Powkiddy RGB30
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

There are a lot of things to love about the Analogue Pocket, but one of the things we really like is the perfectly square 1:1 aspect ratio screen, which is absolutely ideal for playing Game Boy games.

A display with this kind of aspect ratio is a rare beast these days, with most manufacturers aiming for a widescreen 16:9 format instead. That's fine if you're looking to play modern games on the move, but for retro, boxy is good.

Chinese firm Powkiddy clearly agrees as it has released a new handheld, the RGB30, which boasts a 4-inch, 1:1 aspect ratio 720x720 pixel LCD that's even larger than the one on the Analogue Pocket. Can a screen like this work on a landscape-oriented device, though? We're about to find out.

Powkiddy RGB30 Review: Design & Display

The act of accommodating a 1:1 aspect ratio screen into a device of this size means that the Powkiddy RGB30 feels a lot different to its rivals. In terms of width, it's about the same as any other device on the market, but the display necessitates a tall body – and that comes with some pleasant side effects.

For starters, it gives the RGB30's physical controls room to breathe. The D-pad and buttons are positioned relatively high on the face of the device, but they're easy to reach and don't feel cramped. Likewise, the dual analogue sticks aren't stuck right at the bottom of the unit's face, as is often the case with other emulation handhelds. No matter which input you favour, you'll find the RGB30 very comfortable to use.

Powkiddy RGB30
While the RGB30 is capable of emulating the Nintendo DS, the lack of a touchscreen means that some titles are unplayable — Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

As for the overall design, there are a lot of smart choices here. The large surface area of the unit means the stereo speakers are never in danger of being muffled by your palms when you grip the unit, and the shoulder buttons – while sadly arranged in-line rather than one on top of the other – rest naturally under your extended index fingers thanks to the tall nature of the unit.

There are some negatives to report – the face buttons feel a little cheap and nasty, while the back of the unit also betrays the system's budget credentials and picks up scratches a little too easily. The bodywork itself, while well-designed, also feels less robust than some of its rivals.

No such criticisms can be made against the display, however. While it's not quite as sharp and bright as the one seen on the Analogue Pocket – which is truly one of the best screens on any handheld, ever – the RGB30's 720p, 1:1 LCD panel is fantastic, especially when you consider the low price point of the device. The colours really pop, and the 720p resolution means that retro games scale especially well, retaining sharpness and plenty of detail.

Finally, it's worth noting that the RGB30 has HDMI-out, allowing you to connect it to the TV without spending extra money on a dock.

Powkiddy RGB30
'TATE' arcade games really benefit from that 1:1 aspect ratio — Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Powkiddy RGB30 Review: Performance

The Powkiddy ships with the open-source JelOS out of the box, and this works in conjunction with emulators like RetroArch to present a very user-friendly experience.

The unit we were sent for review by Keep Retro came pre-loaded with a bunch of ROMs – as well as artwork, screenshots and covers – making the whole experience feel very polished indeed, right out of the box. You can, of course, change the OS and customise pretty much every element of how the device works, but for those of you who simply want to get gaming as quickly as possible, the RGB30 offers a hassle-free experience – although the pauses when moving between games is a little too long for our liking.

Thanks to the moderately powerful RK3566 chipset, retro gaming emulation is pretty much perfect – up to a point. While the RGB30 will play Dreamcast, PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo DS and PSP titles, performance isn't perfect, and you may find that some titles run poorly. However, systems such as the SNES, Game Boy, Mega Drive and GBA all run wonderfully, and many of these play to the strengths of that 1:1 aspect ratio screen.

Powkiddy RGB30
Game Boy and Game Boy Color games look fantastic on the RGB30's display — Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Take Game Boy, for example. With the right screen filters, you can make the image look just as authentic as it does on the Analogue Pocket. The same can be said for Neo Geo Pocket Color games, which load with a cool pixel grid filter applied right from the off. Even systems which don't use a 1:1 aspect ratio look great, with the small borders at the top and bottom of the screen being a relatively minor issue.

Arcade games – especially those which use a 'TATE' mode – also look fantastic on the RGB30, thanks largely to the fact that its 1:1 display accommodates vertical content much better than a traditional 16:9 screen. Sure, you get thick, black borders on the left and right of the screen, but the image is much larger than it would be if played on a handheld with a widescreen display.

Powkiddy claims that the RGB30's 4100mAh battery is good for around eight hours of use, but we didn't get close to that amount. Battery drain will be determined by a wide range of variables, including brightness, volume and the kind of demands you're placing on the internal hardware, but we'd say six hours is a more realistic figure – and, to be honest, that's still not bad when compared to the stamina we've seen from other emulation handhelds.

Powkiddy RGB30 Review: Conclusion

Powkiddy RGB30
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

The PowKiddy's 1:1 aspect ratio screen makes it a good choice for those of you who want to emulate systems like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Neo Geo Pocket Color – and it's also great for 4:3 ratio systems, like the SNES, Mega Drive, NES and Neo Geo.

It doesn't fare quite as well when it comes to more advanced consoles, but for around $90, we're not complaining. In fact, we'd even go as far as to say that, if you're struggling to get an Analogue Pocket and you're not too bothered about using physical cartridges, this could well be the alternative you're looking for – even if software emulation isn't entirely as accurate as FPGA.

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Thanks to Keep Retro for supplying the Powkiddy RGB30 used in this review.