What Are The Differences Between NES Front Loader vs Top Loader?
The original toaster versus the NES top loader look to be two very different consoles from different eras. They both play your favorite NES games like Zelda, Mario or Mega Man but have different ways they output the display or load the games on the NES.
So what are the main differences between the two consoles
Table of Contents
NES (Otherwise known as the front loader or NES Toaster)
- Loads the games from the front of the console
- Came with the rectangular controllers
- Has RF and RCA outputs to the TV
- Model number: NES-001
NES 2 (Otherwise known as the top loading NES)
- Smaller in size than the original front loader NES
- Came packed with the dogbone controllers. These are similar in structure to the Super Nintendo controller
- Has RF only (in North America)
- Improves loading games by the top of the console
- Model number NES-101
These are the main two differences between the two consoles. What is the better option? What is best for you? Each of these two come with their own set of pros and cons
NES Front Loader
- RCA outputs provide a better quality picture right out of the box
- More of these consoles were produced. Making it easier to replace or purchase.
- The front loading mechanism is a flawed design, leading to games not loading.
- Taking the NES apart can be cumbersome to clean the internal parts
The original NES was made to resemble the future technology in the living room, otherwise known as front loading VCRs. That being said, it did have it's downsides with the pins needing to be repaired or replaced. You can find replacement 72-pin connectors like shown here:
You'll also have to open the cartridges with special bits in order to keep them clean and free of dirt to ensure that the pins meet the end of the console properly to play your favorite games. You can find the bit sets here:
The NES front loader was notoriously bad when it came to reading games. Over time the pins would get dirty or loose and stop reading games all together. This is why you hear about so many people who would have glitchy graphics or the screen flashing when trying to play your favorite NES games.
You might be able to get away with cleaning the console with some rubbing alcohol and a cloth or the games with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol but most likely will require you to open the console and fully clean out all of the dust and grime that has built up over the years.
The NES front loader does have it's advantages over the top loader. For one thing, picture quality is simply better on the NES front loader. In a cost cutting measure by Nintendo, the top loader NES does not come with RCA composite output. Meaning you'll have to resort to coax RF out in order to play your favorite games. This is a significant advantage that the NES front loader has in terms of quality.
Secondly, the NES front loaders are everywhere. You can pick them up at thrift stores, garage sales, eBay. These things were everywhere. If costs are an issue or ever need replacement parts, the NES front loader is the way to go.
The NES Front loader offers a lower price point and superior picture quality, this would be the better choice for most gamers. It's iconic design structured after the front loading VCRs of the day give it that look and feel of something futuristic, even in 2022. Keep in mind, there are still some advantages to buying a top loading unit if you're not convinced to buy the front loader.
NES Top Loader
- Way more reliable design than the original front loader
- Region free
- "Dogbone" controllers are much more comfortable in your hands than the rectangular console. "Dogbone" controllers also work with the original NES if you have them.
- Compact design
- RF picture quality is a significant downgrade than RCA composite.
- Vertical lines may appear over time
The biggest advantage that the second variation of the NES has over the front loader is that it's simply a more reliable piece of technology. The move to a top loading design was a perfect one as it helped out with seating the cartridge into the slot properly in order to load the games.
In addition to solving the issue with loading the NES games, the NES top loader is also able to load games from other regions. The lockout chip that plagued the original model was now removed on this top loading variation. If you had games from other regions (such as Japan or North America) you would be able to play them on the NES top loader.
The compact design is an arguable factor. Yes, the NES front loader has the iconic look of what a game console is remembered as. If you are just putting it on your shelf with the ten other consoles you own, you might want to have something more compact in design, saving you tons of room on your gaming tv setup.
The Dogbone controllers are a huge upgrade over the rectangular controllers that the original NES came with. You can mix and match either controller on either console variation. The Dogbone controllers don't give me the same feel of cramping based on the button placement on the rectangular controllers over longer gameplay sessions. The improved SNES style controllers are the way to go for playing NES games for long periods of time.
As great of a console revision the NES top loader is, it comes with some drawbacks. Removing the ability to plug in the console from the RCA jacks is quite annoying. RF output is the worst type of picture quality you could output on your TV, with a significant step up from composite.
To add to that, many people have reported vertical lines on their particular model of the NES top loader without finding a true resolution that didn't involve opening and repairing the console's internals.
You could go down the path of modding the console to give it a different output type (RGB, Component, Composite, S-Video) but that requires time and money in order to bring to life.
With Nintendo releasing the top loader late in the NES life cycle, there weren't many produced and makes the top loader harder to come by. This makes this device much more expensive than the original front loading model. It's not a significant price increase, but something to consider.
Bottom Line: For many people who just want to play their favorite games, the NES front loader is the way to go. It's easily available, comes with composite output right out of the box and gives you that iconic design that people will notice when they see one on the shelf.