The Best Handheld Retro Console in 2022

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Classic gaming, but on-the-go? It’s more likely than you’d think. Check out this list of five of our best handheld retro consoles to give your portable play sessions a nostalgic flair.

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

A Handheld Retro Console?

The market for handheld retro consoles has begun to boom in recent years. The ability to play hundreds, if not thousands of games on a specially crafted device for them has mass appeal. They make an excellent gift for a child, allowing older gamers to share the classics with the new generation. They also make great gifts for older geeks, allowing them to relieve the nostalgia of their early gaming days.

Whoever it’s intended for, and whatever the reason, the fact remains that these devices are becoming increasingly popular. So we’ve compiled a list to help you get started and truly find a handheld retro console that is best for you.


The Best Handheld Retro Console

1. Retroid Pocket 2 Plus

The Retroid Pocket 2 was a fairly popular handheld retro console for the time period in which it was released. The Retroid Pocket 2 Plus is an iteration on that model that features improved performance across the board. In our opinion, it’s one of the best handheld retro consoles on the market currently.

Featuring an improved SoC, a Unisoc Tiger T310 SoC, the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus brings with it a number of performance improvements that allow it to comfortably play an even wider variety of retro games. Including those on platforms that were previously too difficult to emulate.

On top of the raw performance improvements, the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus also features improved buttons with more travel, providing a more comfortable experience.

To learn more about the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus, we encourage you to check out our Retroid Pocket 2 Plus review!

What we like!

  • Emulates faster
  • More built in storage
  • WiFi 5G supported
  • New faster processor

What we dislike…

  • Takes a while to set everything up
  • Not user friendly for beginners

2. Miyoo Mini

The Miyoo Mini is a relative newcomer to the retro handheld console scene. What immediately stands out is that it is very pocketable measuring 2.55 x 3.68 x 0.70 inches (6.5 x 9.35 x 1.8 cm) and weighing 110 grams. 

Powering the Miyoo Mini is an ARM Cortex-A7 dual core with a frequency up to 1.2GHz. There’s 128MB RAM which is plenty for the operating system and the console emulators it supports. The amazing looking display is a 2.8″ IPS display with a 640×480 resolution, perfect for retro gaming!

The default OS runs well enough but it does struggle a bit with PlayStation emulation. However the Onion OS CFW (Custom Firmware) is an excellent replacement and allows for full speed PlayStation emulation. And the price is around less than half the price of other handhelds, its a real bargain and very portable!

To learn more about the Miyoo Mini, you can read our full Miyoo Mini review, or buy the Miyoo Mini here.

What we like!

  • Perfect for daily commute
  • Low price
  • The 640×480 2.8″ display looks amazing
  • Easy to use Operating System
  • Easy to replace battery

What we dislike…

  • Need to install a CFW to get the best out of the handheld.

3. RG552

Leading the fourth generation of handheld retro consoles is the ANBERNIC RG552. The latest option from ANBERNIC, a manufacturer of many popular handhelds.

The RG552, being a new generation of handheld, features more powerful specifications than it’s 351-series’ predecessors. With a Rockchip RK3399 System-on-a-Chip. This SoC features a hexa-core processor with a maximum frequency of 1.80GHz, as well as 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM (that’s four times as much RAM as the 351-series’).

This performance bump allows the RG552 to handle many platforms that the previous generation could not (Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast, DS, etc.) as well as become better at the platforms that were more flaky (N64, PSP, etc.).

The real highlight of the RG552 is its large display. Sizing up at approximately 5.36 inches, and with a hefty (yet unusual) resolution of 1920 x 1152. This display is touch-capable. And the 5:3 aspect ration does not perfectly suit widescreen (16:9) or standard (4:3/3:2) games, but instead finds a decent compromise between the two.

Other staples of the previous generation also remain in place, such as the twin-microSD card design. A key difrentatior here however is the inclusion of internal eMMC storage. Pre-loaded with an Android 7 installation. That’s right, the RG552 runs Android!

EmulationStation fans fret not however, as it is still possible to easily run alternative operating systems (perhaps you may even be interested in trying out some of the RG552 Custom Firmware!)

Long-missed features also make their return, with the inclusion of a mini-HDMI port on the roof of the device.

You can learn more about the RG552 and what it brings to the table in our RG552 review.

What we like!

  • High-quality, high-resolution display.
  • Runs both Android and Linux-based OSes
  • The HDMI port returns!
  • 5:3 aspect ratio is a good midpoint between 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2.
  • Comfortable buttons.

What we dislike…

  • Price-to-Performance ratio isn’t the greatest.
  • Ergonomics start to falter at the larger size
  • GBA emulation no longer pixel-perfect (a trade-off of having a 4:3 display).

4. RG351MP

ANBERNIC’s RG351MP takes the first place on our list of handheld retro consoles. Being the latest entry in a long-running line of devices and the logical conclusion to the third generation of handhelds.

The centerpiece of the RG351MP is not one single aspect of it, but rather the multitude of aspects it incorporates. It features the 4:3, 640x480p IPS display of the RG351V, combined with the metal shell of the RG351M. It also retains the twin microSD-slot design of the RG351V, making it easy to manage your firmware and games separately.

For many, this was “the” handheld they were waiting for in the third generation. And if you’re considering purchasing your first handheld retro console, it would be difficult to find something better than the RG351MP on the market currently.

The only points we really have to dock for the RG351MP is the lack of built-in Wi-Fi. This means that you will require an external dongle to perform network related tasks.

Onto the performance aspect of the RG351MP – The RG351MP makes use of the RK3326 SoC (System-on-a-Chip), with 1GB of RAM. This allows the system to handle the vast majority of Playstation 1 games, as well as anything older, with near perfect performance. However, once you go beyond the PS1 (i..e, N64 and PSP), it starts becoming a “game-by-game” type of experience. With some running great, and others not so much.

What we like!

  • ANBERNIC’s quality control is on full display. With buttons that have just the right amount of squishiness to them, and a retro handheld with a clean finish.
  • Dual microSD card slots make game and OS management a breeze.
  • 480p, 4:3 display provides stretch-free visuals in a huge number of platforms.

What we dislike…

  • No internal wi-fi is a bummer…
  • No real performance improvement over previous models.
  • GBA emulation no longer pixel-perfect (a trade-off of having a 4:3 display)

For more on this amazing handheld, check out our RG351MP review for more info. You can also purchase an RG351MP from DroiX today!


5. Retroid Pocket 2

The Retroid Pocket 2 takes the second place on our list. As a handheld retro console, it is certainly one of the best you’ll be able to find on the market right now. It does however have it’s caveats that one should be aware of.

We’ll start with the positives however! The Retroid Pocket 2 is one of the few handhelds within the “third generation” that runs Android instead of a Linux-based distribution. To be specific, it runs Android 6 for the stock OS, but an official upgrade to Android 8.1 does exist.

Running Android means that the Retroid Pocket 2 has immediate access to a bevy of matured, feature rich emulators for numerous platforms. So beyond the initial procurement of (legally obtained) games, there is not much in the way of setup

The only thing we’re not the most fond of though is the buttons. All of the buttons present on the Retroid Pocket 2 are digital. Meaning that they are all very “clicky”. Do you know how when you press a button on most game controllers, there is a small distance that the button actually has to depress before an input is registered? That distance is almost instant on the Retroid Pocket 2.

This is ultimately a matter of preference however. On the other hand, digital buttons allow you to quickly and confidently input commands, vital for more fast-paced arcade and console games.

Unlike other handhelds in its “generation”, the Retroid Pocket 2 does not use the a RockChip SoC. Rather, it uses a quad-core Cortex-A7 SoC. The performance is very similar though, with no real notable difference (a frame or two here and there).

Retroid OS?

All Retroid Pocket 2 devices also come with the unique “Retroid OS” operating system that runs concurrently alongside the regular Android installation. Retroid OS is a streamlined operating system designed exclusively for playing games, alongside having one or two other useful features.

While this is useful for those who do not have the time/effort to really set up a collection of emulators, we still prefer to use the regular Android installation when gaming on the Retroid Pocket 2.

RETROID Pocket 2 SNES Colour - Frontal Angled View
The Retroid Pocket 2 in it’s “Aged/Yellowed Plastic” American SNES colouration.

What we like!

  • Android provides access to a lot of matured emulators and other cool apps not possible on other devices.
  • A micro-HDMI port allows gaming on larger screens.
  • Loads of cool, fun colours to choose from.

What we dislike…

  • Digital buttons are a bit clicky for our taste.
  • The Android interface can be a bit sluggish.
  • Uses eMMC internal storage, so firmware (custom or not) is a bit more difficult to install.

For more on the Retroid Pocket 2, check out our Retroid Pocket 2 review, and don’t forget that you can buy a Retroid Pocket 2 from DroiX!


6. RG351V

In at third on the list is another ANBERNIC handheld – being the ANBERNIC RG351V, the most recent handheld retro console after the RG351MP.

The “V” in RG351V stands for one thing. Can you guess what it is based on, looking at the device itself?

If you guessed “vertical”, you’re correct! The ANBERNIC RG351V is another one of ANBERNIC’s attempts at producing a handheld with a vertically oriented design.

This also means that the display can no longer support the original 3:2 ratio. Instead, the screen has been upgraded to a 4:3 640x40p display. This is perfect for emulating the vast majority of retro consoles, as many were natively in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

The RG351V also marked a return to form, featuring the return of the twin microSD card layout. Making it easier than ever before to manage your firmware and games.

The RG351V features the same SoC as the other third-generation handhelds so, it is best suited for playing Playstation 1 games and earlier. With a handful of N64 and PSP games being playable too.

The absence of a second analogue stick is somewhat of a bummer, but very, very few games (that the system can emulate) even had native compatibility with the second analogue stick. So we can overlook that omission.

What we like!

  • The slightly taller hand position makes it a bit more comfortable for larger hands.
  • 4:3 display is really crisp and clear.
  • ANBERNIC’s signature build quality holds true, with good-feeling buttons, bumpers and triggers.

What we dislike…

  • Only one speaker, that will be covered by your hand.
  • No second analogue stick.

To get to know this vertical handheld retro console a little better, check out our RG351V review. You can also buy an RG351V from DroiX today!


7. Gameforce Chi

The GameForce Chi takes the spot of number four in our list of handheld retro consoles. It is also perhaps our most visually distinct device on this list.

In terms of aesthetics, the Gameforce Chi makes a bold statement, using bright, matte colours (at the time of writing, the available colours being Orange, Green and a “Tan” colour). The shape of the device also appears to be deliberately evocative of the popular Game Boy Advance handheld, with a somewhat oval-like silhouette.

What the Gameforce lacks in subtlety however, it makes up for in practicality and hand-feel. The unusual shape of the device makes the whole unit feels surprisingly ergonomic in the hand, allowing for more comfortable gaming sessions.

In all other aspects, the GameForce Chi is generally just a solid pick. The buttons feel decent, the screen (4:3 ratio, and 640x480p) is of a respectable quality. The speakers are of a good quality too.

The only thing we have to knock it for is a lack of volume wheel, and a lack of L3/R3 buttons. So snap volume adjustment is not all that intuitive.

What we like!

  • Unique, ergonomic design with bright, eye-catching colours.
  • High-quality 4:3 IPS display.
  • Backlit buttons are useful for gaming in the dark.

What we dislike…

  • No dedicated volume wheel/rockers.
  • Matte finish feels a little rough.
  • No L3/R3 buttons!

Check out our review to learn more about the GameForce Chi. You can also buy a GameForce Chi today from DroiX!


Honorary Mentions

In this section we’ll go over some older handhelds that aren’t quite recent enough to be called the best, but are still worth picking up if you can find them in stock.

RG351M

The RG351M is the fifth and final entry on our list of handheld retro consoles. Being the second member of the third generation of ANBERNIC handhelds.

It was initially poised as an upgrade to the original RG351P. Much like how the RG350M was to the RG350 in the pervious generation.

However, unlike the previous generation, the RG351M only bought a small handful of improvements to the table. Those being the introduction of a metal shell, and the presence of a functional internal Wi-Fi chip.

Despite the lowered amount of improvements however, the RG351M still made an excellent entry point into the world of handheld retro consoles thanks to it’s ease of use and affordable price-point

Unlike latter entries in the generation, the RG351M features a 3:2 display (480x320p), and only features a single microSD card slot. Meaning the operating system and games are on the same microSD card, but are also on separate partitions.

Much like the RG351MP and RG351V, the RG351M runs the same RockChip RK3326 SoC, and so expects the same performance in games overall. The 3:2 aspect ratio does lend itself better to Game Boy Advance games however, but will result in either black bars or stretched visuals on everything else.

What we like!

  • Metal shell underpins an overall sturdy “premium” feeling.
  • Functional built-in Wi-Fi!
  • Loads of cool, fun colours to choose from.

What we dislike…

  • Not much reason to upgrade if you already had an RG351P.
  • D-Pad can be somewhat stiff until “broken in”
  • 3:2 resolution means most games either need to stretch, or suffer black bars.

Check out our RG351M review to learn more, or check out DroiX, where you can buy an RG351M right now!


Round-Up

ModelProcessorDisplayOperating SystemPurchase Link
Retroid Pocket 2 PlusUnisoc Tiger T310; Quad-core @ 1.8GHz640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″Android 9.0Buy Now
MIYOO MINIARM Cortex-A7 dual core @ 1.2GHz640x480p; 4:3; 2.8″Custom (Linux based)Buy Now
ANBERNIC RG552RockChip RK3399; Hexa-core @ 1.8GHz 1920x1152p; 5:3; 5.36″Android 7.1 + Other (Linux-based)Buy Now
ANBERNIC RG351MPRockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″EmuELEC (Custom)Buy Now
Gameforce Chi RockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz 640x480p; 4:3; 3.45″EmuELEC (Official)Buy Now
Retroid Pocket 2 Cortex-A7; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz 640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″ Android 6.0 + RetroidOSBuy Now
ANBERNIC RG351V RockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz 640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″ EmuELEC (Custom) Buy Now
ANBERNIC RG351M RockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz 480×320; 3:2; 3.5″ EmuELEC (Custom) Buy Now
The Best Handheld Retro Console – Table

benjamin
Mild-mannered support agent by daylight; even milder-mannered tech blogger under cover of night. Fond of gaming, virtual reality, and sleeping; not necessarily in that order.
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Want to game in nostalgic style? Check out our list of the best handheld retro consoles to help you pick the perfect one!..Read full article

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