Anbernic RG351V Review: design is well-planned but performance is not

The Anbernic RG351V won’t wow you with specs and design anymore, but the vertical retro handheld which can be used one-handed has an analog stick that would be great for PSX and PSP emulators. Let’s find out in our today Anbernic RG351V review, which I still hope the next RG35XX version 2 could borrow this design.

Anbernic RG351V ranks C in my retro handheld emulator ranking list


Anbernic RG351V

The vertical handheld in 351 series

A vertical retro handheld emulator that has better specs than the popular RG35XX, as well as an additional analog stick for movement.

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Anbernic, as usual, released a vertical-form handheld that shares the same internal hardware as its initial model. The RG351V has only one analog stick, but surprisingly it is more than enough for the device to emulate the PSX and PSP systems.

Anbernic RG351V Review: Price

Key features

  • Commonly found at: $109
  • Costs 1.63 times the RG35XX

Making a vertical retro handheld is kind of expertise from Anbernic, as the company has made nearly ten different vertical devices in the span of 4 years. Both the previous RG300 and RG280V are quite familiar with people who love retro handhelds, and I really want a next upgrade for the RG280V – a very distinctive “mini” vertical handheld.

Back to the RG351V, it is the vertical form of the RG351P while using the same form and design from the previous RG300. Pocketable, affordable, zippy in day-to-day use, the RG351V is built for gaming, and it delivers great battery life than its brothers in series.

Announced in the middle of the RG351 series, the Anbernic RG351V is actually the most affordable of the four, packing the same of their specs and targeting a different form factor that might interest particular gamers. The later RG351MP, learnt from the success of the RG351V, keeps the same pocketable dimensions as well as 4:3 retro-purist screen. This is truly where the RG351V stands out from the previous horizontal-form RG351 devices.

Among other RK3326 variants, I actually prefer the RG351V over the PowKiddy RGB20 and PowKiddy RGB20S, although you commonly find the PowKiddy RGB20S at much cheaper price. Button placement design-wise, the RG351V is better than the RGB20S, while both its build quality and screen display are superior to the PowKiddy RGB20 that was released before. However, if you can manage to adapt with the design better than the price, the PowKiddy RGB20S is still, ahem, 25% cut of the price of the Anbernic RG351V.

You can still get the device officially on AliExpress and Ebay, but I recommend to buy from either Ebay or Amazon for quick shipping time and good refund policy.

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Anbernic RG351V Review: Design and Build Quality

Anbernic RG351VFeatures
Dimensions94 mm x 140 mm x 26.8 mm
Weight230 grams
Screen3.5 inch IPS, 640 x 480, 228.57 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
ColorsWoodgrain, Gray, Transparent Black
Speaker placementFront facing
StorageExternal microSD (2 slots)
Audio output3.5mm headphone jack
Video output
Charge portUSB-C
Key features

  • Form factor is pocketable, a bit on heavier side
  • Screen is widely suitable for retro games: SNES, PSX and even Dreamcast, N64
  • Screen has the highest pixel density
  • Volume adjustment changes from wheel to dedicated buttons

The Anbernic RG351V looks good, yes, it reminds us of a typical Game Boy that would definitely bring back memories for people living in this era. Moreover, the well-known design ensures a comfortable grip for long gaming sessions, even though the RG351V is not one example of slim and well weighted device.

At 26.8mm thick, this is the chunkiest handheld that I own, up until the recent RG405V. As a result, the RG351V is more favorable for people with big hands, especially when it weighs 230 grams. If you try lying on couch and playing the RG351V, you should avoid playing action games, because both the weight and form factor combination will certainly drag your hands down. That’s why I still prefer only the Miyoo Mini Plus for vertical retro gameplays.

Unlike the RG351M that was released earlier the same year, the RG351V targets gamers on tight budget, so it uses the same plastic housing as the RG351P. Actually, I never see a vertical retro handheld emulator that uses metal housing, and I’m more than fine with plastic products. My trusted New Nintendo 3DS XL uses more plastic than metal, and it is still sturdier than any low-end retro handheld emulators that cost as much.

One thing you will love about the RG351V more than even the flagship metal-shell RG351M of the series is that the RG351V has a 4:3 screen. Remember that retro games were played on a CRT television display using 4:3 aspect ratio, the RG351V can deliver the most native feelings for retro gameplay than the 3:2 screens of previous RG351 devices. The screen also has higher PPI, and the overall image quality is better.

As for the back, the RG351V is thick in a way that I don’t really like using the device. You can imagine or compare the size of the RG351V with the RG35XX, which is more favorable to me, and the RG351V is thicker and longer, too. Problem is the longer dimension only makes trouble in positioning my fingers, as I find it harder to use D-Pad on the RG351V than the more compact RG35XX.

The only good thing for the size of the RG351V is that I don’t accidentally block the mono speaker of it when playing, which is a common issue when using the RG35XX. If you mainly play it with earbuds (to reduce the volume, and improve battery life), then perhaps this isn’t an advantage for your end.

There will one less analog stick for the RG351V, in comparison to the whole RG351 series. For some people, the lack of right analog stick can be a problem for a few PlayStation 1 that actually benefits from dual analog sticks using. However, I must remind you that PlayStation 1 is designed with analog stick in mind, and harder-to-emulate systems like Nintendo 64 and PlayStation Portable only have left analog stick; so theoretically the RG351V will meet your demands.

The volume control changes from wheel to dedicated buttons. It is up to preference but I prefer dedicated buttons when I want to put handhelds in pocket. Dedicated buttons are less prone to damages than other types, too.

Lazy handheld man’s choice
C for Design & Feel.

Anbernic RG351V Review: Gaming Experience

Anbernic RG351VFeatures
CPURockChip RK3326 (Cortex-A35), 4 cores 4 threads @ 1.5 GHz
GPUMali-G31 MP2 @ 650 MHz
Memory1 GB DDR3
Battery3900 mAh
Cooling systemHeatsink
Key features

  • Targeted system emulator: SNES, PSX
  • Can play some PSP games well
  • Targeted game genres: all game genres

Related post: Best retro handheld emulator.


Tested games

A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The RG351V uses the same RockChip RK3326 chipset, combined with 1 GB of RAM – a respectable mix of specs for Linux gaming at the time it was released. At the moment, the RG351V is superseded by the RG353 series using newer RockChip RK3566 chipset and 2 GB of RAM, that can run Android system decently.

In the past, the retro handheld can runs SNES and PSX systems easily, even Nintendo DS is playable with such internal hardware. The processor increases from 2 cores (older Ingenic JZ4770 chipset) to 4 cores, with higher clock speed. None of this matters at the moment, because we have better handhelds for the same price. I won’t surprise if the next-gen Anbernic handheld can run up to PlayStation 2 for the same asked price as the current RG351V.

Basic games up to NDS system are handled without any issues. But when you start loading intensive Nintendo 64 or Dreamcast games, it all comes down to optimization. I recommend you to check out the 351elec RG351’s N64 compatibility list first before trying, because the RG351V struggles a lot when it comes to N64 system. Dreamcast isn’t a system that I have much experience with, but from what I tried it is pretty much the same as the Nintendo 64 system.

Luckily, the RG351V can play PSP quite well, despite of not having the same resolution as the native hardware. Some big titles of PlayStation Portable system is playable, but needs some tweaks in settings. Meanwhile, the benchmark game like God of War: Ghost of Sparta just won’t run. I recommend you to check the RG351’s PSP compatibility list, which lists all playable PSP games, as well as things you should avoid at all cost.

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Gaming session

The RG351V’s 4:3 screen is not really pixel-perfect for Game Boy Advance games, but it is widely regarded as the best aspect ratio for retro games, thanks to a huge cover of retro systems. It is actually a good thing, because I surprisingly find a lot common gamers like me who only uses the native hardware for retro systems, so we own every retro handheld like the GBA, Nintendo DS or PlayStation Vita, etc. Retro handheld emulators are commonly used to emulate retro home video game consoles like NES, SNES, PSX, N64, Dreamcast and PS2.

There are more active custom OS firmware for an old retro handheld emulator like the RG351V in the past. At the moment, we should get used to Android devices, which aren’t really everyone’s taste. Linux system doesn’t play well with Bluetooth, and the UI is not as fancy as Android, but anyone who love minimalist concept will prefer Linux over Android. You can try AmberELEC, ArkOS and JELOS for the Anbernic RG351V.

One thing I should mention that the RG351V isn’t actually a good option for playing NDS games. Its screen is too small (only 3.5 inches) that it’s painful to emulate dual screens of NDS (2X 3.25-inch screens) into just one, and there is no touchscreen. Some NDS games that don’t require bottom screen, however, are okay to play on the RG351V, like all Pokemon big titles.

The lack of right analog stick doesn’t affect the RG351V’s PSP gameplay, because native PlayStation Portable only has one left thumbstick. It is painful to map control for the right stick, so I think the RG351V is decent for playing PSP games. Actually, I think the best way to enjoy PSP games is using a homebrewed PlayStation Vita.

And there is built-in Wi-Fi feature on the RG351V, which is a reason we hate the RG351MP for lacking such feature despite being the later product. Again, I highly recommend 351elec because it is easier to set up Wi-Fi than other custom firmware.

Battery life

The RG351V’s battery capacity is a bit higher than its brothers in series, using a 3900-mAh battery. Given the same internal specs and screen size, the battery is more than enough to keep the retro handheld emulator last up to 6 hours.

However, in real-world uses, the handheld made it only after 3-4 hours for mixed systems running. If you targets harder systems like N64 or Dreamcast, they will drain the RG351V sooner. For me, it is still fine for a handheld device, and many people will use the handheld as a portable media player for flights and weekends away.

You can use the normal USB-C cable for the Anbernic RG351V, and it needs 3 hours to be fully charged. Fast charging can speed up the charging process, but it will degrade your battery.

Lazy handheld man’s choice
C for Gaming Experience.

My verdict

Though the RG351V is commonly found at a cheaper price than its metal-housing brothers, it is still outdated to the RG353V and RG353VS at the moment. It is thicker, heavier, and generally has lower performance, so I don’t recommend you to get new ones, unless at very cheap price.

Surprisingly the RG351V has built-in Wi-Fi capability, so it could be a better call than the RG351MP at higher price. Still, it’s all up to your preferred form factor to use. Just remember that the RG351V is only good up to PSX system, so don’t expect it to play Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast, unless you want to tinker heavily.

It is actually my go-to-option if the price could go lower, among many different handheld variants using the RockChip RK3326 chipset. It has a 4:3 screen, better button placement and overall better build quality than the PowKiddy counterparts.

Get it if

  • It is cheaper than asked price
  • You want a vertical device
Don’t get it if

  • You want a cheaper RG351V: Get the PowKiddy RGB20S
  • You want a smaller ‘mini’ handheld for GBA: Get the RG35XX or Miyoo Mini Plus
  • You want a horizontal device: Get the RG353PS
  • You want an overall better device: At least get the Anbernic RG353V