I’m a little late to the party picking up the GKD Mini, as it was officially released back in June, but as the saying goes, it’s better to be late than never, right?
Originally the GKD Mini was teased online back in November 2020 a whopping seven months before it’s official release.
At the time, it looked okay, and had the potential to compete with some of the cheaper handhelds, but unfortunately for the GKD Mini things have moved quickly in the handheld market.
As much as the handheld looks small, it’s actually fairly big. It’s similar size to the RG280V but has a much different layout.
Our handheld reviews are based on how the handhelds perform straight out of the box without any modifications or changes to firmware.
GKD Mini Specifications
- 3.5” IPS Display (320 x 240) with tempered glass
- 1.5GHz MIPS32 CPU
- 128MB RAM
- 2500MAH Battery (4 – 5 Hours)
- Can Use Up To 512GB SD Cards
As you can tell from the specifications, on paper it’s nothing to be excited about, especially when the handheld costs around $80 which isn’t far behind the impressive RG351P.
There’s no HDMI out, nor is there an analogue stick like the Powkiddy RGB20 has. It feels as if the GKD Mini is designed to be a pocket friendly handheld with a cute, rounded aesthetic for those that love to play in 4:3 aspect ratio.
GKD Mini Design & Build Quality
Originally when they announced the GKD Mini it came in a mint colour and a metal variant, but after a long wait it seems they have got rid of the metal edition and stuck with the plastic mint shell. They most likely had issues with the metal frame, which is quite common in the handheld space, if not done right, it will disrupt the whole gaming experience.
The screen takes up 2/3rds of the face, and it has a rounded off glass which gives it that iPhone look around the edges. On the screen you have a logo in the top left, and on the top right you have a LED light that shows up to four dots to indicate how much battery is left.
This little touch of 4 dots gives it a nice characteristic which I haven’t seen in other handhelds before, not even in the LED filled Gameforce handheld.
Towards the bottom of the face, you’ll find your buttons which in our personal opinion are a little plain, a touch of colour would have been quite nice, especially when they have the ABXY etched into them in… black.
That aside the buttons are very bouncy, have nice feedback and sit high out of the shell so you’ll never find your finger touching the shell behind it. The start, select and menu buttons would have pretudeded a little more, but they’re fine.
Around the edges of the GKD Mini you will find other buttons and ports such as USB-C (which can be used with a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth dong;e), a headphone jack, volume buttons and even more menu/reset buttons. Oh, and two SD card slots, one for firmware and one for ROMs.
On the back is where things get a little interesting, and it’s always interesting to see how other retro handheld manufacturers are attacking the shoulder buttons on vertical handhelds like this.
GKD has gone down the same route as the RG351V but with less finesse. They have rolled their shoulder buttons off the top of the battery container. This is technically the best place to put them but due to their miniscule size the R2 and L2 buttons are incredibly hard to press.
R1 and L1 aren’t too bad, but because they’re not flared it’s hard to control them or rest our fingers on them for long periods of time, and this alone makes it quite an uncomfortable handheld to hold because the shoulder buttons are also very steep allowing your fingers to just slide off with little force.
If GKD made the shoulder buttons slightly bigger and flatter so my fingers could sit on them, it would have made the handheld so much more enjoyable to play on. There’s also very little travel on them, so I found when I rest my fingers, I end up pressing them accidentally.
It’s also worth noting that when I did the shake test you can hear the buttons shaking considerably.
The speakers are located nicely at the bottom of the handheld out of the way of being obstructed by hands.
Overall I like the way the GKD Mini looks, it has this adorable, rounded playful look to it that reminds me of a Tamagotchi or a modern day Gameboy Mini.
GKD Mini Performance
This is the first handheld I’ve reviewed that has a MIPS32 CPU, so I can’t really compare it to any others using that chip. But I can take the $80 price tag as a comparison to other handhelds in the market.
The 1.5Ghz CPU combined with the 128GB RAM allows me to play most retro consoles well up to Playstation 1, but this is where it ends. Some of the best PS1 RPGs struggled on this device, and with the low resolution screen, it didn’t look great either.
Playing Gameboy games, SNES, NES, Neo Geo, Master System and so on will work well, without any signs of dropped frames or screen tearing. For those wanting good PS1 performance we suggest looking at something a little different, perhaps the affordable PocketGo S30.
The screen aspect ratio is perfect for old school games, and it’s good to see more and more retro handhelds take on this 4:3 nature with a glass cover, because let’s face it, stretching your games is uncool!
But that’s where it stops with the screen, because the low resolution is just about bearable. The GKD Mini is a step back for sure, but the $80 price tag doesn’t match that. The screen isn’t crispy, the low resolution makes games look scruffy and blurry, even if the colours are nicely saturated.
When you load up the GKD Mini you are greeted with an ugly OS, one that reminds us of handhelds that we reviewed many years ago, it feels like this should have launched back in 2019.
I know, this can be changed if you put your mind to it and do some research but I like to review this handheld straight out ot he box, because that’s how a lot of customers will experience the GK Mini.
The GKD Mini is a great looking device, there’s no denying that. It’s playful, with lovely curved aesthetics, a pocket friendly design and minimal branding. The buttons are of nice quality and even work well on fast paced fighting games but that’s about it.
When you start looking at the technical specs and the quality of the internals used, that’s when the handheld starts to go downhill. The screen is below average, the chip used alongside the small amounts of RAM caps it at older generation consoles. Which wouldn’t be a problem, but the high $80 price tag puts it in close competition with some of the best retro handhelds on the market as of now.
We can only recommend picking this up if you really like the way the handheld looks, which I know some of you will. I wish GKD added some more power and a slightly better screen, then it could have been a pocket friendly contender, but they didn’t and for some reason they’ve priced it far too high.
If this was $50 I would be recommending it, because that’s what I personally think it’s worth. $50 would make it worthwhile for newcomers, and children in the handheld space, but anything more and your money is worth being spent elsewhere.
It look as if for some very odd reason GKD has gone an launched a “Pro” version on Kickstarter which is completely the same, but with a metal shell instead. It has a MSRP of… wait for it $259! Wow.
But if you’re “early” you can get it for $129 instead. Wow!
This seems like a quick money grab but we’ll try and get one into review even if it is internally identical to the plastic version. It’s crazy because originally the plastic version sold for $83, but apparently this metal edition retails for $259!
That’s laughable. View the Kickstarter here.