Occasionally something comes along that shakes things up a bit. HardKernel did it at the start of 2020, but it looks as though there might be a new benchmark soon. The KT R1 handheld promises a lot, and could be the one that a lot of people have been waiting for.
It started back in November over on the Chinese forums. A user named niluanxy posted a long preamble about a device he was working on called the R1. Over the course of a few posts, we learned that this handheld is going to be quite different from anything currently available.
It is actually planned that there will be at least two versions of the R1. As far as I can tell the majority of the configuration is the same between both, with the main difference being onboard RAM and a sim card slot. For now we’ll talk about the premium version, as I expect most people will be interested in more RAM.
This will be the first handheld available with the AmLogic S922X on board. The S922X was released last year and is a hexa core CPU made up of a quad core ARM Cortex A73 and a dual core A53 processor. I believe each core is capable of running up to around 1.8Ghz. Graphics are powered by a Mali-G52 GPU. The premium version will be configured with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM. There are a few Android TV boxes already available with this CPU. ETA Prime (among others) has done some YouTube videos showcasing its performance.
As of a couple of weeks ago, niluanxy has made changes to the hardware in this handheld. Citing difficulty in reliably sourcing the S922X, he has decided to go with the Unisoc T618 instead. You can read more about this in chip in this post.
The KT R1 handheld contains a 4″ 800×600 touchscreen display. This 4:3 aspect ratio will be excellent for older systems, providing a nearly full screen visual experience with no side borders. Unfortunately the resolution doesn’t play very well for full screen integer scaling though. The high pixel density should help smooth out some scaling artefacts, but if all else fails some 60-70px black borders at the top and bottom should allow 2x integer scaling of most systems. Niluanxy also stated that the LCD will have a very narrow 3mm border around the edge.
The internal storage is taken care of via an EMMC of varying sizes. There will be a microSD card inside on the motherboard, as well as a secondary one available externally. There will be WiFi and Bluetooth onboard, a 5000mAh battery with 25w fast charging and rumble motors too.
CONTROLS AND I/O
There are various renders doing the rounds with the positioning of the left analog stick and d-pad in switched positions. It seems to be that the final design will have the d-pad at the top which is likely to cause the least amount of complaints. However it’s also been said by niluanxy that the left side of the device will be modular. After market custom face plates may allow customers to swap out the configuration.
The bottom edge of the device has a headphone jack, USB-C charge port and a mini HDMI output. Somewhere on the device there will also be a tray for a sim and MicroSD card.
The R1 contains dual analog sticks with R3/L3 support, d-pad, ABXY and an extra four face buttons. On the top edge of the device you’ll see stacked shoulder buttons for R1/R2/L1/L2. This is also where the volume rocker and power button can be found.
The KT R1 handheld will run Android 9 out of the box, which is the same as many TV boxes with the same chip. I believe it has been heavily customised for the handheld form factor, however the R1 does also have a touchscreen. Niluanxy has stated that he’s pretty much finished with the OS already, but there aren’t any videos of it in action yet.
The bootloader is unlocked, and the device will support different OSs depending on what devs decide to port to it. Secondary systems can be installed to a seperate microSD card. There will be a hardware switch on the shell which tells the machine which system to boot from when turned on.
The T618 is a fairly powerful chip, and we can expect to see much better performance in the systems already supported by RK3326 handhelds. In addition, it’s possible we’ll see some Saturn, GameCube and Wii emulation made possible too.
To get a better idea, have a look at some of the Teclast M40 tablet tests from Sonic Love on YouTube. This tablet contains the same SoC and should be representative of what we’ll get in the R1.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
It seems that the KT R1 handheld is the dream of one talented man working with a factory in China to get this device brought to life. Although this is his first foray into handheld manufacture, he does have a project under his belt already. The GPD Win2 aftermarket cooler was engineered and manufactured by him, and successfully funded on IndieGoGo last year.
Niluanxy has stated that he will receive a real protoype of the R1 in January, after which time an IndieGoGo campaign will be started. Shipping of the final devices is due to begin in Q1 2021.
There are going to be various hardware configurations of this handheld, and the pricing hasn’t been finalised. It’s been said that $200 will be the maximum, but it’s possible that it’ll be less. There will also be an option for a metal shell, but that may be outside of the $200 budget. I believe the standard colours will be white, grey and yellow plastic with a metal shell also available.
It seems strange to me that it takes a one-man-band operation like niluanxy’s to bring real innovation to this market. We have companies like Anbernic, Bittboy and Retroid who must already have stacks of cash behind them. I do wonder why are they not already blazing the trail with cutting edge devices. Obviously GPD are doing their thing, but their machines are out of reach for a lot of folk.
I think the $150 – $200 price range is a good sweet spot. Granted it is 2 or 3 times the price of most handhelds, but from what I see online a lot of people have 2 or 3 of those cheaper devices anyway.
The KT R1 moniker may not be final, and could change before it goes up for pre-order. I wish niluanxy all the best with his endeavour, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the IndieGoGo campaign next year.