The Anbernic RG35XX released in December 2022, the RG353M just a bit further back in November of 2022. What felt like two handhelds that stood leagues apart ended up being the only new Traditional 3.5” devices Anbernic released until the end of 2023. No I’m not counting the 353PS, that was just a stripped down version of the 353P (and also just larger than both).
With that in mind, Anbernic finally decided to give us the 35XX upgrade: the 35XX+ in November. Meanwhile the 353M received its upgrade (?) in January of 2024 as the 35XXH. So that leaves me curious. With a year of firmware development for both of the prior devices, how do the newest kids on the block stack up? Are they worth your hard-earned dollars with all the price cuts on devices around them? Can you season them up with Garlic just like the originals? Well that’s what I’m here for. A mixture of a review, but also a comparison to what came before.
Before I start, the 35XX and 353M were purchased by me from the RH Discord and Mercari. The 35XX+ and 35XXH were sent over for review directly from Anbernic. Despite that, I’m putting this out before they get a chance to see it. All the (likely poor) opinions you’re about to read are my own.
First off, let’s get the specs out of the way. Instead of listing everything off, here is a picture of the specs list for the RG35XX+ and I’ll tell you what’s different between it and the H. The Plus is Vertical, the H is Horizontal. The Plus has no sticks, the H has a pair of non-hall effect joysticks placed below the d-pad and face buttons..
That’s actually about it. Same chip, same ram, same screen, same wifi/bluetooth and even the software. Just different form factor and controls.
Compared to the 35XX and the 353M, which ran an AtMega ATM7039, and a Rockchip RK3566 respectively, you don’t have much in terms of differentiating the two. What you do have though, is a more powerful vertical now, and a less powerful horizontal handheld. Oh, and the H is plastic, the M was metal. Shocker. With that in, let’s move on.
Ergonomics and Controls
First up the verticals. In general, these smaller vertical handhelds are going to be less ergonomic than their horizontal counterparts and these are no different. They cramp my hands a bit after a while, and the shoulder buttons are awkward to use. However the lack of sticks means there’s no adjustment for my thumbs to make, and I just love the experience.
The 35XX+ is slightly larger, and just a little bit thicker which makes it more comfortable to hold than the 35XX. The slanted shoulder buttons are a nice upgrade, and their click is present but not harsh. The face buttons feel stiffer than the 35XX, and its new D-pad feels like it rolls a little better, and I haven’t had issues with inputs on it. Overall the 35XX+ is an ergonomic upgrade over the original.
The 35XXH and 353M though? They’re identical in size. Same height, thickness and inline shoulder buttons. The new glossy buttons of the H have a stiffer click as well, and the rounded d-pad feels like an upgrade over the 353M. However, the 353M has Hall sticks, and personally I prefer the stiffer actuation of its inline shoulders. Given the option, while ergonomically identical, the extra weight in the 353M makes it basically perfect for me to take it on the go.
So ergonomics and controls? 35XX+ wins the Verticals, 353M wins the Horizontals.
35XX – 176 grams
35XX+ – 185 grams
35XXH – 182 grams
353M – 229 grams
This one’s pretty easy to cover, so I’m gonna start with the older ones. The 353M dual boots between Linux and Android, though personally I stuck with Linux as I don’t really enjoy Android on a 3.5” display. While it’s had a number of OS options including JelOS/UnofficialOS, I found myself coming back to ArkOS. It’s the most stable with the best out-of-box setup. The 35XX on the other hand gave you the Stock Firmware, GarlicOS, MinUI, Koriki, and MuOS. All of which had their benefits and drawbacks. Whether that was better features, better support, or a simpler interface they all did something well. Though I ended up going to MinUI. Especially on their newest version which supports cross-device SD card transfers.
The 35XX+ and 35XXH? Well you have the stock firmware, Garlic 2.0, MinUI, Koriki and MuOS. Familiar names? Thought so. A lot of these have made their way over from the original 35XX, and in the end come with their own pros and cons. Though in the early stages it seems more cons than before. For example, at the time of writing MinUI doesn’t have any functionality for the sticks on the 35XXH. For some that’s fine. For others, that’s absolutely awful and how could you let this happen?
For Me? MinUI on the 35XX+ all the way. On the 35XXH I think GarlicOS 2.0 is the correct way to go. Yes it’s currently in a public alpha so it’s missing some feautres, but the UI is nice, it’s easy to use (once it gets installed), and is what I’m going to use going forwards on the H. Though even with all of the software options, I still prefer going back to ArkOS and Portmaster on the 353M.
The Gaming Experience
Let’s start with the similarities. They all have 4:3 640×480 displays. What’s that mean? SNES, Genesis, Playstation 1 and other 4:3 systems will fill your screen and they’ll all play wonderfully. GBA? Black bars, GBC? Black bars. You’ll get those on some systems but not all of them.
NES, SNES, Genesis, Playstation 1, Gameboy, Color, and Advance and more are gonna play perfectly on all four devices. Obviously not 100% of every category will play perfectly. I can’t promise you that Bean Snatcher 5: Return of the Garbanzo Beans is going to play on the 353M but not the 35XX+. For the most part, if you want to play it, it will work.
Nintendo DS? It, uh, works on the 35XX. Nothing special but it does. 353M? It works quite well honestly. Happily played New Super Mario Bros on it fine. The 35XX+ and H both fall right in the middle. Their performance isn’t perfect but it still works. The OS you choose may also end up having an effect on those systems as well depending on how it’s setup. After that, PSP, Dreamcast, and N64 are all nice to haves. You may find a game that works, but you won’t find a perfect catalogue here. At the very least, in terms of performance you’ll find an upgrade over the original XX, though not the 353M. Also if you play PSP on any of these, you’ll end up with major black bars on the top and bottom.
Overall, the performance on all four devices is close enough that I don’t think you’ll have issues with any of them. But if you want to play Super Robot Ninja Girl, or really any other portmaster game, your only option is going to be the 353M at this time.
And just as a quick mention; battery life across all four devices is pretty alright. I never was able to kill any of them before getting around to charge them, but I did notice that of the four, the 35XX would drain the quickest. Most likely due to its smaller battery, being only 2600mAh compared to the 3200 in the XXH and XX+, and 3500 in the 353M. The 353M of which seemingly lasts a little bit longer than its “replacements.” Regardless, battery life shouldn’t be much of an issue for any of these overall.
So.. what do I think? First up, for $64 and $68, the new XX devices come out at great values. What comes around them in terms of price includes things like the RGB20S, the RK2023, and the Miyoo Mini+ amongst other devices. All of those competitors provide their own benefits over these devices, but the overall package ends up being the best here.
So what do I recommend? RG35XXH or RG353M? Please do not buy the 353M brand new. For $137 you could get something way better than that. You could buy a Retroid Pocket Flip, an RG505, or any other T618 device that’ll do a lot more. If you can find it used for $70 dollars, I personally would pick it up over the 35XXH, however in the new market I think the RG35XXH hits the best value marker for around $70. And yes, that does include its natural comparison to the RGB30. But that’s also a device usually found at about $80, and if you want to use the sticks on your handheld, it might not be the move anymore.
The 35XX and 35XX+ is a simpler question. Do you need the Wi-fi? Do you want the slanted shoulder buttons? Yes? Yes? For an extra $14, just do it. The 35XX+ is a welcome upgrade, that once it gets proper Firmware updates and supports will be my go-to recommendation for budget verticals in 2024.
Anbernic did good with these two. They’ll be great devices to buy this year, and I can’t wait to go back to playing on my 35XX and 353M. What? Just because they’re great devices worth buying doesn’t mean I’m going to drop anything to switch to them. If you don’t have a 35XX or 353M, buy the + and H. Otherwise you can pass on them for now.
What did you think of this article? Let us know in the comments below, and chat with us in our Discord!
This page may contain affiliate links, by purchasing something through a link, Retro Handhelds may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you.