Trimui Smart Pro
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Trimui is a relatively new name in the world of emulation-based handhelds, but its dinky Model S and Smart handhelds have turned heads thanks to their likeable design and above-average build quality.

The company is back with what, on paper, should be its most impressive piece of hardware yet, but does the lovely-looking Trimui Smart Pro live up to expectations? Or are its PS Vita-like aspirations totally misguided?

Let's find out...

Trimui Smart Pro Review: Design

Trimui Smart Pro
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Like its predecessors, the Trimui Smart Pro sports an eye-catching and robust design and reminds us of a PS Vita with a larger screen. The unit feels solid in the hand, with the matte-effect plastic exuding a sense of quality and style. It helps that the unit we were sent has a colourway inspired by the iconic Game Boy, which makes the device look even more appealing.

The Trimui Smart Pro's front is dominated by the 4.96-inch, 1280 x 720p IPS screen, which boasts bright colours, impressive contrast and decent viewing angles. While there's quite a pronounced bezel around the display, it's still a wonderful screen for a unit at this price point.

Flanking the display, you'll find a cross-shaped D-pad, four face buttons and dual analogue sticks. The visual similarity with the PS Vita is reinforced by the fact that said sticks appear to be based on the ones seen on Sony's handheld; they're very small compared to what people are used to in 2023 and sit low in the casing. Despite this, they feel responsive enough, and we like the RGB light rings which surround them (you can turn them off if you feel differently). In a neat touch, the lights change colour to match the system you're currently playing.

The D-pad, on the other hand, is a disappointment. Not only is it quite small, there's barely any travel. This ends up being more of a weakness than a strength; games like Tetris, which rely on four-way input, are a joy, but any title which requires diagonal or flowing inputs is practically unplayable.

A good example is one-on-one fighting games, like Street Fighter or King of Fighters. Quarter or half-circle motions are so hit-and-miss that it's almost impossible to play this type of game to any level of competence. You can use the analogue stick, of course, but for many people, this won't give them the kind of precision they need.

On the top edge of the Trimui Smart Pro, there are stacked shoulder buttons. While the L and R buttons are easy enough to use, the L2 and R2 triggers feel unusually stiff. The top edge is also home to the power button, USB-C 'host' port (for connecting accessories) and volume rocker.

On the bottom edge, you've got the USB-C charging port, MicroSD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack (which, rather worryingly, allows you to see straight into the bodywork of the unit) and a 'Function' switch which toggles the system's low-power mode on and off – a feature which is presumably designed to prolong battery life. There's also a blanking plate here, which we assume was supposed to house another port – HDMI-out, perhaps.

The impressively thin nature of the unit makes it visually appealing but brings with it one unwelcome side effect – the Trimui Smart Pro runs very hot, even after a short length of time. It never becomes too warm as to be uncomfortable, but you won't need to worry about having cold hands when using this thing in the winter – it's toasty, even when playing relatively undemanding games.

Trimui Smart Pro Review: Performance

Trimui Smart Pro
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

The Trimui Smart Pro uses a Linux-based OS, which is actually a lot nicer to look at than you might expect. It's fairly easy to navigate, and the unit we were sent for review came pre-loaded with a bunch of games, along with box art and other assets.

When you get into a game, you'll either see the RetroArch loading screen or that of another emulator (for example, Nintendo DS games run using the Drastic emulator). The device is powered by the Allwinner A133 Plus chipset, which isn't on the cutting edge by any means but will handle 8 and 16-bit systems with ease.

In fact, it will also run PlayStation 1 titles perfectly fine, and it's only when you get into the realms of Dreamcast and N64 that things get a little shaky. Don't go expecting silky-smooth performance on those two platforms, and you'll be fine. Also, while DS games run perfectly well, the lack of a touchscreen means controlling the action can be somewhat awkward.

Trimui Smart Pro
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

PSP games, sadly, are even more hit-and-miss, with many of the high-end releases showcasing terrible levels of performance. This is a real shame because the unit feels like it would be a good fit for the PSP library, at least in terms of design and screen size.

One thing we really liked was how the Trimui Smart Pro comes pre-configured in a lot of ways; for example, many of the emulators have been set up to run with screen filters and side bezels right out of the box, and this massively improves the user experience. We also like that it has a dedicated 'TATE' mode for certain arcade games; you can hold the device vertically and make the most of that screen.

There's a 5000mAh battery inside, which is promoted as offering around five hours of play on a single charge. We found this to be a pretty fair estimation from our time with the device, although this figure will obviously be impacted by what kind of emulation you're doing.

Trimui Smart Pro Review: Conclusion

Trimui Smart Pro
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

First impressions of the Trimui Smart Pro are excellent, mainly because it has a wonderful display and a fantastic design. Unfortunately, the D-pad really counts against it, and the Allwinner A133 Plus chipset isn't as capable as its rivals when it comes to running systems more powerful than the PlayStation 1.

Having said that, it's important to remember that this is a sub-$100 device, and in that ballpark, it showcases the kind of build quality you'd expect from a far more expensive system.

If you can overlook the terrible D-pad and lack of processing grunt, then this could well be the PS Vita-style portable you've been looking for – but we can't help but think there are better options on the market in this price range.

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