The Analogue Pocket is hands down one of the most anticipated consoles of 2021. Yes it had a rough start with pre-orders, then the constant push back of release dates due to chip shortages and the effects of the pandemic, but it’s finally here, and it looks like they have opened the doors to new orders.
Lucky for us we’ve had this sample unit in for a few weeks, and i’d love to share my opinions on it because although it’s a dang good handheld, it still has some areas that needs working on and the forever growing emulation market is looming in the background ready to take a piece of Analogue’s pie.
So, grab a cup of tea and let’s jump into this and see if it’s one of the best upcoming handhelds of 2021/22.
As soon as I took the Analogue Pocket out of the box my first reaction was “wow, this is big and much heavier than I predicted”. It has this premium weight to it due to the large 4300mah battery and a stunning 3.5” LCD display with a ppi of 615 which is incredibly crisp.
Like many of Analogue‘s products they have stuck to the minimal look both externally and within the OS, this again gives it a premium vibe, even if some would say it looks plain. But for me personally, less is more when it comes to games consoles.
The display is covered with high end gorilla glass that sticks slightly out of the shell, giving it full protection from drops.
This sized handheld alongside the weighty nature of the device means that when dropped it’s likely to cause some damage, it’s not going to simply shrug off frequent bumps and scratches unlike the screen. I actually fear the day I drop it due to the sheer weight of it.
Around the screen you will find some pretty hefty black bezels alongside a tiny Analogue Pocket logo. For me, I’m not a fan of large bezels, they make handhelds look old and outdated, so if we were to see an Analogue Pocket 2, I would love to see thinner bezels, or even a bezel-less screen for that matter. But this is just a personal preference!
Below that you will find very minimal action buttons, two of them are con-caved allowing the player to feel the difference when playing fast paced games. This was a nice little touch from the team.
The DPAD is very nice, has soft touch feedback and works well when playing fighting games due to the slight movement within the case. Below that are your start and select buttons alongside a home button which brings up the system settings when in game. This has a small analogue logo on it for detail.
Now around the sides you will find a classic Gameboy trading port which does work, so you can trade your Pokemon like the good old days, a USB-C port for charging and docking, a headphone jack and a small LED light at the bottom.
Moving around to the left you will find your pastel green on/off button alongside your very very small volume buttons.
Here I found myself trying to press the volume down and then accidentally putting my Pocket to sleep. The buttons feel nearly identical so at night it’s almost a guessing game as to what you’re about to press. I would have liked the volume buttons to be bigger and designed differently so I could tell them apart from the on/off switch.
I’m surprised this passed Analogue’s quality checks because it’s so easily done, and now when playing I have to actually pause the game to then look at the buttons when wanting to change volume.
On either side you will also find your speaker grills which have been perfectly placed on either side out of the way of your fingers. The sound is great, and feels nostalgic plus it gets pretty loud too for those of you that like to get really immersed or to annoy your partner, either or!
Oh and there’s an SD card on the side for loading firmware and using it with Analogue’s Library and Memory modes which are not yet available on this review sample. We will update our written article once these are available in update Version 1.1.
For those of you that want to know more about Library and Memory, check out Analogue’s website they give you an insight. They’re quite simply a place to store and preserve data about the games alongside screenshots and other forms of media.
Now moving onto the back you’ll immediately see the very large cartridge slot which has no sides to keep the cartridges stable. This slot can play your Gameboy, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance games naturally, but you’ll need these adapters to play other cartridges such as Game Gear, Atari Lynx and Neo Geo Games.
At times I did have some trouble with this cartridge slot, because the cartridges only slot into the console about a few millimetres deep, so if the cartridge is slightly knocked at the top it has the potential to freeze your game and disconnects it from the console.
This happened on occasion and I learned very quickly to be a bit more careful when playing with it, but at times I have placed the console down and suddenly been shocked about it disconnecting and losing my save file.
To counter this, make sure your cartridges are clean, slotted perfectly into the console and placed carefully down when you’re having a break.
Finally next to the cartridge slot you will find your high quality trigger buttons which are slightly springy, have a clicky touch to it and rest your fingers nicely when playing Gameboy Advance games. Sometimes shoulder buttons can make or break a handheld, but Analogue has done a great job with these, and they sit flush with the shell too.
Overall looks wise I am very pleased with how the Analogue Pocket is designed.
It’s sleek, modern, feels good in the hands and even though there are some very minor flaws it feel like a product that the customer can be proud of owning and a handheld that will sit high in our best retro handhelds list.
They haven’t cut corners, every button, and every piece of technology has been perfectly placed to add to the overall gaming experience all while paying respects to the older Gameboys. For example, the back of the Analogue Pocket has featured the classic grill look that was introduced on the original Gameboy DMG back in 1989.
Plus the overall weight and thickness of the Analogue Pocket reminds me of the original Gameboy, it really is a thick, weighty handheld that feels somewhat nostalgic to hold.
But this exact reason does give me concerns about the potential longevity of the device should it be dropped or thrown in a backpack. It at times feels fragile, but this is something I have to test for months to come, so i’ll keep you updated.
Analogue Operating System
This is the first look at AnalogueOS, an operating system that the Analogue team plan on implementing into older and newer consoles. It’s a simple, intuitive, black and white OS that makes the handheld feel simple, when in fact it’s quite the opposite.
The menu is simple to understand, easy to navigate and even easier to tweak the settings for different consoles. This combined makes it easy to play with on the fly, and makes playing around with the device incredibly efficient.
However, for some this may lack character, and gives the handheld a monotone look. There’s no real way to customise your OS as of yet, so it’s either a simple black and white look or a simple black and white look.
But for me this allows you to pay more attention to what actually matters. The games. Analogue are somewhat forcing you to dive deep into your game collection without being distracted by its operating system and this weird psychological effect actually works, I found myself wanting to play rather than float around the menus.
When you insert a cartridge the first thing it wants you to do is play that cartridge. When you’re done playing you can actually switch games on the go, all you need to do is exit game, switch cartridges and then select Play Cartridge to get right back into a new game.
All of this can be done in just a few seconds, making it all feel very seamless. The same goes for the settings, when in game a simple press of the home button will up your settings tab, here you can dive deep into your systems settings, for example changing the display mode which allows you to switch between modern and nostalgic visual settings, you can change the size to stretch it your needs, and even destaurate, sharpen and brighten the screen.
Analogue have really gone for the whole less is more design aspect both visually and internally. It makes you concentrate on the incredible era that these cartridges were released, and that in itself deserves a lot of respect.
They’ve cut the BS, and instead made playing with cartridges feel like the good ol’ days.
Analogue Pocket Gameplay Quality
In terms of gameplay quality, it’s quite literally flawless, and that’s all down to the FPGA technology they use.
There’s no emulation here, the chips and technology used within the Analogue Pocket is designed to be as close as possible to the original hardware, making the cartridges think it’s being run by Gameboys.
This in itself makes gameplay feel like you’re playing on the real deal, but oh no, it has far much more to offer for example, the accessories for the Pocket opens up a whole new world.
And because of the large battery capacity in the Analogue Pocket it has enough battery life to last up to 8 hours of gameplay, allowing you to play for days on a single charge without the worry of it dieing.
This is a handheld that I could play on for hours on end, due to the sheer size adult hands will feel comfortable holding this thing. My index fingers rested perfectly on the shoulder buttons and the quick, responsive sleep function is incredible, allowing you to pause for a few hours and then pick up and play in seconds without draining the battery life.
This was another one of my favourite functions of the Analogue Pocket, it just works seamlessly, with impressive load times.
Should You Buy Analogue Pocket Accessories?
The most valuable of their accessories has to be the Analogue Pocket Dock, this allows you to quite simply dock your Pocket into a HDTV with the added ability to sync up to four bluetooth controllers. We recommend the 8BitDo Pro 2 controller.
This is a huge feature and if I had to be honest it’s silly to not buy the dock as it opens up a whole new way of playing your Gameboy games. The Dock itself is very minimal, it’s lowkey, well designed and docks your Pocket very easily.
The dock is what features the bluetooth connectivity, and it even has two USB ports for when you want to connect older wired controllers. It fits with the whole Analogue Pocket feel, and even though the dock isn’t a game changer in terms of technology it makes the Pocket feel less like a handheld and more like a console.
But if you want the dock, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it, and don’t forget you’ll need a bluetooth controller to go with it.
Now moving onto another one of Analogue’s ingenious and expensive accessories, the cartridge adapters. Currently we only have the Game Gear adapter in to test, but it’s going to be very similar to the Atari Lynx and Neo Geo adapters.
These adapters are again, very well made, and feature that minimal sleek transparent look. There’s nothing crazy about these adapters, they do what they’re intended to do and allow you to simply play other game consoles through the handheld.
Again just like normal cartridges be sure not to aggressively bump it, or you may find it will disconnect. The gameplay is again flawless, and we had very little problems with visuals and audio quality.
They create other accessories like a travel case, screen protectors and a bunch of cables should you want to trade with friends or dive deeper into the Nanoloop software.
Most of the accessories are great, and we highly advise picking up the Dock to really make most of the console, but i have to admit, once you snag the console and some accessories you soon realise how expensive this handheld can get, and that’s without the ever growing price of the retro games market.
Can you load a Flash Cart into this thing, yes, after testing you can, but I wouldn’t rely on that, Analogue are respected for trying to preserve gaming history and I can imagine a simple firmware update would make a flash drive impossible to use, so only go for this if you have or plan on buying cartridges.
This is a product for handheld enthusiasts who are happy to spend a pretty penny on a console that somewhat preserves gaming history. It’s definitely not an affordable handheld, far from it in fact.
It’s a premium, high end console that comes with a premium, high end price tag.
Is it worth it in my opinion? For me personally yes, because I already have a large cartridge collection and I am extremely passionate about handheld, but for an average consumer who doesn’t have a huge budget nor has any cartridges to play on maybe not, because it’s going to cost you a pretty penny to play on.
But I promise you when you take this out of the box you are going to feel like a kid at Christmas. The build quality is phenomenal, the FPGA technology works flawlessly and it really makes you feel like cartridges are making a comeback, like the good old days.
I love the Analogue Pocket, and I love what it stands for. There’s some minor things that could have been tweaked to make the handheld flawless like the volume buttons, the not so deep cartridge slot and the large screen bezels but I always tell myself perfection doesn’t exist.
Hopefully in the coming months Analogue can better prepare itself with customers and orders and take the unprofessional pre-order process of the pass as a sign to do better. Their products are incredible, but at times the way they deal with things from a customer’s perspective is not so much.
But that said, they have delivered a phenomenal product that I will be using for years to come, and that deserves my utmost respect. If you’re interested in us comparing it to other handhelds then make sure to check our article about the Analogue Pocket VS Modded Gameboy VS Handheld Emulator!
Retro handheld gaming just got cool again. Thanks, Analogue.
Does The Analogue Pocket Work With Flash Carts?
Yes, the Analogue Pocket works with flash carts, we have tested it with the EZ-Flash for Gameboy Advance.
Does The Analogue Pocket Work With Rumble Packs?
Yes, the Analogue Pocket works with rumble packs, we have tested it with Pokemon Pinball.
Analogue Pocket Release Date
The Analogue Pocket was officially released on the 13th December 2021.
Analogue Pocket Pricing
The Analogue Pocket retails for $199. It can also be purchased with accessories.
Analogue Pocket Alternative?
A 29 year old fella that’s had a Gameboy addiction ever since he was a child. Brandon is the founder of RetroDodo and created a YouTube channel with 240,000 subscribers dedicated to retro gaming products. He now wants to create the No.1 site to showcase the latest retro products from around the globe.