For someone who already has a bunch of handhelds, there was one thing missing — a clamshell. I don’t have the same attachment to the Game Boy Advance SP as others, but that didn’t stop me from buying one from a buddy last year. I even went so far as to grab a flash-cart from AliExpress with the intention of using the SP more. But, it’s ended up in my pile of side projects as I couldn’t get things working the first time around. Now, it might just stay in that pile, and I’ll explain why in this RG35XX SP review.

RG35XX SP: The Basics

Anbernic RG35XX SP and Game Boy Advance SP

I won’t bore you with a bunch of stuff that you already know about. The RG35XX SP is a clamshell retro handheld, hitting the market as the first clamshell since the Retroid Pocket Flip. Honestly, it’s really more of a spiritual successor to the Powkiddy V90. Since that was released back in 2020, Powkiddy seems more content with sticking with other form factors like the RGB30 and RGB20SX.

Anyway, the RG35XX SP isn’t all that different from the other RG35XX devices. It too uses the Allwinner H700, paired with 1GB of RAM, dual microSD card slots, and a 3.5-inch screen. Anbernic even managed to squeeze in both a 3.5mm headphone jack and a mini HDMI port. Two things that probably contribute to the larger size compared to the Game Boy Advance SP

Unlike the Miyoo Mini Flip, which we’re expecting any day now, the RG35XX SP does not include dual analog sticks. This is something I’ve been torn about, but I think Anbernic made the right decision.

RG35XX SP: Design and Ergonomics

Anbernic RG35XX SP with Miyoo Mini Plus and RG353V

No grip needed

One common problem that I have with the majority of the handhelds that I own is that my hands end up cramping after just 15-20 minutes. Between this and ongoing conversations in the RH Discord, I ended up getting a 3D printer. I blame Ban and Retro Tech Dad, but it was really something that was already in the cards. As a result, I just find a model on Thingiverse or Printables and print out grips for the handhelds I play the most.

However, I’m happy to report that I don’t have nearly as many issues playing games on the RG35XX SP. I didn’t really understand why this was the case. That is until I grabbed my Miyoo Mini Plus, RG35XX Plus, and RG353V off of the shelf compare. The RG35XX SP is wider than all three, even the RG353V, albeit by just a slim margin. I haven’t even found myself wanting to print a grip, at least not yet.

Click Buttons are Clicky!

Top-down comparison between Anbernic RG35XX SP and GBA SP

Something else I was worried about was the difference in opinions when it comes to the buttons. Some have said they’re really clicky and require too much force to push down, which wouldn’t be a great experience. But, at least with my RG35XX SP, I honestly think they’re perfect.

The best comparison that I’ve been able to come up with is to my Logitech G915 keyboard with low-profile clicky switches. You get a tactile feel whenever you push in a key, and it’s the same feeling when pushing a button on the RG35XX SP. But, if that’s not really your cup of tea, then you might be disappointed.

Room for Stickers

RG35XX SP Teardown with Top off

Frankly, the only thing I can really complain about with the design is how tedious it is to take the lid on and off. I mean, it’s only five screws covered by rubber pads, which isn’t a big deal. But it quickly becomes tedious when you have sausage fingers and are trying to put everything back together after tossing a sticker inside the top lid.

I kind of wish Anbernic made this process easier, or even included some inserts. However, as long as you get one of the transparent colors, it’s nice to be able to personalize the RG35XX SP without putting stickers on the case itself.

RG35XX SP: Playing Games

Head-on comparison between Anbernic RG35XX SP and GBA SP

Okay, okay. So what about when it comes to actually playing games? Well, we already know that the RG35XX SP is capable of handling up to DS, N64, and Dreamcast. There’s a sprinkling of PSP thrown in there, but it’s not really something that we’d really recommend. If you’ve used any of the recent RG35XX devices, you won’t find anything different here. Just remember that you’ll need to remap your controls if you want to play anything that used a thumbstick.

After getting all of my ROMs loaded onto the RG35XX SP, I immediately jumped into playing Wario Land 4. No, I don’t have an affinity for Wario, but it’s currently one of the RH Games of the Month. I guess it’s kind of fitting for that to be the case since it’s a Game Boy Advance title.

If you’ve peeked ahead and seen the next section, this part might seem a bit contradictory.

Anbernic RG35XX SP open on desk

I don’t know why Anbernic is insistent on including both the Game Room and RA Game. The only time you should even consider the Game Room is if you’re trying to play PSP titles, as the standalone PPSSPP emulator is better than the RetroArch core. I’d rather see Anbernic just include it under the “Apps” folder or something.

Someone might try and fire up a game from the Game Room, only to find that it runs like poop. They might think that something is wrong with their RG35XX SP and try to return it or throw it in a drawer to be forgotten about. Obviously, this is a problem solved by using RA Game or custom firmware, but it’s more about the idea that someone might not know what to do. Hell, some people still don’t have a clue what RetroArch even is, let alone the fact that it’s packaged differently on Anbernic devices.

RG35XX SP: Anbernic Is Getting Better at Software


I know I just crapped on Anbernic for including its Game Room, but the reality is that with just about every new device, Anbernic makes the software experience better. This trend continues with the RG35XX SP, namely in two ways. The first of which is the ability to enable a Quick Shutdown feature. When you close the lid of your handheld, it will save your game progress automatically and put the 35XX SP to sleep.

It’s great for someone like me (or Jalanimal) who has newborns and might need to quickly stop playing without being able to properly save our game. The only thing I don’t understand is why this isn’t something that’s enabled by default, but those hilariously awful button sounds are still on out of the box. But, I digress.

Quick Shutdown feature on RG35XX SP

Make sure you turn this on

Another nice touch is that you don’t have to do anything when it comes to overlays. When playing a Game Boy Advance game, you’re greeted with an overlay that makes your 35XX SP look just like an actual GBA SP. There are also overlays for other consoles, something that I didn’t really expect to see.

The RG35XX SP also includes a couple of “quality-of-life” features that make for less tinkering and more playing. The first of which is tapping the Power Button while playing Dreamcast games. Doing so results in the D-Pad being registered as an analog stick, removing the need for you to manually do things. With the N64, just press R2 and the face buttons will turn into C-Buttons.

RG35XX SP: Custom Firmware

muOS Beans on RG35XX SP


There’s one thing that has me even more excited about using the RG35XX SP compared to other retro handhelds, and it’s the custom firmware. Since this wave of Anbernic devices relies on the H700, you can already enjoy different custom firmware options.

You can already use the likes of muOS (BEANS), MinUI, or Knulli with the RG35XX SP. And while Anbernic has yet to publish the Stock OS for you to re-flash if you need to, there’s a Stock OS Modification build available. With the exception of the Stock OS Mod, there are going to be a few things missing here and there.

Perhaps most important is the Quick Save function when closing the lid. There are some workarounds, depending on what CFW you’re using. But, until devs get their hands on the 35XX SP, your mileage may vary on whether it works or not.

That’s all going to change over the next couple of months, as the devs get their hands on the SP. I suspect it won’t be too long, but I think I’m settling into muOS BEANS for now. Keep an eye out, because I’m also planning on doing a comparison of sorts between the different CFW options for the SP

RG35XX SP: Final Thoughts

Anbernic RG35XX SP with sticker

I know I’ve rambled and jumped all over the place in this review. But let me put things to you this way – this is the retro handheld you should buy. It’s already replaced all of my other non-Android and non-x86 handhelds. The RG35XX SP is really that good, and it’s going to get even better with custom firmware.

There was a lot riding on where Anbernic was going to price this. I fully expected it to cost at least $99, if only because of the hinge. But for less than $70, the RG35XX SP checks all of the boxes, and then some. It’s not going to play every game under the sun, but if you want a retro handheld that you can toss around and take with you anywhere, this is it.

If I’ve managed to convince you to get the RG35XX SP for yourself, you have a few different options. However, if you go through Anbernic directly, the company says to “expect 3-5 extra days for processing.” You can probably guess why.

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