Best Retro Handhelds for Every Price Point

Introduction

Hey everyone, Joey here and today we’re going to take a look at the different pricing tiers for retro handhelds, and my thoughts on the best devices for them regardless of form factor. We’re going to pick one for each tier. 

I don’t think you need any more introduction than that, so let’s just jump right in and look at the $50 US dollar tier. And to save me from saying it every time, all of the prices in today’s video will be in US dollars. 

$50 US & Under

In this tier, you have quite a few options like the DataFrog SF2000, the R35S, R36S, M17, and whatever other e-waste of the week product comes out. Here’s my personal thoughts on this, since it’s my post and I can do that since no one else is. Stick to the devices that have brands that are known in the community, have a long track record and have great community support. So for this tier, the two devices that make the most complete sense to me as the first budget entry into this hobby is the Miyoo Mini Plus or the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, with my first choice being the Miyoo.

Now, the first thing you did is pull up both, saw the price, and yelled at me that they aren’t $50 Dollars. And you’re not wrong, however, the Miyoo is on sale basically weekly on multiple different sites for under $50 and I fully expect the 35XX Plus to be as well.

So why do I suggest the Miyoo Mini Plus as this tier’s best option? Especially when the R35S & R36S are more powerful? Or just in general? Well, a huge number of reasons. First, the community is massive for it – any question you have, someone has asked it, and you can find it. Any mods you want, same thing. It has one of the best custom firmware’s out there made by an awesome team that continues delivering. Plus, it’s getting even better by adding support for Nintendo DS and even Pico-8 games. Combine all that with fantastic controls and one of the best dpads out there. Lastly, there’s WiFi, which just helps make your life easier. The 35XX Plus is similar in all of this, but not as good controls as the Miyoo, and doesn’t have as good of an operating system as OnionOS, which is on the Miyoo. 

The R35S and R36S are cloned devices. The build quality isn’t great, the dpad and buttons are among the worst I’ve ever experienced and while it is more powerful than the Miyoo and 35XX, it doesn’t really add anything as it still can’t play Nintendo 64, Dreamcast or anything above PS1 perfectly. It can do some, but not super great. All in all, I just don’t think they’re great devices for me to personally recommend to a newcomer in this hobby. Introducing someone to retro handhelds with devices that are clones, and have a ton of software issues, doesn’t make much sense to me. We’re trying to bring in more people to this hobby, not lose them. 

It’s no exaggeration to say the Miyoo Mini Plus is one of the best retro handhelds out there, and it should be your number one choice at $50 Dollars.

$100 US & Under

Next up is the $100 tier. And if you were expecting a $75 tier, it doesn’t really make sense right now for much of the same reasons that I don’t care for the R35S and R36S. In my personal opinion, with what the Miyoo can fully do, you want the next step up to cover all the bases that the Miyoo can’t, and so we arrive at the $100 tier with a few options like the Retroid Pocket 2S, TrimUI Smart Pro, Anbernic’s RG353 series, Powkiddy’s RGB30 and RK2023, X55 and so on. There’s a lot of devices in that $50 to $100 range. However, with the exception of one of those devices, none of them make that complete jump that I talked about. This tier is famous for having devices that can play some Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and PSP, and we say some very loosely as they aren’t great out of the box, require a lot of tweaks and even still, not every game is playable.

So we come to the one device that’s in this price range, that actually does meet those requirements, albeit with a bit of a price caveat like the Miyoo had and that’s the Retroid Pocket 2S. The 2S, to me, is basically the definition of this hobby in every way and in my opinion, and completely obliterates the value of all the devices in the 50 to 100 tier. Now, the issue here is the 2S is $89 dollars, plus shipping, so just a few dollars over $100 and also isn’t available everywhere in the world at this price.

However, for those that do have access to it at this price, it’s a no brainer and the perfect next tier up from the Miyoo Mini Plus. The 2S can do essentially perfect Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast plus some GameCube, Wii and PlayStation 2, but we’re using that word some loosely here again as it’s a small portion of those catalogs. Notice I didn’t say PSP, as while it does play PSP well, the smaller screen doesn’t make it a great way to do so. However, with the fantastic dpad and controls, hall effect sticks, analogue triggers, front firing speakers, and all of that in this package, it’s a fantastic value.

The Retroid Pocket 2S covers every single thing the Miyoo Mini Plus can’t do, and at a fantastic price, it should be your number one choice at $100 dollars. Well, slightly above. But the usual caveat to the 2S is the 3.5” screen and if you want the power of the 2S with a bigger screen, you’ll have to increase your budget to the next tier.

$100-200 US

In the $100-200 US tier, there’s three handhelds I would recommend right now.

If you’re looking for the budget or cheapest option in this range, the Retroid Pocket 4 would be your choice.

If you’re looking for the most power in this price range, and still pocketable, the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro would be the best option.

If you’re looking for an OLED screen, and the best comfort in this price range, the Anbernic RG556 wins.

$200 US & Above

So let’s jump to the next tier, and we’re just going to call it the $200 dollar and above tier and cast a wide net.

This is where your Odin 2, Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, Legion Go, AYN Loki’s and all of that live. 

And this is also where the biggest gaps in pricing are, as well as use cases. I can’t really say there’s one specific good device for this tier. The de facto one that everyone screams is the Steam Deck, which before the OLED came out, I never agreed with. I personally like lightweight, smaller, long battery, better screen and all of that on my handhelds, but if those don’t matter to you, then of course, the Steam Deck LCD is a great choice. 

However, with the release of the Steam Deck OLED, it has definitely solved most of my gripes and I can go back to recommending the Deck, but for me, I can only recommend the OLED model. I know people think the differences between the LCD and OLED are small, but in my case, they were massive – it made the Deck go from unusable, to one of my favorites. The LCD’s subpar screen, loud fan noise, weight, battery life and everything were corrected with the release of the OLED model, so that’s where I see value. The Deck OLED is a daily use handheld for me.

I think if you absolutely want and need a handheld that runs PC games, and on the go, then yeah, the Steam Deck OLED or ASUS ROG Ally would be my two choices here. The ROG Ally has come down in price quite a bit, especially through Best Buy’s used program and the Steam Deck OLED, while being more expensive, is an awesome introduction to PC gaming.  

I don’t personally think any other Windows or Linux device comes close to these two from a total package perspective and value.

Now, for those where neither of those devices match your needs, that’s where the AYN Odin 2 comes in. It’s lightweight, has a long battery life, can play up to Switch for emulation, but lacks what Windows and Linux offers for flexibility of software, as well as PC games. I’ve talked about this at length before, but I believe local streaming through Moonlight completely solves those problems if you have a good gaming PC, but like I said before, we all have our use cases here.

Recap

Let’s do a quick recap here, and I think it’ll be easy and I purposely did it this way to help newcomers just make a decision. No point blasting you with a million options, as you likely are facing that issue already. So let’s simplify this into seven different handhelds that are meant to be general recommendations to anyone. 

In the first tier, and the first device I’d recommend, it’s the Miyoo Mini Plus at around $50 dollars. Perfect entry into this hobby and gives you some nice insight into custom firmware. Honestly, everyone should probably have a Miyoo, it’s that good. 

In the second tier, and the second device I’d recommend, it’s the Retroid Pocket 2S at around $100 dollars. It’s the perfect value, with a “buy one device that does everything” type of feeling and punches way above its price point. You’d go this route if you want to play more than just up to PlayStation 1 on the Miyoo and want perfect Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast. 

In the third tier, and the third and fourth devices I’d recommend, it’s the Retroid Pocket 4 and 4 Pro. They’re everything the 2S is in the previous tier, except in this one. I would go this route if Switch emulation doesn’t matter to you, but GameCube and PS2 does and you’re looking for a smaller sized device than what’s in the next tier.

In the fourth and last tier, it’s the AYN Odin 2, Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally. Pick your poison scenario of what matters most to you with different features, form factors, weights and all of that. For me right now, the Odin 2 or Steam Deck OLED would be the two I’d go for, with different reasons for both. 

That’s going to be it for this one. Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are here. I think this is a divisive topic, and I wanted to condense it down into something easy for anyone to just make a decision. 

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