After some teaser spreading over the community, PowKiddy V90 is out in the wild. It’s a clamshell design palm-sized machine looking a lot like a GBA SP, colors can be chosen from “lemon yellow” and “brocade carp red (aka. orange)”. The GBA SP lovers show great interest in this machine. Clamshell handheld with solid performance is rarely seen nowadays, it’s such a joy to replenish player’s demanding glass. And, it’s only $40, fairly affordable compared to a mint condition GBA SP. Whether you have owned the original GBA SP or not, you might want to take a sip of this wine of reminiscence.
Before you go bottoms up, below are some key specs of PowKiddy V90.
|CPU||AllWinner F1C100S ARM9|
|Resolution||320 x 240|
|Speaker||1W x 2|
|Shoulder Buttons||L1, L2, R1, R2|
|Emulator supported||Game Boy
Game Boy Advance
Sega Game Gear
Sega Master System
Sega Mega Drive
V90 shares the same AllWinner F1C100S ARM9 based hardware with New BittBoy, PocketGo, and PowKiddy Q90. That makes it house the same OS Linux based NxHope. Unfortunately, it’s a closed-source system. V90 has a 3” IPS screen with a 320 x 240 resolution, the same as Q90. It is said that the battery can last for 4 hours, which seems like an average capacity.
It claims to support 15 major emulators, here we only list some of them.
How it Looks
The build quality is far from what it was for the original GBA SP, which is reasonable at this price. The thin plastic shell makes it weigh super light in hands.
Control & Layout
Like the GBA SP, there is a switch and volume control on the sides of the machine. Below the switch is the TF card slot on which OS and Roms are stored. The volume is adjusted on a roller.
One more pair of shoulder buttons is added compared to the GBA SP. The shoulder buttons are small and since they are close to each other, it’s not so easy to press on. But you know what? My instinct is telling me that I won’t be using the shoulder buttons that much.
Connections include a type-C Charging port and a 3.5mm audio input, both at the bottom of the device.
Unfold the machine, and you will get a satisfying clicky sound whenever you flip the lid.
The control layout of V90 is identical to a GBA SP. But GBA SP places its buttons lower than the shell to protect the buttons, whereas V90 only uses the height difference in the screen to make sure the buttons fit.
Really not much to talk about the d-pad. It looks like an LDK one, only a little tighter than that.
The speakers are placed down on either side of the panel.
How it Plays
I see some people in the community saying that games will have screen tearings due to hardware defects in V90. I can confirm that what they said is true. Because it shares the same hardware with PocketGo, Q90, and New BittBoy, their game performance is probably the same. You won’t expect any improvements in V90. No surprises there.
Besides, this pocket machine is tiny and the d-pad is tight, it’s tiresome to play just for a while. There is some delay in the fighting game.
Though V90 supports many other emulators, I think it’s best for GBA games. Otherwise, what would I expect from a GBA SP clone?
To be honest, I’m surprised by a GBA SP clone being capable of PS1 games, except that the screen tearing is a bit obvious. V90 just maxes out when playing 3D games, but totally handles 2D ones. Although we know the original PlayStation controller doesn’t have a joystick, it’s not very flexible when we can only control the direction using a d-pad.
Should I purchase it?
Mainstream handhelds nowadays are candybar, which makes clamshells a rare bird.
The development cost of the clamshell is definitely increased, and the current price of $40 is the same as that of Q90, so I think this price is quite reasonable.
For a machine that can play low-demanding PS1 games, an extra pair of shoulder buttons guarantee the game experience. Just missing a joystick to play the PS1 would be a pity. But we don’t need to force a GBA SP clone to have the function of PS1, I guess? For a GBA SP clone, V90 is very identical to the original one, while is capable of supporting several emulators at the same time. So its greatest significance is actually to provide a relatively cheap option for GBA SP nostalgia, as well as being a nifty concoction. And the clamshell form factor does fit the commuting needs of city dwellers, with a palm-sized body easily tucked into a bag and a screen not too small.
That leads us to the ultimate question: should you buy it? If you have owned any of the following: PocketGo, or PowKiddy Q90, or New BittBoy, and have had enough of them, then no. You won’t discover any surprises in PowKiddy V90. But if you haven’t owned any, or you are really into a flip handheld, $40 is definitely a good bet.
Pros and Cons
|Pro||GBA SP form factorPortable Cost-effective|
|Con||Poor build qualityUnderpowered chip|
|Final words||An affordable and promising GBA SP clone|