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Turbo Express

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Title: Turbo Express  
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Subject: Video game console, Handheld video game
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Turbo Express

For software library, see Turbo Vision.
TurboExpress/PC Engine GT
Manufacturer NEC
Type Video game console
Generation Fourth generation
Release date 1990 (1990)
Introductory price $249.99
Units sold 1.5 million units
Media HuCard
Power 6 AA Bettries or 6 volt AC adapter
CPU HuC6280 clocked at 7.16 MHz or 1.79MHz
Memory 8KB RAM
Display 400x270 screen resolution, 512 colors, 481 colors on-screen
Related articles TurboGrafx-16

The TurboExpress is a handheld video game console, released by NEC in 1990. It is essentially a portable version of the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine home console that came 2 to 3 years earlier. It was sold as the PC Engine GT (Game Tank) in Japan.

It was the most advanced handheld of its time, the first handheld able to produce 16-bit graphics. It can play all the TurboGrafx-16's HuCard games. It has a 66 mm (2.6 in.) screen, the same as the original Game Boy, and can display 64 sprites at once, 16 per scanline, in up to 481 colors from a palette of 512. It has 8 kilobytes of RAM. The Turbo runs its HuC6280 CPU at 1.79 or 7.16 MHz.

As part of the fourth generation of gaming, the TurboExpress primarily competed with Nintendo's Game Boy, Sega's Game Gear, and the Atari Lynx. However, with just a mere 1.5 million units sold, far behind its two main competitors, the TurboExpress failed to gain significant sales or market share.[1]


Its launch price in the U.S. was $249.99. The price was briefly raised to $299.99, soon dropped back to $249.99, and by 1992 it was $199.99.


While the system is technologically superior to the other handhelds of its era, it still has its problems. Due to a problem with cheap capacitors, sound failure is a frequent problem with the TurboExpress. Sometimes even new systems had dead capacitors. This problem can be fixed by replacing the faulty capacitors.[2]

The screen used in the TurboExpress is another source of 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.

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 it is not capable of saving in this manner. Most games provide a password save mechanism as an alternative.

Another serious problem is that the battery life is only about three hours for 6 AA batteries. This is also a problem for other color and backlit or sidelit handhelds of the period, 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.


The TurboLink allows two-player play. Falcon, a flight simulator, includes a "head-to-head" dogfight mode that can only be accessed via TurboLink, same as Bomberman multiplayer. However, very few TG-16 games offer co-op play modes especially designed with the TurboExpress in mind.


TurboVision is a TV tuner adapter for the TurboExpress. It allows 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.


Despite its technical advantages upon its release, the Turbo Express was not very popular or known with gamers.[3] In addition to NEC's disastrous marketing, the fact that the handheld was initially released for $299.99 did not help matters. Because of this price tag it was labeled as the "Rolls Royce of handheld systems".[4] Since there were other affordable handhelds and the TG-16 was not popular enough to be accessible for the great majority of players, the system was finally quietly discontinued around the time the Turbo Duo was also in its twilight.

The TurboExpress appears in the movies 3 Ninjas and Enemy of the State, with the latter appearance taking place well after the system's demise. It also appears in the television series Doogie Howser, M.D.


  • CPU: HuC6280
  • CPU speed: 7.16 MHz or 1.79 MHz (switchable in software)
  • Resolution: 400x270
  • Max colors: 512
  • Max simultaneous colors: 481
  • Max sprites: 64


  • The Electronic Gaming Monthly 1991 Video Game Buyers Guide.

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