Atari 5200 USB MaxiCart

Atari 5200

Review by Ron Lloyd

Videogame Wiz


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The trend of coupling old with new technology continues with the A52 USB MaxiCart, by Videogame Wiz.  This little gizmo allows you to load Atari 5200-compatible binary files from your PC and play them on your Atari 5200 system.  Why would people want to do this? Well, although many Atari 5200 games, such as Pac-man, Defender, Joust, and Qix are easily found on EBay or at flea markets, some of the games are darned hard to get hold of, let alone at an affordable price. For example, you might have trouble finding Miner 2049’er, Rescue on Fractalus, or a Gremlins cart, yet by using the MaxiCart and a quick internet download, these classic and exciting 5200 games can be played for free any time you desire. When the newest demos are released for the ever-expanding 5200 homebrew market, you can play them on a real 5200 system instead of an emulator (which is often not as fun an experience when compared to playing on the real system). And if you are a potential Atari 5200 homebrewer, you can use the MaxiCart to test and play your game-in-progress.

Installation Time

You plug the MaxiCart into one of your PC’s USB ports using the supplied USB cable. After you load a game, click the ‘Disconnect MaxiCart’ button on the PC screen, unplug the USB cable from the cart, and then put the MaxiCart into your Atari 5200 to play the game; it couldn’t be simpler. 

I am not particularly adept at Microsoft Windows or at software installations, yet I found installation of the MaxiCart to be painless and not difficult.   I had one minor moment of confusion when trying to load my first game: it appears that your game files must reside in the MaxiCart’s Games folder. MaxiCart’s Loader Application could not find my games in the My Documents folder.  So I suggest copying your game files into the MaxiCart’s Games folder right away. 

Game Time

Okay, on to the games! The binary file for Castle Blast, the first Atari 5200 homebrew by Videogame Wiz’ own Ronen Habot, comes free with the MaxiCart. I loaded this 32K game and blasted a few space castles, and it played the same as with my real Castle Blast cart.  Next I played my own homebrew demo, the 32K game Adventure II. Again, it works the same, no problems. I continued to test many games, both 16K and 32K sizes. I tried unreleased prototypes, actual production games, and homebrews.  All worked fine, so I can report no compatibility problems. There is only one known 5200 game larger than 32K, which is the hard-to-find Miner 2049’er sequel, Bounty Bob; I don’t have the binary of this game, but I assume this game does not work with the MaxiCart due to the special memory size of 40K.

I tested the A52 MaxiCart with not only stock 5200 controllers but also with my Masterplay Interface (which allows use of Atari 2600-compatible controllers) and a SEGA Genesis 6-button pad.  Again, I noticed no compatibility problems. The MaxiCart did its job every time. 

Load times are longer than my EPROM burner’s load times, but still negligible. I tested the unit on my 1 GHz Pentium III running Windows 2000. Load times for 32K games averaged 37 to 40 seconds. 16K games averaged about 26 seconds.  The game software automatically erases the flash memory and checks for accuracy. (To further compare the MaxiCart’s use of flash memory with the use of EPROM’s, it should be noted that erasing 32K EPROM’s can take over 10 minutes! MaxiCart is much more convenient and quicker.)

One exciting aspect to the A52 MaxiCart is its use by prospective Atari 5200 homebrewers.   To relate my own experience, I had to purchase an EPROM burner, EPROM eraser,  and 32K EPROM’s to test and run my own 5200 game a few years back. This cost me almost $300 and I wish that the MaxiCart had been available back then. The A52 MaxiCart costs $85 and is not only a much more affordable option, but eliminates the need to handle different sizes and types of EPROM’s.

The A52 MaxiCart is published by Videogame Wiz and can be ordered from their site found at It currently costs $85 plus shipping and I have found it to be a fun and useful tool for Atari 5200 enthusiasts!


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Last updated: Sunday, September 25, 2005 04:49 PM