The Retroid Pocket 2 is here, it’s official and it’s knocking every other handheld out of its way to become one of our best retro handhelds to date.
The makers behind the Retroid Pocket 2 have previously made the original Retroid Pocket, a handheld which in all honesty, we hated. But now, they’ve taken a step back, understood what their customers want, and executed it flawlessly.
We now have the Retroid Pocket 2, an Android based handheld designed to bring retro gamers together in a way that meets modern technology with nostalgic entertainment.
We’ve had the Retroid Pocket for a couple of weeks now, testing games, chucking it in our bags, and using it on a daily basis.
It’s far exceeded our expectations, and it excites us to admit that China is seriously improving their handhelds. To a level that most western companies can’t keep up with.
This is going to be a fairly large review, because we have a lot to talk about regarding this handheld. It’s not a pick up and play handheld like the Powkiddy RGB10, the Retroid Pocket 2 grows on you, and teaches you the way of retro gaming on Android.
It has flaws, the perfect handheld has yet to exist, but what we can tell you, is this is by far, one of the best handhelds we have ever reviewed.
This is the future of Chinese handhelds, and you need to be a part of it.
What is a retro handheld emulator and is it legal?
The Retroid Pocket 2 is getting a lot of hype, for us that have been in this community for some time, we know most of the details regarding legalities and what China is doing. But for those of you that are new, and are just discovering handheld emulators, welcome, let me fill you in.
China’s laws make it legal to sell handhelds with pre-loaded games, they call them ROMs, and although it’s illegal to sell and share ROMs, it’s a grey area when it comes to consumers using them to play games they already own.
Emulators are pieces of software that play ROMs (game files), so you have many emulators, for example, Gameboy emulators, Dreamcast emulators etc.
These handhelds put all of the emulators into a compact, high end portable device, allowing you to play ROMs like it’s 1999 all over again, but this time, with better screens, better battery life and better technology.
So these handhelds are 100% legal, downloading ROMs however is frowned upon, but NOT illegal. Just don’t sell or share them, that’s where you get into trouble.
The Chinese handheld market is exploding because their laws allow it, and us Western folk get access to new handhelds through marketplaces that sell them bypassing the whole “downloading ROMs” problems.
With China’s technology ever evolving and the price ever decreasing we are getting better handhelds for a fraction of the price anywhere else on earth and the Retroid Pocket 2 is one of China’s finest.
So don’t worry, buying these things and playing ROM’s is legal, sharing them is not. Now that we have covered that, let’s talk about the Retroid Pocket 2.
Retroid Pocket 2 Specifications
- 3.5″ IPS Display (640 x 480)
- Quad Core Cortex-A7 1.5GHZ CPU
- 1GB RAM
- ARM Mali-4000 GFX
- 4000MAH Battery
- Wifi/Bluetooth 4.0
- Android 6 Dual Boot (8.1 coming in October)
Retroid Pocket 2 Build Quality
The Retroid Pocket 2 feels like a Nintendo product. The build quality, and craftsmanship is superb. They’ve listened to what we want, and they’ve done just that, without cutting corners.
It’s portable, compact, weighty, and sleek. Everything is where it should be, without any missing buttons, and all with modern ports. There’s no outdated Micro USB ports here!
The face of the Retroid Pocket 2 has a distinctive chin, that’s home to the speakers and home, select/start buttons. This chin adds character, making it look different to the RG350M and RK2020 for example.
It has two analogue sticks, one that sticks out and the other that sits flush with the case. This allows you to reach the ABXY easily.
Unfortunately the sticks do not have L3/R3 capabilities, this is slightly disappointing, even though we barely use them.
The DPAD is slightly concaved which we dig. Then, smack bang in the middle of the handheld is the bright, 3.5” IPS display, protected by a plastic screen. It comes with a screen protector too, for those that want to keep it in minty condition.
The screen is great, it has nice pixel density, great viewing angles and plenty of brightness settings for you to set to your viewing pleasure.
On the top you have some of the best shoulder buttons we’ve tested. The R1/R1 buttons are designed to be similar to “trigger buttons”, as they are slightly flared at the back, and don’t sit flush with the back.
We like this, it makes the handheld look modern, and adds undeniable comfortability which we never knew we needed in a handheld of this size.
The L2/R2 buttons are slightly thinner and have lovely feedback, identical to the of the L1/R1 shoulder buttons.
Between them you will find your Mini-HDMI port, a USB-C port for charging, volume buttons and your on/off button with a nice little LED indicator. This lets you know if it’s on, off, in sleep mode, charging or at low battery.
At the bottom, nothing buy a TF card slot and a headphone jack.
Overall the Retroid Pocket 2 is by far one of the better looking handhelds to come out of China. It’s incredibly comfortable, nothing is over the top, even the logo is minimalist, and the back of the device is empty, which we love.
This device has been well designed, and you can tell the team behind it have really taken time to come up with the layout of the Retroid Pocket 2.
Possibly down the line in the next version we would like to see a touch screen and maybe even 6 face buttons, but that will obviously increase the price too. These are just suggestions, and if anything the design is flawless.
Perhaps they’ll follow the trend and produce a limited metal variant? We’d happily snag one of them!
Android Truly Turns The Handheld Into A Beast
Because the Retroid Pocket 2 runs Android 6, and comes with Wifi and bluetooth capabilities, it makes the possibilities endless as to what you can do with this thing.
Android 6 is old, outdated, and some may say slow. We’re not sure why they chose Android 6, it’s most likely because it’s been in production for such a long time, that they didn’t want to prolong launch with a new OS.
Update: The Retroid Pocket 2 will be updating its OS to Android 8.1 in October, so users who purchase it before will also be able to upgrade when the new update comes out. This is huge news, and confirms our thoughts about the team behind it.
This is one of the biggest disappointments about the Retroid Pocket 2, and this leaves it open to other competitors coming in with similar devices but with a newer version of Android.
For now that, it hasn’t caused us any problems. Because it has Wifi plus Bluetooth capabilities, it makes the handheld have so much more potential than non-Android based handhelds.
For example, you can download Android apps such as Steam Link, allowing you to play actual PC games on your Retroid Pocket 2. Not just that, if it does get a newer version of Android it could even have the ability to use xCloud, Xbox’s cloud gaming service.
That alone, is incredibly exciting. Because the team behind it are gamers themselves they have even added “NetPlay”, it allows you to create wireless “Rooms” within the handheld so that you can play Wireless Coop with friends.
That’s right, you can trade Pokemon on the Retroid Pocket 2.
The OS may be old, but it’s mighty. For those of you that like to play around with emulator settings, download new cores and install weird and wonderful apps, you’ll be extremely happy with the Retroid Pocket 2.
It’s not really a “play out of the box” handheld. You will need to install and update Apps. You’ll need to learn about RetroArch, an app that lets you download emulators or cores to play games.
Set aside a few hours after you receive your unit to learn about the best way to play on the Retroid Pocket 2.
Retroid Pocket 2 Performance
What can the Retroid Pocket 2 emulate, is probably what you’ve been hoping to learn throughout this review.
You’ll be pleased to know, that its a lot.
It can emulate basically everything up to Dreamcast, including N64, PSP and Playstation 1. It can emulate Nintendo DS also, but it can only do so with one screen, so for us, it’s near pointless.
We only ever used DS on this thing to test it for review purposes. Nobody will be buying a Retroid Pocket 2 specifically for DS games. The single screen limits what games to play, and it makes the DS gaming experience poor.
But if you don’t mind single screen DS gaming, then you might enjoy it! Gamecube will barely work, it will struggle.
However, to play Dreamcast games, you will need to do a bit of research and install an emulator called “Flycast”, because as of now, it’s one of the only Dreamcast emulators that plays ROMs well. All of the others struggle, and plays at sub 15 frame rate, not good.
Everything else we have chucked at it plays very well. The Retroid Pocket 2 is powerful, running PS1 at silky framerates.
Nintendo 64 is also a blast to play on this thing. Simply stick in your HDMI cable, hook up an 8BitDo bluetooth controller and you’ve just turned your handheld into a portable N64!
Because you will most likely be using the app RetroArch to emulate your games, most of the time it gets your key mapping bang on, letting you more time to play instead of messing around in the settings.
With some emulators you will need to change it as it gets confused on occasion. Like any emulator, you have the ability to add cheats, speed up the game, save from exact locations and load from the exact frame you left it at.
Playstation 1 games were one of our most enjoyable to play on the Retroid Pocket 2. The decent screen made this feel like an old PS Vita even if the analogue sticks wern’t in the right location.
Some of you like the stick above the D-PAD some of you don’t, we’re happy with either, but it’s funny because ANBERNIC made these changes later down the line, and it’s if it slipped by Retroids design team.
PSP also runs pretty good on this device, you may need to add frame skipping to get what you’re looking for but most of the games will run very well.
Your older consoles like SNES, Mega Drive, and Gameboy will run flawlessly. Infact, the Pokemon franchise feels great on the Retroid Pocket 2. Like they were both meant to be!
The Retroid Pocket 2 is now our go to handheld, and has placed top in our best retro handhelds list.
It’s perfectly crafted, comes under $100 and has the ability to use new technology such as Wifi and Bluetooth with Android 6.0 to turn this handheld into a gaming powerhouse.
This is not just a retro gaming handheld, this can be so much more if you want it too.
The build quality is near perfect, with the exception of the max SD card capacity being 128GB and the analogue stick being located above the DPAD.
After weeks of testing we also noticed the surprising battery life. It kept surpassing 4 hours of gameplay which was nice, it makes us trust the device more on long journeys. But we suppose that’s what you get from a mighty 4000MAH battery.
The team got it right, and they priced it competitively, getting ANBERNIC customers attention in just a few days.
It handled a lot of games too, even Dreamcast, surprisingly but we found it annoying when we had to constantly change settings, and research in forums how to play certain games. This isn’t fun, and for the average gamer, it’s not what they want to constantly.
You will see a tonne of content about the Retroid Pocket 2 online, many people are trying to squeeze ever last frame rate out of it, yes if you push it to the max, and change the settings on a daily occurrence you might be able to get that Dreamcast/DS game working smoothly, but that gets frustrating fast.
We’re reviewing this from an average consumers perspective, not someone that wants to tinker all the time, and search Facebook groups for answers.
Everything up to N64 runs incredibly well, and you won’t need to tinker, simply open up the dedicated cores/apps and you can play. But if you want Dreamcast and DS, prepare to do a couple hours of research every now and then.
This is a retro handheld you buy, knowing you won’t need to buy another for several months. Now that’s a big statement, because new handhelds are coming out every few weeks, but we stick by it.
This is the best handheld you can buy under $100 (as of now).