If you’re a fan of retro handhelds (you’re on this website, so we’ll assume that you are), then the news about the upcoming GPD XD 2 may very well stop you dead in your tracks. If you’re reading this breaking news article while walking across a train line or crossing a road, then find somewhere safe to sit and take a load off because the content of this story could change retro gaming forever!
Some of you may have read our last couple of features on the GPD XD Plus, a handheld that we still have mixed feelings about today, but for anyone who hasn’t heard of GPD or the XD Plus, we’ll give you a quick lowdown so you have all of the facts. GPD is a Chinese tech company that primarily creates laptops and tablets. In the same way that Hard Kernel created the ODROID GO and the ODROID GO Advance, GPD used their computing wizardry to create a clamshell handheld with an Android operating system, the GPD XD Plus. The design, controller set up, folding outer case, and screen size are all very reminiscent of the Nintendo DS, though the XD Plus plays all of your favourite retro games via an SD Card instead of using individual cartridges.
On paper and in practice, the XD Plus worked very well but felt a little underwhelming. This handheld should have been a game-changer, but to this day it still has that marmite ‘love-hate’ factor. We’re big fans of the shape of the console and it emulates many games perfectly, giving retro gaming fans a chance to relive some of their favourite titles at home and on the go. But, having said that, there were and still are some major firmware issues, and the Android software the console uses is now way outdated. It couldn’t quite emulate all of the consoles that it boasted on the menu selection screen, and the build quality didn’t instil the same level of faith that you get when whipping out your 3DS and cruising through your best Nintendo 3DS games.
So, when we received a secret tip-off about the GPD XD 2, it grabbed our attention and hooked us in like nerdy-trout. Could we be about to see an updated, streamlined version of this retro handheld that excels where the other two failed? We spoke to GPD very briefly on Twitter and they informed us that the GPD XD 2 is in fact “coming soon”. Now, we’re not sure how soon, but they also informed us it would be this year, so we’re sure it’s either summer or late 2020, but here’s hoping we can play this thing while we’re doing a bit of van life exploration in July. We tried pulling some more information out of them, but they weren’t having any of it.
There’s even been some ‘leaked’ images that show off a clamshell that flips all the way over the back, allowing you to stand the handheld up when watching movies, or playing games with a bluetooth controller. There’s also this image below leaked by a website called “liliputing” which allows you to see some of the face buttons and analogue sticks alongisde its back ports. It looks as if not much has changed.
One of the main problems that the GPD XD 2 needs to overcome is the firmware it uses to play the vast catalogue of games available to it. The outdated Android OS on the first model makes it impossible to play games without lag or dropped framerate in 2020, and that’s a serious setback that GPD needs to get right in their new model if they want to compete in the big leagues.
The notion of having a retro-inspired DS is a great one, but with a price tag of $250 which is around the same cost as a Nintendo Switch Lite Accessories + Console bundle, the GPD XD 2 must be able to be updated regularly and do what it says on the box. If the OS stays current and the gameplay smooth, then this will be an absolute beauty to play. The original XD Plus came with MT8176+PowerVR Hexa-core processor, 4GB RAM and 32Gb Storage, which twinned with the right OS would make for the kind of super-smooth play that dreams are made of. We think that we might see the RAM increased to 6GB if the info we have is true and the storage increased to at least 64GB for holding all of your favourite titles.
The original XD Plus handheld had a lot of available emulators on it, though you do have to download the ROMs themselves onto your SD card (check out our How To Install ROMs article for more info). With excitement building over both the N64 Mini and the Dreamcast Mini, people want their retro handhelds to be able to recreate their favourite home-console adventures of yesteryear with ease. The GPD XD 2 needs to deliver where the previous consoles fell short of the mark, bringing smooth emulation of games like Ocarina of Time and the other best N64 games to life with ease.
The button layout on the XD Plus was pretty good in all honesty, though it felt a little cramped, almost as though the designers didn’t want to encroach on the space where their touch-screen might have been if this were a DS. There is so much unused space on the lower half of the console shell, so we think we’ll see those buttons spreading out a little more, with the right-hand analog stick moving down to the bottom ‘Joy-con style’. Move the D-Pad over to the left a little, put the volume controls on the edge of the console, and you’ve got yourself a neat little set-up.
A lot of people wanted to see a touch screen or dual-screen layout on the GPD XD 2, but we’re confident that this won’t be happening. There’s no real need unless you’re playing DS games, apart from maybe having the map of the world that you’re exploring on the bottom. But as most games aren’t set up for 2-screen action, we’re going to debunk this rumour right now.
With a built-in 6000MAH battery, the XD Plus could more than handle a long gaming sesh without cutting out mid-way through a boss battle (if it could manage it without buffering), but for a console that costs $250, you would expect USB-C charging to come as standard, and it doesn’t. We would be willing to bet on the fact that the new GPD XD 2 will come with USB-C fast charging and an increased battery size of 8000MAH, falling in line with the battery size of the PSP. It might even be able to act as a power bank for other USB-C devices too – now that would be something.
Many people will be buying the GPD XD 2 to play old games, but it will also have WiFi connectivity so that you can hook up to the web to play Fortnite and PUBG. To be honest though, the XD Plus didn’t do this very well, which was again down to the OS not pulling its weight. With a faster and smoother operating system, online play will be perfect. Come on, GPD; this Android OS needs to be spot-on this time!
Final Thoughts. . .
The XD Plus has sold lots of units since its release and has enjoyed relative success, but we know that GPD can do and must do better. For a console with a similar price tag to the Creoqode Lyra, it has to be on top of its game not just on release day, but two, three, and even four years afterwards. Get the gaming emulation right, and this handheld may just shoot to the top of our list of the best retro handhelds by the end of the year. Be sure to check back as soon as we have more news for a full review. And remember, you heard it on Retro Dodo first!