Anbernic RG405M Review: a direction toward perfection

My Anbernic RG405M review found a metallic, powerful and attractive retro handheld emulator (only at the moment). Clearly the handheld isn’t the final answer, because it struggles to the most demanding systems like GameCube, Wii and PlayStation 2; but I think it is a good direction toward perfection.

Anbernic RG405M ranks B in my retro handheld emulator ranking list

Anbernic RG405M

Still the most powerful retro handheld under $200

It is still the most powerful retro handheld under $200 price point, but it is a bit more expensive than the competitors using T618 chip, due to the aluminum shell.

Anbernic uses the Anbernic RG405M as a premium, metallic version of the RG505 that the company made to compete against the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus. Certainly, the Anbernic RG405M is the most pocketable retro handheld.

Anbernic RG405M Review: Price

Key features

  • Commonly found at: $179
  • Costs 2.67 times the RG35XX

If we were to judge the Anbernic RG405M on nothing but its premium aluminum shell and, in particular, the performance of the UNISOC T618 chipset for a 4-inch display with 4:3 aspect ratio, we might call it the best retro handheld emulator ever.

Yes, I know. It is only for the current chipset, right now in 2023, and for less than $200. So at least, the best retro handheld emulator in 2023. The Retroid Pocket 4 is destined to come, and it would be a much more awaited processor for retro gaming, something that can blow the Anbernic RG405M out of the water.

The Anbernic RG405M can hit right out of the box for most retro games, and it packs with a good 4:3 screen that for me personally, it’s the reason I choose it over the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus. Secondly, it is really what I want for a retro handheld emulator – its portability. It is pocketable, so you can bring it anywhere without dragging your jeans down. In a queue to your lunch, or when you wait for your kids after school, the Anbernic RG405M certainly is there for you.

There are naturally better options in the future, but at least I can vow for the Anbernic RG405M as the best retro handheld emulator of this year.

Related post: Best handheld gaming console.

Anbernic RG405M Review: Design and Build Quality

Anbernic RG405MFeatures
Dimensions162 mm x 73.6 mm x 15.8 mm
Weight265 grams
FormHorizontal
Screen4 inch IPS, 640 x 480, 200 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
ColorsBlack & Grey
Speaker placementBottom facing
StorageInternal 128 GB eMMC, External microSD
Audio output3.5mm headphone jack
Video output
Charge portUSB-C
Key features

  • Great pocketable form factor
  • Screen is widely suitable for home consoles
  • 4-inch screen seems to be better than most retro handheld emulators
  • Doesn’t need an external microSD

An inarguably common retro handheld emulator, the Anbernic RG405M ups the game from a regular 3.5-inch display to 4-inch, which is certainly a big improvement from Anbernic. It starts from the Anbernic RG350M design, but decides to takes it forward with a different style for thumbsticks.

But still, the frame is a solid aluminum that rigidly resists bends. It is the same material that is used in flagship smartphones in the past, so I don’t surprise that the Anbernic RG405M could ask more money than, said, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus and Anbernic RG405V.

The screen glass is tempered and OCA laminated for a better durability. It is quite a staple option for retro handheld emulators at the moment, and I don’t see any differences between the RG405M and the RG405V. The IPS display is still good for everything regarding retro games, as we can upscale and apply filters for enhanced visual improvements.

However, the Anbernic RG405M has lower pixel density than the RP3+ that has been the most favorite handheld of lots of people. For retro games, I don’t really care about the pixel density (well, most old games don’t need as many pixels as modern games), so the Retroid handheld doesn’t really win with its screen for my heart. Still, if you plan to use the handheld as a streaming device, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is a winner.

The above finishes come in only two color options, which are far less fancy than most of other common Anbernic devices. Perhaps Anbernic isn’t sure about the Anbernic RG405M that the company decides to keep it as low cost as possible. It makes sense, because the Anbernic RG405M doesn’t feel like a distinctive handheld on the outside. Moreover, the aluminum shell destroys the possibility to have a transparent, “limited” edition.

While the Anbernic RG405M lacks fancy editions for its customers, its aluminum shell is capable of dissipating heat much faster than plastic shell. If you plan to emulate PlayStation 2 on this handheld, the metal shell really helps cool the unit after that. Despite of that, I don’t recommend playing PS2 on the Anbernic RG405M, more on this later.

The first time I have the Anbernic RG405M, I think the design is quite okay. Well, the D-Pad placement isn’t for my taste as a retro handheld emulator, but holding the RG405M and using lower-placing D-Pad is okay in most parts. But when I have the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, I certainly want the separated D-Pad buttons (and yes, I have the Retroid later, despite that it was released sooner than the RG405M). That’s why after all, my most favorite retro handheld emulator to date is the Retroid Pocket 2S.

Sadly, there is no mini HDMI output for the RG405M, which is a key feature to buy the RG35XX. I know, I know, you guys are too familiar with the fact that I don’t care about this feature. But hey, many people are concerning about plugging their devices into TV mode, so they should think twice before buying the Anbernic RG405M. Again, all the Retroid handhelds can be a better alternative for them.

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

Anbernic RG405M Review: Gaming Experience

Anbernic RG405VFeatures
CPUUNISOC Tiger T618 (2 cores Cortex-A75, 6 cores Cortex-A55), 8 cores 8 threads @ 2 GHz
GPUMali-G52 MP2 @ 850 MHz
Memory4 GB LPDDR4X
Battery4500 mAh
ConnectivityWiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.0
Cooling systemVentilation cutouts
Key features

  • Targeted system emulator: all systems below PlayStation 2
  • The best experience for SNES, PSX and N64 systems
  • Have great performance for big GameCube titles
  • PSP work flawlessly, albeit different aspect ratio
  • Targeted game genres: all game genres

Related post: Best retro handheld emulator.

Performance

Tested games

  • SNES: Star Fox! Starwing
  • PS1: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Slug X, Bloody Roar 2
  • N64: New Super Mario Bros
  • PSP: God of War: Ghost of Sparta
  • GameCube: Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Wii: Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
  • PlayStation 2: God of War, God of War 2
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🔵
A
🟡
C
🟡
C
🟡
C
🟡
C
🔴
F
🟠
D
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

Over almost a month of multiple systems testing, the Anbernic RG405M tells me that the UNISOC T618 is definitely a decent processor for the price. It outperforms everything I have up until the moment, and even right now when I am writing this review. Together with a stock Android 12 OS, the Anbernic RG405M can run everything from GB, GBC, GBA, NES, SNES, PSX, NDS, N64, Dreamcast and PSP with ease. No frameskip and you can upscale for everything in these systems.

The T618 chip is known to struggle for big titles of GameCube and Wii, and it is almost impossible to run PS2 without burning your hands. Android 12 certainly improve the overall performance of processing from the previous Android 11, however I don’t think it is enough to run PlayStation 2 and 3DS on this handheld.

There is a good RG405M’s compatibility list for the handheld, but I recommend to check the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus’ compatibility list for a much more thorough list. In general, both handhelds share the same internal specifications, so you can bind the same settings.

For what it’s worth, the handheld is still not the perfect retro handheld emulator. We’re looking for something that can play full PS2 games at the same price point as the Anbernic RG405M. Hope that Anbernic can keep up with the rumored Retroid Pocket 4.

Related post: Best handheld gaming PC.

Gaming session

While the vertical form factor reminds us of a handheld era made by the Game Boy, it’s certainly not great with many action games in home consoles. The horizontal form factor seems to be a better choice for anyone who want a portable experience with retro games, most likely SNES, PSX and PS2.

The Anbernic RG405M is certainly the fruit of years of making different styles from the manufacturer. It is not groundbreaking by any means, but it is suitable for most hands out there. Even for a D-Pad prayer like myself, I find using lower-placing D-Pad in the Anbernic RG405M is good enough, and I don’t have hand fatigue as something as the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus, which uses the same layout.

One thing that you will love to have the Anbernic RG405M is its supported community. While the handheld is an Android 12 device, it’s also capable of running Gamma OS – a custom firmware to keep you away from the busy app collection of Android. People who don’t like Daijisho can run Garlic 2.0 – a simple, gaming-focused Linux system for the Anbernic RG405M. It is also familiar with more people, because perhaps we all use the Anbernic RG35XX at one point in our lives.

Gaming sessions with the Anbernic RG405M is surprisingly good because I can try some favorite GameCube and Wii titles in better resolution, for example anything related Fire Emblem. Not everything I throw at the Anbernic RG405M is playable, so if you’re a heavy GameCube player, I suggest to hold your decision for a better product, for example the upcoming Retroid Pocket 4.

Anbernic has made a lot of noise about its RG353 series, but it seems the Anbernic RG405M is long forgotten with no cheaper alternative. It is such a shame, because the pocketable handheld with good processor and 4:3 screen – I’m all in. Not to mention that the Anbernic RG405M has hall sensor joysticks, which is a clear better experience for gamers.

However, I still don’t want to play Nintendo DS or Nintendo 3DS on the RG405M, because I feel the dual-screen experience can’t be replicated with only one screen. If you are looking to emulate these systems, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is a much nicer experience, at least in my opinion. Moreover, playing PSP in a 4:3 screen is weird so I only started one game to test the performance.

Battery life

The RG405M shares the same battery life as its competitors, with a 4500-mAh battery. It is good for not demanding retro games, but if you plan to emulate PSP and more, it would drain the battery faster. Normally, the handheld is good for 6-8 hours, but if you try to emulate PS2, you could drain full battery in just 2 hours.

You can use the normal USB-C cable for the Anbernic RG405M, and it needs 3 hours to be fully charged. It is supposed to have fast charging, but don’t trust the manufacturer in making low-end retro handheld emulator with decent fast charging.

Lazy handheld man’s choice
A for Gaming Experience.

My verdict

The Anbernic RG405M ticks almost all of the boxes for me: a pocketable size, durable material, retro-purist screen and overall great buttons. However, it is more expensive than the rest of the competition, yet it doesn’t deliver the required performance for most demanding retro games. As a result, it is just another stepping stone toward the best retro handheld emulator.

Still, I don’t recommend to wait for such a perfect retro handheld. The Anbernic RG405M is enough juice for itself to run up to GameCube and Wii with no decrease in visual quality. It is not a playable experience for most of 3DS and PS2, so you probably shouldn’t buy the handheld for such heavy task.

I still play many SNES and GBA games on the Anbernic RG405M for convenience, though right now I will prefer the Retroid Pocket 2S as a cheaper alternative that Anbernic should have made long time ago.

Get it if

  • You want a pocketable yet powerful T618 handheld
  • You want to target PS2 at cheaper price
  • You want hall sensor because RP3+ doesn’t have
  • You want a retro-purist 4:3 screen for retro games
Don’t get it if