It’s been a good few years since I did this, and a few people have asked. Below is a table of some of the more obscure handhelds that are currently available. I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, indeed I have purposely left out all of the Famiclone style devices and some of the older machines that have since had successors (even if the predecessor is still available).
The PocketChip didn’t make it, due to the lack of gaming controls, and I left out the Raspberry Pi based machines as they probably deserve a post of their own. I struggled to leave out the Revo K101+, it was a somewhat ground breaking device but it can now only be found 2nd hand or for a ridiculous cost – so it stays out of the list too.
|Handheld||OS||CPU||LCD Size (In)||Resolution||Link||Price|
|RetroGame RS-97||RetroFW||Ingenic JZ4760B||3||320x480⁽⁰⁾||aliexpress.com||<$50|
|LDK Game||RetroFW||Ingenic JZ4760B||2.6||320x240||aliexpress.com||~$54|
|New BittBoy V2||Custom (OOB)⁽²⁾||AllWinner F1C500S||2.4||320x240||retromimi.com||$39.20⁽⁶⁾|
|Arduboy||Custom (OOB)||ATmega32u4||Small||128x64⁽⁴⁾||arduboy.com||$49 +P&P|
|Clockwork Gameshell||Custom (OOB)||AllWinner R16-J||2.7||320x240||clockworkpi.com||~$150|
|Gamebuino META||Custom (OOB)||ATSAMD21||1.8||80x64||gamebuino.com||83.25 EUR|
|GPD Win 2||Windows 10||Intel Core M3-7Y30||6||720p||aliexpress.com||<$800|
|Odroid Go||Custom (OOB)||ESP32||2.4||320x240||hardkernel.com||$32 +P&P|
|PAP KIII Plus / S||Custom (Hack)||Ingenic JZ4760||4.3||480x272||aliexpress.com||<$50|
|PocketSprite||Custom (OOB)||ESP32||Small||96x64||pocketsprite.com||$69.95 +P&P|
|Retro Arcade Mini RS-12||Custom (Hack)||Ingenic JZ4725B||3||320x240||aliexpress.com||~$30|
|Retro Arcade RS-07||Custom (Hack)||Ingenic JZ4760B||4.3||480x272||aliexpress.com||~$65|
|RetroMini RS-90||Proprietary||Ingenic JZ4725B||2||240x160||aliexpress.com||~$30|
The below Pros and Cons are purely subjective and I’m sure people will disagree with me on some points, but this is my perspective – and bear in mind that some of these opinions are formed from what I’ve seen and read online as I have not owned all of these consoles. In fact it might be better if you ignored the pros and cons altogether 😉
|RetroGame RS-97||Cheap / Open Source OS||Many confusing hw revisions / Exposed LCD|
|LDK Game||Cheap / Open Source OS||Strange shoulder button placement|
|GPD XD+||Well built / Powerful / Custom ROMs||Expensive|
|Digi RetroBoy||Faithful GBA hardware||Case molding / Cheap feeling|
|New BittBoy V2||Cheap / Community OS||No shoulder buttons / Button rollover issues|
|Arduboy||Programmable / Very Pocketable||Under powered / Low res|
|Clockwork Gameshell||Well supported / Modular||No proper shoulder buttons / Expensive|
|Gamebuino META||Programmable||Under powered / Low res|
|GPD Win 2||Powerful / Windows games||Expensive⁽⁸⁾|
|Odroid Go||Cheap / Programmable / Well Supported||No shoulder buttons / Under powered|
|PAP KIII Plus / S||Cheap / Community OS||LDK and Retrogame have better support|
|PocketSprite||Programmable||Under powered / Low res / Tiny|
|PowKiddy X18||Cheaper than GPD XD+||Button mapping in hardware|
|Retro Arcade Mini RS-12||Cheap / Community OS||Not pocketable / Low end hardware|
|Retro Arcade RS-07||Cheap / Community OS||Not pocketable|
|RetroMini RS-90||Cheap||Low end hardware / Bad emulation⁽⁷⁾|
⁽⁰⁾ Plus model not as well supported (do not buy). Non standard pixel arrangement.
⁽¹⁾ Non standard pixel arrangement.
⁽²⁾ From some retailers it may still ship with the factory firmware.
⁽³⁾ Reverse engineered GBA hardware.
⁽⁵⁾ UK buyers may find it cheaper from Amazon.
⁽⁶⁾ With discount ‘happy2019’.
⁽⁷⁾ Custom Linux based OS in the works.
⁽⁸⁾ GPD Win1 may still be available at some retailers for less.
Having said that, my favourite machines are in the first 5 rows. It’s no surprise that the two consoles running the beautiful, deeply flexible and actively developed RetroFW are in positions 1 and 2. This firmware represents everything that’s great about this community and contributes hugely to keeping this niche (and this website!) alive. The machines listed after the top 5 are not in rank order (they’re alphabetically listed).
I am eager to see what the RetroPlus (aka RetroMini 2.0) brings, if only because the shell is one of the best portrait mode shells I’ve ever used (currently available housing the shitty RetroMax). There’s also the possibility of a custom firmware for the RetroMini on the horizon, which is great to see. Not to mention Steward’s RetroV3S which looks like it might be bringing another RetroFW variant to ARM in the near future. 2019 is shaping up to be an interesting year for obscure handheld gaming, stay tuned!
Edit June 2019: This post seems to get a lot of views, and due to the nature of blogging it’s going to become outdated and lose visibility with time. For that reason I’ve created this page which is also linked on the left side of the homepage (on desktop). I’ll keep this page updated and you use it as a reference to see what’s currently available at any given time.