ANBERNIC RG Cube Review – The Perfect 1:1 Retro Handheld?

anbernic rg cube
Build Quality9
Emulation Performance7.5
OS & UX7.5

A fun niche retro handheld that feels incredibly well built with fancy modern features and a unique 1:1 display that works wonders with 4:3 games, however there is some areas that have passed the quality control team… as usual.

The rise of 1:1 retro gaming handhelds is here, this is an incredibly niche market, but one that manufacturers are taking full advantage of, and it’s the only good bit of innovation I’ve seen in this space this year… even if nobody really asked for it.

What’s sad is that this trend really started a while ago when a small community of makers revealed the ZPG Unicorn, a handheld crafted from lots of small ideas, showcasing a 1:1 display in a beautiful form factor.

But because this market is so aggressive, and the money is in quantity, not quality well known manufacturers decided to “innovate” and create their own as swiftly as possible, Powkiddy jumped on board with a 1:1 vertical called the RGB20SX and now ANBERNIC has created their own Android version which looks incredibly similar to the ZPG Unicorn.

Annoyingly, even though the RG Cube has certainly copied the Unicorn in many ways, it’s one of ANBERNIC’s better handhelds and one I know many of you will enjoy.

The handheld is fairly big compared to other ANBERNIC devices such as the recently released RG35XXSP, yet feels small in the hands because of the centralised 4” 720 IPS display. My hands rest nicely around the shell, close enough to touch my fingers together on the back, and because the screen is fairly high, there’s enough space to add two joysticks, and hide the menu buttons away under your palms.

It makes the gaming experience incredibly enjoyable and it’s one of ANBERNIC’s most comfortable handhelds to date.

RG Cube Build Quality

As soon as I unboxed the RG Cube I was greeted with an installation launcher, which is one of the first times I have seen ANBERNIC do this. It basically instals all of the best Android emulators for you with the press of a button. Something competitors have done for a while now, and I mention it in all my ANBERNIC reviews because it’s been needed for a long time, so it’s good to see that they are listening and are integrating it in all RG Cubes.

This means it’s pretty much ready to go straight out of the box, and even after testing for a week or more most of the emulators came fully button mapped to which makes it even easier for gamers like myself to jump into games as quickly as possible.

In terms of build quality and design the RG Cube is certainly not pocketable, it’s rather built for longer gaming sessions thanks to the ergonomics, large battery capacity of 5200MAH’s and the stacked shoulder buttons which are incredibly comfortable. I have not seen these shoulder buttons on ANBERNIC products before, and they’re now one of my favourites. They’re firm, RT/LT don’t click, they have good travel to them and are perfectly located with tiny grip detailing on them.

anbernic rg cube back

If you look closely on the back you’ll notice they have added small areas of grip detailing too, and the fan is located away from being obstructed by your hands.

Moving to the face, it’s hard to ignore the LED joysticks that boast of millions of different colours to choose from, but in reality, my eyes can only probably distinguish about 20 of them, so ignore the marketing on this one. You can change these colours by swiping down on the screen to access your Android quick settings, there’s a few jazzy options for sure and it does make the device visually pleasing to the eye, I personally like them.

The joysticks themselves are hall-joysticks and are very good quality, they click down and have fluid movement but I did notice that they do touch the edges of the case, even if it still registers full motion. This isn’t a major issue but proper handheld nerds will notice that they touch, and the stick does grip to the shell ever so lightly when it touches.

Because they have added the LED joysticks it does sacrifice the quality slightly, especially if some of you prefer larger ranges of movement on your analogue sticks, this one doesn’t move as far as some competitors. It likes to snap to the 8 directions slightly, which again is a personal preference for many, but some don’t like this and it’s because the range of movement isn’t vast.

If you concentrate on your analogue inputs you can easily control it, so it’s not impossible to reach max movement it just feels handicapped slightly.

anbernic rg cube dpad

ANBERNIC has decided to feature the full blown circular DPAD which some handheld enthusiasts hate, and some love, for this device it just feels right to have this even I am a lover of their original.

Menu buttons have been lowered towards the chin which I personally prefer compared to them being high up on the device. There’s an ANBERNIC button which will open and redirect you straight to the ANBERNIC launcher for those that want something a little more simple than Android 13. It’s a neat way to organise your games and is a look at ANBERNIC’s first steps into creating a launcher, but it certainly needs some TLC, that’s for sure.

Next to that is the home button which takes you to the Android home page, or it can be used to simply go back in Android apps too. On the other side you’ll find start and select alongside the action buttons which are high gloss, and on this beige white version mine are coloured which spice up the face a little bit.

These are soft to press and have a good amount of travel to them, so button smashing actually feels fun on this thing. There’s really no complaints about the buttons, apart from them being high gloss which makes them a lil sweaty during long gaming sessions.

anbernic rg cube outside

The screen used is beautiful, there’s no denying it, the colours are incredibly saturated and the brightness goes very high, allowing it to be a good device to use outside in daylight, however there is a little bit of light bleed on one of my devices, which is a shame as the display was close to flawless.

It’s not a major deal-breaker and will only really be noticed when playing games at night with borders, but it goes to show you that ANBERNIC have cut corners here which is a real shame because this is a $170 device, so it’s not cheap. My light bleed isn’t as severe as some that I have seen on socials, and it’s only visible on one of out of two of my RG Cube’s, but it is a known negative for this device and it’s usually luck of the draw depending on if this happens to your device or not, and varies in severity… not good.

Emulation Performance

I would like to clarify that this device is very niche, and the magic of this device lies in the 4:3 aspect ratio category. 16:9 games such as PSP and cloud streaming looks absolutely terrible on here as it features large black borders and you’re only technically working on a 3” display when doing so.

So I do not recommend this for those of you wanting to stream your video games or play PSP games, and many 16:9 Android games for that matter, it’s just not a pleasant experience. This device flourishes elsewhere.

For example, throughout my review process I found myself towards Game Boy games, Neo Geo Pocket, Dreamcast, Mega Drive and Playstation 1 games. To me this is where the handheld excels, thanks to the great ergonomics and square display.

anbernic rg cube dreamcast emulation

Internally the RG Cube features great specs on paper, for example it has a Unisoc T820 CPU, a Mali G57 GPU and 8GB’s of RAM, making it a very capable handheld.

But i’ll have to admit, as much as these specs sound great I was finding that it would struggle with larger Gamecube games, alongside frame rate drops across more intense PS2 games. Now don’t get me wrong there’s still a wide number of Gamecube and PS2 games that do work well on here, but that’s certainly its limit and I wouldn’t advise anyone buying this if they are expecting flawless emulation on these consoles, it’s just not going to happen unfortunately.

Overall Opinion

anbernic rg cube nintendo ds
  • Great For 1:1 Retro Games & Nintendo DS Emulation
  • High Build Quality & LED Joysticks
  • Easy To Setup Android OS
  • Doesn’t Emulate All PS2 Games
  • Expensive For What It Does
  • Light Bleed & Joysticks Touch Casing

And this brings me onto why I would have actually liked to see this have lower specs and a lower price point, we don’t need all of this power on a form factor like this, I think it’s a little overkill in my opinion, leave the big specs to the RG556 and the 16:9 display which has a better experience with PSP, Android games and cloud streaming.

I believe ANBERNIC would have had more success with pricing this at around $99 – $119 with the capability of running all retro games up to Dreamcast games fluidly.

My experience of gameplay in that area is incredible, for example Nintendo DS works really well here thanks to the long display, allowing you to stack the screens comfortably and control the bottom display using the touchscreen, Neo Geo Pocket is an absolute pleasure, Dreamcast looks beyond beautiful thanks to the bright display and Game Boy Color just fits and all of this can be done for over 6 hours on a single charge thanks to the large battery too.

It’s genuinely a really fun handheld to play on, ANBERNIC have created a stunning, premium 1:1 device for those of us that are happy to spend $170 on something like this, and even though I do think it’s overpowered, and super niche, I find it hard to hate.

The light bleeding issue is unfortunate and ANBERNIC should refund and/or replace everyone’s device that has this issue otherwise it’s just not acceptable at this price tag.

If you’re on the market for a high-end 1:1 retro gaming device, this is certainly one of the most unique Android retro handhelds and worth taking a look at for sure.

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