Review: Retroid Pocket 2+ – A huge improvement over its predecessor

Retroid Bag 2+
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

You might be looking at images of the shiny new Retroid Pocket 2+ and thinking you’ve seen it somewhere else before – that’s because this is an iteration of the original Retroid Pocket 2 that we covered last year. As before, it’s an Android-powered device with a focus on gaming and emulation, but the team at GoRetroid worked hard to fix some of the issues we had with the original – and improve its internal specs.

However, as we indicated in that introductory paragraph, at first glance you can assume that this is the same system as the standard Retroid Pocket 2. The body remains the same, as does the 3.5-inch, 640 x 480 display – but the latter now features a touch surface, which solves one of the biggest complaints we had with the original Pocket 2. The handheld comes in a range of colors, and the Nintendo influence is clear – three of those options are based on the SNES, Game Boy and GameCube, with the latter being the one we’re reviewing here.

While it appears to be physically the same, there are some significant changes here – mostly in terms of controls. The D-Pad has been raised quite a bit and is much more comfortable to use; The same was done with the four action buttons. While we personally didn’t think the original model’s controls were that bad, the Pocket 2+ is a definite improvement in this regard. Unfortunately, the second stick (on the right of the device) is still a slider that sits very deep in the housing. While slider can works – the one on the Sony PSP is a good example and the 3DS slider was good – it just feels weird in this configuration, especially when used with the left analog stick for twin stick control. Granted, there aren’t many retro games that make use of it, but if you’re playing modern Android titles that use two sticks, it’s not great.

Under the hood we find perhaps the most dramatic changes. There’s a new Unisoc quad-core Tiger T310 chipset powering this device, and it’s much more adept than the RK3326 in the original version. There’s 2GB of RAM, as well as 32GB of internal storage, and again you can use a MicroSD card to increase that total. Unfortunately, the rubber tab covering the MicroSD card slot has been retained in the Pocket 2+ – it’s a hassle to open and even more difficult to reseal.

Another change is the arrival of Android 9 (the original model that came with Android 6) and the introduction of fancy new firmware that massively streamlines the setup process and makes the Pocket 2+ “feel” more like a proper gaming console than that a handheld that has been adapted to use a smartphone user interface. While you can choose to use the “full” Android menu, the star of the show here is the Retroid Launcher, which gives you a stripped-down, Switch-style UI and even scrabbles online to automatically do cover art for you to insert ROMs (which, of course, you have legally acquired).

The added power of the new Tiger T310 chipset means the emulation has been significantly improved over the Retroid Pocket 2+. Of course, 8- and 16-bit systems run better than ever, but emulating more advanced systems like the N64 and Dreamcast feels like a big step up compared to the previous model, and it’s even possible to run GameCube and PlayStation 2 games – so although they don’t run at anywhere near full speed, it’s seldom comfortable. Still, stay ahead of these on any system and you’ll have a surprisingly good experience – especially considering the Pocket 2+ only retails for around £130.

Of course, since you’re using Android here, you can download games from the Google Play Store. We tested some (incl Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which was available for just £2.49) and found that many support the Pocket 2+’s physical controls automatically, which is a nice touch. There’s a cool system built into the UI that lets you map the buttons to touchscreen controls for games that also don’t support physical controllers. We also sideloaded the excellent Metroid fan game AM2Rthat runs like a dream on the Pocket 2+.

Finally, the battery life is decent too, thanks to the 4000mAh power cell; A single charge lasts for around 3 to 5 hours of operation. Oh, and there’s a mini-HDMI output for connecting the Pocket 2+ to your TV – but note that the picture will always be displayed in a 4:3 aspect ratio (the same as the handheld screen), which will look a bit off can sometimes.

Retroid Pocket 2+ in the test: conclusion

The Retroid Pocket 2+ is a huge improvement over its predecessor. The physical controls are much better, while the introduction of a touchscreen makes all the difference when navigating the interface. The new chipset also offers more power, so you can emulate systems up to and including the Dreamcast and enjoy a relatively smooth experience. If you already own the original Pocket 2 you might be faced with a difficult decision, but for everyone else this is one of the best emulation-oriented handhelds out there right now – albeit there are a few minor elements needed in the later ‘Retroid Pocket 3’ to be fixed.

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Many thanks to DroiX for providing the device used in this test. Review: Retroid Pocket 2+ – A huge improvement over its predecessor

Fry Electronics Team

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