Anbernic R351V
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Chinese firm Anbernic has done a fine job in cornering the market when it comes to high-quality emulation-based handhelds, and its most famous effort – the RG351 – is the weapon of choice for many portable retro game fans. Available in plastic and metal-case flavours, the RG351 is capable of playing 8 and 16-bit titles with ease, a fact which has made it very popular indeed.

Anbernic also has another variant of the RG351 on the market, the RG351V. The 'V' stands for 'vertical', because, unlike the other two models, this one takes inspiration from the iconic Game Boy. That means it has space for a larger 4:3-ratio screen, but it also loses one of the analogue sticks. However, in almost every other respect, it's identical to the other members of the RG351 family.

Available in skeleton black, Game Boy-grey and woodgrain effect case designs, the RG351V is powered by a quad-core 1.5GHZ CPU (RK3326) and 1GB of RAM. It ships with EmuELEC installed by default (although we'd recommend you switch to 351ELEC), while the 3900 mAh battery offers between 3-to-5 hours of play time. The D-pad and buttons are all excellent, even the four shoulder buttons, which are located on the back of the device in what initially feels like quite an odd position. The speaker is punchy and you get the added bonus of a second MicroSD card slot, too. Finally, the RG351V has a distinct advantage over the RG351P (the plastic case version) because it has WiFi built-in.

While the RG351V's DMG-style proportions mean it's not quite as pocket-friendly as the RG351P and RG351M, it's comfortable to use and the screen is absolutely fantastic; not only does it offer the perfect aspect ratio for the vast majority of retro games, it's bright, has stunning contrast and is blessed with rock-solid viewing angles.

The removal of that second analogue stick isn't as big a blow as you might expect, although the one that remains is located a little too low down the front of the device, which makes it hard to use for prolonged periods with getting an achy thumb. Otherwise, the vertical orientation massively improves the user experience, if you ask us.

As is the case with the other RG351 variants, the RG351V offers excellent emulation for NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, SNES, Mega Drive, PC Engine, Neo Geo and (most) arcade games, but it struggles with N64 and Dreamcast titles. PlayStation One games run fine, however. As always, we'd strongly advice that you source your own ROMs rather than download them from the internet.

It's strongly suspected that Anbernic is working on the successor to the RG351 line which will hopefully feature more powerful internals and better performance, but for the time being, the RG351V is perhaps our favourite handheld emulation device around the $100 price range – we're just suckers for anything that looks like a DMG-01.

Thanks to KeepRetro for supplying the Anbernic RG351V used in this feature.

This article was originally published by on Sat 28th August, 2021.