With all sorts of retro handhelds in the market, are you getting lost in how to choose the right one that suits you most? If you are a noob trying to do some research on Chinese retro handhelds, then hopefully this blog may help you save some time. Or you’re a pro, you can have a comprehensive look at current mainstream handhelds. We will introduce 15 popular retro consoles starting from their visual factors. The control layout will be mentioned as we can perceive that visually as well.
First, we would suggest you be clear about your needs: why buy a retro handheld? What do you care most about buying a handheld? You feel like a diversion in retro game paradise to fill in the spare time when you wait for the bus or commuting by subway? Or you miss the golden times playing retro games when you were a kid — and would like a yesterday once more? You’ve lost your very first childhood handheld and want one that’s alike? Or you simply want to play on a specific emulator?
The appearance, price, controls, game emulators…All the aspects that affect your buying, we try to write up a series of blogs on how to pick a suitable retro handheld, taking all the things you care about into account. There is no “the perfect one”, you can choose the right one for you according to your own needs. The appearance of a handheld determines our first impression on it. Also, we can choose different looks of handhelds according to different use scenarios. We are aware that other factors of a handheld are also important, but let’s throw out all the other factors and start with its appearance.
Basically, we can divide handhelds into vertical and horizontal models. Vertical means that the controls are below the screen. The screen itself is still of horizontal ratio, to fit the scale of most games. Vertical machines work well even with one hand, convenient when your other hand is occupied. All the machines we will introduce today are listed in order of their size, from small to big.
The classic Game Boy released in 1989 definitely inspires New BittBoy’s design. Does the New BittBoy look like a cute mini Game Boy to you? Though we can’t insert cartridges into the machine, it still leaves a space at the backside that seems like a cartridge slot. You can reminisce about the good old days with its retro-look. It’s a machine that can be easily held by one hand. And being the smallest among the vertical machines we will introduce today, it’s not recommended for big hands.
LDK Game looks smaller than BittBoy, but it’s a little wider and thicker, with a bigger 2.6-inch screen. Game Boy is also the inspiration for it and it adds a pair of L/R buttons. The rainbow buttons make sure players won’t be bored by its minimalist design. As for the shells, it has three color matches: black, yellow and clear. We think it’s a wonderful gift for kids or your friends, with bright colors and portable size.
We can’t tell how much machines Game Boy has inspired! RG300 is one of them, too. It has a 3.0-inch screen, a little bigger than LDK Game. It has a grey and clear black color match, with rainbow crystal ABXY buttons which adds more color. Personally, I don’t like the rainbow buttons for they make the device look cheaper. What I really like are its shoulder buttons, which lies on two-fifths of the device and makes it handier to press the shoulder buttons while controlling the front buttons. Such a thoughtful and ergonomic design.
The boxy minimalist design makes it doesn’t look much like a traditional game console. The screen is sharp and a 3.5-inch IPS is a joy to play with. Its 6 action buttons are inspired by SEGA Genesis. Even the d-pad is minimalist, like those on the iPod Nano, but PowKiddy has since offered upgrades listening to user feedback. It’s the only machine with an analog stick in the vertical devices we’ve talked about so far.
Horizontal machines are mainstream and offer abundant choices of models. The physical buttons are separated on both sides of the screen. You have to hold horizontally with both hands to play the games. This kind of layout enables you to stretch your fingers ergonomically during gameplays to a great extent.
Super portable and cute, PocketGo’s size reminds us of early Nokia phones that can be easily tucked into our pockets. Unlike the smallest New BittBoy among the vertical list, it’s small but at the same time comes with a pair of shoulder buttons. It’s the kind of machine you can lie on the couch and play without fears to have it hit on your face. Also, not friendly for big hands. Even small hands like mine might get cramps when playing for a long time. With a 2.4-inch IPS screen, small texts are hard to read for some.
LDK Landscape is the horizontal version of the LDK game, a little bit larger but we reckon this quite portable too. Color selections, the screen, and other buttons remain the same as the vertical one. But it adds a joystick on that basis.
PowKiddy Q90 is a little bit larger than LDK Landscape, with an also bigger 3.0-inch IPS screen. There are two color choices, transparent shell and turquoise. Interestingly, the latter color makes it a mini knock-off of Nintendo Switch Lite, even with the “plus” and “minus” buttons too! But there’s only one joystick. In the clear shell, it looks exactly like LDK Landscape… But the corners are a bit more rounded.
PocketGo 2, or New PocketGo is an upgraded and bigger version of PocketGo. It adds a joystick compares to PG. We can enjoy its same NES color match with upgraded features and size. It doesn’t look that big, but it’s only a little bit smaller than the RG350, with the same sized 3.5-inch IPS screen. We think it’s more portable than the RG350.
RG350 has four color options, including two clear shells. Its shell is made of plastic, but the build quality is quite good and feels hefty. It has double shoulder buttons and dual Switch joystick. Well, I guess two is better than one. It’s OK to put it in your pocket, just the joysticks are a little bit tall, so it won’t slide into your pocket too smoothly.
Where are metal fans? We’re not talking about music genres, we talking handheld textures here. RG350m is an upgrade of RG350, with three metal color options. Some might have gripes with metal shells saying it increases the cost of a machine. But metal frames do make a device look premium and increase its durability to some extent. For me, I would say this kind of shells offers me a sense of security coming from nowhere. Maybe it’s because if I bring it with me on the street it can act as a weapon for safety purposes. Compared to its plastic version, it increases the resolution. Joystick changes its place with the d-pad and becomes low-profile. The device also adds a pair of rubber grips.
GKD350H has a very lightweight plastic body compared to the RG350. It adds more personality by offering five color options, three of them are transparent. The downside is that many people think it looks like a toy because of its cheap plastic shell. The joystick cap is concave, reminds us of the design on Nintendo 3DS XL. Bummer that it has only a pair of L/R buttons.
Metal fans assemble again! GKD350H also has an upgrade metal version, even all buttons and joystick are metal. It has two color matches, red and gold color match makes it so Iron Man. This time GKD’s equipped with two pairs of shoulder buttons and still one joystick. The overall design is very minimalist. It’s about the same weight as the RG350m, but it’s not as comfortable to hold as the RG350m.
Meet this big guy, Subor Q900, the largest screen of all the machines introduced today, with a 7-inch LCD screen. LCD means you can only view the screen from certain angles and that bugs me sometimes. It comes with two pairs of shoulder buttons, two Switch joysticks, and an appearance of the MP4 player. I won’t want to carry such a huge machine with me. Other devices can all be put into your pocket easily, but Q900, we suggest you keep this big friend at home.
After introducing two common models, let’s look at the more niche ones. They are not as common as the former two, but worth noting if you want to have a broader understanding of the handheld models.
GPD XD PLUS
GPD XD Plus’s clamshell design ensures its 5-inch IPS screen from scratches while keeping the machine size smaller. It’s hard not to think of an e-dictionary and Nintendo 3DS when seeing it. It’s even a touchscreen! It’s not lightweight, but foldable, which makes it portable and suitable for all kinds of situations.
Retro Miniature Arcade Game Console
Retro Miniature Arcade Game Console is so cute and we almost love at first sight. It drags you back to the days when you played games in the arcade right after school. It is designed to simulate how you play on an arcade machine. It has a tilted 3-inch screen, one analog stick and ABXY buttons. Red, white and blue color match shell with rainbow color action buttons make it a perfect retro gift and a decoration.
Today, we introduced how to choose the mainstream models from their form factor, to offer you an easy angle to cut in. Personally, I don’t like it too extreme. A small device is certainly portable, but with a small body, its screen is too small for your eyes too. I prefer New PocketGo, moderate in weight and can be easily tucked into my pocket. Although it has only one color option for the shell, I like its nostalgic color match.
Having said that, we just want to show you a possible direction for selecting handhelds. Choosing a suitable machine is a personal issue because we don’t know what “suitable” could possibly mean to you! Your choice may be in favor of a certain historical machine, maybe it’s because you like the size, maybe your hands are too big to play with small machines, maybe you don’t care about the shape, the colors and that, etc. Of course, we can’t just pick whatever device we like based on how it looks. Considering other factors like price, configurations, and emulations is essential. We will talk about them in our future blogs.
|Forms||Models||Size (mm)||Resolution and Screen||Shell Color match||L/R buttons (pair)||Analog Stick||Design Element|
|Vertical||New BittBoy||68 x 99 x 13||320×240 2.4″ IPS||grey||×||×||Game Boy|
|Vertical||LDK Game||76 x 88 x 17||320×240 2.6″ TFT||crystal black / crystal clear / yellow||1||×||Game Boy|
|Vertical||RG300||119 x 82 x 25||320×240 3.0″ TFT||grey / crystal black||1||×||Game Boy|
|Vertical||PowKiddy A19||140 x 90 x 20||640×480 3.5″ IPS||yellow / white / blue||×||1||minimalist|
|Horizontal||PocketGo||123 x 56 x 14||320×240 2.4″ IPS||grey and white||1||×||NES / SNES|
|Horizontal||LDK Landscape||129 x 88 x 17||320×240 2.6″ TFT||crystal black / crystal clear / yellow||1||1||?|
|Horizontal||PowKiddy Q90||145 x 73 x 14||320×240 3.0″ IPS||turquoise / crystal clear||1||1||NS Lite|
|Horizontal||PocketGo 2||138 x 75 x 15||320×240 3.5″ IPS||grey and white||1||1||NES / SNES|
|Horizontal||RG350||145 x 73 x 14||320×240 3.5″ IPS||crystal black / crystal clear / grey / black and orange||2||2||NS sticks|
|Horizontal||RG350m||145 x 73 x 14||640×480 3.5″ IPS||space grey / rose gold||2||2||NS sticks|
|Horizontal||GKD350H||150 x 75 x 20||320×240 3.5″ IPS||crystal blue / crystal black / crystal clear / yellow / grey||1||1||Nintendo 3DS XL stick cap|
|Horizontal||GKD350H metal||150 x 75 x 20||320×240 3.5″ IPS||silver / red and gold||2||1||Nintendo 3DS XL stick cap|
|Horizontal||Subor Q900||235 x 110 x 15||1080×680 7″ LCD||black||2||2||NS|
|Clamshell||GPD XD PLUS||155 x 89 x 24||1280×720 5″ IPS||black||2||2||Nintendo 3DS|
|Mini Arcade||Retro Miniature Arcade Game Console||117 x 90 x 85||320×240 3″ TFT||blue, white and red||×||1||Arcade machine|