The Turbo Express is no longer just a portable game system. It has become much more. The Turbo Express has crossed the line into the status of legends along with a select few other game systems that were just as innovative and forward thinking in their day, due to the Express' quality which prove to be far superior to anything else on the market for a solid ten years. The Turbo Express was, without a question, the most powerful handheld system of its era, even rivaling the GameBoy Advance in graphics, resolution, screen quality and overall play value.

The Introduction of the Express

The Turbo Express was released in 1990 by NEC following the fourth quarter '89 launch of the TurboGrafx-16. The Express was released to the market in direct competition with Nintendo's GameBoy (a system that was an underpowered green/grey disappointment to say the least), and Atari's Lynx color portable game system. The Turbo Express was undeniably remarkable for its time, and yet to this day it still one of the most powerful handheld systems ever crafted. The Turbo Express was not an independent system developed to play a new line of portable but underpowered software as had been done by the competition. Instead NEC opted to rest the Turbo Express' laurels on its already existing line of TurboGrafx-16 software and technology. Proving to be an innovative concept, the Turbo Express was designed to take advantage of the slim design of the TurboGrafx-16 HuCard to the greatest extent, cloning the TurboGrafx-16 into its own portable version of its self, crafting a portable console unit that would on its own play any TurboGrafx-16 HuCard game on the market.

The Turbo Express Concept

It was to be a simple yet ingenious idea. Say you were going on a trip, and all week you had been addicted to Bonk's Adventure. Or Alien Crush. Or Bomberman '93. Or Air Zonk. If you had to jet off to a new destination for a summer vacation, sporting tournament, business trip, whatever, and wanted to continue your Turbo gaming experience that you had been so enraptured in all week long, all you would have to do is grab your Express, swipe your Hu Card (Turbo Chip), and you were packed and ready to go. Slap the HuChip in the back of the Turbo Express unit, lock the power button into place, and feel the power of the 16-Bit graphics chip roar to life in the palm of your hand.

A Capable Portable Entertianment System

The Turbo Express was a slimmed down TurboGrafx-16 and a TurboPad built into a portable color television featuring an Active Matrix TFT screen. Almost all of the amenities of the TurboGrafx-16 were carried over, including the select and run buttons, and even the adjustment toggles for the l and ll buttons. Interestingly enough, the Turbo Express runs at a higher MHz rate than the standard home console version of the TurboGrafx-16. The only draw back with the Turbo Express is its inability to link to the Turbo CD system, and the lack of an additional controller port. Thirdly, the Turbo Express could guzzle down 6 AA batteries in a mere three hours or less, however the addition of Turbo accessories such as an AC Adapter and Car Adapter allowed for unlimited game play. NEC also made availabe the ultimate portable accessory, the TurboVision TV Tuner, a small device slightly larger than a big pack of gum that would attach to the right side of the Express, transforming the system into a full color portable television with high-resolution active matrix TFT display. Although expensive, this added a great value to the Turbo Express lineup.

The Advantage

The Turbo Express launched in New York and Los Angeles with an MSRP of $349.99 which quickly dropped down to $249.99 for the Christmas season of 1990. While this was more than twice the price of Nintendo's GameBoy, the consumer was receiving what they had paid for; a unique portable gaming experience that would remain "modern" for well over a decade. Coupled with the complete line of HuCard games and the TurboVision TV Tuner, this made for some serious fun on the go. (That's not even mentioning all of the attention stemming from the gasps, questions and blank stares coming from the poor schlubs sitting in the corner playing their tired little GameBoys with their green/grey screen who have obviously never heard of a full-color high resolution 16-Bit handheld game system with television attachment before.)


The Turbo Express continued to benefit from the growing library of TurboGrafx-16 HuCard game titles and hung on tightly along with the Turbo Duo though the end of the product line in the United States, proving to be the ideal companion system to any dedicated Turbo Duo owner. The Express sold relatively well on its own, even among Genesis and Super Nintendo gamers who were looking for a portable gaming system and wanted something a little more mature than a GameBoy that screamed Pokemon every time you turned it on. The Turbo Express did well among this market segment who was looking for serious entertainment consisting of mature play value in a solid, advanced gaming product. The Japanese version of the Express, known as the PC Engine GT, continued to sell well in Japan through the 1990's, setting the standard in portable gaming for an entire generation of GameBoys and wanna-bes to follow. The Turbo Express even received a starring role in the 1998 feature film "Enemy Of The State" with Will Smith and Jon Voight. The Turbo Express has more life left in it than any of the original portable consoles released to the hand held market in the first half of the 1990s, proving NEC's vision and innovation has stood tall through the ultimate test, the test of time.