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Anbernic RG35XX review: Retro fun

Anbernic RG35XX review: Retro fun

Anbernic RG35XX

Handheld gaming devices that run retro games have seen a renaissance in the last few years. There is now a wealth of Gameboy/Switch/PS Vita-lookalikes that let anyone dive into a retro gaming rabbit hole. The Anbernic RG35XX is an incredibly popular option that will give you hours of fun for under S$80.

Quick specs:

  • 165g
  • 3.5-inch IPS 640 x 480 pixel display
  • Two microSD slot, mini-HDMI out, 3.5mm audio, USB-C (charging)
  • ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, PowerVR SGX544MP GPU

The Anbernic RG35XX is designed to look like the original Nintendo Game Boy. Aside from the grey version seen here, it's also available in transparent white and transparent purple. While it looks similar enough, the RG35XX has more buttons than the OG Game Boy. Crucially — since it's able to emulate up to Sony PlayStation (PS1) games — it has four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. The 3.5-inch screen looks good whether indoors or when outside, and its 640 x 480-pixel resolution is higher than required for the consoles the RG35XX emulates. The buttons and D-pad feel good, and are pretty quiet when pressed. The shoulder buttons rattle when you shake the device, but are pretty quiet when pressed. I had an issue with the D-pad's accuracy when playing Apotris, an excellent modern Tetris GBA game, but was able to fix it with a simple mod.

Credit: John Chan/Can Buy or Not

At the bottom are the USB-C (for charging) and 3.5mm audio jack. The top has a mini-HDMI port for TV output. The right side has two microSD card slots, as well as the power and reset buttons. Volume controls are on the left. There's a 2600mAh battery with about 4 hours of playtime. While the RG35XX is no larger than a smartphone, it is significantly thicker. I wouldn't carry it in my pocket, but it will fit nicely in a purse or sling bag. By default, the Anbernic RG35XX comes with a dual-OS system (Anbernic's stock OS, and the more customisable, enthusiast-made Garlic OS) installed on its microSD card. Games are preloaded on the microSD card — the number depends on whether you bought one with 64GB or 128GB capacity. Adding more games is easy, just copy them to the correct game system folder in the microSD card.

Credit: John Chan/Can Buy or Not

The stock OS is really simple. You choose the game system (like PS1, GBA, various arcade systems etc.) followed by the game. Settings are straightforward for each system type, and all the games I've tested play well. Switching to Garlic OS gives you a more visually pleasing environment. You get options to add apps made for Garlic OS, change menu themes, and access to a Nintendo DS emulator not found in the stock OS. However, note that enthusiasts that love to tinker made this OS. So in the process of customising Garlic OS to your needs, be mindful that you may inadvertently break it. But there's a huge community of RG35XX users on Reddit, so there's ready help available online. An oft-repeated advice from the community is that the included microSD card is prone to failure, and recommends swapping it out for a brand name card from SanDisk or Samsung.

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My suggestion for those who don't want to fuss around with the device: Just live with the stock card and stock OS. Swap the card out only if it fails. It will cost you the small price of a new card, (potentially) your games' save progress, and a few hours of your time to prepare a new card for use with the RG35XX. To sum up, the Anbernic RG35XX is an affordable handheld device that lets you relive playing video games from the 20th century. It's also a gateway to retro games for younger ones who grew up knowing only iPad or Nintendo Switch games. You can find this handheld console for around S$73 on Shopee and Lazada

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Hours of retro gaming in one handy device

Buy it at Shopee
Buy it at Lazada

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