CES. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that this year runs from January 9th to the 12th. And guess what? Retro Handhelds got an invite! That’s right, RH Media members got to get their grubby little hands on some of the tech industry’s latest and greatest gadgets, devices, computers, and yes, even handhelds! The gang had a big day on the 8th, visiting many booths, talking to multiple company reps, and walking a ridiculous amount. We saw some good stuff (and some less than good stuff) and are excited to share a summary of the products either recently released or soon(ish) to come out.
We entered the overstuffed convention center with high hopes of finding some quality handheld related products that we could investigate. Our priority was digging into some new goodies that could satiate our constant need for the newest pieces of retro gaming hardware. We were certainly not blown away by the sheer amount of options due to the mainstream tech focus of this kind of event. In fact the handheld pickings were quite slim. However, there were a few diamonds, or at least perhaps rubies, in the rough. From the two Portals to a new portable Atari, there were a few things we figured we ought to look into.
So without further ado: Welcome to Day One of CES.
Speaking of Portals, there were indeed two different offerings on display: one from Pimax and another from Sony. Two very different devices that are really aimed at somewhat different crowds. Sony basically stuck a tablet in the middle of one of their PS5 controllers, and is using it mainly as a PS game streaming tool. We unfortunately did not get so much as a hands-on moment with the awkward hardware, so our insight is a bit limited, but well, we saw it.
The Pimax Portal is also a device that has already been released. Like…a while ago. But we did get to test it out a bit, mainly just fondling the buttons and the magnetic joy-con-esque controllers on the sides. Nothing surprising here if you have heard much reviewing of the Portal: it’s got a questionable d-pad, the screen seems great, the buttons are decent. Overall, not too much to report. As far as we can tell, Pimax is not really moving forward much in the handheld space.
MyArcade had a bit of a surprising product on display that had shades of the classic Atari look that will allow you to play those incredibly old games on the go. It’s a large, horizontal device with a thick body and a good sized screen (7″) accompanied by gold and orange accents. It will be able to play basically any form of Atari game that was released back in the day. It has an integrated trackball and paddle, a rechargeable battery, and the games are officially licensed. The face buttons are big, it has a stick, a d-pad, some triggers, four function buttons, and HDMI output. Yes, you can hook it up to your T.V.! Neato.
That’s really about it for handhelds. Like I said, it was a lean day for portable gaming devices. But hey, what can you do?
There were indeed a few interesting controllers out and about on the show floor, and we WERE able to play with them. Honestly, there were a lot more companies around that had controllers showing than handhelds. Some were high-quality, expertly crafted, pleasure-to-hold gaming accessories, and some…were less impressive. Let’s talk about a few of the booths that snatched our attention away from the others.
Every once in a while, we stumbled upon a sort of dark horse booth that caught us by surprise. The one run by 3e Electronics was tucked away in a part of the building that we sort of just strolled into toward the end of the day, and at first glance it seemed unremarkable. But upon further review, it housed some pretty neat products and interesting information. We learned that the company was the one behind manufacturing the Lenovo Legion Go! Some of the controllers they had front-and-center were both intriguing and customizable, which was a refreshing change. Swap-able face-plates, adjustable d-pad styles, changeable face buttons and even removable joysticks were on the menu, alongside some pretty solid small form-factor Bluetooth controllers. They could be a fun company to keep an eye on!
GCHT is not a set of four letters that we recognized before strolling casually past their area of the show floor, but they had a decent setup and some interesting ideas for controllers. From a very bat-like adjustable joy-con controller-thing, to a standard and pretty premium Bluetooth controller with nice button feel and a pretty usable d-pad, they were an enjoyable stop. The real attention grabber was the N64 style (complete with very authentic sticks) controller that doubles as a set of Switch joy-cons. It was unique, nostalgic, fun, and…well honestly a bit flawed. But hey, if nothing else, it’s a bit of a conversation starter.
GameSir. Ohhhhh GameSir. You did impress us. Our most inclusive and informative stop of the day was at their booth and took us about an hour, but it was certainly worth it. From an excellent new telescopic USB-C phone controller (X2s) that was a joy to hold to full-on Xbox style controllers with great sticks, comfy buttons, and sexy triggers. The GameSir folks were more than helpful, filling us in on release dates, specs, some pricing, and letting us play with their toys, all of which you should be able to see in our upcoming video coverage at our Youtube channel. We saw some swap-able face-plates, various color schemes, and elegant designs. If there is one company that knew what they were doing when it came to promoting themselves and their products, it was the great folks over at GameSir. The future for us will definitely include some reviewing of various devices from the company. They and their CEO Shuailin Ye were class personified.
This booth took mini to another level. These masters of making miniature mainline PCs are at it again, this time with new offerings that not only take performance up a notch, but take size down a few as well. MinisForum impressed us with their product line-up and their personable approach. In fact, it may have been our favorite booth of the day overall (alongside GameSir, we have a tough time deciding) thanks to the low-key vibe and informative signs and people. With seven or eight intriguing models on the horizon, MinisForum continues to be a company to follow. They presented a very capable tablet with various features, including a rare one: video IN. Also on the floor was a pocketable 7840U mini-PC that was basically no bigger than a deck of cards. The power-size-performance ratio on their products has always been astounding, but the newest line-up is taking things to the next level.
Odds and Ends
The sheer amount of gadgets and gizmos that were strewn about the showroom floor was astonishing and frankly, a bit overwhelming. But it was certainly fun to see what crazy things people were eager to unveil. From massage chairs to TVs with no screen, and even a new model Honda EV, it was almost a never ending buffet of technological wonderment. There were a few things here and there that may really have a place in the market, and some things that will probably never see the light of day. The random stuff really added flavor and variety to the experience, and also gave us some laughs for one reason or another.
Whether we were strolling aimlessly or bee-lining it for a particular company’s booth, the journey through day one of CES was fast and furious. We had no problem finding things to look at, things to play with, and things to speculate about. It was quite the exhausting start to our week, but boy did we have fun. It was a great initiation into this year’s conference. After the eight hours or so that we spent walking, we all slept well in preparation for day two.
Speaking of day two, stay tuned for our next article related to that, because it was a fruitful day, to say the least. Lenovo, Asus, and MSI were on the floor, and we were on them. You won’t want to miss our insights into their upcoming line-ups!
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