As portable technology has advanced over the last decade, we have seen a handful of handheld games that do not run physical games but are instead focused on emulation, replicating the performance of consoles like Game Boy, SNES, Mega Drive and even Nintendo 64. We’ve covered a few of these on the site – including the Tasca S30, RK2020 and BittBoy – but more recently, two examples have hit the market and have caused more of a stir than most.
The Anbernic R351 and Retroid Pocket 2 are two very much similar machines with the same focus, but the way they look, feel and operate is more different than you might imagine. So which is the best? There is only one way to find out …
Editor’s Note: It is worth noting that none of the machines presented here come with ROMs loaded as standard. The nature of getting ROMs online is of course a fairly gray area, and we recommend that you legitimately use your games, whether using them or not. ROM-dumping devices or converting your CDs to ISO, rather than using online sites.
Anbernic R351 Vs Retroid Pocket 2 – The Hardware
The beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but in terms of looks, the Retroid Pocket 2 is the clear winner here, at least in our opinion. That’s not to say the R531 is ugly; it’s just a little too “functional” for our tastes. The Retroid Pocket 2 looks and feels like a piece of Nintendo hardware; we love the different color options and the plastic is wonderfully solid. It also comes in a wide range of cool colors, including one that accentuates the look of the SNES with its colorful face buttons.
It is worth mentioning that the R351 comes in two variants – the R351P (plastic case, without integrated WiFi but comes with a WiFi dongle) and the more expensive R351M (a nice metal case and integrated WiFi). The R351M is absolutely beautiful from a design perspective, but there’s a huge warning to consider, which we’ll be coming to soon (by the way, we want to thank Brandon for Retro Dodo to kindly provide an R351M for us to play around with).
The R351 has a 3.5-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, which makes it ideal for handling virtually any console that was launched before the HD era took off. However, the display is not arquantu as punchy as the 3.5-inch panel seen on the Retroid Pocket 2, which, while being brighter and more colorful, also boasts a higher resolution of 640 x 480. Needless to say, the R351P we have revised had irregular levels of brightness and a dead pixel to the right to the left of the display (which fortunately did not affect the game and it was almost impossible to see unless we played in total darkness).
Both of these machines offer a similar control configuration, but there are some interesting curiosities to note. The R351 puts the D-Pad on top of the analog stick on the left which makes it easy to use for extended periods, while the Retroid Pocket 2 has it underneath – which makes it a little more awkward to achieve. While we prefer to use digital input for our retro gaming, you may find that having the analog stick in a higher position suits you better. However, we prefer the R351’s D-Pad because it has more travel, and it’s worth noting that while the R351 offers dual analog support, the right-hand analog stick on the Retroid Pocket 2 is actually a four-way digital pad. . The four shoulder buttons on the R351 are arranged side-by-side in two pairs, while in the Retroid Pocket 2 they are arranged on top of each other (the more traditional arrangement).
Now for that R351M horse we mentioned. For some reason, the D-Pad of this model really does, really difficult to hit diagonal input – which is strange because the R351P’s pad doesn’t suffer from this problem. Some R351M owners have reflects which could be due to the fact that the metal case has less ‘flex’, and they even opened their machines to modify the D-Pad. We advise you to avoid doing this and opt only for the R351P, unless you prefer to use the analog stick; while the lack of WiFi on board over the plastic version it is annoying, the added dongle does the job perfectly well though.
Both machines use MicroSD cards for storage, and while they ship with 64GB variants (the ones we reviewed did, at least), we recommend getting something bigger. The R351 puts both the operating system and game files on the MicroSD card, while the Retroid Pocket 2 has a small amount of internal memory for the OS and other files, but you want to keep most of your games on the board. SD card.
Both machines offer a similar level of battery life, and both last about 4-5 hours between charges (there’s a USB-C port for that). These figures are naturally susceptible to change depending on several factors, such as the volume level, the brightness of the screen and the nature of the games you play.
It’s worth noting that the Retroid Pocket 2 has Bluetooth and TV-out support (the latter via HDMI) – two things the R351 lacks.
Anbernic R351 Vs Retroid Pocket 2 – U Software
While both of these systems have the same end goal – managing emulators and playing ROMs – they are quite different under the hood. The R351 runs a named OS EmuELEC, While the Retroid Pocket 2 packs Google’s Android operating system (version 6.0, specifically). This means that the two systems have a very different “sense” when it comes to everyday use and their interfaces.
First, with the R351, we would highly we recommend that you abandon the stock operating system and install 351ELEC instead (there is a guide on how to do that here). With this OS installed, using the R351 is an absolute breeze. The main menu is bright and fast to navigate and makes things like ‘scraping’ the web for game titles, screenshots and almost entirely painless art box. We say ‘almost’ because it always took a while to get everything in order, but it was well worth it. With 351ELEC installed, the R351 just “works” out of the box – it feels really polished and hassle-free, with things like button mapping and saving all processed data with ease.
In comparison, the Retroid Pocket 2 is a little harder to deal with, mainly because it uses Android. It is a double-edged sword; Android is a very much OS more versatile than EmuELEC and 351ELEC, and allows the Retroid Pocker 2 to do a bunch of interesting things the R351 can’t – like streaming video and installing apps and Android games – but it also has some of the benefits so own annoyance. Because the hardware in the Retroid Pocket 2 is fairly modest by Android standards, moving around the user interface is often slow, and you have to constantly switch between the analog stick (which acts as a touch screen pointer) and the D-Pad. (to play real games). This is done by long pressing the ‘Home’ button.
While it takes longer to be comfortable with the Retroid Pocket 2 and never feels instantly accessible like the R351, the additional scope is attractive. For example, you can play the fan-made Android port Metroid title AM2R, which runs brilliantly on the device. While the hardware is relatively weak, it is capable of handling quite a few Android games, although the lack of a proper touchscreen interface puts some titles out of reach.
In terms of actual performance when it comes to playing retro games, there isn’t a massive amount of difference between the two, in all honesty. This is what they both support RetroArch, which is practically the de facto standard when it comes to software emulation. Dreamcast and PSP emulation I know possible on both systems, but they are so impressive that you may want to stick with older consoles, such as the 16-bit and 8-bit generations (although it should be noted that the PlayStation emulation is excellent and the N64 emulation is also good, depending on the game).
Unfortunately, one thing the Retroid Pocket 2 would have been really good for – Xbox Cloud Games – refuses to work, at least for us. While we were able to download and install the dedicated app for Android, it crashed every time we tried to open it, while trying to access the Cloud Gaming Beta through the Xbox.com site just made the browser hang. However, streaming it is possible, it’s just that we haven’t been able to personally test ourselves. However, it’s another example of how the Android operating system of Retroid Pocket 2 allows you to do really clean things.
Anbernic R351 Vs Retroid Pocket 2 – The Verment
While the focus of these systems is very similar, you should perhaps consider what you want from a retro handheld device before choosing one, since both have their good and bad points. If you appreciate a fast, fast interface with a bright D-Pad and you’re not too bothered to push the hardware in different directions, then the R351 is the best bet. However, the fact that the Retroid Pocket 2 runs Android means it can do one very much more – although this is balanced by the lack of analog dual and a slightly weaker D-Pad.
In terms of costs, there isn’t much difference between these devices, so it really depends on the type of user experience you’re looking for. The R351 is the type of device that, once you’ve put it in place, is a breeze to use, while the Retroid Pocket 2 can be exploited in other ways because of its Android architecture – which means you can install it again. front-ends or download Android apps that widen the device’s horizons. It really depends on how adventurous you want to get, but quite honestly, both devices will serve you well if you are looking for a friendly way to task your connection with the past of the game.
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