The video below shows how to build a ZPG Z-Pocket Game almost in its entirety. It takes the assembler roughly 5 hours from start to end, and at around 41 mins you can see that the donor motherboard is harvested from a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. This means that the ZPG runs on a Snapdragon 800 series SoC with a 2.2GHz Qualcomm MSM8974 quad core CPU.
The ZPG has been available in China for a few months, albeit in very small batches which sell out immediately. It’s quite unlikely we’ll ever have the chance to buy these in the West, for reasons which should be clear from watching the video. The immense amount of manual labour involved in creating one of these handhelds shows it is more a labour of love than a business enterprise. It’s possible that the creator(s) will eventually design their own custom board and have a version 2 mass produced, but there is nothing on the radar right now.
All is not lost if you’re after a gaming handheld that runs on Android though. There are a couple of other good choices that are widely available at the moment.
Despite being available since 2018, GPD did release a new hardware revision of the XD+ in 2019. The specs of the machine remain the same between versions, but the new revision has a stronger hinge and a more matte finish. The XD+ is powered by a MediaTek MTK8176. It has two Cortex-A72 CPU cores running at up to 2.1 GHz and four Cortex-A53 cores for power-saving. 4GB of RAM and a nice 720p display make this a decent gaming device even today.
The XD Plus is capable of some GameCube, N64, Dreamcast and PSP emulation as well as the usual host of retro emulators available in the play store. There’s also a CleanROM available for this machine, and development is still on-going to this day.
I’ve had an XD+ since 2018 and I don’t think it got the attention that it deserved. It’s still relevant to this day, especially if you’re comparing the power of its processor. It’s way more powerful than the new PocketGo or RG350 released just last year, and with a play store full of compatible games and emulators it’s a decent machine despite its high price tag.
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The newest kid on the block and the most impressive device yet is the Moqi i7S. This is an upgrade over the previous i7 and the biggest difference is the move from MediaTek to Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 710 gives it the edge in performance over the GPD XD+, and allows for some more demanding emulators to run very well.
The i7S opens the door to the vast majority of native Android games as well as some N64, PSP, PS2, Wii and GameCube emulation. Bear in mind that the more demanding emulators do require some configuration to get the best performance.
The Moqi i7S functions as a full blown Android phone and has a comprehensive set of gaming controls too. The Snapdragon 710 sports six high-efficiency cores operating at 1.7 GHz, along with two high-performance cores at 2.2 GHz. The handheld contains 6GB of RAM, an Adreno 616 GPU and 1080p 6 inch display. The SoC is by no means bleeding edge, having been released as mid-tier in 2018. However, it does offer the best performance after the almost unobtainable ZPG.
Other Forthcoming and current Android handhelds
There are other Android handhelds available, such as the PowKiddy X15. The jury is out on whether it’s a reasonable purchase or not though. The d-pad alone hints towards it being junk as a gaming device. There is also a PowKiddy X2 in the works, which mimics the look of the Switch and could potentially be OK – but we’ll have to wait and see.
GPD are also planning a new XD handheld with detachable controllers and 4G data. Images have been circulating since last year, but we can expect their new Android device some time this year. It looks like they’ll be releasing a new Windows gaming machine (Win Max) this year too.
Whilst its unfortunate that we can’t easily get hold of the Z-Pocket Game, it’s human nature to crave something that we can’t have. There are some good alternatives currently available though, and if you’re willing to wait a little while some of the forthcoming devices might prove to be as good or better. Stay tuned!