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Anbernic RG353V Review: Is It Worth the Price?

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Anbernic RG353V Review: Is It Worth the Price?

Key Points

  • The Anbernic RG353V is a popular retro gaming handheld that has gained attention for its Game Boy-like design.
  • The RG353V is available in two models: the dual-boot RG353V with support for both Linux and Android, and the Linux-based RG353VS without touchscreen or Android support.
  • The handheld features a compact design, sturdy hardware, and excellent button feedback, making it comfortable for gaming sessions.
  • Overall, the Anbernic RG353V is a recommended buy for retro gaming enthusiasts who want a versatile handheld for playing old console games on the go.

In the busy world of retro gaming handhelds, the Anbernic RG353V has carved out its own little niche. As one of the most popular and highly regarded retro gaming handheld manufacturers around, when Anbernic releases a product, the industry pays attention.

With the release of the RG353V, there has been considerable attention placed on its design with its Game Boy-like feel. The memory of the Game Boy has a stronghold on the retro gaming world, so invoking its memory with the Anbernic RG353V has made people strongly consider this as their next handheld.

If you’re on the hunt for your first or another gaming handheld, the Anbernic RG353V is well worth consideration thanks to its ability to play games across 20 plus different emulators. 

Best Deals Today

Fantastic Deal
JETKNOT RG353VS Retro Handheld Game Emulator Console
$118.99
  • Linux system
  • 4,452 games built-in
  • Supports 56, Wi-Fi 4.2, Bluetooth
  • Online fighting, streaming
  • HDMI
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 08:55 am GMT

Anbernic RG353V Overview

Release Date and Price

Released in September 2022, the RG353V was made available at a discounted price of $113 as a pre-order from both Anbernic directly and AliExpress.

Fast forward to September 2023, and it is now widely available with prices varying anywhere between $85 and $120, depending on the day and various sales between different online retailers. 

Different Models

When it comes to the Anbernic RG353 lineup, it’s important to note there are two different but very similar models. The RG353V is a dual-boot system that offers support for both Linux and Android operating systems. This has many distinct advantages for the user as you can load up specialized software available that can help provide a much smoother software experience and improved gameplay. 

On the other hand, having Android also means you can have your choice of emulators from the Google Play Store in order to find the best-performing version that works with the RG353V hardware. 

With the Anbernic RG353VS, you have just a Linux-based version of the same handheld without touchscreen, Android, Android games, or wireless screen projection versions. The RG353VS also offers half the RAM at 1GB and includes half the memory card storage availability as the RG353V as well. 

Features

Reviewing the feature set of the Anbernic RG353V is a look at a retro gaming handheld that is made to play thousands of games. Powered by the common RK3566 Quad-Core chipset with the Cortex-A55 CPU, you have an emulator set that can support 20 different emulators out of the box with support for 8-bit, 16-bit plus systems like the PlayStation 1, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and the Sega Dreamcast

The inclusion of the dual-boot system for the RG353V with Android and Linux makes this retro gaming handheld unique in the space. As many handhelds have been released in 2022 and 2023, there are only a couple that offer dual operating system support. The advantage here is the ability to piggyback on the large online community looking to provide a better software experience through Linux while also taking advantage of the large number of emulators available through the Play Store. 

Of course, if you want a little bit of personalization, the Anbernic RG353V is available in a number of colors including gray, purple, white, and black. 

Specifications

SpecsDetails
ProcessorRK3566 Quad-Core 64-bit, Cortex-A55 (up to 1.8Ghz)
RAMLPDDR4 2GB
Storage2x microSD card slots with support up to 512GB (one slot is for OS, one is for games)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Ports2 USB-C ports, one supports up to 2A charging
Battery3,200mAh (up to 6 hours)
Touchscreen?Yes
Screen Size3.5-inch IPS display, 640 x 480p resolution 
SpeakerSingle horn loudspeaker
SystemAndroid 11, Linux 64-bit compatible with 32-bit
Size4.9 x 3.2 x 0.82 inches
Weight180 grams
Anbernic RG353V
The Anbernic website shows just how many different color combinations and memory sizes you can choose from with the RG353V.

Anbernic RG353V Review

Anbernic has been and is likely to continue to be at the forefront of retro gaming handhelds for the foreseeable future. With strong competition from Retroid, Powkiddy, Analogue, and others, Anbernic will have to continuously work hard to keep its position as one of the premiere retro handheld manufacturers. 

In the case of the RG353V, Anbernic has already shown that vertical handhelds are not only possible but have a dedicated audience that longs to relive memories of the Game Boy look and feel. 

Design

The moment you pick up the Anbernic RG353V, you’ll be surprised how small the device is overall. While vertical handhelds are almost always going to be small compared to the size of the original Game Boy, the RG353V really does harken back to that era, while also making it look far more current. 

Your first impression of the RG353V beyond its small size will undoubtedly be how solid it feels in the hand. The overall hardware feels sturdy and well-built, even if you are concerned about Anbernic products having a somewhat checkered history of quality control. 

Still, the face buttons deliver excellent overall feedback thanks to the membrane Anbernic is using underneath. As buttons are often hit or miss on retro gaming handhelds, it’s a happy surprise to see such excellent tactile feedback with each button press. The button positioning is also in an ergonomically friendly position, which bodes well for lengthy gaming sessions. 

The rear buttons are also put in a natural position where your fingers would rest on the rear of a vertical device, which makes their ergonomics good as well. The dual analog joysticks rest lower than the rest of the keys but are necessary inclusions for platforms like the PlayStation 1. You’ll want to play around a little with how you hold the device if you need to use one joystick (you’ll almost never use both) and the A, B, X, and Y buttons as it can take a few times before you find a comfortable feel. 

Display

Right away, the 3.5-inch IPS touchscreen with its 640 x 480p resolution looks good right out of the box. The good news is that many of the systems you are looking to play feel right at home on this screen size. Better yet, the touchscreen feels very responsive, which is an important control feature, especially with how frequently you may jump into the Android system to grab different emulators to help push the RG353V emulation’s capabilities to its limit. 

By most accounts, the screen hits right around 300 nits, which isn’t the best number in the handheld space, but it’s more than enough to help make sure you can see while playing in various lighting environments. 

One of the nicely thought-out decisions by Anbernic was to recess the screen ever so slightly, so if for any reason you place the RG353V face down for any reason the screen will not get scratched. However, the handheld does come with a screen protector regardless of where you purchase it and it’s highly recommended to install it before turning the handheld on. 

Processor and Performance

The RK3566 Quad-Core Cortex A-55 CPU combination had been well-tested even before the RG353V hit the market, so there should be little surprise on how it performs. There is undoubtedly enough power here to push through all of your 8-bit and 16-bit favorites, plus the likes of the Game Boy Advance, MAME, Neo-Geo, and more. 

Where things can get really interesting is how well the processor performs between Android and Linux. There is a good chance that, when paired with custom firmware designed and released by various members of retro gaming communities like ArkOS, you are going to see better performance out of the processor. Consoles like Dreamcast or PSP, in particular, which can really push this chipset to its maximum performance levels, will perform better on the Linux side. 

Android does run fairly smoothly with the 2GB of included RAM, so you can definitely make use of Android, but there is a good chance most buyers of this handheld will spend more time on the Linux side. 

Emulation Quality

This is really the pinnacle of the review as emulation performance is exactly why you are buying any retro gaming handheld. The good news, as indicated above, is that the RK3566 chipset was already battle-tested by the time the Anbernic RG353V was released, so there should be little surprise on how well it performs. 

As hinted above, playing systems like MAME, Neo Geo, NES, SNES, GB, GBC, GBA, PS1, SFC, NDS, and SMS all play just fine. In fact, they are better than fine as many of these systems feel right at home on a 4:3 display, so they look and feel as they did when you played them on larger CRT televisions. 

Things can get a little tricky with Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, and PlayStation Portable. These 3 systems do require slightly better hardware than 8-bit and 16-bit systems, so a little extra horsepower is needed out of the processor to help provide a steady frame rate for these systems. There is no question that with any of these systems, upscaling is out of the question, so native resolution is as good as things will get. 

However, on the Linux side, if you install custom firmware like ArkOS, you are going to see large performance improvements for all 3 systems. This isn’t to say that every game for each system will play well (sorry, God of War fans on the PSP), but for the most part, you can get 2D games on the Dreamcast to play at a constant 60 frames per second. 

Battery Life

As a portable retro gaming handheld, battery life counts as there is a good chance you want to take the Anbernic RG353V on the go. The 3,200mA battery indicates that you should be able to get up to 6 hours of performance and online reviews peg this number as spot on.

RG353V owners who have installed ArkOS on the Linux side of their device may even see numbers slightly above those, thanks to optimizations the developers have made. On the other hand, Android users are likely to hit the battery life Anbernic has promised.

Anbernic RG353V Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • The ultra-portable design feels great in your hands.
  • Having the ability to dual boot with two operating systems gives you the best of two worlds.
  • The screen is great for indoor and outdoor use.
  • Build quality feels durable.

Cons

  • The RK3566 processor is outdated by 2023 standards.
  • The single speaker sounds okay — a little tinny in some game systems.
  • Using the two analog sticks at the same time is an ergonomic concern.
  • Dreamcast, PSP, and N64 performance is a roll of the dice.
Fantastic Deal
JETKNOT RG353VS Retro Handheld Game Emulator Console
$118.99
  • Linux system
  • 4,452 games built-in
  • Supports 56, Wi-Fi 4.2, Bluetooth
  • Online fighting, streaming
  • HDMI
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/17/2024 08:55 am GMT

Anbernic RG353V: Is It a Buy? 

Buy it if…

You should absolutely buy the RG353V if you want to be able to play thousands and thousands of old retro console systems on the go. 

There is also a strong reason to buy if you love the vertical form factor and it reminds you of older systems like the Game Boy or Game Boy Color. 

You should also buy the Anbernic RG353V if you want your first retro gaming handheld, as the price point is low enough to be an impulse buy. 

Don’t buy it if…

You want to play “newer” game systems like GameCube, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation2, and Nintendo 3DS. 

You don’t want to worry about dual-booting systems and switching between Android and Linux. 

You are not comfortable installing custom firmware as installing ArkOS will give you a huge leap in performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the number one reason to pick up the Anbernic RG353V?

The single best reason to pick up the Anbernic RG353V is the ability to play thousands of classic games on the go. 

What systems can run on the Anbernic RG353V?

All 8-bit and 16-bit systems like the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis are going to play great as will MAME, Nintendo DS, N-GAGE, CPS1-3, SFC, and many other systems. 

Can you play two players on the Anbernic RG353V?

If you want to play two players, you likely can but it’s definitely not recommended. 

How much should you spend on the Anbernic RG353V?

The price on the RG353V varies, but around $100-$120 is a great price point for this handheld. 

Where is the best place to buy the Anbernic RG353V?

Direct from Anbernic is always the best place to buy, but if you want easier return methods, Amazon is the next best thing. 

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