Update: A custom update is now available which solves many of the issues mentioned in this review. It smooths out the visuals, making them look less distorted (but sadly not pixel-sharp), and adds in better menu icons.
There's a thriving market for emulator-based handhelds these days, with factories in China pumping out new systems on what feels like a monthly basis. However, while most of these machines conform to the same basic design language, the designers of the PocketGo S30 have modelled it on the iconic SNES controller – taking a leaf out of 8BitDo's book.
We were lucky enough to get a sample of this device and can say right now that it's one of the best we've seen from a construction point of view. The build quality is excellent (so good, in fact, that some have speculated that GWOWO, the company which designs some of 8BitDo's products, is responsible) and it's really comfortable to use. The buttons are also excellent, while the D-Pad is precise and responsive. Considering how many of these low-cost Chinese handhelds cut corners when it comes to manufacturing, the $59.99 PocketGo S30 comes as a pleasant surprise. The 2600 mAh battery offers around 4 to 5 hours of stamina, and there's USB-C port for charging – oh, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
When it comes to running games, however, normal service is resumed. Although it's packing the highly capable AllWinner A33 chipset (the same one which powers the NES Classic, no less), the PocketGo S30 isn't anywhere near as neatly optimised and runs a selection of homebrew emulators under a basic, unified OS.
Performance is ever-so-slightly patchy, with audio issues occurring in several of the games we tested. Rather more annoying is the fact that, by default, many of the emulators stretch the image to fill the 3.5″ 480×320 IPS screen, which results in ugly, distorted visuals. While some of the emulators allow you to remove this awful full-screen scaling, the distortion remains regardless, which suggests the system's OS isn't properly optimising the emulators for the console's display (the main UI looks fine, it should be noted).
The speaker is a little weedy, too, and this only makes the already-ropey audio emulation sound even worse. Also, because each emulator is coded by a different team, each has totally different settings menus, accessed by tapping the power button. Confusingly, some emulators – like the Neo Geo Pocket Color and WonderSwan ones – don't have settings menus, so pressing power drops you back to the main menu.
It's a shame, because the PocketGo S30 supports a wide range of formats, including pretty much every Nintendo console prior to the N64 (which is apparently also coming, once the developers have fiddled with the emulator sufficiently), and the unit even runs Dreamcast, PlayStation and PSP games (with wildly varying degrees of success, it should be noted). While the drag-and-drop nature of the PocketGo S30's file structure is pleasing – adding ROMs is simply a case of inserting the console's MicroSD card into your PC or Mac and copying the files into the correct folders – it ultimately means little unless you're comfortable playing games with horribly distorted visuals.
There's the chance that the OS can be updated to allow for better control over how the image is scaled, but until then, the PocketGo S30 merely ranks as a well-designed piece of hardware which is sadly let down by a pretty simple flaw (oh, and the fact that it resides in the same shady middle-ground that all emulation devices do).
If you're still interested, check out this excellent video rundown by MadLittlePixel:
Not really that interested, I can kinda see the interest that.
The screen is too small for my liking. If I ever get an emulation handheld I'll probably get a Retroid Pocket 2. It looks gorgeous and you can connect if to the TV and play with a wireless controller too.
Having said that I'm also tempted by the PiBoy DMG as it apparently emulates Dreamcast better than the Retroid... However it looks less comfortable to hold (I prefer horizontal handhelds to vertical) so IDK...
Has anyone tried either of them?
Here we go again.
The complaints and pitchforks from users who always asking " Why did NintendoLife oftenly highlight the article about games piracy? "
This device looks like it is very, very similar to the RG351P.
There's a chance that it is using the same processor and general firmware, especially since they seem to share a 480x320 IPS screen.
With that in mind, you guys should check if you can flash a custom firmware to the microSD card.
The stock firmware for the RG351P is terrible, if you flash a custom one such as 351Elec the experience is greatly improved: Default shaders and scaling on a per-system basis are better, and can still be fixed up.
The main draw of the 480x320 resolution screen is that Game Boy / Color / Advance games will look perfect on it! That's why I got an RG351P.
The drawback however, is that most other systems you'll need RGA scaling to get them to look decent.
Edit: Looked up the processors for these devices and they aren't the same, I'm not sure which one has superior specs.
Looks nice but why they didn't make the Y & X buttons concave is a miss opportunity. If you're going to make this after the NA SNES controller design at least get the buttons right. The fact that it had no menu button and is missing stuff like SorR, FreeDoom, Cave Story, multimedia apps, and DOSBox which the previous models had makes this an inferior update compare to the previous PocketGo v2.1.
@Clyde_Radcliffe Me, I just use a emulator on my Mac.
@RupeeClock According to it's specs it has a Quad Core 1.2GHZ All Winner A33 CPU. The RG351P has a RK3326 quad-core 1.5GHz cpu.
@redpanda0310 I prefer to play games at my TV on the sofa or portable but Mac or PC isn't bad if you have a comfortable chair and a nice setup etc.
@Anti-Matter It’s not necessarily piracy though. Plenty of people rip their own games.
@Clyde_Radcliffe Yeah but since I have a Apple TV I can use my Nimbus bluetooth controller and AirPlay it to the big screen. Works awesome!
Retroid Pocket 2 is currently the KING of the retro handhelds for under 100$.
@redpanda0310 Oh nice and there's no lag?
That's what I saw after looking it up, yeah.
Though one has a 1.2Ghz processor and the other has a 1.5Ghz processor, that by itself is no indication of performance capabilities.
@Zuljaras I can't decide whether to get one or the PiBoy DMG.
@redpanda0310 You can even jailbreak the Apple TV and play them directly
@sanderev No jailbreaking for me, thanks! ;D
@Clyde_Radcliffe Normally, I've seen one game and one game only lag.
(ATLA: The Videogame:Gamecube Edition)
Funny subtitle, ha.
@Clyde_Radcliffe After seeing how good the N64 and DS emulation is the Retroid Pocket 2 is better for me.
I'll just stick with the SupaBoy.
Pocket Go is awesome! Have the v1, about the size of a GB Micro. Not everything is perfect but definitely beats a $100+ GB Micro. Best bang for the buck at €35. Recommend checking it out for anyone interested in old classics not available on the eShop.
Nintendo brought this on itself.
It could easily have sold a portable game system that even used original cartridges and made a fortune on reprints.
It could have easily sold each game in the switch store, for the ones they made themselves.
Nintendo made this choice and now can live with it.
On a tangent, I picked up a raspberry pi 4 for xmas with the hope of turning it into an N64 box via retropie. All hopes were soon dashed when I discovered that it can only emulate at about half speed and the audio is excruciating.
If a mature system such as retropie can't get N64 running then I wouldn't hold out much hope for random Chinese boxes such as this.
Of course the ideal machine would be the Switch but Nintendo keep holding out on N64 games there...
@RupeeClock I found the RGA scaling a bit to harsh on the eyes. I preferred switching this off in favour of the bilinear filtering should be right next to the rga option in retroarch
@StevenG What you talking about Nintendo is swimming in money right now with the New 2DS, 3DS, Switch, and Switch Lite, why would they care about what a Chinese emulation company does? This PocketGo S30 had no effect on the sale of the 3DS and Switch or any retro games Nintendo had on their service, mobile, or eShop.
@N64-ROX Retropie works fine on pi4 for N64. Clock the pi to 2.1Ghz and cool it correctly. Also make sure you are using the correct emulator and settings. No need to run an N64 game at 4k.
I suspect you would be better served by one of these premade handhelds as you didn't bother to even google your issues or you would have already found the solutions.
@Retro_Player_77 They could avoid these clones and make even more money if they served the market.
I got a previous PocketGo a couple of years ago when my GBA SP backlight died. I only really use it for Gameboy, Game Gear and Lynx games, but it’s had a hell of a lot of use all the same - amazing value at the £30 or so I paid, and if this is a similar price I’m definitely interested.
Nintendo will be pleased with a rom machine? Very doubtful...
@Zuljaras Well, thank you very much. Now I've spent the entire evening looking at web pages and videos of the Retroid Pocket 2...
The lack of a right analog stick really seems jarring considering everything else that's there. Seems a shame that some PS1 games can't properly be played with the device, though 1 joystick is certainly enough for any and all N64, Dreamcast, and Saturn games.
Way ahead of you 😄 🎮
@StevenG Nintendo already sold retro games once. If they had sold well Nintendo surely would have continued the virtual console. The market you speak of is laughably small compared to the masses buying Animal Crossing - and anyone who is interested in a shoddy trinket like this either already owns a Switch or was never going to buy one anyway because they're a freeloader.
480×320 Is GBA ‘s resolution 2X which means those games should look pixel perfect but this not only means bilinear filtering blur for just about all other consoles, the 3:2 aspect ratio means it can’t display anything but GBA games at full screen properly. In summary this SNES looking device is poor for actually playing SNES games.
@ThanosReXXX I looks good doesn't it?
This thing whilst having a great form factor is brutally underpowered. I recommend a Retroid Pocket 2. Personally I’m using a GPD XD+ but the RP2 is amazing value for money.
@doctorhino for a doctor you ain't too sharp.
@Jawessome I picked up an RG350M for cheap - going to install Simple Menu today. SNES emulation is perfect, even SuperFX games. The metal housing feels great.
@Lordplops my number two pick mate. Love the layout and button placement. The recessed right analogue is a great touch. As you say - the metal finish is the cherry on an already delicious cake. You’ve done well!
@Jawessome Cheers 😁 btw, you mentioned the GPD XD+, I had the GPD XD, is the plus model a worthwhile upgrade? I know it's meant to fix the hinge-flaw, but apart from that does it warrant it?
@Lordplops the GPD XD+ has a faster processor, more RAM and also uses the 5ghz band which helps for server game streaming. It also uses Android 7 which opens up what you can play. My unit is flashed with Seraph’s cleanrom although I hear there is great headway in Android 8 compatibility. Certainly a worthy upgrade over the stock XD but it’s still a two year old system.
I got my XD+ after being disappointed in the Nvidia Shield Portable and it’s lack of being able to run Redream due to the OpenGL version being too low. Zero regrets. It’s a great emulation machine, especially with a front end like RESETCollection which I absolutely love.
@Zuljaras Yeah, it actually does. Too bad that I now have yet another "don't really need it, but I still want it" item on my to buy list...
@Curbie They still sell some of them! What would you call sunshine?
@Jawessome thanks for that, I'm considering buying another system, I've looked - briefly - at JXD Singularity (looks to be too many long-term issues, I do love the form factor though) but will try to pick up a XD+.
@Clyde_Radcliffe There is no comparison here. The PiBoy DMG runs a Raspberry pi so it is so much more powerful. The quality of the two is also way off (I have both) PiBoy are rumored to be releasing a landscape version of the PiBoy this year so keep an eye out for that.
@Clyde_Radcliffe i've tried the retroid pocket and the screen is smaller but its an overall better device even if you update the pocket go s30 you can download your own emulators from the play store,download roms from the devices itself,and since it runs android you get access to a lot of customization options with the emulators and the device itself also if you want to play gba or ds games get my boy gba and drastic ds they're both paid apps but work great and are $10.00 both together,and with my boy gba you can upload your save progress to google drive and play your games from where you started from another android device
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