Nostalgic Handheld Gaming: A Non-Professional Review of the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus

When it comes to opinions about playing games on various handheld consoles, everyone has their own unique requirements and preferences. What level of gaming are you aiming for? Are you looking for retro gaming, including arcade classics? Do you want to play titles from DC, PSP, PS2, or even a variety of games from Steam, both big and small?

My personal preference is to support as many arcade games as possible, along with FC, SFC, and MD. Having GBA support would be great too. I also like the idea of having a versatile machine with ample performance for various miscellaneous game systems like PCE. However, for NDS, PSP, DC, NAOMI, NGC, WII, and PS2, I consider them more of a bonus, and I have no intention of playing SD or other Windows-based games on a handheld device.

I prefer a compact screen size, landscape orientation, and the D-pad on the top. It must be able to run emulators like RetroArch, and I’m looking for an affordable price, although I understand that sellers need to make a profit. I don’t want to pay a premium for a handheld just to play AAA titles.

Budget plays a significant role, and the range of games a device can handle is determined by its performance and platform (Android ARM vs. x86 Windows). The budget is often related to these factors, but other variables can affect the price, such as whether the device is from a reputable manufacturer or a small workshop, build quality, battery life, portability, interfaces, button and joystick quality, layout, screen quality, feel in hand, connectivity, ease of use, software, and aesthetics.

I’ve noticed a continuous stream of “defective” Chinese handheld consoles, and none of them seemed ideal. Since getting the RGB10, I haven’t felt the need to buy another one. I’ve been waiting for new options like the Snapdragon 845/Dimensity, the Sandoo 2.5/3.0, P60, KTR, etc., but they took a long time, and only the Sandoo 3.5 seemed to meet my expectations. The P60’s performance seems lacking compared to newer options, and KTR, while promising, has had price fluctuations and is the first device from that manufacturer, which might lead to quality issues. As for the Odin, it’s too bulky for my needs, and the extra performance is unnecessary, so I’m not inclined to spend hundreds more on it. As for SD or Windows-based handhelds, the price isn’t a consideration for me, especially since SD offers good value for money, but I dislike the bulkiness of such devices and have no need for playing AAA Steam titles, so I’m not considering them.

Recently, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus (often called the Sandoo 3.5) was released, which competes directly with its own 3.0 model in terms of performance but at a lower price. At the same time, the RG505 was also released, which I considered but ultimately decided to purchase the Sandoo 3.5 for around $137.

First, I sorted through the games in my Tianma integrated package and selected some, combining them with the recently optimized series themes, and then tinkered with getting them into the game console. I encountered some peculiar issues since I was tinkering with an Android handheld for the first time, but I managed to resolve them. In terms of software, I used Tianma corrections, the RetroArch package, cheats, and overlays, as well as standalone emulators that can be called by RetroArch. It’s comfortable to use, as you can see in the videos I’ve shared.

Here are my personal thoughts on this handheld device:

Price: It’s priced at around $130, which is what I expected. If the KTR is released and has a good reputation, even if it reaches the $270 range, it’s worth considering. Unfortunately, that device seems to be a long way off.

Platform: It runs Android with the Tianma RA combination, which includes almost all emulators, striking a balance between aesthetics and practicality.

Performance: It features the Unisoc Tiger T618 processor, which I’m not very familiar with. According to benchmark results, it’s roughly equivalent to the Snapdragon 710.

Game Testing: For the games I want to play, which are mostly arcade and retro games, there are no issues. For slightly more advanced systems like PS and SS, I’ve tested fewer games but found that they run smoothly.

For DC and NAOMI, I no longer need external emulators since they can be run directly using RetroArch’s flycast core, and they feel quite smooth. Although I didn’t have the frame rate display turned on, it seems to maintain a stable 60 fps.

For PSP games like God of War, I tested them at 1x and 2x resolution, and the frame rate remained stable without significant fluctuations. Games like Metal Slug, which are 2D, run without any issues.

For GameCube (NGC), Resident Evil 0 runs at around 50-60 fps, which is quite stable at 60.

As for Wii games, Resident Evil 4 is playable, with the frame rate ranging from 30-40 fps, although there’s occasional audio distortion. I haven’t figured out how to configure the controls in Dolphin on Android yet, so I can’t play this one properly.

I also tested a PS2 game, God Hand, and noticed some slowdown during fights, with the frame rate ranging from 40-50 fps. In Onimusha 2, in areas with many NPCs in town, the frame rate and music drop to around 40 fps, but it becomes smooth once you leave the town. I suspect that devices with Snapdragon 845 or Dimensity 900 would handle this more smoothly.

For 3DS, I tested Super Mario 3D Land, and the frame rate fluctuated between 30-50 fps, with occasional audio distortion and stuttering every few seconds. Unfortunately, this game isn’t playable at the moment. This is just the performance of the device.

Build Quality: I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but personally, I’m not very sensitive to build quality. However, before buying, I heard many people say that the build quality of this device is decent, so I went with the flow, and it feels pretty good in hand.

Battery Life: I haven’t tested it yet because I’m constantly connecting it to charge or transferring files via USB, but I played arcade games for almost an hour, and the battery only dropped by 10%. Based on my estimate, it should easily last for more than six hours of gaming below the level of arcade games.

Portability: It’s slightly larger than my PSP, which is a bit too big for my taste. In reality, the size of devices like the Sandoo 2.5 is ideal, but that device is unattractive, and its performance is somewhat outdated.

Ports: The micro HDMI port is at the top, but I haven’t tested it since I don’t use it. The Type-C port is at the bottom of the device, the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the right side, and there’s a TF card slot on

the left side, which is a positive feature.

Buttons: I’m mostly satisfied with the buttons. The D-pad is tactile and similar to the D-pad on the PS Vita, making it satisfying to press. The triggers have a non-linear feel and are relatively firm, but I’m not very sensitive to this aspect. For me, the button layout is more important than the feel of the buttons. The D-pad is located above the left thumbstick, which suits my preference for playing retro games. However, the placement of the Start and Select buttons at the top right of the device, to the left of R1, is very unconventional and not very convenient. They are so far away that I almost never use them, opting instead to use RetroArch’s virtual buttons for coin insertion and starting games. The protruding L3 and R3 buttons are unsightly.

Joysticks: The dual joysticks are not as good as the hall-effect joysticks on the RG505. On the day I bought the device, I heard from friends that some units had a dead zone issue with the left joystick. When I tested it using the device’s built-in joystick testing software, I didn’t find this problem. The quality is mediocre, but it’s fine. Newer devices now come with L3 and R3 buttons, which make configuring shortcuts for emulators more convenient.

Screen: It has a 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 750×1334, which looks comfortable. However, it seems that the system can’t adapt to brightness automatically. For 16:9 gaming of retro titles, the Sandoo 2.5 might be better, but I don’t mind the full stretch for all kinds of retro games I play, even without bezel overlays, so it doesn’t bother me.

Feel in Hand: It’s decent, with the buttons being reasonably responsive and not causing fatigue even after prolonged use.

Connectivity: It has a Type-C port, but the data transfer speed is relatively slow, especially for small files like cheat codes. I usually transfer compressed files via Wi-Fi, and extracting them on the device is quick, taking less than a minute.

Ease of Use: For someone experienced with Android, connecting a gamepad is straightforward, and it works well.

Aesthetics: It’s mostly fine in all aspects, except for the protruding L3 and R3 buttons, which are quite ugly. Couldn’t they have designed them to be flush? Perhaps this design choice was made to improve their feel?

(Note: This translation is a summary of the original text, and some details may have been omitted for brevity.)