Earlier this year, we reviewed the Anbernic RG35XX, a Game Boy-style mini handheld that offered decent 16- and 32-bit emulation for a low price. It certainly wasn't the perfect device – it lacked power when compared to its rivals, for example – but it was a reasonably solid foundation to build on, and that's precisely what Anbernic has done with this iterative upgrade, the RG35XX Plus.
A casual glance might lead you to assume this is the exact same product, but there are some key physical differences, even before you turn it on. The most obviously is the fact that the 3300 mAh battery is now user-serviceable, which bodes well for the longevity of the system. Secondly, the shoulder buttons are arranged in a slightly more comfortable 'slanted' fashion, allowing them to rest more naturally on your fingers.
Although it's harder to spot, the system's D-pad has also been changed when compared to the previous model, and now feels even better to use – which is saying something when you consider how good the pad on the original felt. The 3.5-inch, 640x480 pixel IPS screen remains unchanged, which is no bad thing, as it was already an impressively sharp and colourful panel. You also get a mini HDMI-out port, two MicroSD card slots, a 3.5mm headphone socket and a USB-C port.
The cosmetic tweaks made by Anbernic are welcome, but it's what's happened under the hood which is arguably most impressive. The RG35XX Plus has a 1.5Ghz H700 Quad-Core ARM Cortext-A52 chipset accompanied by 1GB of RAM, giving it a sizeable performance boost over the bog-standard RG35XX. This means that Dreamcast emulation is possible on this device, which couldn't be said of the original. The catch is that the RG35XX Plus lacks an analogue stick, so you're stuck with digital control on games which have been designed with analogue in mind. They're still playable, but you're not getting the full interface experience.
PSP emulation is also possible, but it's not as smooth as you'd expect, with regular audio drop-outs and stuttering. Everything else is fine, though – if you're looking for a device which covers the 8 and 16-bit eras along with arcade, handhelds and PlayStation, then you'll find a lot to like here.
WiFi is another upgrade over the original RG35XX, but sadly, the user interface hasn't had a similar bump. It's still ugly and rather amateurish, which makes the RG35XX Plus look a little cheap and nasty when compared to its rivals. Anbernic will no doubt argue that as long as the UI is easy to navigate (which is it), then this is a moot point, but we'd like to have seen some enhancements made in this area.
For around $70, the RG35XX Plus represents a sizeable improvement over the original RG35XX. If you've recently picked up the older model, then it might be a little annoying that Anbernic has issued an upgrade so early on, but unless you're bothered about having a user-replaceable battery and being able to play Dreamcast games, you're not missing out as much as you'd think.
Those of you who have yet to make a purchase, though, are encouraged to take a look at this handheld – it combines charging design with great performance and a low price point, making it a really good portable emulation option.
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