Retroid Pocket 2S Review: a stronger Retroid handheld with 4:3 screen

Unless you’ve not been into retro games lately, or you’ve been living in plastic bottle with the cap screwed firmly on, you might have noticed that Retroid has become something of a big name in the market thanks to the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus. The handheld, loved by many, is a capable emulator for everything up to PS2, though the performance is sub-standard for many titles. This time, the upgraded version of the old Retroid Pocket 2 is promised to be just like the flagship, but uses a more common, “retro-purist” 4:3 screen. Welcome to the Retroid Pocket 2S review.

Retroid Pocket 2S ranks A in my retro handheld emulator ranking list

Retroid Pocket 2S

My most favorite Retroid handheld to date

Currently the most value retro handheld emulator for your money, the Retroid Pocket 2S is also the best PS1 and N64 emulator.

Retroid throws the Retroid Pocket 2S as a clear answer to the popular Anbernic RG405M and Anbernic RG405V. A 4:3 screen is still something people want more for their retro handhelds, and certainly the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus isn’t enough to stay healthy in the market.

Retroid Pocket 2S Review: Price

Key features

  • Commonly found at: $99
  • Costs 1.48 times the RG35XX

Retroid seems to perfectly mimic iPhone when it comes to naming its handhelds. However, ‘Plus’ or ‘S’ remain the same, as the newer handheld is expected to be the better unit. It is something that we used to know in technology world, where the new device bears a very significant resemblance to the original version.

Still, Retroid manages to makes some changes in design, instead of just giving an only palpable difference in lettering. We can finally tell the Retroid Pocket 2S apart from anything Retroid that has “2” in its name.

And of course, with the new Retroid Pocket 2S (the ‘S’ apparently standing for speed) we’re getting a whole host of new features, essentially an improved processor, a newer Android version system and lots of newer color editions.

All that, for the same price at $99. The Retroid Pocket 2S completely challenge anything from Anbernic with its price tag. You want to buy the Anbernic RG353 series? You will miss the potential that you pay less for the Retroid Pocket 2S. I remember the day I wrote that the Anbernic RG405V is lowering the price point, but now, the Retroid Pocket 2S is a must-have retro handheld if you want to count price per performance. I know, it is still not the perfect handheld, but at least for this year we can stay happy with this Retroid Pocket 2S.

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Retroid Pocket 2S Review: Design and Build Quality

Retroid Pocket 2SFeatures
Dimensions155 mm x 80.6 mm x 28 mm
Weight200 grams
Screen3.5 inch IPS, 640 x 480, 228 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
Colors16 Bit Gray, Retro Gray, Black, Transparent Black, Transparent Green, Indigo
Speaker placementFront facing
StorageInternal 32 GB eMMC (128 GB for Metal version), External microSD
Audio output3.5mm headphone jack
Video outputMicro HDMI
Charge portUSB-C
Key features

  • A pocketable handheld
  • Better D-Pad than the its predecessors (PS Vita style)
  • Front facing speakers are actually better
  • 4:3 retro-purist screen
  • New right thumbstick
  • Has new transparent editions

As I mentioned earlier, there’s very little different between the current Retroid Pocket 2S and the previous Retroid Pocket 2 and Retroid Pocket 2 Plus. It is still not a different PCB in an old shell like the case of the 2 Plus, but the Retroid Pocket 2S is really similar in the 16-bit Gray edition. I don’t disappoint with newer products using the same old design, provided that the old design is good enough.

However, as I said again and again, the design of the original Retroid Pocket 2 has a very terrible thumbstick placement. For me (and not me alone), the perfect retro handheld should have D-Pad buttons in upper placement, because that is the classic way of movements in-game. The original Retroid Pocket 2 makes my hands fatigue a lot because of D-Pad lower placement, and the Retroid Pocket 2S fixes this problem beautifully.

The one major upgrade is the new right analog thumbstick, which many people crave to have. As the Retroid Pocket 2S is still shy behind the requirements for dual-stick systems, mainly PlayStation 2, I don’t really think the upgrade is necessary. Still, the old slidepad in the original Retroid Pocket 2 is not good. I like the concept, quite similar to my Nintendo 3DS, but I feel the slidepad not smooth enough for intensive gameplays. The concave analog sticks of the Retroid Pocket 2S is also a feature of the 3DS, and it’s done so beautifully. Moreover, the sticks on the Retroid Pocket 2S use hall sensor, and it can easily be replaceable when damaged. These things are perhaps the best way to enjoy a retro handheld emulator.

Another criticism of the old second edition was the fact that its buttons are really mushy to press, meaning the pressing experience is even lower than something like the Miyoo Mini Plus. While it isn’t really my problem because it doesn’t affect my gameplay, I still need to say the Retroid Pocket 2S inherits the decent buttons from the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, so I think you will enjoy it. D-Pad buttons are separated like the PlayStation Vita, and even for a Nintendo fan, I always prefer Sony’s D-Pad more.

But the good things remain in the Retroid Pocket 2S. First, it is actually pocketable, and for me that’s one of the must-have criteria for a retro handheld emulator. The RP3+ is good, but it is not really a pocket device. That’s why I always prefer the Anbernic RG405M, although it is quite more expensive when buying new.

While most of you may be familiar with the IPS screen from retro handheld emulators at the moment, I must emphasize that the 3.5-inch screen is OCA laminated, unlike the predecessors. It is meant for a harder tempered glass, though I don’t recommend to abuse your handhelds. The touch screen is still the same technology we use today, that uses electricity conducted from the fingertip, and you can’t use stylus. The screen isn’t really responsive, but hey, even the Nintendo Switch isn’t as good as a smartphone.

It is the same screen with 640 x 480 pixels resolution, with aspect ratio 4:3 – the retro-purist screen for emulating old home consoles. For many people, the classic 4:3 screen is golden, and that’s why they don’t like the RP3+. The Retroid Pocket 2S fits many preferences, as it does the same job as the RP3+.

I’ll cover the performance in greater depth, but that’s all for the design section. The Retroid Pocket 2S has front-facing speakers, similar to the original RP2, which fits my liking of better speaker location. As a Retroid handheld, the Retroid Pocket 2S has both USB-C and mini HDMI ports for exporting images to TV. It would be a plus for many people, but not me. I only use handhelds exclusively in handheld mode.

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

Retroid Pocket 2S Review: Gaming Experience

Retroid Pocket 2SFeatures
CPUUNISOC Tiger T610 (2 cores Cortex-A75 and 6 cores Cortex-A55), 8 cores 8 threads @ 1.8 GHz
GPUMali-G52 MP2 @ 614 MHz
Memory3 GB LPDDR4X
Battery4000 mAh
ConnectivityWiFi, Bluetooth
Cooling systemβœ—
Key features

  • Targeted system emulator: all systems below PlayStation 2
  • Have great performance for big GameCube and Wii titles
  • SNES, PS1, N64 and Dreamcast work flawlessly, especially with 4:3 screen
  • Targeted game genres: all game genres

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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 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

It is quite strange that the Retroid Pocket 2S doesn’t just use the same processor as the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, perhaps to keep a lower budget price. It’s the UNISOC T610, which is a low-end version of the UNISOC T618, released in the same year. As a result, the octa-core processor is capped at a bit lower clock at 1.8 GHz. Even the GPU is capped at lower clock at only 614 MHz.

If you’re buying the current Retroid Pocket 2S, the device only offers 3 GB of RAM. It is decent enough to do the same task as the RP3+, but remember how the flagship struggles with 4 GB RAM, so don’t think there would be a miracle for the Retroid Pocket 2S.

That said, most people will be fine with the 3 GB version of this handheld, as it can emulate everything up to Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PlayStation Portable and SEGA Saturn with ease. While Saturn is the older system than the Dreamcast, its emulation proves to be more difficult. Luckily, the Retroid Pocket 2S finally nails all of these systems perfectly.

I used to play some GameCube and even Wii titles, mostly Fire Emblem series on the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus, and the Retroid Pocket 2S does the job a lot better. You can’t probably play the whole library, especially the most demanding games, but the current Retroid models can help you with many great Nintendo first-party titles, and for me alone, that’s enough.

You should read the Retroid Pocket 2S’ compatibility list, which is quite early and only cover the PlayStation 2 part. For the time being, you can still use the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus’ compatibility list to tweak settings for demanding systems like GameCube, Wii and 3DS.

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Gaming session

The Retroid Pocket 2S offers great gaming sessions with its landscape form factor, small size but overall good weight distribution. It is really light and comfortable to hold, even for intensive action games. There are L3/R3 buttons, which you can use to assign for special buttons.

Its performance is quite similar to the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, and I consider it to be an advantage for the handheld. People who are familiar with the flagship will quickly set up the Retroid Pocket 2S. Even new people will find Android 11 system to be smooth, and after adding Daijisho, you are ready to immerse in your games.

I know that Android opens the possibility as a streaming handheld for budget devices like the Retroid Pocket 2S, but sadly, the 4:3 screen seems to be the hindrance for that use case. The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus continues to be the suggested handheld to pick if you want to use Moonlight. Otherwise, if you use the handheld as a retro system, with the capability of exporting to TV, the Retroid Pocket 2S can do as good as the RP3+.

The Retroid Pocket 2S improves with better Wi-Fi signal than the original, but unless you’re going to watch YouTube videos on this handheld, you probably don’t care about this feature.

Battery life

There’s a hefty 4,000mAh battery inside the Retroid Pocket 2S, which is similar to the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus before it. It is solid enough to get me through 6-8 hours of playing not demanding systems, like SNES or PSX. If you’re going to play GBA mainly, you can expect to draw up to 10 hours with this handheld.

However, the juice is quickly drained with demanding systems like GameCube, Wii or, obviously, PS2. For GameCube and Wii, you can only play 2-3 hours depending on your games. PS2 will be even lower.

You can use the normal USB-C cable for the Retroid Pocket 2S, and it needs 3 hours to be fully charged. Fast charging can speed up the charging process, but it will degrade your battery. Also, fast charging isn’t recommended by the manufacturer.

Lazy handheld man’s choice
A for Gaming Experience.

My verdict

The Retroid Pocket 2S is still not the final answer for demanding systems, most likely GameCube, Wii and PlayStation 2. However, at its price point, the Retroid Pocket 2S puts some serious power that you may want to upgrade from, for example, the Anbernic RG35XX. It is truly what I want to use, though I still expect better processor at this price range, at least to cover the full library of GameCube.

If you prefer 4:3 screen and need a pocketable handheld, the Retroid Pocket 2S can destroy the competition out there quite easily.

Get it if

  • You want the most value for $99
  • You want to target everything up to PSP, and play some titles in up to PS2
  • You want a landscape form factor handheld
  • You want an actual pocketable device
  • You want a handheld with mini HDMI port
Don’t get it if