Anbernic RG35XX Plus Review: new baseline for every retro handheld emulators

It’s easy to pin down the newer Anbernic RG35XX Plus as the new baseline for every retro handheld emulators, because the original Anbernic RG35XX has done so well for such title. However, in a more competitive market with cheaper and cheaper devices using the RockChip RK3326 chipset, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is a solid answer to keep its legacy. So, get ready for a quick impression on Anbernic RG35XX Plus review today.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus ranks B in my retro handheld emulator ranking list

Anbernic RG35XX Plus

The next-gen baseline retro handheld emulator

Anbernic’s response to numerous portrait retro handhelds using RockChip RK3326 chipset on the low-end segment, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is truly the end-game for anyone who don’t care about analog sticks.

Anbernic debuted the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, in hope to capture the same magic as the Miyoo Mini Plus. A truly smart move from the manufacturer, as the Anbernic RG35XX holds more potential than anything before it, to become the new baseline retro handheld emulator for everyone.

Anbernic RG35XX Plus Review: Price

Key features

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is the current crop of Anbernic, which is a tactical unit to compete with various retro handhelds at $50 price point, for example the PowKiddy RGB20S, R35S, R36S and D007. All these previous names hold the same internal specifications as the Anbernic RG351M that costs, well, more than $100.

The mission of Anbernic sales team is to sell the unit in stock, then discontinue the whole product to develop new ones. As a result, we can expect to see the Anbernic RG35XX Plus to completely replace the previous Anbernic RG35XX in the past. Something that we get used to, with the perfect example of the Miyoo Mini Plus.

However, unlike the Miyoo that is basically the “Plus” version of the Miyoo Mini (thanks, Apple), when it was first unveiled, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus looks a lot like the original RG35XX. Still, it went much further under the hood.

We’d been there before with the ‘Plus’, ‘Pro’ and even ‘S’ conumdrum: a new handheld comes along, taking the shell of the previous model, adds some new bits and pieces, and then claims to be an entirely new handheld emulator. So quick and simple. The only thing that we should care about is, obviously, the price of the new device.

For that little problem, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus delivers the same price as its original model, something that’s great considered it is a much more powerful device. You can now find it in most places for around $50 to $75, most commonly at $67. With a discount coupon, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus can finally take on other cheap handhelds.

Again, I recommend to buy one from either Ebay or Amazon, but if you find the deal on AliExpress is hard to ignore, just go with it. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t expect much from the support of these Chinese handheld brands, and cheap electronic products are prone to errors. Just don’t abuse your handhelds.

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Anbernic RG35XX Plus Review: Design and Build Quality

Anbernic RG35XX PlusFeatures
Dimensions81 mm x 117 mm x 22 mm
Weight186 grams
FormVertical
Screen3.5 inch IPS, 640 x 480, 228.57 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
ColorsGray, Transparent White, Transparent Black
Speaker placementFront facing
StorageExternal microSD
Audio output3.5mm headphone jack
Video outputMini HDMI
Charge portUSB-C
Key features

  • Mostly the same as the RG35XX: pocketable, suitable for both one-handed and two-handed plays
  • Different from the RG35XX: better shoulder buttons design, a bit heavier
  • Screen is mostly suitable for GB and GBC games, and okay for GBA games
  • Screen is retro-purist, meaning NES, SNES and PSX games have good scaling
  • Build quality is decent

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus represents the pinnacle of that particular retro handheld emulator design for us gamers: a very similar handheld to the classic Game Boy Pocket model. It is a device for nostalgia, and admit it, Nintendo is better than all copy cats at making handhelds for decades. So you should expect to see the same design for many years to come.

Perhaps that’s less of an issue now that the common retro handheld emulator is becoming something of a commodity, a device that is so oft-used by the middle-aged generation that no longer requires the top-tier hardware for playing time-consuming AAA titles. We come to retro handheld emulator to find the similarity, not the creativity.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing either; just because it’s not an ‘exclusive’ design that doesn’t make the Anbernic RG35XX Plus any less premium. The same color as the very first Game Boy Pocket is something so premium for us in our childhoods, then the clear, transparent editions are what we asked in our teenage dreams.

There is a new clear black edition, which is somehow similar to the Miyoo Mini Plus, albeit only colored letters for ABXY buttons. This is quite similar to the New Nintendo 3DS XL that I love the most.

After all, it’s really the same Anbernic RG35XX from the outside, which is a bit bigger than the competitor Miyoo Mini Plus. People who want a bigger bad boy for playing action games can think of the Anbernic RG35XX Plus. Finally, it’s pocketable, lightweight and cute for displaying.

Moreover, the same magic screen as found in the RG35XX is back to the Anbernic RG35XX Plus. A 3.5-inch screen with a resolution of 640 x 480, making it still-sharp at 228 ppi, quite similar to the Nintendo Switch. People who’re more acquainted with common smartphones will be a little disappointed, but for me who still use classic handhelds like the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS can see a world of differences. Many people even claim that they want the crispy IPS display more than native display on original consoles. Ha, blasphemy.

Joking aside, the sharpness is overall better than the 10-year old 3DS for true, and the color reproduction is okay for, well, every retro game the Anbernic RG35XX Plus can handle. It seems to be the same screen part that is used over and over again in the retro world. The bezel isn’t as thin as the Miyoo Mini Plus, again, which is the reason why people still impress with the Miyoo handheld more than the Anbernic.

Thankfully, Anbernic does know which to copy Miyoo, and we have the higher-positioning L2/R2. It was the bad design of the original RG35XX, and the RG35XX Plus does a much better job.

But beyond that I don’t think I can find any difference between the RG35XX Plus and the original RG35XX. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?

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

Anbernic RG35XX Plus Review: Gaming Experience

Anbernic RG35XX PlusFeatures
CPUAllwinner H700 (Cortex-A53), 4 cores 4 threads @ 1.5 GHz
GPUMali-G31 MP2 @ 650 MHz
Memory1 GB LPDDR4
Battery3300 mAh
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, WiFi 5
Cooling systemHeatshield
Key features

  • Targeted system emulator: GBA, SNES, PS1, N64 and Dreamcast
  • Targeted game genres: all game genres
  • Better than most RK3326 variants

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Performance

Tested games

  • Game Boy Advance: Metroid Fusion, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  • SNES: Star Fox! Starwing
  • PS1: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Slug X, Bloody Roar 2
  • NDS: New Super Mario Bros
  • PSP: Persona 3 Portable, God of War: Ghost of Sparta
  • N64: New Super Mario Bros
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🟢
B
🟢
B
🟢
B
🟢
B
🟡
C
🟠
D
🔴
F
🔴
F
🔴
F
🔴
F
🔴
F
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

While the original Anbernic RG35XX possesses a quad-core processor, similar to the common RockChip RK3326 chipset in the more expensive Anbernic RG351P, it uses a very old Cortex structure that has been made for, said, a 2005 Nintendo DS. The Anbernic RG35XX Plus uses the Allwinner H700 processor, which is a Cortex-A53 CPU – similar to the Nintendo Switch. Quite a difference from the original.

Under the hood, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus enables the Mali-G31 MP2 GPU – the same GPU being used in the RockChip RK3326 chipset of the RG351 series, as well as many PowKiddy devices like the PowKiddy RGB10S or PowKiddy RGB20S. One more thing, the stock firmware doesn’t hold back the GPU just like in the original RG35XX, so you can expect full potential to emulate more demanding systems: mostly Dreamcast and PlayStation Portable.

Moreover, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is staple with 1 GB of RAM, and it is LPDDR4 no less, so it would consume much less power and be faster than the predecessor. With such internal specifications, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is far more efficient than other RK3326 variants you can buy using only DDR3 RAM. The result, the RG35XX Plus is fully capable of emulating Nintendo 64 system, and it can even try some Saturn games. Quite great, right?

But that’s only in the paper, because the first custom firmware Garlic 2.0 for the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is still in alpha, and we should wait for quite a longer time for the handheld to unleash its full potential.

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Gaming session

Playing with the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is mostly the same as the original Anbernic RG35XX, which is somehow great with its 4:3 screen. The display is golden, retro-purist for most people who want to emulate home consoles on handheld mode, for example NES, SNES, PS1, N64 and Dreamcast. All of these systems are made for retro 4:3 screen, so upscaling these games feel much more native and accurate than other systems, like GBA.

New shoulder buttons’ design of the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is much better, and because you will need to use the L2/R2 for save states feature, I want them that way on the RG35XX Plus.

However, as the Anbernic RG35XX steps further into the realm of N64, Dreamcast and PSP, the lack of left analog trigger will be quite devastated for many people. I don’t expect Anbernic to upgrade the RG35XX Plus as a new model of Anbernic RG351V, so only D-Pad buttons are fine for me on most parts. I also advise you to think it’s as the better hardware to do the same tasks as the original, not as a proper N64 emulator.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the New Super Mario Bros N64 version on the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, but make sure you’d love to use D-Pad buttons. People who care about a better N64 emulator must up their games to buy the Retroid Pocket 2S, no less.

Unfortunately, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus isn’t backed up by a big community like the Miyoo, so we don’t have such magic as Onion OS. While I find Garlic OS is a good carbon copy of Onion, it is only made and maintained by one man, limiting its popularity as the competitor. If only Onion fully works on the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, I bet the competition will be far more interesting, because the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is capable of dual booting, thanks to its dual-SD card slots.

Do you think one day the Anbernic RG35XX Plus can touch even GameCube system? It isn’t really a smooth gameplay, but at this price point it will be a dream comes true for many people.

One thing that I should mention right from the start is the valuable addition of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi features for the Anbernic RG35XX Plus. Though I don’t think Bluetooth fully works with Linux stock system, Wi-Fi feature is must-have for anyone who want to try multiplayer games with his friends. Wi-Fi also enables OTA updates, as well as retro achievements unlocking – something that makes the Miyoo Mini Plus a more dedicated handheld than the original RG35XX.

Battery life

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is ready to match its biggest competitor in terms of battery life, with a swappable 3300-mAh battery capacity. Not only does it hold charges much longer, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus also allow us to swap battery, and the process is as noob-friendly as the Miyoo Mini Plus.

The battery is supposed to last for up to 5-6 hours with not demanding games, specifically NES and GBA. Playing PS1 and N64 will drain your battery a lot faster, and the gameplay time will reduce to around 3-4 hours. Still okay for a pocketable handheld.

It also uses common USB type C charger port, which is common at the moment. I recommend to use a 5V 1A charger with an USB A-to-C cable, as it is better for your handheld’s battery life. Normally, it takes 3 hours and a half to fully charge the device from low battery, the same as the original.

Lazy handheld man’s choice
B for Gaming Experience.

My verdict

The new upgrade, and soon to be the standard RG35XX model – Anbernic RG35XX Plus has everything you need to be the baseline retro handheld emulator. It is cheap, far more powerful than the previous, and finally, it learns from the competitor to be a far better handheld. The only thing you’re waiting for is a wonderful custom firmware to make the handheld shine, at least as much as the Miyoo Mini Plus.

Get it if

  • You want a vertical handheld
  • You just want the most value for your $50 – $70
  • You want Wi-Fi or swappable battery
Don’t get it if