm (2.6 in.), the same as the original Game Boy. It can display 64 sprites at once, 16 per scanline, in up to 481 colors from a palette of 512.[ citation needed ] It has 8 kilobytes of RAM, and it runs a HuC6280 CPU at 1.79 or 7.16 MHz, same as TurboGrafx-16.[ citation needed ]

The TurboExpress had a backlit display. Handheld market leader Nintendo did not have a backlit handheld until the release of the Game Boy Light in 1998. Its keypad layout is similar to that of the original Game Boy, with the unique addition of two "turbo switches" that engage two levels of high-speed controller button re-triggering to assist the player.[ citation needed ]

Due to a problem with cheap capacitors (an industry-wide issue in the early 1990s), sound failure is a frequent problem with the TurboExpress, sometimes even in new systems. [9] The screen used in the TurboExpress was another source for problems, though it was state of the art when it was released. The LCD technology used was still fairly new and the rate of pixel failure was very high. Brand-new TurboExpress systems often had several bad pixels. Text is also difficult or impossible to read in certain circumstances, as many times fonts were written to be seen on a television screen, not on a small LCD screen. As a result, certain RPGs and adventure games can be difficult to play on the unit.[ citation needed ]

The TurboExpress plays the same game cartridges as the TurboGrafx-16 home console. [10] Some TurboGrafx-16 HuCards save game data to the internal memory of the TurboGrafx-CD unit, TurboDuo, or TurboBooster Plus (a peripheral for the core TG-16 console). The TurboExpress lacks this internal memory and, as a result, is not capable of saving in this manner. Most games provide a password save mechanism as an alternative.

The battery life is about three hours for 6 AA batteries. This is also a problem for other color and backlit or sidelit handhelds of the time, such as the Game Gear at 5–6 hours, the Sega Nomad at 2–3 hours, and the Atari Lynx at more than 4 hours. Nintendo's Game Boy had a 12- to 40-hour lifespan on 4 AA batteries.


The TurboLink cable. NEC-TurboExpress-COM-Link-Cable.jpg
The TurboLink cable.

The TurboLink allows two-player play. Falcon , a flight simulator, includes "head-to-head" dogfight and cooperative modes that can only be accessed via TurboLink. [11] This technology was also used for Bomberman '93 Com-Link multiplayer. It was released after the TurboExpress launch. However, very few TG-16 games offer co-op play modes especially designed with the TurboExpress in mind.[ citation needed ]


The TurboVision TV tuner NEC-TurboExpress-wTurboVision.jpg
The TurboVision TV tuner

TurboVision is a TV tuner adapter for the TurboExpress. [10] The accessory was available at launch for US$100. [12] It allowed a player to either watch television, or go back to playing games with the flip of a switch; in other words, one may use the TurboExpress as a video monitor. It includes an RCA audio/video input for external composite video signals. However, due to the widespread adoption of digital television and the HDTV standard, the adapter will no longer function as a television in most places due to the lack of any HDTV digital processing circuitry (the tuner can only process an analog signal for television). Due to this limitation, the TV tuner adapter is now relegated to a collectible for most people, although its RCA audio/video input function (albeit very limited with its low screen resolution) will still be operational with the correct cables.[ citation needed ]


Computer Gaming World favorably compared TurboExpress to the Game Boy, but stated that the NEC handheld "gobbles power like crazy ... almost forcing players to immediately purchase an AC adapter". The magazine nonetheless praised its compatibility with TurboGrafx games, and concluded, "to see this machine in action is to fall in love with it". [13]

Entertainment Weekly praised the new 16 bit computer architecture of the system and the graphics of the games, but warned that the small screen is a downgrade for those used to playing the games on a big screen. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Game Boy Advance Handheld game console by Nintendo

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) is a 32-bit handheld game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo as the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001, in North America on June 11, 2001, in the PAL region on June 22, 2001, and in mainland China as iQue Game Boy Advance on June 8, 2004. The GBA is part of the sixth generation of video game consoles. The original model does not have an illuminated screen; Nintendo addressed that with the release of a redesigned model with a frontlit screen, the Game Boy Advance SP, in 2003. A newer revision of the redesign was released in 2005, with a backlit screen. Around the same time, the final redesign, the Game Boy Micro, was released.

Handheld game console Small, portable video game console

A handheld game console, or simply handheld console, is a small, portable self-contained video game console with a built-in screen, game controls and speakers. Handheld game consoles are smaller than home video game consoles and contain the console, screen, speakers, and controls in one unit, allowing people to carry them and play them at any time or place.

PC-FX 1994 video game console

The PC-FX is a 32-bit home video game console developed by NEC and Hudson Soft. It was released in Japan in 1994 and discontinued in February 1998, as NEC's final home video game console. Based on the NEC V810 CPU and CD-ROM, it was intended as the successor to the PC Engine and its international counterpart the TurboGrafx-16, two successful video game consoles from the late 1980s.

Game Gear Handheld game console by Sega

The Game Gear is an 8-bit fourth generation handheld game console released by Sega on October 6, 1990 in Japan, in April 1991 throughout North America and Europe, and during 1992 in Australia. The Game Gear primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, the Atari Lynx, and NEC's TurboExpress. It shares much of its hardware with the Master System, and can play Master System games by the use of an adapter. Sega positioned the Game Gear, which had a full-color backlit screen with a landscape format, as a technologically superior handheld to the Game Boy.

TurboGrafx-16 Fourth-generation home video game console

The TurboGrafx-16, known as the PC Engine outside North America, is a fourth-generation home video game console designed by Hudson Soft and sold by NEC Home Electronics. It was the first console marketed in the 16-bit era, although it used a modified 8-bit CPU. It was released in Japan in 1987 and in North America in 1989. The Japanese model was officially imported and distributed in France in 1989, unofficial imports had made their way to the UK by the same year, in 1990 Spain received a PAL version based on the American model known as simply TurboGrafx. In Japan, the system was launched as a competitor to the Famicom, but the delayed United States release meant that it ended up competing with the Sega Genesis and later the Super NES.

WonderSwan Handheld game console

The WonderSwan is a handheld game console released in Japan by Bandai. It was developed by Gunpei Yokoi's company Koto Laboratory and Bandai, and was the last piece of hardware Yokoi developed before his death in 1997. Released in 1999 in the fifth generation of video game consoles, the WonderSwan and its two later models, the WonderSwan Color and SwanCrystal were officially supported until being discontinued by Bandai in 2003. During its lifespan, no variation of the WonderSwan was released outside of Japan.

Game Boy Advance SP Handheld game console by Nintendo

The Game Boy Advance SP, released in February 2003, is a sixth-generation handheld game console developed, released, and marketed by Nintendo that served as an upgraded version of the original Game Boy Advance. The "SP" in the name stands for "Special". It is the penultimate console in the Game Boy Advance family before the Game Boy Micro, released in September 2005. The Game Boy Advance line was followed by the Nintendo DS family, starting with the release of the original Nintendo DS in November 2004.

In the history of computer and video games, the fourth generation of game consoles began on October 30, 1987 with the Japanese release of NEC Home Electronics' PC Engine. Although NEC released the first console of this era, sales were mostly dominated by the rivalry between Nintendo's and Sega's consoles in North America: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis. Handheld systems released during this time include the Nintendo Game Boy, released in 1989, and the Sega Game Gear, first released in 1990.


The LaserActive is a converged device and fourth-generation home video game console capable of playing Laserdiscs, Compact Discs, console games, and LD-G karaoke discs. It was released by Pioneer Corporation in 1993. In addition to LaserActive games, separately sold add-on modules accept Mega Drive/Genesis and PC Engine/TurboGrafx 16 ROM cartridges and CD-ROMs.

PC Engine SuperGrafx

The PC Engine SuperGrafx, also known as simply the SuperGrafx, is a fourth-generation home video game console manufactured by NEC Home Electronics and released in Japan and France in 1989. It is the successor system to the PC Engine, released two years prior. Originally known as the PC Engine 2 during production stages, it was purported as a true 16-bit home console, featuring improved graphics and audio capabilities over its predecessor.

Bonk is a video game character from NEC's TurboGrafx-16 console. Known in Japan as "PC-Genjin" and as "BC Kid" in PAL territories, Bonk was a mascot for NEC's console. Three games featuring the character appeared on the TurboGrafx-16, as well as two spin-offs featuring Air Zonk. The protagonist is a bald caveman named Bonk who attacks using his comically large head. The "PC" part of his Japanese name stands for "Pithecanthropus Computerurus", a fictitious species name for Bonk.

The history of video game consoles, both home and handheld, had their origins in the 1970s. The concept of home consoles used to play games on a television set was founded by the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, first conceived by Ralph H. Baer in 1966. Handheld consoles bore out from electro-mechanical games that had used mechanical controls and light-emitting diodes (LED) as visual indicators. Handheld electronic games had replaced the mechanical controls with electronic and digital components, and with the introduction of Liquid-crystal display (LCD) to create video-like screens with programmable pixels, systems like the Microvision and the Game & Watch became the first handheld video game consoles, and fully realized by the Game Boy system.


TurboPlay Magazine is a bi-monthly, U.S.-based video game magazine which was published by L.F.P. from June/July 1990 through August/September 1992. It was available via subscription only. A total of 14 issues were released, on schedule. TurboPlay exclusively covered NEC's line of video game consoles, especially the North American models: TurboGrafx-16, TurboGrafx-CD (TG-CD), Turbo Duo (DUO) and the handheld TurboExpress. NEC's SuperGrafx also received some minor coverage.

TurboDuo Fourth-generation video game console

The TurboDuo is a fourth-generation video game console developed by NEC Home Electronics and Hudson Soft for the North American market. The TurboDuo was test-marketed in Los Angeles in October 1992, before a nationwide rollout in May 1993. It is the North American version of the Japanese PC Engine Duo game console which was released in September 1991.

A dedicated console is a video game console that is limited to one or more built-in video game or games, and is not equipped for additional games that are distributed via ROM cartridges, discs, downloads or other digital media. Dedicated consoles were very popular in the first generation of video game consoles until they were gradually replaced by second-generation video game consoles that use ROM cartridges.

Virtual Console, also abbreviated as VC, is a line of downloadable video games for Nintendo's Wii and Wii U home video game consoles and the Nintendo 3DS handheld game console.

Game Boy 1989 portable video game console

The Game Boy is an 8-bit handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The first handheld in the Game Boy family, it was first released in Japan in April 1989, then North America, three months later, and lastly in Europe, more than one year later. It was designed by the same team that developed the Game & Watch series of handheld electronic games and several Nintendo Entertainment System games: Satoru Okada, Gunpei Yokoi, and Nintendo Research & Development 1.

<i>Blazing Lazers</i> 1989 Japanese-American video game

Blazing Lazers is a vertically scrolling shooter by Hudson Soft and Compile. It is a reskin of Gunhed, a video game based on the Japanese film of the same name. The title was released in Japan and North America in 1989 for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16). In the game, a fictional galaxy is under attack by an enemy space armada called the Dark Squadron, and this galaxy's only chance for survival is the Gunhed Advanced Star Fighter, who must destroy the Dark Squadron and its Super Weapons. The gameplay features fast vertical scrolling and a wide array of weapons for the player to use.

Analogue, Inc. is an American company with offices in USA and Hong Kong that designs, develops and sells video game hardware. Its hardware products include the Analogue Pocket, Analogue Mega Sg, Analogue Super Nt, Analogue Nt mini, and Analogue Nt.

The TurboGrafx-16 Mini, also known as the PC Engine Mini in Japan and PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini in Europe, is a dedicated home video game console by Konami modeled on NEC's TurboGrafx-16, which was designed by Hudson Soft, a video game developer which Konami acquired in 2012. The Mini emulates the original console's 8-bit hardware. The Japanese model contains 58 games in total while the international models contain 57. The Mini was originally set to be released worldwide on March 19, 2020, exclusively through Amazon, but was delayed everywhere except for Japan because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was shipped in North America on May 22, 2020, and in Europe on June 5, 2020.


  1. "PC-Engine". Web.archive.org. 23 June 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  2. "TurboGrafx-16 TurboExpress - Overview - allgame". Web.archive.org. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  3. Lachel, Cyril (February 22, 2012). "The TurboExpress Has won the War". Defunct Games. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018.
  4. Snow, Blake (July 30, 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time". GamePro . Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2008.
  5. "Game Tank". TurboPlay . April 1990. p. 24. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018.
  6. "TurboExpress release". TurboPlay. March 1991. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018 via tg-16.com.
  7. Marriott, Scott Alan. "TurboGrafx-16 TurboExpress". AllGame. Archived from the original on April 6, 2009.
  8. "Most Expensive Handheld Video Game System". The Most Expensive Journal. October 14, 2006. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013.
  9. "{title}". Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  10. 1 2 3 "1991 Gadget guide". EW.com. Archived from the original on 2015-10-01. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  11. "Review Crew: Falcon". Electronic Gaming Monthly . No. 36. Sendai Publishing. July 1992. p. 24. Archived from the original on 2018-07-29. Retrieved 2018-03-03.
  12. "PlayBoy Collection" (PDF). Playboy. April 1991. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 5, 2017 via tg-16.com.
  13. Adams, Roe R. III (January 1991). "Firing Up the TurboExpress / NEC's Hot New Hand-Held System". Computer Gaming World. p. 64. Archived from the original on June 23, 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2013.

Other sources