Anbernic RG35XX
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

The original Game Boy is now old enough to be having its own mid-life crisis, but it remains an utterly iconic piece of consumer technology, to be spoken of in the same breath as the Sony Walkman and Apple iPhone. Such is the fame of this monochrome handheld that it's instantly recognisable, even by people who weren't even born when it hit store shelves in 1989. For that reason, we've seen plenty of Chinese manufacturers use the console as a design template for their own devices – right down to adopting the same beige-and-red colour scheme.

One of the most successful of these DMG-01 clones is the Miyoo Mini, a truly pocket-sized portable which allows you to run ROMs for the likes of the NES, SNES and Mega Drive / Genesis. Its dainty nature and low price have made it something of a hit with consumers, and now Anbernic – which is one of the most well-established firms in the realm of portable emulation devices – has decided to steal some of its thunder with its own teeny, tiny Game Boy-like device, the RG35XX.

If you didn't know any better, you might assume that the RG35XX and Miyoo Mini were created in the same factory – they look almost identical when viewed from the front, thanks mainly to the fact that they're both based on the aforementioned '89 Game Boy. However, Anbernic's offering is quite a bit larger than its rival and therefore goes some way to avoiding the issue of hand cramps that many experienced with the almost impossibly dinky Miyoo Mini.

It has a responsive D-pad, four glossy face buttons, Start and Select keys and a 'Menu' button which drops you back to the console's UI. The left-hand side of the unit is home to the volume rocker, while the Power button, Reset button and twin MicroSD card slots are located on the opposite side. The bottom edge features the USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone socket, while the rear of the RG35XX showcases four shoulder buttons arranged in a row. Finally, on the top, we have a mini HDMI port (there's no HDMI cable in the box, however, so you'll need to find your own).

All in all, it's a pretty nice setup; the face buttons are quite slippery when your fingers are greasy, and the shoulder buttons feel a little awkward to locate at times – but, on the whole, the RG35XX is more comfortable to use for prolonged periods than the Miyoo Mini, which (as we've already noted) was almost too small. This is, of course, counterbalanced by the fact that Anbernic's system is less pocket-friendly as a result, but it's still diminutive enough to carry around with you – and it feels solidly built, too.

Under the hood, we've got some pretty workmanlike components, including a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, PowerVR SGX544MP GPU and just 256MB of RAM. With those specs, it's wise to temper your expectations when it comes to power – the RG35XX will run 16-bit systems with no issue whatsoever (and can handle PlayStation 1 titles), but don't expect Dreamcast support here. However, the device will happily play NES, SNES, PC Engine, Neo Geo, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, WonderSwan and Neo Geo Pocket titles, as well as a smattering of arcade releases.

Another disappointment is the default user interface, which, while being easy to navigate and understand, is rather ugly and lacks features – as well as the ability to dig into the settings and tinker with how each system is emulated. As is so often the case with these devices, alternatives are available, but you'll have to do some digging to get them working. It's a real shame that the RG35XX doesn't offer a better UX out of the box, but anyone who has owned an Anbernic product before should be accustomed to swapping out the UI for something better (there's no WiFi, by the way, so this process has to be done via the MicroSD card).

On the upside, the 3.5-inch, 640x480 pixel IPS screen is great, offering good colour balance and brightness. It really makes 2D games pop, such as Capcom's excellent CPS-based arcade releases. The RG35XX's 2100 mAh battery will give you around 5 hours of gameplay, and the ability to connect the console to your TV via HDMI is welcome. When you consider the low asking price of around $60, it's much easier to take the console's rough edges into account; it's not perfect, but you shouldn't be expecting Aya Neo levels of performance here anyway.

Anbernic RG35XX
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Like so many of Anbernic's entry-level offerings, the RG35XX is best viewed as a solid starting point for either a casual player or someone who is younger and is merely looking for a simple means of playing some classic games. Seasoned emulation experts might find it useful as a travel companion but are almost certainly going to be better off spending a bit more cash and going for a handheld with a higher spec – the RG353P, perhaps.

Having said that, the RG35XX's form factor is a real selling point, so if you're looking for a second 'daily driver' emulation device, you could do a lot worse.

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Thanks to Keep Retro for supplying the Anbernic RG35XX used in this review.