$14 MP3 Player With Built In NES Emulator, But...
I usually end up with an off-brand or non-brand unit from some online surplus outfit. The one I'm using right now is amazingly feature-packed. It plays music that sounds good (not always the case with a cheapie), videos, even e-books... all of this for the amazing price of $14.
So what makes this interesting to the retro crowd (besides the fact that I keep it loaded up with old time radio shows and old Sammy Davis Jr. records...)? It packs a surprise function. This $14 no-name has an extra on-screen menu for "Games". I highlighted the joystick icon to be greeted by what is clearly a not-at-all legal NES emulator. The included game ROM? A game starring a certain plumber in his adventure-ready coveralls. Ahem.
That signature music came on, so I was looking forward to playing NES games on a $14 cheapie that I could recommend to all of you, but there's a significant problem. There aren't enough buttons to actually play the games. You use the fast-forward and rewind buttons to move left and right (the buttons are on top of each other to make gameplay even more disorienting). No buttons on the player make Mario jump or do anything other than move left and right. As you can imagine, this does curtail one's game selection quite a bit. I can't even think of one game that would be fun this way... Arkanoid maybe?
My guess is that my player is reusing firmware from another (possibly less cheap?) MP3 player that hopefully has more buttons built in. I guess that an NES emulator doesn't pose much of a challenge to modern processors - even the sorts of processor chips they can afford to slap into a cheap MP3 player. Let's remain vigilant, retro readers, for any other cheap electronics harboring an illegitimate 8 bit secret.