“A disappointing handheld with little innovation, poor marketing and a bunch of problems”.
There’s a reason why we have taken our time with this TRDR Pocket review, and we’ll get onto why in this review because it has been one of the most confusing handhelds we’ve reviewed in a long time.
We’ve had our review sample since early August before any other media outlet, and have made a couple of videos on it, but this is the first time we are reviewing it as an actual gaming/media device.
What caught our attention, and why you are probably reading this review is the fact that the old school rapper known as Soulja Boy has been stating that it’s his “new video game console”.
If you’re new to Soulja Boy’s antics, back in 2019 he started dropshipping low quality Chinese handhelds to his fans under the name “SouljaGame” which failed miserably, and he was caught red handhld sourcing these handhelds from China for $30 and selling them for $100+.
He decided that wasn’t enough, and then did the same with a video games console in 2020 which never came to fruition, and many customers lost money in the scam. Not only that Nintendo apparently sent him a cease and desist because this “console” came pre-loaded with Nintendo games without a license.
And now, in 2021 he’s back again, but this time with a new videos games console under the name of TRDR Pocket or SouljaGame, but what you may not know is that SouljaBoy does not own this company, like he has stated online.
TRDR Pocket is owned by Gianni O’Connor (CEO of Go Games), a tech entrepreneur who we have been in frequent contact with many times during this review period.
When asked if SouljaBoy owns or has any business control over TRDR Pocket Gianni said: “No, he owns a few shares depending on how many devices he sells and what contacts/friends in the industry he allows us to work with, he is simply a brand ambassador”.
To my surprise Gianni was very open, and honest when answering my questions, to a point when we discussed “SouljaGame”, and from our conversation it was clear that SouljaBoy is somewhat allowed to do his own thing in terms of marketing this device.
If SouljaBoy wants to pretend the business is his and that SouljaGame is a different entity by confusing customers he is allowed to do so. TRDR Pocket do not care about the customer confusion, and would rather SouljaBoy “do his thing” and get sales than own up to the poor marketing strategy that is causing the brand to be viewed poorly in the public eyes.
So that’s a quick look at the SouljaBoy issue, even if it does go beyond what was stated above but there’s something else. The second marketing issue is the fact that the TRDR Pocket looks identical to that of the Retroid Pocket.
We again gave Gianni a call to get some more information and after hours of phone calls and text messages it was clear that they still state that this is a “new” handheld. What he also mentioned is that they have purchased the moulds from China, which are nearly identical to that of the Retroid Pocket.
But the moulds that they have purchased (which we’d bet are Retroid Pocket moulds) needed to be altered in order to fit the TRDR Pocket’s screen and 4G sim cards. They made some expensive adjustments to this mould in order to fit their screens and that’s why they are stating it’s “new”.
But to me personally, that’s like Samsung buying iPhone designs and simply adding a different screen and a sim card slot, it in no way makes it “new”.
I know this increases profit margins, and for their first handheld it’s financially a good move, but the fact that the deny that its anything like the Retroid Pocket is another poor marketing tactic.
They created a handheld, and didn’t even think that the handheld community and their target demographics would know about the Retroid Pocket that sold 100,000’s of units.
It’s simply poor market research and it would have looked better for the TRDR Pocket team if they simply said “Yes, it’s the same but we can’t wait to make this design far better with increased CPU capabilities”.
I think the market would have respected that approach, but no, they went the opposite direction and tried sweeping it under the carpet.
I will move onto reviewing the handheld itself shortly after this section of our review.
My Biggest Problem With The TRDR Pocket
What my biggest problem is with this device, isn’t necessarily the device itself, it’s the way it’s being advertised.
Everything feels shady, they’re purposely missing out on vital information, being dishonest with their advertisements, showing zero to little video footage of their products, using near identical moulds to old Chinese handhelds and partnering with celebrities that lie and have had a history of scamming gamers.
All of that was before they even opened pre-orders! I get it, they want to sell as many as possible, but this marketing strategy has completely backfired. SouljaBoy himself has caused them to get the bad kind of attention, and the product itself has so many issues that it’s close to feeling like a scam itself.
This is proof that dishonesty and lies doesn’t get you very far. They’ll see an initial spike, but word of mouth and media outlets like us will bring honest reviews to the surface which will likely crumble the business if innovation isn’t swiftly used.
The TRDR Pocket team seem to be a nice bunch of people who are motivated, intelligent and have a genuine interest in start-ups but I feel like the overwhelming hunger for money has driven them to make poor decisions which actually damage the company’s name and the customers approach to the product.
I actually think they could make quite a cool handheld, but shortcuts have been made, things have been rushed, and they’re relying on celebrities rather than relying on a decent product.
Heck, it’s highly likely that they bot Instagram likes, every one of their images after 30 minutes receives an instant 1,200 likes. I spoke to them about it and they said “someone is probably botting us”, which was laughable. Go look for yourself, all of their images sit at around 1,200 likes with zero to three comments.
We could also talk about how nobody has received their orders three months after paying, but we’ll leave that up to their customer support team to deal with. We even get frequent emails asking to look into it by their customers, but unfortunately it’s beyond us.
You see, all of that combined makes the brand feel untrustable, and that’s currently where we are at.
But let’s put all of the marketing aside, and let’s talk about the product itself.
TRDR Pocket Specifications
- 3.5″ Touch Screen Display
- Helio P60 2.0GHZ Processor
- 3GB RAM
- 4000 MAH Battery
- Bluetooth 4.0
- Android 10
- $199 – $299
TRDR Pocket Design & Comfortability
The TRDR Pocket is a good looking device, I said that in our Retroid Pocket review and I’ll say it in this review.
It’s like a modern day Gameboy with strong popping colours, 6 face buttons and a large screen that feels up the head of the device. Your index fingers rest nicely along the sides of the device and your thumbs can easily guide itself around the front.
The analogue stick is identical to that of a Nintendo Switch, which is high quality and nice to use, but it doesn’t have an L3 functionality. The D-PAD used isn’t very good, and has this circular design that’s meant to help when playing fighting games but it’s very sensitive so that at times, you’re continuously pressing directions you’re not meant to.
The 6 face buttons are well located should you be interested in playing your best N64 games via emulators and they sit deep into the handheld allowing you for fast responses and quite clicking.
Below that is your start, select and home buttons which are useful but the text which has been poorly etched onto the device is now starting to discolour and peel off. This is the same with the TRDR logo on the front and on the back, they’re very faded and looks like it’s been drawn on by a cheap Sharpie.
The speaker grill is located on the bottom right corner of the face, just like an original DMG Gameboy. Around the device you will find your ports and buttons. On top is a Micro USB port, which should be USB-C because it’s 2021, a SD card slot (which has a different colour silicone door compared to the rest of the shell), a headphone jack and a Mini-HDMI out port.
Then on the sides you will find your on/off switch, and volume buttons. These are nicely placed for your index fingers to get to easily.
Then on the back, you will find your TRDR Pocket logo (again poorly etched) and the SouljaBoyGame logo which is confusing because they’re almost agreeing that it’s the SouljaGame even though the SouljaGame doesn’t exist because he’s just a brand ambassador.
The biggest downfall with this gaming device is that it has no shoulder buttons… at all. In their previous marketing campaigns it stated you could play Call of Duty and Fortnite, and we tried just that and it was the most uncomfortable handheld we have ever used.
We had to play Call of Duty via the tiny 3.5” touch screen. We didn’t touch any of the actual buttons! Do you know how hard it is to play shooting games on a 3.5” touchscreen? It’s incredibly frustrating.
So this again cements the misinformation and false advertisements used in order to grow sales. In fact, because it was pre-installed with Android 10, we couldn’t even download Fortnite, even though they said it could. We would have to downgrade the OS in order to install it.
And finally, the touch screen. Straight out of the box the screen was causing us issues. It was incorrectly calibrated, so when we touched a section of the screen, it would think our finger was an inch below it. And because the first thing we needed to do was to login to Google, it took us 20 minutes just to type in our email and password on a tiny keypad that wasn’t calibrated.
Even when we calibrated it, we still had issues with the touch sensitivity, almost like we had to press hard on the screen to get a signal. The touch screen would have been nice, but it’s just frustrating on a small screen especially when we had issues from day one.
User Interface & Performance
What is good about the TRDR Pocket is the technology used inside, it has some nice specs, lots of RAM, an above average processor, Android 10 ready, bluetooth 4.0 and HDMI Out.
It’s quick, and can easily run most of your intense Android games. It can also emulate N64, Dreamcast and PSP pretty well too should you be able to put the hours into configuring the buttons and tweaking the settings.
The HDMI-out works pretty well, and because of Bluetooth 4.0 you can connect controllers to it including the new Xbox wireless controller. This is a nice feature for sure, and in combination works okay if you can get around the clunky UI, but using a wireless controller on the 3.5” screen is just overkill, the device needs to be a foot away from your face, anything further and you will need binoculars.
What’s good about Android 10 is the fact that you can turn this games console into a media player, and after reviewing this device for so long, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a media player that can not only play some Android games, but it can also be used for Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Tik Tok and more.
This is the route that the TRDR Pocket is going down, I think they’re realising that it’s not very good at being a games console but instead it’s good for being a separate device for social applications and some small scale games/emulators.
The team behind TRDR Pocket have managed to make the analogue stick usable in these social applications, which is a great achievement, and the team should be proud of it as we know how hard that must have been.
The analogue stick simply glides around the screen, and allows the TRDR Pocket to be a fully functioning social media console in a way, but again, all of this on a 3.5” screen just feels ancient and not organic at all.
It reminds me of playing on a clunky Tamagotchi.
If you do pick one up, you will need to configure it straight out of the box. You’ll need to add your Google logins, download applications, tweak the settings, setup Wifi and so on. This was the biggest put off and we can imagine a lot of customers are going to be instantly hit with the annoying touch screen and tiny keypad as soon as it lands on their desk.
This sets the user up for a poor experience straight out of the box. No apps were pre-installed, no custom games, nothing. It’s as if they’ve just simply loaded a stock OS and hoped for the best.
This could be different for customers, but our unit came with nothing pre-installed.
When you start using applications and playing games it simply feels like a lot of effort. I have to focus on the small screen, use my giant fat thumbs to operate on the 3.5” display, I have to remember what buttons are configured for Android 10 and when I’ve done all of that, it just feels easier to pull out my smartphone or RG351MP.
Overall, yes this is a negative review and we do not recommend buying one of these for $199/$299. The marketing behind the product is off putting and even though the internals used in the TRDR Pocket is respectable, it simply feels like an unfinished overpriced product that has been rushed into production and relies simply on celebrity endorsement rather than word of mouth or respected reviews.
I don’t doubt that the TRDR Pocket team are talented, but the product they have made just isn’t good enough, especially when it’s priced at $299 and the Steam Deck, the AYN Odin Handheld, the Powkiddy X18S and more are just around the corner.
This has been a very confusing product to review. Firstly I had to clear up all of the fibs that were announced when the product was revealed. I had to sieve through the laughable SouljaBoy malarkey and when I finally got to the product and put everything else aside, it just didn’t impress me and it cemented the dodgy marketing that I had previously seen.
The handheld market is growing incredibly fast and I think we’ll see more Western start-ups trying to take a slice of the pie, but until someone does it professionally and honestly then these companies are going to grow and fail pretty swiftly.
Word of mouth is the best form of marketing, not celebrities who are paid to do shout outs, and this is a prime example of that.
Save your money, don’t crank that.