Retroid Pocket 2S Review – The Best Handheld Under $100?

retroid pocket 2s

If you enjoy what you read and want to support an independent publication, you canĀ join our Patreon to receive extra benefits and a physical welcome kit! View our premium benefits here. We may also earn a commission from affiliate links on this page too. Thank you.

Retroid Pocket 2S

$99
9.5

The best retro handheld under $100

9.5/10

Pros

  • Up To Gamecube Emulation
  • Easy To Setup
  • Great Build Quality & Comfortability

Cons

  • Big Screen Bezels

The Retroid Pocket 2S was an unexpected reveal.

With GoRetroid innovating with the Retroid Pocket Flip and the previous Retroid Pocket 3+, I was adamant we’d see something unique for their next retro handheld.

But instead they took one step back… and two steps forward with this device.

The Retroid Pocket 2S is incredibly similar to the previous Retroid Pocket 2 which was launched in mid 2021, but it now comes with a substantial power upgrade and small welcomed tweaks to its design.

Could this be the future of GoRetroid’s product line? Keeping to the original design, with future upgrades to match the market and minor physical changes to please old customers?

Who knows! But one thing is for sure… this is now one of the best retro handhelds under $100.

Is It Easy To Setup?

The Retroid Pocket 2S comes with Android 11 Preinstalled, so as soon as you turn it on, you are welcomed by GoRetroid’s custom setup process which is incredibly easy.

So easy in fact, that with the press of a button it will install all 30 emulators for you, it will have the Google Playstore waiting for you, and it gives you the choice to launch with the standard Android user interface, or the pre-made Retroid Pocket UI that makes it look like a Nintendo Switch menu.

It literally took me two minutes to setup, and this makes it easy for newcomers to understand, and even kids who know their way around Android OS.

ANBERNIC needs to take notes here.

Simply add your SD card, and sync your files to the correct emulator and it will automatically add them to your front-end menu, making everything neatly organised and easy to access.

Handheld Design

retroid pocket 2 vs retroid pocket 2S
retroid pocket 2 (left) vs retroid pocket 2S (right)

This design is very similar to its older brother, but with some minor tweaks which make this device a worthy upgrade in my opinion.

The most obvious physical changes are predominantly located on the face of the Retroid Pocket 2S.

The DPAD and analogue stick placement has been switched, with the newly designed PS Vita like DPAD now located above the analogue stick on the left, which I know will please many Retroid Pocket fans.

The DPAD is of great quality, has clicky feedback and enough travel to make it usable on the best fighting games within your collection without concern, even if it is smaller than the Pocket 2.

The analogue sticks have also been changed they are now hall joysticks, with both of the sticks now sitting outside of the shell, removing the old right analogue slider on the Pocket 2… thank the lord.

This does make it more likely to snag in your pockets though, but that’s a feature i am willing to sacrifice, as these sticks are superb, are much more comfortable and are now concave too giving you extra grip.

Between the sticks you will find your 3.5″ touch screen display, with a resolution of 640 x 480 with a disgustingly big bezel alongside two new buttons which are used as start and select.

This is the same display found in its older brother, and that’s fair enough as it’s a pretty good display, the touch sensitivity is great, and so are the viewing angles, plus the resolution is all your really need for your best retro games.

If they upgraded the screen it’s likely this device would not be priced under $100.

However, the only negative I have to say about the display is that it has a fairly large bezel. It’s 2023, get rid of the bezels!

The action buttons are also different, and have far more travel to them, making them feel more nostalgic and enjoyable to play on, but this is a personal preference.

On the chin of the Retroid Pocket 2S you will find your two front facing speakers, your home, back and menu buttons.

Up top you have the upgraded analogue shoulder buttons which feel much better, have lots of travel to them, and add far more movement to the whole device.

retroid pocket 2s ports

It’s only now when comparing the Retroid Pocket 2S to the original 2 that the older variant feels far more static, and stiff.

Between the shoulder buttons you will find a Mini-HDMI out, USB-C charging port, volume buttons and your on/off button.

Comfortability

All of these new features add to the increase comfortability of this device, it makes the handheld feel… fun. Pressing buttons gives you more feedback, the analogue stickers are more hi-tech giving it a premium feel, and the DPAD nods to the Vita’s design which adds to the whole retro vibe.

And let’s be real, the PS Vita DPAD is superb.

It’s not a heavy device either, not like the RG405M which is technically its competition, in the hand its very comfortable, and my fingers are located perfectly to where the should be when playing games, with zero strain, and I have some big hands.

The backplate of the Retroid Pocket 2S is slightly different, to accompany the larger shoulder buttons which are slightly bigger too, allowing you to rest your fingers on them more efficiently.

Retroid Pocket 2S Specifications

  • 2 x [email protected] + 6 x [email protected] CPU
  • Mali G52MC2@614MHz GPU
  • 3GB/4GB RAM
  • 3.5″ Touch Screen Display (4:3) 640 x 480 @60fps
  • Android 11
  • HDMI Out (480p)
  • Analogue L2/R2 & 3D Hall Analogue Sticks
  • 4000mAh battery 
  • Retail: $99

Retroid Pocket 2S Performance

retroid pocket 2s dreamcast

The Retroid Pocket 2S has the perfect amount of power for a 3.5″ device with a 4:3 aspect ratio, there’s no need for anymore, it would be overkill for a retro handheld of this size.

GoRetroid know exactly how gamers are going to use this device, and have priced it accordingly to knock competitors out of the sub $100 price range competitively.

After testing many different consoles using many of the best emulators for retro gaming the Retroid Pocket 2S peaks at emulation the best Gamecube games.

The sleek user interface makes scanning my gaming library an absolute pleasure, showcasing the box art throughout the menus.

The Retroid Pocket 2S really impressed me when I started testing a multitude of Gamecube games, majority of games run flawlessly, and even the larger 3D games such as Simpsons Hit & Run perform very well, to a point that it’s now my go to portable Gamecube emulator.

There’s no internal fan so you won’t hear any fan noise, or increase heating of the shell when playing Gamecube games, making the device feel like a magical device that can outperform many handhelds on the market that cost well over $150.

Because of the 4:3 display and the more comfortable location of the DPAD, older games are enjoyable to emulate.

For example the best Playstation 1 games play really well on here, with the choice of stick, or DPAD, the same goes for the best PSP games which can be hard to emulate if there’s not enough processing power, even God of War works flawlessly.

Nintendo 64 games and Dreamcast games is easy to emulate on the Retroid Pocket 2S, and looks beautifully colourful on the screen, Mega Drive, NES, SNES and Gameboy games are also running smoothly.

retroid pocket 2s emulator settings

Issues only really begin to show in Nintendo Wii games, and even though it has a PS2 emulator installed, the performance is so poor its not even worth your time, it just isn’t powerful enough to run PS2 games.

Even emulating Nintendo DS games is a little cumbersome because of the single screen, but that’s not down to its specs, it’s just annoying to have to switch the Nintendo DS screens using a mapped button every time you want to see something.

So, if you’re looking for a device that can emulate Nintendo Wii and PS2 games this is not it, and if you were expecting that for $100… you’re crazy!

Saving, Changing Settings & More

Because the Retroid Pocket 2S uses Android 11 it’s very easy to save your games, load states, changing button mapping and so on.

All you have to do is swipe either right, left or up on the screen to access the emulator settings, making saving and accessing settings as easy as a swipe.

Android Gaming

Many won’t buy this device because of its Android OS capabilities, but there’s no ignoring the fact that you can in fact download Android games and applications to use for gaming purposes.

I tried installing XBOX Game Pass on here, but because of the small 3.5″ screen it’s irritating to play on and I found myself uninstalling the app shortly after.

But that said, some Android games to play well on the gamepad, adding an extra layer of gaming capabilities for those that have some Android games they can’t live without.

Overall Opinion

This is easily one of the best retro handhelds under $100, period.

It’s not often a handheld comes out that blows me away. The fact that I can play my favourite Gamecube games on the go, with superb build quality and great comfortability makes me really excited to recommend this to you if you’re looking for a new retro gaming device.

At first, I was displeased to see GoRetroid not innovate with a new design, but the upgraded specs, new modern features and added movement to the whole devices makes it feel like a completely new device.

You might be worried about having to upgrade in the near future, but actually after reviewing this unit I dont think you’ll need too if you are wanting to emulate Gamecube games and older.

Up from that is Nintendo Wii and PS2 Games which require more processing power and a much larger screen to enjoy it in handheld form, which at the moment would require a budget of over $150.

GoRetroid have created a superb handheld here, and it’s certainly in the running to be one of our favourite handhelds of the year so far, on par with the RG405M.

Read Our Latest Posts