review

Anbernic RG350 Retro Handheld Emulator console from DroiX

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

It is amazing how far gaming has come where you can now have portable emulation of classic game consoles like SNES and SEGA Genesis, right from a smartphone or single board computer! If building your own retro-gaming machine or running emulation apps from a phone doesn't get you excited though, a portable handheld emulator like the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console from DroiX might just do it for you!
The Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console features springy dual analog joy sticks with rubber tips, two USB-C ports, mini HDMI out, micro SD card slot, 3.5mm audio/video jack and a tactile d-pad with a pivot in the middle, which helps prevent you from pressing multiple directions at once on the d-pad.
The d-pad pivot feature is, definitely, worth highlighting because not all d-pads, namely the Nintendo Switch Pro controller and Sony Playstation d-pads have this simple, yet helpful feature.
The integration of a mini HDMI out port on the Anbernic RG350 console allows you to display the contents of the console on a display monitor or TV screen, which is neat. The 3.5mm jack socket also supports audio and video signals; hence you can also send audio and video that way.
On the front of the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console, there are four gaming buttons, a select button and a start button. On top, there are four bumper buttons (L1, L2, R2 and R1), two USB type C ports, the mini HDMI out and the 3.5mm audio/AV jack.
The USB-C ports are labeled USB1 and USB2 and there is a reason for that as they serve different functions. USB1 is only used for external devices in OTG mode, whereas USB2 is designed for connecting to a computer, as well as charging the unit.
Speaking of charging, the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console features a lithium-ion 3.8V 2,500 milliamp hour battery that can power the Anbernic RG350 console for up to 6 hours and be recharged in under 3 hours.
On the bottom of the RG350 console, you find the speaker grills, power button, micro SD card slot, volume rocker, and reset button. The stereo speakers sound good but they are small so, the bass response is lacking although you can tweak it a little bit from the sound mixer setting or, better still use external speakers or headphones.
The Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console takes a few seconds to boot up into the Gmenu2x menu system, which has an interface similar to a desktop computer (navigation is done via the L1 and R1 buttons). The default menu section is the Applications menu where you will find settings such as the clock and the input tester so, you can test that all the controls on the console are working.
The menu sections are all located on on top of the screen and includes the emulator section, which contains all the emulators supported by the RG350 console, including PS2, CPS1, CPS2, FBA, NEO-G, NEO-G Pocket, GBA,GBC, GB, SFC, FC, MD, SMS, GG, Handy, MSX, PCE, WSC, POKE MINI
The Settings section lets you access settings to configure menus, change themes and network for connecting the Anbernic RG350 to a computer via the USB2 type C connection port. There is enough buttons to support all the emulator systems that the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console supports at full speed. The analog joysticks can be programmed per emulator too, which is nice.
The Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console is able to run PlayStation 1 games at full speed like Crash Bandicoot, Ape Escape and Crash Bandicoot 2 without video frameskip but not all.
The Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console is not able to sustain 60fps with graphic intensive PS1 games like Bloody Roar and Tekken 3 when video frameskip is disabled. You can set frameskip to auto or set it to 1 to improve the frames per second but then, that brings the issue of frameskip.
The menu for most emulators can be accessed by pressing the start button or select button. Sometimes you have to press L1 or R1 for some emulators though. Emulator performance is very good overall with most emulator games, being able to keep up a consistent 60 frames per second, even the SNES games with fx chip and Metal Slug 4, which is known for slowdowns.
The Games section of the RG350 contains many pre-loaded games such as Turtles in Time, which comes in the arcade version and SNES version. You can download more games by copying them to the micro SD card. As for the operating system, the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console uses OpenDingux, which is a  popular Linux distribution used by many handheld emulators.
There is no WiFi on the RG350 console; hence no wireless multiplayer capability and no over-the-air firmware update capability. The only way to update the custom firmware (CFW) is by opening the RG350 console to access the internal 16GB micro SD card and manually flash it and install the new firmware on it. If you do want to do this though, it's worth using the included micro SD card for the new firmware install and keep the stock firmware as backup.
Opening the plastic back panel is straightforward as you only need to undo four regular screws with phillips heads, unclip the panel carefully and lift it off.
The internal battery is glued to the underside of the back panel and it's detachable from the board. The LCD housing and bumper buttons are made of plastic.
Once you have removed the microSD card, it's a simple case of inserting it into a micro SD card reader and on to a computer to format it. To properly format it, you have to delete the old partitions, using a free software like Diskgenius.
Then, you can write the new firmware by using an application like Win32DiskImager to write the firmware image to the microSD card. The new partitions layouts will be created while writing the firmware image; hence you won't need to create them yourself.
The brains of the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console is the JZ4770 1GHz dual core 64-bit System on a chip (SoC) processor, which is the same system on a chip used in several android tablets and tablet computers.
There is 512MB of DDR2 RAM available, as well as 16GB of storage capacity with the option to expand up to 128GB via the micro SD card slot, which is nice to have since many new devices (i.e. smartphones) no longer support storage expansion via microSD card.
The size of the display is 3.5 inch, bright and clear with high quality color reproduction, thanks to integrating IPS (in-plane switching) screen technology, which is far superior to a retro matrix LCD. The IPS LCD display of the RG350 has better viewing angles and a 320 x 480 pixel resolution with 60 Hertz refresh rate, which works great even in broad daylight.
As well as retro gaming emulation, you can also use the Anbernic RG350 console as a WAV audio recorder, E-Book reader and, audio and video player, thanks to supporting a variety of video and audio playback formats, including RM, RMVB, AVI, MKV, WMV, VOB, MOV, FLV, ASF, DAT, MP4, 3GP, MPG and MPEG, as well as APE, MP3, WMA, DRM WMA, OGG, APE, FLAC, WAV, AAC (Including: AAC-LC/AAC HE/AAC+V1/V2). It's worth mentioning that you can not play an audio file as the background audio of ingame audio.
All things considered, the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console feels great on the hands as it only weighs 160 grams and measures 15cm long, 7cm wide and 1.4cm thick. The RG350 does a seriously god job of making emulator games look really good on a small screen versus emulator games on bigger monitors!
With firmware update support, the Anbernic RG350 Retro Game console will only get better with future updates. In fact, there is a beta for N64 emulation that is said to be released in the next firmware update.

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