If you have been keeping an eye on reviews of Subor Q400, you will notice its “little” brother Subor Q900 is a bigger version of it. Players would quickly spot the trace of Nintendo Switch in Q900 — by how it looks, not how it feels. When you pick it up from the box, you will immediately notice the only similarity it shares with a Switch is its size.
Unclothe its massive look, Q900 is an RK3128 chipped handheld runs on Linux, which means it has a 1.3GHz Quad-Core Cortex A7 SoC to ensure its performance in, as it is said, up to 40 emulations. The presence of L/R buttons and dual analog sticks enables you to have better PS1 titles controlling, but you won’t be expecting a completely fluent performance in all games due to a limited CPU. All this $80 handheld can do is to haul you back to your childhood adventure through its massive screen.
How it looks
It’s hard to hold my thoughts on connecting Q900 to a gray Nintendo Switch. It could have grown bigger, or smaller, but with a 7” screen the same as that of Switch, it looks just like a Switch knock-off. I thought it was my misconception, but the Q900 feels more clumsy than a Switch. It turns out that Switch is 102 x 239 x 13.9 mm in length, width, and height, while Q900 is 110 x 235 x 15 mm. That determines Q900 a thicker device that’s longer in length and shorter in width. On visual effect, it appears to be broader when Switch is visually slimmer.
Build Quality and Controls
The overall build quality is reliable for a handheld at this price. It’s wrapped in matte black plastic and has two bumps on the backside to increase the friction when you hold the machine. Being rounded off at the edges, it is designed to accord with ergonomics. I would find the control board more comfortable if they make it broader. Players with big hands might have gripes with it. With the current size, the layout of controls seem to be crowded. Shoulder buttons feel stiff, I’m not into this kind of touch. It’s worth mentioning that it supports HDMI, but a mini one. If you find the 7” screen doesn’t meet your demand, you could also play your games on a much bigger TV screen.
Do dual analog sticks remind you of RG350? Yeah, they both adopt the same rubber-wrapped Switch analogs. As most of the players are familiar with this kind of analogs so we won’t introduce much. Rubber texture makes sure your thumbs hold on to the sticks while it functions, as well as ensuring the control flexibility.
Without the crystal rainbow ABXY buttons spicing things up, this all-in-black machine would be terribly dull. However, it is these crystal buttons that lowers the level of the whole device. It’s yelling “cheap plastic” at you and according to some users, the buttons can easily get scratched. Aside from that, the crystal d-pad feels less responsive and sometimes I have trouble in direction turning.
It’s hard to beat around the bush and not talking about how big its screen is. 7” screen is quite tempting, with a resolution of 1080 x 680 it seems to be with high definition — until you run 8 or 16-bit titles on it. You are playing them with a bigger screen, indeed, but in a stretched version. Pixels can clearly be observed on the screen.
Actually, the speaker is one of the specialties of this device. You can enjoy a perfect surround effect in common space even if you forget to bring your earphones with you. But, did I not mention the placement of it? It’s right on the bump where your fingers get hold of the machine. Unless your ear grows on your hands, otherwise the sound effect would just be covered and reduced.
I’m quite curious about how the big screen would affect its battery life. Equipped with a 4000mAh battery, it is advertised that it could last for 4 – 6 hours depending on different usage of the device. I’ve been playing it on several titles for 1 – 2 hours and the battery drops to 50%. Also, you will feel an obvious temperature rise in it when playing at a full speed for a few minutes.
You can’t change the proportion to adapt different games, which means you have to shoot down the planes within a huge screen. The game experience of shooting games drops off dramatically on this machine. It’s nice to have a huge screen, but trust me, you don’t want one when you’re playing Raiden. Flying from the left side of the screen to the right is pretty inflexible, and the d-pad isn’t very sensitive — you’ll often turn to the other direction, or simply stay put because you’re pressing on the other direction at the same time.
To my relief, Q900 delivers a solid performance in emulations. Q900 comes with a few built-in games, mostly NES and SNES games. It also supports a 32GB TF card in which you could store your ROMs. I’ve been playing on several FC, GBA, NES and MAME titles, they all run smoothly without any frozen. I guess that’s the most you could expect from an open-source handheld like this. Game running gets slower when the frequency of animation effect in your games increases. This may due to the limitation of its core. Also, screen tearing and dropped frames will be spotted occasionally when you play some PS1 titles like Tekken.
We’ve discussed a few flaws about Q900, mainly on its button designs and screen display. But they won’t be obstacles if you can live with them.
Should I purchase it?
Simply put, it’s rather a middle-of-the-road product if you pursue an extreme experience on a bigger screen but with a limited budget. Don’t judge a book by its cover — similarly, don’t get confused just by Q900’s Switch like appearance. It may be a knock-off, but not in a bad way. It’s almost the biggest screen we can spot among retro handheld market with a solid performance. With HDMI supported, you can even enjoy your games on your TV. But to note that, as we said before, its d-pad limits your flexibility and big screen might cause a quick loss on battery. If you ain’t a fan of big screen (especially it’s not an absolute HD screen), go for its brother Q400 which offers identical performance in games with a smaller screen. Or, if you’re in love with dual Switch joy-sticks, RG350 or the new RG350m is your better choice.
Rating by dimension
- Build quality 7.5
- Controls 6.5
- Screen 6.5
- Battery life 6.5
- CPU 7
- Emulation 7.5
|Size (mm)||110 x 235 x 15|
|Resolution||1080 x 680|
|Supporting games||NES, GBA, MD, SFC, MAME and more|
|Powering||5V / 1A|
|Expansion||64GB TF card supported|
|Speaker||Dual stereo speakers|
|Operating Temp||-40℃ to 85℃|
|Unique Features||Supporting video, music and pictures reading
Supporting HDMI output
Reliable game performance
Dual Switch analog sticks
Fantastic stereo speakers
Speakers are covered when holding the machine
|Final word||A moderate device with a big screen|