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Anbernic RG351MP Review

Looking for a sweet retro handheld? Take a look at at our Anbernic RG351MP review!

Anbernic RG351MP Retro Handheld Gaming Console
Manufacturer: Anbernic
Price: $159.99 USD

Ever since the release of the Raspberry Pi, retro gaming has started coming back in a big way. Not only are people starting to repurpose older computers to be the front end for popular retro solutions like HyperSpin and Batocera, but several manufacturers have showed up to make their own handheld versions of these that often run on a Linux core while using mobile phone hardware for the guts. Are these devices any good though? Let’s take a little closer look.

From a hardware standpoint, the RG351MP is a well constructed machine. Mine had a few minor scratches in the aluminum shell, but nothing too major. The buttons feel nice and the thumbsticks feel a lot like the ones you’d find on the Joycon controllers. All of the button placement is good aside from how close the bumpers and triggers are, but it’s a minor gripe you get used to as you spend time with the device. The screen looks great for older titles, but the external wifi adapter is a bit of an eyesore, has some connection issues, and the lack of a built in touch screen seems like a weird place to cut corners considering how many other devices in this price range have both built in wifi and a touchscreen.

This device features two microSD card slots – one for the actual firmware and one for storage. You can just as easily put a 400gb+ drive in the primary slot and leave the secondary slot open, or you could put something much smaller with just the firmware in slot one while plugging in a 500+gb card in slot two. I didn’t have any cards larger than 400gb to test, but I was able to run a 128gb in the main slot and a 400gb card in the storage slot with no issues, so realistically you could probably throw two 1tb cards in this thing and have literally every rom this thing could support in your pocket at all times. That’s sweet!

Still, even with minor complaints, the device feels sturdy and has a nice weight to it – heavier than I expected for sure – and the rubber grips on the back feel great for keeping the device in place while you’re playing. It’s slightly thick for putting in your pocket, but it fits great in the utility pocket on my backpack so it’s not too awkward to carry around on a daily basis. The battery lasted decently, but like most other devices it depends on whether or not you’re connected to wifi, screen brightness, and how taxing whatever you’re emulating is on the device. I’d usually kill it in two days of moderate play time with screen standby/idle while not in use.

On the software side, I’m going to be completely honest with you: None of these devices can compare with the PlayStation Vita when emulating PSX or PSP titles because it has direct first party support for those titles. That said, the RG351MP is surprisingly capable and manages to handle most all PSX titles without any real issue. I tested out Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Valkyrie Profile, Tekken 2, and a few others and found pretty much no issue that you wouldn’t find on any other device running Retroarch. Using the PSP emulator PPSSPP on the RG351MP, some titles are playable like Ridge Racer while others like Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep chug and struggle to keep up. They’re playable, but not ideal.

I took the RG351MP’s Dreamcast emulation for a spin as well, and while it handled Marvel vs Capcom 2 like a dream, Skies of Arcadia was a slideshow. Dreamcast emulation is possible but most games can’t achieve what would be reasonably playable frame rate. The Nintendo 64 emulation functions about the same way. Castlevania 64 is playable and works fine, while Killer Instinct Gold is an absolute mess of graphical issues and Mortal Kombat Gold has a bunch of sound issues. Mario 64 plays fine, but has some weird shader issues that you could probably find adjustments for to make it better, but for the purposes of this evaluation, I didn’t pursue it. As I said earlier, stick to 16-bit games and you’ll have a fantastic time with this device.

Anbernic’s stock firmware that comes with the RG351MP is adequate out of the gate, and the 80gb version comes pre-loaded with an assortment of games across a bunch of different consoles but it’s slow and I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the pre-loaded assortment. I tested out both AmberElec (Previously known as 351Elec) Lakka, and ArkOS, but sadly I couldn’t get ANY build that ran ArkOS to launch on my RG351MP. There seems to be some sort of a hardware conflict as some builds of the 351MP can run ArkOS without any issue while others like the one I received simply wasn’t able to make it load. I’m actually trading this unit to the lead dev on ArkOS (for one of his) so he can try to find the bug and fix it so that this firmware can be enjoyed as a solution by all users. AmberElec was my favorite of the options I was able to test, though as normal, you might prefer a different one.

All and all, this is fantastic little device and certainly one of my favorite new toys to have in the office for when I feel like revisiting an old classic but don’t want to track down my other handhelds. I’m anxious to see if we can get more of these retro devices to play with and provide you guys with more coverage of these types of devices in the coming months.

Video review here:

The Anbernic RG351MP available directly from Anbernic on their website as well as on their Ebay store. The Anbernic RG351MP was provided to us for review by Anbernic. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

 

 

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Build quality is nice
  • Buttons feel good
  • Runs a few different firmware options
  • Two flash media slots for additional storage options

The Bad

  • No built in wifi
  • No touch screen
  • Might be too heavy for some users
  • The battery can be a bit questionable at times

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