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Hardware Review: Retro Duo Portable V2.0

Posted by Damien McFerran

NES, SNES and Mega Drive on the move

Clone systems are growing in popularity with each passing year, with several different companies all producing consoles which ape the performance of vintage hardware and aim to satisfy the needs of retro-lovers everywhere. We've already seen Hyperkin's SupaBoy bring portable SNES gaming to the masses, and now it's the turn of Retro-Bit's Retro Duo Portable V2.0 — the second attempt by the firm to make a mobile marvel capable of playing both 8 and 16-bit Nintendo cartridges.

The Retro Duo Portable plays SNES carts right out of the box, accepting games from any region — North America, Japan or Europe — without any need for modification. NES games can be played using the bundled RetroPort adapter, and it's even possible to run Sega Mega Drive / Genesis carts using an optional accessory — but more on that later. As the console's name suggests, this is version 2, and as such promises a wide range of improvements over its forerunner. The LCD screen has been upgraded, the control layout has been redesigned and the stereo speakers have been given a boost. Compatibility has also been enhanced, meaning the system will work with more games than its direct predecessor.

You get a surprising amount of gear inside the box. In addition to the console itself, there's the aforementioned RetroPort adapter, a controller port adapter (which allows you to hook up two SNES pads), a plastic stand, TV-out cable and power supply. The Retro Duo Portable V2.0 contains a rechargeable dual capacity lithium-ion battery which is said to offer around eight hours of stamina — we've not managed to get quite that much yet, but the battery life is impressive nonetheless.

The console itself isn't the most attractive piece of gaming hardware we've ever laid eyes on, but it's comfortable to use at least. The plastic is covered with a soft-touch coating which offers superb grip and the controls are precise and responsive. The D-pad is a real pleasure to use, but the shoulder triggers can be problematic, as they're placed quite close to the cartridge slot. It's not a deal-breaking issue however, and on the whole the Retro Duo Portable is surprisingly ergonomic and won't cramp up your hands during extended gameplay sessions.

The LCD screen may be an improvement over the one found in the original Retro Duo Portable, but it's still a long way off the standard seen on modern handheld systems. Colours are washed out and viewing angles are poor, which means you have to make sure you view the screen dead-on, otherwise the image becomes hard to see properly. There's also a disappointing lack of clarity, making it hard to discern individual pixels. It's not a complete disaster and we've certainly seen worse screens in our time, but we'd have liked a slightly better display. The "stronger" speakers are also something of a mixed bag. They're not especially loud — even on the highest setting — yet they still manage to distort and cause the console's casing to rattle slightly.

Although the Retro Duo Portable is capable of accepting any SNES game, Japanese and European carts don't fit as snugly in the slot as North American ones, thanks to the fact that they have a different design. Even US carts move around a little when inserted into the machine, and if you shake the console during use it's quite common for the game to crash or pause, prompting a complete restart. This is an almost unavoidable issue with these kind of systems; SNES games weren't intended for portable use and their size makes it difficult for manufacturers to create consoles which can accept the bulky games yet still remain moderately portable.

This issue is amplified when playing NES and Mega Drive games on the Retro Duo Portable V2,0, as these both require additional adapters. The RetroPort adapter which comes with the console sticks so far out of the cartridge slot that the manufacturer has included a screw which can be used to secure it to the system during use. The RetroGen adapter — which is sold separately and will work on standard SNES consoles as well — is less ungainly, but still awkward all the same.

These options are clearly better suited to the Retro Duo Portable's TV-out functionality, which allows you to connect the system to any television set with AV composite input. Using the included controller port adapter, you can essentially replicate the big-screen console experience using this system, and even enjoy a friendly two-player game of Super Mario Kart.

Speaking of which, Super Mario Kart was the only title we experienced any kind of issue with when running on the Retro Duo Portable V2.0. As you can see on the video below, the game suffers from a strange flashing effect during play — although this could be related to the fact that we were running the European PAL copy, and not the North America NTSC version. All of the other cartridges we tried ran flawlessly.

The Retro Duo Portable V2.0 isn't perfect, but it's certainly one of the best clone handhelds we've seen in a while. Although the screen and speakers could be better, the console is comfortable and boasts well-designed controls. Compatibility seems to be excellent from what we can gather — we obviously weren't in a position to test every single SNES and NES game, but the ones we did throw at it didn't cause any serious problems. If you're in the market for a new SNES system and like the idea of being able to play it on your TV and out of the home, then the Retro Duo Portable V2.0 is certainly worth a look.

Thanks to Innex for supplying the console used in this review.

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User Comments (29)

RupeeClock

#1

RupeeClock said:

Legitimate means of playing your old favourites on the go is always welcome, but the SNES cartridge size will always pose a problem.
Now if only Nintendo would actually SNES titles on the 3DS Virtual Console!

Kafei2006

#2

Kafei2006 said:

I'm never again buying one of those things. I buy one, and then the V2.0 comes out. What next? I buy a 2.0 and then a 3.0 comes out?? No thanks. I'm pissed at Retrobit right now for making the first one so bad in quality. Mine came with a dead pixel and the screen shows plenty of parasites much like you'd expect from console connected to a TV over RF.

Rezalack

#4

Rezalack said:

I don't see why Nintendo doesn't release SNES games in eShop.. is it the hardware or what? I know some NES games (Mega Man for example) have some frame rate issues when there is intense action.. but come on. 3DS should be perfectly capable of playing SNES and GBA games. I hope they atleast release LttP for 3DS before the sequel comes out. It's only right.. also a perfect time for people who have never played it before.

Oh well, I can dream. -_-

citizenerased

#5

citizenerased said:

Kinda ridiculous that Nintendo's not giving everyone what they want. Don't you want money, Nintendo?

KnightRider666

#6

KnightRider666 said:

While it may be nice to play your old games on the go, who wants to have a huge cartridge hanging out of a portable? These things look ridiculous, and I'm sure it's awkward. Thank god for the VC!

hendie001

#7

hendie001 said:

i bought the first version, it lasted about 4 weeks then a loud humming nosie started to come from speakers and screen froze up. I tried to return it but no go. :(

wiggy

#8

wiggy said:

I wish that these companies would spend a few bucks on the design (as in the aesthetics) and ergonomics of these portables. They all look awful, and quite honestly that's what prevents me from taking a closer look at any of them.

Ryno

#9

Ryno said:

I have one, guess its the V1.0 since i bought it last year??? I usually only play it during a lunch break and I really have no complaints other then the pretty bad (sloppy) directional pad on the unit itself. I use the controllers that come with it and those work pretty good.

retro_player_22

#12

retro_player_22 said:

As good as this one sound, I already got an upgraded Supaboy and that one plays much better than this even though it's not compatible with NES or Genesis games.

RaylaxStaff

#14

Raylax said:

"The console itself isn't the most attractive piece of gaming hardware"

I think it looks pretty cool, personally :P

SCAR392

#15

SCAR392 said:

Do those game adapters work on a regular SNES?
I would never buy this. I'd rather go VC.

Geonjaha

#18

Geonjaha said:

@Ryno - That view will disappear with time. People use tablets and phones in public, and gaming will hopefully eventually something people get used to as happening around them.

tanookisuit

#20

tanookisuit said:

Eh when this came out I looked at it and the revised Supaboy. Supaboy trumped it across the board more or less, but one thing both have issue with is a d-pad that isn't molded right causing both systems to allow multiple directions to be pressed at the same time causing games with diagonal (fighters, gradius like shooters) to be impossible to enjoy. I did create a modification to make the Supaboy v2 work right, but I had someone look into it on this system and it won't. :( The screen on this isn't sharp, the audio is lower and distorted near max, and games aren't snug so you can shake yourself to death and all these aren't problems on Supaboy. The big plus for RDP is the adapter capabilities to run more than one system the you do have that trade off.

StarDust4Ever

#22

StarDust4Ever said:

Please note that Super Mario Kart was one of the very few SNES games that was specifically recalibrate for 50Hz PAL. It will run faster than the NTSC version playing on an NTSC system.

@Wilford111: Only the RetroDuo Portable V1 is blendable :O

JebbyDeringer

#23

JebbyDeringer said:

If the screen sucks it's pointless. This device though taking real carts is still just emulation anyway.

tanookisuit

#24

tanookisuit said:

No it's not emulated, it's just a somewhat poorly reverse engineered device trying to figure out best they can do for the cheapest most corners cut way possible to run games.

Gioku

#25

Gioku said:

If it's cheaper than buying a real SNES, I might want to get one. If you can also play on a TV, that's awesome! As long as the games aren't too expensive either. I guess used and not in the box probably wouldn't be too bad.

retro_player_22

#26

retro_player_22 said:

@SCAR392

Those adapters that allows you to play NES and Genesis games for Super NES does work on a real Super NES (since I own both), the problem is they work kinda iffy at times. The NES adapter works better but games like Castlevania III and Rad Racer look like crap on it. The Genesis adapter is the worst, some games will have mess up pixels, will constantly freeze from time to time, and some won't even had music or sounds at all. Also Sonic 2 for the Sonic and Knuckles lock-on doesn't work using the adapter for some reason and Virtua Racing won't work at all. I say don't bother with them, just buy a real NES & Genesis instead.

Rune_Meister88

#28

Rune_Meister88 said:

wow which means much like your gameboys and dses u can play retro games on a portable handheld!! omg this is cool!!

OncomingStorm9

#29

OncomingStorm9 said:

Does anyone know what kind of plug is used for the controller adapter? Because it looks like micro usb but I just wanted to make sure

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