As someone who isn’t old enough to be able to call themselves a Sega or Nintendo kid, all of the games from that era were things that I had to experience on different platforms, or later on official hardware. Between the SNES and Genesis specifically, I found myself coming back to the Genesis. It had similar games, but something about it felt right. Playing those games on an old 3 button controller felt right, and it felt comfortable. The SNES controller was fine, but I never wanted to write home about it.

So imagine my excitement when Anbernic announced the Arc back in October of 2023. This was gonna be the big Sega handheld for me. At least that was my hope. Having been on the RG Arc train for the last 6-ish months, I felt it’s finally time to give this thing the spotlight, and maybe touch on how I really feel about it now. 

Size and Ergonomics

Anbernic RG ARC and RG35XX H

When it comes to sizing, the Arc is a really meaty device considering it only has a 4” 4:3 display. Sitting next to the Anbernic RG35XX H, it just looks diminutive. It’s narrower, shorter, thinner, and way easier to toss in a bag. Plus it comes with a pair of thumbsticks!

Maybe something with a larger screen? Well, theres the RP3+ with a 4.7” 16:9 display. How do they compare? Just about the same width, but the Arc is taller and thicker. It’s a meaty device and it shows in ergonomics. The RP3+ is simply nowhere near as comfortable as the Arc. 

Anbernic RG-ARC vs Retroid Pocket 3+

Anbernic RG-ARC vs Retroid Pocket 3+

How about something even larger? Well.. the Odin 2 is definitely larger. It’s wider, taller, thicker, and even more comfortable. But with a 6” display that’s something you’d really hope to hear. If you’re looking for some weight comparisons I’ve thrown them right down below.

Anbernic RG-ARC vs Odin 2

Anbernic RG-ARC vs Odin 2

  • RG35XXH – 184 grams
  • RG Arc – 248 grams
  • RP3+ – 237 grams
  • Odin 2 – 437 grams

Buttons and Screen

Let’s get the screen out of the way first. It’s a perfectly serviceable 4” 640×480 display. Compared to a lot of these 3.5” devices it feels like a major step up in size. The colors are nice, I didn’t notice any tearing or anything but I will note, that if you get the Arc D you get a touch screen and 2 GB of RAM, if you get the Arc S. No touchscreen. 1 GB RAM. Overall I like the screen quite a bit, and I wish it was used more. 

Close-up on Anbernic RG-ARC buttons

Close-up on Anbernic RG-ARC buttons

Now the controls though. Man, I love these things. The face buttons, as well as the stacked shoulder buttons both have a nice solid actuation. It takes a bit of force to get them moving, but once they do they go down. With a nice bottom out, these sizable face buttons are some of my favorites. The D-pad as well? Damn, I love that thing. Similar to something like the 8BitDo M30, this has a floating pivoting d-pad. It moves really nicely, I haven’t had any issues getting my inputs to land, and if I had to choose between this and an actual M30, or even one of my Genesis controllers, I think I’d choose this.

It takes up a lot of space, but this is truly a great D-Pad for me. FOR ME. 

Operating System

Finally, when it comes to the OS and Performance, it’s pretty straightforward in both regards honestly. The RK3566 powering this thing is a known commodity. Everything up to PS1 is going to work pretty darn well. The chip is efficient so it’ll do that for a long time as well. If you’re looking for N64, PSP, or Dreamcast you can do. Some. But not much more than that without major tweaking or a brand-new device. 

As for the OS situation, you have a couple of options. You have the stock Anbernic OS for it, which was surprisingly serviceable. It doesn’t do as well with some systems as other options, but for navigating and playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles & Knuckles & Knuckles. It really isn’t that bad of a choice. 

Retro Arena on the Anbernic RG ARC

Retro Arena on the Anbernic RG ARC

If you have the Arc-D you have the choice to boot into Android 11, which again is just serviceable. It’s Anbernic’s flavor of Android and does exactly what you need it to. But if you ask me I’d try out GammaOS for the 3566 series of devices. It’s a better experience if you want to do Android. So just go that way.

Finally, there’s The Retro Arena, of which we have an article talking about that one. It covers the needs, and while it’s still coming out in beta builds it is a better experience than the Anbernic OS. I don’t want to get too in-depth, but out of the four I ended up going with this one. Retro Arena, once set up is just easier to pick up and play, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final Thoughts

In the end, I really like the Anbernic RG Arc. It is a super comfortable handheld, and I’m a major fan of the controls. But unless you’re like me, and you’re really just in it for the 6-button systems, I think you could probably do better. There are currently 10 and counting 3566 options, I even wrote an article on them back in late 2023. If you’re looking for a vertical in general? TrimUI Smart Pro, RG353M, maybe even the Powkiddy RGB10 Max 3

It sucks. The Arc is a good-feeling device, but falling into such a specific niche at its price makes it hard to recommend. If it scratches that specific itch I say go for it. Otherwise, even six months later you can probably find something with a better use case and software situation. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to continue suffering with my choices in handhelds. I’ll see you in another 6 months while I’m pulling about 6 clamshell handhelds out of my pockets.

You can get the RG ARC-S from AliExpress for less than $65, or snag the RG ARC-D for under $80.

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