The Pimax Portal is a new Android based gaming handheld console that has a lot of really unique features that make it stand out from other Android devices available on the market today.
I wrote the early impressions article here on Retro Dodo and I said that it was a device we just had to go in blind and trust the process to really understand what it’s all about.
And now that I’ve had one for a few weeks, that has absolutely been the case.
So much about the Portal has been a pleasant surprise to discover. And the device has opened up so many options that I didn’t even expect.
Disclosure: This device was sent to us to review, and according to Pimax is the final development unit that will be shipped to customers. We have also only reviewed this from a handheld perspective, and have not dived into the VR aspects of the device.
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Pimax Portal Details
The Pimax Portal is an Android based horizontal format device with a beautiful 5.5 inch display.
It uses a Snapdragon XR2 chipset running 8 cores and allows for overclocking.
Pair that with the internal cooling, and you’re gonna be able to really push this device to do a lot more than you’d expect from an XR2 handheld.
And as we will soon find out, it will absolutely find its way on our future list of best Android handheld games consoles.
Portal VR and Screen
The Portal is also a VR and augmented reality device, which makes use of the 5 cameras on the back to track your surroundings.
If you purchase the VR suite, you’d get a headset that holds your Portal console a few inches away from your eyes (with special VR lenses, of course) and two controller accessories.
The VR users would benefit from the QLED screen model for the device and 4k output at up to 144hz.
But average users will be totally fine with the base LCD model and a lower resolution to save on processing power too.
I have the base model, and I’ve been very impressed by the 5.5 inch LCD screen. It’s very beautiful and sharp.
And my review unit did not come with any of the VR accessories. It would be a fun gimmick to play with, but not my main use for the Portal.
Speaking about the screen – One of my main complaints using the device has been the touchscreen functionality.
There seemed to be a lot of little issues with touch response and also any sort of gesture movements. A bit frustrating, since Android does require a lot of touch input.
But I have been assured that this is firmware only and it will be corrected by the time the average users get their hands on a Portal.
I did check in several times with Pimax about the touch issues. They acknowledged the problem and said they are on it.
It’s also worth noting that Pimax has been very helpful in getting me setup and comfortably playing games on my Portal.
They even pushed a new firmware to my device, which made big improvements to performance and user experience. And things are only going to get better for final users.
In order to receive my review unit of the Portal, I did agree to not show any major early development bugs. And thankfully, I did not encounter any.
Any Portal specific complaints I have had, I sent over to Pimax, and have also mentioned in my review.
Design and Build Quality
The Pimax Portal is easily one of the best looking devices in my collection.
I absolutely love the two tone design of the white model, and it looks a lot like the PS5 controllers.
In fact, if you left it sitting next to a PS5, you’d probably convince a few people you’ve got the new Playstation handheld.
But the Pimax actually shares a lot more in common with another device you’ve probably heard of – the Nintendo Switch.
That is going to be a very obvious comparison because of the detachable controllers.
The Pimax controllers are almost identical to Switch Joycons. Except they use very strong magnets to connect them to the Portal.
I thought that the controllers might flex a lot because of this, but those magnets do a good job at holding everything together when playing on the Portal.
There’s no center piece if you wanna play with the controllers removed, but they will snap together and it feels good to me.
I know that the opinions on comfort will always vary, and some people will have strong complaints where others will not.
So I have heard the complaints about the lack of a dpad, and that the action buttons are a bit sharp. I can slightly agree with those points, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
I do wish that the buttons were Nintendo style with a rubber membrane and a soft press. But we got what we got.
My main complaint with buttons were the triggers. The rear triggers are the Game Cube style where it has a long press like pulling a bow with a click at the end. This was just weird to me.
But nothing about the Pimax Portal feels bad, just different. Any choices about the device that we may not like were intentional choices, not a result of poor quality.
The Pimax Portal is stunning in person, and feels very solid. I’d give the build quality a 10/10. Design choices a 7/10.
The thing that perhaps surprised me most about the Pimax Portal was what it could actually play.
But what really surprised me was the Portal’s ability to handle Nintendo Switch Emulation.
When speaking to the team at Pimax, they were telling me that with overclocking and the right settings in your emulator… you’ll be able to play most Switch games.
With my limited knowledge of Android and Egg NS Emulator, I was able to get maybe 66% of the games I tried to load.
But I’m talkin’ Breath of the Wild, Cuphead, Eastward, Luigi’s Mansion, Octopath Traveler all playing pretty well on this thing.
Bigger games like Zelda and Luigi will play a bit slower. And you’ll definitely start to get a bit of heat and hear that internal fan kick in. But getting them to play at all was kind of incredible.
I found that most Game Cube and PS2 games play very well.
Wii wasn’t as enjoyable, only because I didn’t know the best way to configure my controllers for games that needed motion tracking (like Mario Galaxy). Every game I tried did load quite easily.
Any issues I had with emulation was more on me and my ability to set things up right, not the Portal itself.
Since this is an Android device, anything on the Google Play store will run perfect.
Android games like Genshin Impact and Diablo Immortal play perfect, and many popular games played without needing to do any button mapping. Many worked with the controllers right away.
The Pimax Portal is easily one of the most powerful Android gaming devices on the market, and at a very reasonable entry price point.
For the base price of $299.99, you can have a device that comfortably plays Game Cube and PS2. And even plays a large selection of the Nintendo Wii and Switch libraries.
For anybody who has a lot of experience with Android and emulation tweaking… you’ll really be able to squeeze a lot out of this tiny powerhouse.
I loved my experience with the Pimax Portal. I went from somebody with very little Android experience to somebody who can quickly jump into some of my favorite Nintendo Switch games at any moment.
Having one device that looks so incredibly cool and has such a wide variety of games all in one place is just perfection.
Most of the complaints I have had in using the Portal have mostly been Android and emulation specific.
And the reward for all of the work setting things up made it all worth the struggles.
I highly recommend the Pimax Portal to anybody with an interest in high end Android emulation.
I feel like the Portal is unique enough and affordable enough to make it worth the purchase, even if you have other Android emulation devices.
It’s certainly one of the most unique handhelds in my collection. And one that I plan on keeping around for a very long time.
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.