Best retro gaming handhelds – 4 of the best for price and performance

Posted by

If you are new to retro gaming handhelds and are considering buying one it can be quite daunting at first. There are dozens out there with budget and premium prices, Linux and/or Android operating systems, vertical or horizontal orientation, and processor performance. Our easy to follow best retro gaming handhelds guide highlights the best based on price and performance.

We will start our best retro gaming handhelds guide with a look at four of what we think are the main choices you should consider based on their prices and performance. After we will directly compare the technical specifications and their level of emulation, followed by our pick for best retro gaming handhelds.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus

Overview of the Anbernic RG35XX Plus

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus stands out as a notable player in the retro gaming handheld market. This compact device, measuring approximately 4.61 x 3.19 x 0.87 inches and weighing 186 grams, is available in three appealing colours: White, Grey, and Transparent Black. It boasts a 3.5-inch IPS display with a 640×480 resolution, perfectly catering to the retro console experience.

Best retro gaming handhelds Anbernic RG35XX Plus
Anbernic RG35XX Plus

Ergonomically designed with a D-Pad, gaming buttons, and additional controls, including a volume rocker and power button, it also features two micro SD card slots for ample storage. The device is equipped with a USB Type-C port, a 3.5mm headphone port, and a mini HDMI port for big-screen gaming, enhancing its appeal as a versatile gaming handheld.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus Technical Specifications

Delving into the heart of the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, we find impressive technical enhancements that elevate its performance. The device is powered by an H700 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU with a frequency of 1.5GHz and a dual-core G31 MP2 GPU. It comes with 1GB of LPDDR4 RAM and offers 64GB of storage via a TF/MicroSD card. Notably, it supports both 2.4/5G WIFI and Bluetooth 4.2, ensuring seamless connectivity. These specs signify a substantial upgrade from its predecessor, the Anbernic RG35XX, notably in processor power, RAM, and connectivity options, marking it as a formidable choice for retrogaming enthusiasts.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus runs 8bit and 16bit systems perfectly
The Anbernic RG35XX Plus runs 8bit and 16bit systems perfectly

Anbernic RG35XX Plus Operating System and Software

The RG35XX Plus operates on Linux, maintaining the user-friendly and efficient frontend of the original model. It supports a wide array of emulators, including arcade systems, 8 and 16-bit consoles, and handhelds like the NeoGeo Pocket and WonderSwan. The RetroArch section is particularly noteworthy, offering cores for multiple systems, thereby enhancing its reputation as a retro handheld par excellence. The device also features HDMI output support, maintaining high performance across various emulators. Its straightforward OS and frontend, coupled with an extensive emulator support, make it an attractive choice for retro gaming aficionados.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus Emulator Performance

In terms of emulator performance, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus excels in running 8 and 16-bit system games flawlessly. Its prowess extends to more demanding systems like PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast, delivering smooth gameplay with minimal issues. The device also supports NDS and PSP emulators, although some games may be challenging due to the non-touchscreen display.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus is great for PS1 emulation
The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is great for PS1 emulation

The upgraded H700 processor significantly improves the performance of PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast games compared to the original RG35XX. While the PSP emulator doesn’t always run at full speed, it’s still capable of playing many games with frame skipping.

Why you should consider the Anbernic RG35XX Plus?

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus, with its superior specs and performance, stands out as a top choice for those entering the retro gaming handheld market, outperforming its predecessors and competitors like the Miyoo Mini Plus. Definitely one to consider for the best retro gaming handhelds list.

Miyoo Mini Plus

Overview of the Miyoo Mini Plus

The Miyoo Mini Plus emerges as a key player in the retro handheld gaming market. Measuring 4.25 x 3.07 x 0.8 inches and weighing 165 grams, it presents a compact and lightweight design, available in four vibrant colours: Grey, White, Transparent Black, and Transparent Purple. This gaming handheld features a 3.5-inch IPS display with a 640×480 resolution, offering a balanced visual experience for retro gaming.

Best retro gaming handhelds Miyoo Mini Plus
Miyoo Mini Plus

Its ergonomic design includes standard gaming buttons, a menu button, volume controls, a headphone jack, micro SD card slot, and a USB Type-C charge port. The back of the device sports four uniquely designed buttons for comfortable gameplay, making it a compelling option for one of the best retro gaming handhelds for retro console enthusiasts.

Miyoo Mini Plus Technical Specifications

The Miyoo Mini Plus is powered by an ARM Cortex-A7 dual-core processor, clocking up to 1.2GHz, and is equipped with 128MB of RAM. It comes with a 64GB micro SD card, supporting expansion up to 128GB. Notably, the device lacks an HDMI port, a feature present in its counterpart, the RG35XX. The Miyoo Mini Plus boasts a 3000mAh Li-polymer battery, offering up to 8 hours of gameplay, surpassing the original RG35XX in battery life. These specifications position the Miyoo Mini Plus+ as a competitive choice in the retro gaming handheld segment, offering a balance of performance and convenience for enthusiasts.

Miyoo Mini Plus Back View
Miyoo Mini Plus Back View

Miyoo Mini Plus Operating System and User Interface

The Miyoo Mini Plus runs on a basic yet functional operating system, making navigation and game selection straightforward. It features a simple menu system where players can browse through various systems and select games, with an added capability for creating save states and accessing the RetroArch menu. The RetroArch menu expands the device’s gaming repertoire, including portable game consoles and various consoles like Atari Lynx and Neo Geo CD. The menu and features of the Miyoo Mini Plus+ are well-suited for a retro gaming handheld in its price range, offering a more aesthetically pleasing interface compared to the RG35XX.

Miyoo Mini Plus Emulation Performance and Custom Firmware

Emulation on the Miyoo Mini Plus is generally proficient, supporting a range of systems up to PlayStation 1. While performance issues are noticeable in some SNES games and certain PlayStation 1 titles, the majority of games run smoothly.

Miyoo Mini Plus Transparent Purple shell
Miyoo Mini Plus Transparent Purple shell

Custom firmware, particularly Onion OS, enhances the device’s capabilities significantly, adding support for additional emulators and systems, including classic Atari consoles and Commodore, among others. This firmware transformation elevates the Miyoo Mini Plus+ from a standard retro handheld to a top-tier gaming device, offering a seamless gaming experience with features like Game Switcher and a comprehensive emulator list.

Why you should buy the Miyoo Mini Plus?

In conclusion, the Miyoo Mini Plus stands out for its simplicity, portability, and decent battery life, making it a worthwhile investment for retro gaming enthusiasts. Although it faces stiff competition from the RG35XX Plus, especially in terms of performance and comfort, the Miyoo Mini Plus+ with Onion OS offers an enriching gaming experience that is hard to overlook as one of the best retro gaming handhelds.

Miyoo Mini Plus Transparent Black shell
Miyoo Mini Plus Transparent Black shell

By the way, we have a great Miyoo Mini Plus guide here which covers everything from initial setup, using it, adding ROMs, and installing custom firmware.

AYA NEO Pocket Air

Overview of the AYA NEO Pocket Air

The AYA NEO Pocket Air, a notable entry in the retrogaming handheld market, presents an intriguing design inspired by the Famicom, featuring red and white colours with yellowed thumbstick caps. This gaming handheld measures 8.8 x 3.5 x 0.6 inches and weighs 380g, offering a balance between portability and ergonomic comfort. It boasts a 5.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920×1080, delivering vibrant and bright colours that enhance the gaming experience.

Best retro gaming handhelds AYA NEO POCKET AIR

The device includes hall sensor analogues, additional buttons for accessing the AYA SPACE overlay, comfortable shoulder and hall sensor trigger buttons, macro buttons, and a power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor. Additionally, it has a Nano-SIM and Micro SD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone port, and a USB Type-C 3.2 port, compatible with HDMI output via a USB hub.

AYA NEO Pocket Air Technical Specifications

The AYA NEO Pocket Air is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 1200 CPU with 8 cores, capable of reaching up to 3.0GHz, and features a Mali G77 GPU. It comes equipped with 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, ensuring smooth and efficient performance. The display specifications are impressive, with 404 PPI and high colour gamut coverage, providing an immersive visual experience.

The display is great on the AYA NEO Pocket AIR
The display is great on the AYA NEO Pocket AIR

Additionally, the device includes hall sensor joysticks and triggers, an X-axis linear motor for vibration, dual six-axis gyroscopes, and a comprehensive set of communication options including Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and 4G LTE. Biometric security is provided through integrated fingerprint recognition in the power key. The AYA NEO Pocket Air runs on a 7350mAh rechargeable battery, offering about 3 hours of continuous use, with an efficient air-cooled cooling system to maintain optimal temperatures.

AYA NEO Pocket Air Operating System and Software

The AYA NEO POCKET AIR has a premium UI and software
The AYA NEO POCKET AIR has a premium UI and software

Running on Android 12, the AYA NEO Pocket Air features the AYAHome Android Launcher and AYASpace app for handheld software management, including a “Quick Tool” screen overlay. This custom software provides a user-friendly interface similar to an Android phone, with easy access to apps and settings. The AYA SPACE launcher allows importing of Pegasus and Emulation Station setups, offering flexibility for users with existing setups. However, the device currently lacks a screen mapping tool, a critical feature for Android handhelds, which is expected to be added in a future update. The AYA SPACE overlay offers convenient access to performance and fan settings, controller tweaks, and other essential functions.

AYA NEO Pocket Air Emulator Performance

In terms of emulator performance, the AYA NEO Pocket Air excels in running 8 and 16-bit systems up to the PS1 and Dreamcast era, with the capability to upscale rendering to 1080P. It delivers solid performance on more advanced emulators like Dolphin, DeSmuME, PPSSPP, Citra, AetherSX2, and Vita3K, though it shows mixed results with Yuzu, indicating limitations for more demanding games.

It runs most emulators but struggles with the Switch
It runs most emulators but struggles with the Switch

Why you should buy the AYA NEO Pocket Air?

Benchmark comparisons reveal that while the AYA NEO Pocket Air outperforms similar devices like the GPD XP+, it falls short of the performance offered by the AYN Odin 2, especially considering the price-performance ratio but still deserves a mention in this best retro gaming handhelds guide. In conclusion, the AYA NEO Pocket Air is a visually appealing and comfortable Android retro gaming handheld, yet its current software limitations and performance compared to similarly priced alternatives should be considered before purchase.

AYN Odin 2

Overview of the AYN Odin 2

The AYN Odin 2 stands out in the market of retro gaming handhelds with its impressive design and functionality. Measuring 8.8 x 3.8 x 0.6 inches and weighing 420g, the Odin 2 is slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor, offering a robust feel. Available in five colours including Transparent Blue, Transparent Purple, Black, Cold Grey, and White, it caters to various aesthetic preferences. The device features a 6-inch IPS touchscreen with a 1920×1080 resolution, providing clear and vibrant visuals.

Best retro gaming handhelds AYN ODIN 2

It includes dual hall effect sticks, a D-Pad, gaming buttons, home and return buttons, along with analogue triggers, shoulder buttons, a micro SD card slot, a micro HDMI port, a volume rocker, a power button, and custom back buttons. LED lighting around the analogue sticks and sides adds a customizable visual appeal, enhancing its status as a versatile android retro gaming handheld.

AYN Odin 2 Technical Specifications

The AYN Odin 2 packs a powerful punch with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 CPU and an Adreno 740 GPU. It offers various RAM options, including 8GB, 12GB, and 16GB LPDDR5x, depending on the model (Base, Pro, Max). Storage capacities also vary from 128GB to 512GB UFS 4.0, providing ample space for games and apps. Its 6-inch touchscreen boasts a 16:9 aspect ratio, ideal for gaming and multimedia.

Both Android games and emulators run great on the AYN ODIN 2
Both Android games and emulators run great on the AYN ODIN 2

For connectivity, the Odin 2 supports Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3, ensuring fast and stable connections. A notable feature is its massive 8000 mAh Li-Pro battery, promising extended play sessions. This gaming handheld also includes dual speakers for an immersive audio experience, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB 3.1 Type C port, making it a well-rounded android handheld for gaming enthusiasts.

AYN Odin 2 Operating System and Software

The AYN Odin 2 operates on Android 13, providing a contemporary and user-friendly interface. It features a start-up wizard for easy setup and offers the choice between a standard Android launcher and an Odin-specific launcher. The familiar overlay found in Retroid handhelds is present, offering shortcuts for commonly used functions like brightness adjustment and screenshot capture. Additionally, the Odin 2 includes a screen mapping tool, allowing users to map on-screen controls to the physical gaming buttons, enhancing the overall gaming experience on this android retro gaming handheld.

AYN Odin 2 Emulator Performance

In terms of emulator performance, the AYN Odin 2 excels, delivering remarkable results across various platforms. PlayStation emulation through DuckStation, Dreamcast, Dolphin, AetherSX2 for PlayStation 2, PPSSPP for PSP, Citra, Vita3K, and even the Yuzu emulator for more demanding games, all run smoothly, showcasing the Odin 2’s capabilities as a gaming handheld. The device provides an excellent balance of performance and comfort, with only minor issues like the slightly loose feel of the D-Pad and buttons. Its battery life, estimated at around 6 hours, is sufficient for extended gaming sessions.

The AYN ODIN 2 is great for emulation, you can even upscale the resolution
The AYN ODIN 2 is great for emulation, you can even upscale the resolution

Why you should consider the AYN Odin 2?

Overall, the AYN Odin 2 emerges as a top contender for best retro gaming handhelds in the retro console and android handheld market, offering unparalleled performance for almost every available emulator. Its combination of powerful hardware, versatile software, and user-friendly design make it an excellent choice for retro gaming enthusiasts.

Best retro gaming handhelds specs compared

Here are all of the technical specifications for our suggested best retro gaming handhelds.

CPU & GPUARM Cortex-A53 4 cores @ 1.50GHz. G31 MP2ARM Cortex-A7 dual-core processor @ 1.2GHz.MediaTek Dimensity 1200 @ 3.00Ghz 8 cores, 8 threads. Mali G77 MP9Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 @ 3.2GHz 8 cores, 8 threads. Qualcomm Adreno 740
STORAGE2x Micro SD card slots64GB Micro SD card256GB + 1x Micro SD card slot128GB, 256GB, 512GB + 1x Micro SD card slot
DISPLAY3.5″ 640×4803.5″ 640×4805.5″ 1920×1080 touchscreen6″ 1920×1080 touchscreen
OSLinuxLinuxAndroid 12Android 13
BATTERY3300 mAh3000 mAh 7350 mAh8000 mAh
EMULATION LEVELGreat PS1/Dreamcast, some PSPOK PS1/DreamcastGreat PS2 emulation, Switch emulation not as good as AYN Odin 2Excellent PS2 emulation, Some Switch emulation

Our best retro gaming handhelds recommendations

Best budget retro gaming handheld

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is truly a remarkable device for retro gaming enthusiasts, especially for those on a budget. Its affordability combined with impressive performance makes it a top recommendation for anyone looking to dive into the world of retro gaming. With this handheld, you can delve into the realms of PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast era games with minimal issues, and even enjoy a small selection of PSP games running.

In comparison to the Miyoo Mini Plus, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus offers a slightly superior price-performance ratio, solidifying its position as an ideal choice for both newcomers and seasoned veterans of retro gaming handhelds. Whether you’re new to this nostalgic gaming experience or have been a long-time fan, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is sure to provide countless hours of joy and entertainment.

Best performance retro gaming handheld

The AYN Odin 2 is truly a standout retro gaming handheld. Its performance in its price range is unparalleled, and it even surpasses other handhelds by running some Switch games. For those with a larger budget, this device is a top choice. While setting up the emulators and games may require some effort, it is a fairly straightforward process. With its impressive capabilities, the AYN Odin 2 is currently one of the best options available for retro gaming enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a device that offers exceptional performance and a wide range of gaming possibilities, look no further than the AYN Odin 2.

Best performance retro gaming handheld AYN ODIN 2
Best performance retro gaming handheld: AYN ODIN 2