PowKiddy RGB20S Review: a dual-stick RG351V, but no Wi-Fi

Unofficially titled the “dual-stick RG351V”, the PowKiddy RGB20S is a decent retro handheld emulator on its own. Sarcastically, the PowKiddy RGB20S gains one right stick by trading off many other important features, to the point that many people will be disappointed. So, in my today PowKiddy RGB20S review, I want to share some thoughts about a popular retro handheld at the moment.

PowKiddy RGB20S ranks C in my retro handheld emulator ranking list

PowKiddy RGB20S

Actually good performance per price

Released 3 years after the original PowKiddy RGB20, the PowKiddy RGB20S brings the RockChip RK3326 chipset at much reasonable price.

PowKiddy brought back the old RockChip RK3326 into a new device, showing that we can have cheaper products with more power. As a result, the PowKiddy RGB20S is a blast for its price, but certainly you need to sacrifice some features.

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Price

Key features

  • Commonly found at: $70
  • Costs 1.04 times the RG35XX

If we are going to talk about price, the PowKiddy RGB20S is the winner. It is commonly found at the same price as the baseline RG35XX, while having about 80% more performance. So, if I want to grind about the value per performance, the PowKiddy RGB20S should be the new champion now.

However, in real-world use, the PowKiddy RGB20S doesn’t really emulate more systems than a RG35XX. Certainly you can play quite a few titles of N64 and PSP, something that you can’t properly do with the RG35XX even when overclocking RG35XX CPU, the emulation performance is only mediocre at best. But hey, when you can buy something at cheap price, a bit more power is still better.

In the whole lineup of PowKiddy RGB10 variants, I can only recommend the PowKiddy RGB20S because the current vertical retro handheld is so cheap for the same performance. On AliExpress, you can normally buy this handheld at around $59, which is about $10 to $30 cheaper than its own brothers employing the RK3326 chipset. If you’re familiar with my other reviews, you can quickly buy the PowKiddy RGB20S without checking its design and gaming experience. However, by doing that, I’m certain you will try to sell it soon.

It is one of these popular handhelds that you can buy on Amazon, sadly at higher asked price than AliExpress. However, the reason you should choose Amazon is because they offer a 30-day return for products.

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PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Design and Build Quality

PowKiddy RGB20SFeatures
Dimensions83 mm x 120 mm x 20.8 mm
Weight180 grams
Screen3.5 inch IPS, 640 x 480, 228.57 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
ColorsBlue, Orange, White
Speaker placementFront facing
StorageExternal microSD
Audio output3.5mm headphone jack
Video outputβœ—
Charge portUSB-C
Key features

  • Smaller and lighter than the RG351V, definitely pocketable
  • Better screen than most other PowKiddy RGB10 variants, including of the PowKiddy RGB20
  • Build quality is actually similar to Anbernic now
  • Center speaker placement resembles the GBA SP
  • Very bad button placement

The PowKiddy RGB20S was only released last year, meaning it takes 3 years for another RK3326 variant to appear. It is not only cheaper than other variants in the same family, it has better design. Or at least that’s what I thought.

So I will talk about the display first, because it is the real hero that save this retro handheld emulator. The PowKiddy RGB20S calls out to the retro fans with its 3.5 inch IPS, but unlike most other RK3326 variants that shamelessly copy the first Odroid Advance Go, this one has an 4:3 display that runs at 640 x 480 – a staple resolution which we deem as “retro-purist”.

All this means is that it’s literally worth having the PowKiddy RGB20S, because the display is so crisp that I love a lot more than the PowKiddy RGB20 and PowKiddy RGB10. While this doesn’t impact general use all that much, the higher resolution makes playing games a bit more immersive on the PowKiddy RGB20S.

Speaking on the screen’s quality, its tempered glass is OCA laminated, which is unlike the original RGB20. It could withstand a few scratches and drops, but I don’t recommend to abuse your handhelds.

Now, moving to the bad things about the PowKiddy RGB20S, because I believe the design is the main factor affecting gaming experience. The PowKiddy RGB20S is designed somehow like a smiley face, which is kinda creepy. You can apply tiger or bear stickers to make the design more reasonable, so I recommend getting the White color option of this device.

But problem is its button placement, which drags both D-Pad and ABXY group buttons to the bottom edge. Holding and using these important buttons are foolishly hard that I almost give up. I know that I give up too soon because I have so many alternatives to enjoy retro games, but you really should question yourself: Is the design suitable for you?

PowKiddy newer devices are identical to Anbernic in terms of build quality. They are still cheap toys, but lightweight handhelds tend to give us that feeling of low durability. However, I believe that the PowKiddy RGB20S can stand with time, providing that you don’t abuse it. Again, don’t abuse your handhelds.

I always think of the Game Boy Advance SP as the best vertical handheld of all time, so I like the speaker placement of the PowKiddy RGB20S that resembles my favorite Game Boy Advance model. It is still a mono speaker, but that’s enough.

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

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Gaming Experience

PowKiddy RGB20SFeatures
CPURockChip RK3326 (Cortex-A35), 4 cores 4 threads @ 1.5 GHz
GPUMali-G31 MP2 @ 650 MHz
Memory1 GB DDR3
Battery3500 mAh
Cooling systemVentilation
Key features

  • Targeted system emulator: GBA, SNES, PS1
  • Can play some PSP games well
  • Not recommend for NDS
  • Targeted game genres: anything but action games

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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

Predictably, the PowKiddy RGB20S’ internal specs are decidedly ho-hum and don’t pack adequate muscle to hustle through some of the more demanding systems out there, which I mean Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast.

Well, we have the RockChip RK3326 chipset for a new handheld (not new anymore) after 3 years long. The RockChip RK3326 processor is a bit cheaper, but its CPU PassMark is nearly half of the current RockChip RK3566. Moreover, only 1 GB of RAM means the PowKiddy RGB20S is short of minimum requirements for emulating N64.

So, the handheld will definitely struggle with N64 system, and a bit less struggling with Dreamcast. While Dreamcast is supposed to release later, it doesn’t require much of the GPU for Dreamcast emulation as N64, so you need to tweak settings even more. I recommend you to read 351elec RG351’s N64 compatibility list to know which N64 games to play, and which settings to use.

For PSP, it seems the PowKiddy RGB20S can handle better. At least you can play so many titles, and for the price of the PowKiddy RGB20S, I dare say it’s quite worth it. However, I still recommend to check the RG351’s PSP compatibility list, and if you’re too lazy to tweak settings, just don’t bother trying the PowKiddy RGB20S.

It is quite easy to emulate NDS system on the PowKiddy RGB20S. Heck, even the Miyoo Mini Plus and RG35XX are capable of emulating NDS at less memory, so don’t surprise if the PowKiddy RGB20S can actually run the whole Nintendo DS library.

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Gaming session

The PowKiddy RGB20S is a cheap handheld so I expect it to be popular for a while, but sadly the bad design really hinders it to be an enjoyable handheld. I don’t bother playing action games, unless I can utilize the left analog stick for that game. Still, it is easier to adapt to the handheld’s design than improve its internal power, right?

I think the PowKiddy RGB20S is for people who want a decently cheap handheld, something that’s as good as the RG35XX but with dual analog sticks. People who want to draw out the most power for the least money will find the PowKiddy RGB20S as a more enjoyable handheld, because it can even touch N64, PSP and Dreamcast at that low price. I only try N64 and Dreamcast emulations for short time, yes, I don’t expect the device to do such hard tasks.

But I really want to try PSP on this handheld, and despite of a different aspect ratio, the experience is quite good. I need to tweak settings a few times, but there are so many RPG PlayStation Portable titles to enjoy, and it takes time to finish one game. The experience is not as good as the real PlayStation Portable experience, but for $59 I will swallow it inside.

Jokes aside, PlayStation Portable is always a system that people dream to emulate on better resolution. The PowKiddy RGB20S doesn’t have pixel-perfect aspect ratio but it can nail some PSP games pretty well. Repeat again, trying action games on the PowKiddy RGB20S can quickly lead to hand fatigue, because of its button placement.

As I stated above, the PowKiddy RGB20S can handle NDS system easily, though it doesn’t have mic and touchscreen to cover most of the NDS library. Also, the 3.5-inch screen is really subpar to emulate dual screen, even when you’re looking for swapping screens. One more thing, because you will mostly use Linux custom firmware on the PowKiddy RGB20S, you can only use DeSmuME and melonDS, which are not as good as Drastic of Android system.

There is a Wi-Fi switcher button on the PowKiddy RGB20, but surprisingly there is no built-in Wi-Fi card inside the handheld. As a result, the device is just like the RG351P, so you need an external Wi-Fi dongle. Perhaps I enjoy the RG351V a bit more thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi, for obvious reasons like updating firmware over-the-air, retro achievements and multiplayer mode.

Battery life

The PowKiddy RGB20S packs in a 3500 mAh battery, which for a handheld of this size and price is a fairly good capacity. It is supposed to draw out up to 8 hours of playing games. If you’re a multi-system hog like me, you’ll likely finish after 4-6 hours, which is still pretty good for a modern handheld.

You can use the normal USB-C cable for the PowKiddy RGB20S, 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
B for Gaming Experience.

My verdict

At its price point, size and performance, the PowKiddy RGB20S is certainly worth a shot. However, the design is not into my liking, so I still advise you to think again about how you hold the device on hand, or if you’re going to use the analog stick or not. If price per performance plays a large role in your decision, I highly recommend this retro handheld emulator, because it can touch some N64, Dreamcast and PSP titles that you can’t barely start on the Miyoo Mini Plus.

Get it if

  • It is the same price as the RG35XX
  • You want a vertical handheld with analog sticks
  • You want to play some N64 and PSP at the cheapest cost possible
  • You don’t care about Wi-Fi
Don’t get it if

  • You want a cheaper ‘mini’ handheld for GBA: Get the Miyoo Mini Plus
  • You want horizontal form: Get the RG351MP, or PowKiddy RGB10 Max 2 for 16:9 screen
  • You want Wi-Fi in the same portrait form factor: Get the RG351V.
  • You want an overall better device for demanding systems: Get the RG353PS, or RG353M