PowKiddy RGB20S
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

If Anbernic is the headline act in the world of emulation handhelds, then PowKiddy is the support group you've never heard of. That's probably an extreme analogy, but PowKiddy certainly doesn't have the market awareness that Anbernic enjoys – despite producing a line of likeable (and cheap) portables.

The RGB20S is one such example; it costs around $90 / £70 and sports the RK3326 chipset, making it as middle-range as it's possible to get in this sector of the market, but, despite that, we came away thoroughly impressed by its potential – and we're about to tell you why.

PowKiddy RGB20S Review

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Design and Screen

PowKiddy's reputation is built on price, and for that reason, it probably shouldn't come as a massive shock to learn that the RGB20S looks and feels cheap. There's very little heft to the device, and the plastic is quite nasty. There are also issues with the way in which the display is fitted to the unit; on our review model, it's possible to press down on the corners of the screen and feel it 'flex' quite dramatically within the casing, which suggests the integrity of the internal design isn't up to much. In terms of built quality, you're getting what you pay for with this device.

We also have some bones to pick with PowKiddy's design team, because the layout of the controls isn't ideal. While it's nice to have dual analogue control, the D-pad and face buttons are situated far too low down on the front of the RGB20S – so if you have medium-to-large hands, you'll end up with a nasty case of cramp. If you use the left analogue stick for movement, then it's less of an issue, but when playing retro games, the D-pad will be the preferred option for most people – and it's simply in the wrong place here.

It's a similar story for the shoulder buttons, which are located on the back of the unit, roughly in the middle. Your index fingers rest naturally in this position, so they're easy enough to reach – but shifting your fingertips from L1 and R1 to L2 and R2 is easier said than done. These buttons also feel very cheap.

The RGB20S might sound like a write-off at this point, but stick with us – it's not all bad news. The size of the unit is perfect for portable play; it's smaller than the Analogue Pocket, which makes it the ideal travel companion for retro gamers.

There are two USB-C ports on the bottom edge, along with a 3.5mm headphone socket, while the twin MicroSD card slots are on the left and right sides of the unit. Finally, the speaker resides in the middle of the RGB20S's face, in between the analogue sticks. It's surprisingly punchy, considering the cheap nature of the unit. (And yes, we know the RGB20S's button arrangement looks like a face – and so does PowKiddy, as it includes a set of animal face sticklers which, if you're inclined, you can affix to the front to make it look even more adorable.)

The RGB20S's 3.5″ IPS display is anything but cheap and nasty, though. Boasting a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, it's perfect for retro games and boasts good brightness and colour balance.

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Emulation Performance

Given that it's sporting Rockchip's RK3326 chipset, you'd be wise not to expect too much when it comes to emulation on the RGB20S – but we were pleasantly surprised when we first booted it up (well, not the first time, to be accurate; the unit had little battery charge and displayed a screen of garbled text – a full charge thankfully solved this problem).

The RGB20S runs Emulation Station, which makes things easy to navigate and allows for a fair amount of customisation. Out of the box, things work wonderfully well; systems are divided up neatly, almost all of the games come with screenshots and box art (some even have video trailers), and the bundled MicroSD card is packed with games. This is, of course, a highly dubious arrangement in terms of copyright, so don't go buying this thing if you're uncomfortable with the notion of playing ROMs without paying the copyright holder in the first place.

PowKiddy RGB20S
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

The PowKiddy RGB20S comes pre-loaded with support (and games) for the following systems:

  • Arcade / MAME
  • Capcom Play System 1
  • Capcom Play System 2
  • Capcom Play System 3
  • Sega Naomi
  • PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
  • Famicom / NES
  • Super Famicom / Super Nintendo
  • Nintendo 64
  • Game Boy
  • Game Boy Color
  • Game Boy Advance
  • Nintendo DS
  • Mega Drive / Genesis
  • Dreamcast
  • Neo Geo AES / MVS
  • Neo Geo Pocket / Pocket Color
  • PlayStation
  • PlayStation Portable

As you might imagine, not all of those systems are emulated perfectly; Dreamcast and N64, in particular, can struggle at times, and the emulation of PlayStation and PSP games leaves plenty to be desired. We also question the wisdom of trying to emulate the Nintendo DS on a console with one screen and no touch capability. For the most part, however, the unit performs admirably, especially if you're mainly interested in 2D games from the '80s and '90s.

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Battery Life

Given the diminutive size of the system, it would be unreasonable to expect mammoth battery life. The RGB20S's internal rechargeable battery is good for around four hours of play time, according to PowKiddy, but we found that it lasted a little less than that under moderate use.

That figure is also largely dependent on what kind of emulation you're doing; playing Dreamcast and PSP games is going to drain the battery faster than playing NES or Game Boy games, for example. Screen brightness and volume level also have an impact on stamina. The charging time for the unit is around two hours.

PowKiddy RGB20S Review: Conclusion

PowKiddy RGB20S
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

With its low price point and cheap build quality, the RGB20S certainly isn't perfect, but there are other things we like about it; it's easy to use right out of the box for one, and its dimensions are ideal for portable play. That screen is also something of a selling point.

It's not going to trouble the big boys of the emulation sector, but the RGB20S is nonetheless a likeable, low-cost means of accessing loads of classic games (albeit in a fashion that's almost certainly legally dubious).

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Thanks to LITNXT for supplying the PowKiddy RGB20S used in this review.