If you’re new to the world of obscure handhelds then there are perhaps some interesting shops you’re yet to stumble across on your internet travels. 2022 promises to be a very interesting year for this niche as it’s the first time in a while that many different manufacturers have gone in their own unique direction. Whether you’re into huge Windows powered handhelds or tiny little pocketable emulator devices, or something in between, there is very likely something out there for you.
How much do they cost? How long is a piece of string? You can find some excellent devices for as little as $40, but if you’ve got deeper pockets some of the most powerful handhelds around can fetch a thousand dollars. And as well as all these gadgets, there are talented independent makers selling their own mods so you can customise your device as well. Whether it be anodised metal shells, replacement buttons, custom machines made from butchered cell phones, or just cool decals to adorn your new gadget, there is loads to see if you know where to look. What a time to be alive.
RETAILER LIST AND DESCRIPTIONS
The cream of the crop for flashcarts. Yep, there are many available a lot cheaper on AliExpress but Krikkz ones are the best. Low power consumption, superior compatibility and no special software required. Just drag and drop your ROMs, slot the flashcart into your machine and away you go. I have an older Everdrive 64 and GBA X5 and they’re both excellent.
A selection of in house made handhelds centred around the Raspberry Pi. Unfortunately no RPi4/CM4 based machines yet, but maybe in future.
The home of the Retroid Pocket, and the upcoming RP2+. This company had a rocky start but each handheld has been better than the last. The RP2+ promises a lot of power for not a lot of money, and Taki Udon has been flashing his prototype around on YouTube for the past few months. They also have a Retroid Pocket 3 in the works, which is said to be the same hardware in a larger shell with bigger screen. I have high hopes that these handhelds will set a precedent for performance/cost and might shake up the market a bit.
The shop run by Evil Dragon of the pyra forums. He is the brains behind the Pyra project, and was once involved in the OpenPandora too, a long time ago. The Pyra had an awfully long and rocky road but finally units are shipping out. If you’re into tiny form factor Linux machines with gaming controls then check out Dragonbox. He also sells a small selection of other retro gaming devices which ship from Germany.
Run by a super cool Malaysian guy called Eddie, myretrogamecase is an Aladdin’s cave of unusual custom handhelds, wooden display cases and beautiful metal shells. He has recently released the G4A which is a Raspberry Pi4 in a GBA shell, and is now working on a micro handheld using the Dreamcast VMU as a shell! There are many custom parts in Eddie’s store that he makes himself and are not available anywhere else.
The official site of the infamous PowKiddy brand, who do most of their business on AliExpress. PowKiddy are known for releasing handhelds with wildly varying quality. This is likely down to them sourcing products from a variety of factories rather than designing products themselves. Having said that, sometimes they surprise us all as they did with the performance/price ratio of the X18S. They’re worth keeping an eye on, but a lot of the time their products are best avoided.
A China based stockist of a wide selection of handhelds from various manufacturers. They tend to have decent prices and are usually quick to stock the latest products. The guys behind this store were also behind the now defunct PocketGo and BittBoy brand.
Unless you’re very green, chances are you’ve heard of Anbernic by now. They’re the company behind the RG* line of handhelds, and are probably the biggest around right now. Their portfolio is mostly JZ4770 and RK3326 based devices, but have recently released the more powerful RG552.