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GKD Pixel review: Solid micro console

GKD Pixel review: Solid micro console

GKD Pixel retro console

The GKD Pixel handheld console for playing retro games is tiny, measuring 80 x 56 x 18mm. With a full metal body, this micro handheld feels a lot more premium and durable than other retro handhelds in its price range. It's a great candidate as a pocket gadget that stays unnoticed till you have 10 minutes for a quick game of Tetris or a few turns of an RPG.

Quick specs:

  • 80 x 56 x 18mm; 107g
  • 2.4-inch 320 x 480-pixel LCD
  • microSD (64GB card included with device)
  • USB-C, 3.5mm audio

The GKD Pixel's standout feature has to be its full metal body, available in red, blue, green, and grey. It fits in the palm of your hand, with a build that feels much more solid than other products in this size category. I like that the screen is recessed, reducing the chance of it getting scratched when carried around without a case. There's quite a lot of white printed text and symbols on the device, the most obvious being the “GAME KIDDY PIXEL” logo below the 2.4-inch screen and a line of Morse code under that.

In addition, there's also white printed text accompanying the Start/Select keys, microSD card slot, USB-C port, headphone port, and power button. On the right side of the GKD Pixel is its most unique feature: A row of four green LEDs to show the remaining battery. I feel that the liberal use of printed labels and the LED battery indicator add to the GKD Pixel's retro charm, but those who prefer a cleaner look may find it unnecessarily busy. 

Credit: John Chan/Can Buy or Not

The buttons on the GKD Pixel are also made of metal. As expected from a micro handheld, the D-pad and face buttons will be smaller than what you'll find on a Nintendo Switch or PlayStation controller. Regardless, they work well for short gaming sessions, and I had no issues executing moves in fighting games or shooting diagonally in side-scrollers.

One of the best use cases for a micro console is for playing turn-based games and RPGs with one hand, and the GKD Pixel is perfect for that. The narrow width means your thumb can reach both the D-pad and face buttons with ease. The placement of the shoulder buttons on the top edge of the device also makes it natural to operate with that same hand's index finger. Games-wise, this handheld will emulate PlayStation and older systems, using ROMs stored on its microSD card. Many Nintendo handheld games, such as those made for the Game Boy Advance, are perfectly suited for it.

Credit: John Chan/Can Buy or Not

The software experience on the GKD Pixel is where it falls short. Its IUX interface presents you with unintuitive choices like Emu, Games, RetroArch, and Test. Once you start one of the standalone emulators or apps, there isn't a consistent way of returning back to the main menu.

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The good news is that there's an alternative frontend called MinUI created by an independent developer. After downloading and installing MinUI, you get a consistent, fast interface that really complements the idea of the GKD Pixel being a micro handheld for quick sessions. For starters, MinUI boots up really fast. Also, turning off the device will autosave your game, letting you continue from where you stopped the next time you turn it on.

Naturally, gaming on a device with a larger screen like the 3.5-inch Anbernic RG35XX is much more comfortable. However, if you don't mind the 2.4-inch display on the GKD Pixel, it's a much more pocketable device that you can have on you all the time. The GKD Pixel is a great device to scratch your gaming itch a few minutes at a time, but it's held back by the default user interface. It's still worth buying, especially as you can get it from AliExpress for around S$100, but it will require some extra tweaking for the best experience

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Solid micro handheld once custom software is installed

Buy from Aliexpress

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