Last month, the Odin 2 was our Handheld of the Month winner, but with the summer incoming, we couldn’t let just one handheld win for June. That’s why we’ve brought the beach party to the handheld scene, and June Handheld of the Month winners are the clamshells! From first party to third party to; folding phones? If you’ve got a clamshell, you’re a part of the handheld of the month crew.

So join in while I celebrate our handheld of the month winners in the only way I know how. Blabbering about it to you in about 1200 words or less. 

The First Parties

DS Stack Internal

Ban’s Stack of DS’s

When it comes to first parties the choices are obvious. Nintendo and. Nintendo. We could talk about the game and watch clamshells, but my focus is on the SP, DS, and 3DS lines.

All three of these played some of my favorite handheld games of the last 21 years. Which is odd considering I’m only 24. BUT. These were devices that were easy to get a hold of, with plenty of cheap second-hand options. The SP was how I got early experiences with Sonic the Hedgehog through Sonic Advance. The DS gave me some of my favorite puzzle games with the Professor Layton series, and the 3DS gave me a lot of everything else, and a few hundred hours in Animal Crossing New Leaf. 

So whether you’re taking the GBA SP, one of the 4 DS models, or one of the 5 clamshell 3DS models (sorry 2DS), you’re getting a solid, well-built handheld like you’ve come to expect from Nintendo. Though, just as all of these have their benefits, they all have one downside. It’s all Nintendo’s proprietary charging port. 1 for the DS and GBA SP, 1 for the DS Lite, and then 1 for the DSi through all the 3DS devices. Why Nintendo?


The Third Parties

Head-on comparison between Anbernic RG35XX SP and GBA SP

When it comes to third parties there are 4 companies that come to mind that have made some clamshells so I’m going to just run it down quick.

Anbernic and their 35XX SP. It’s a new device so I don’t have to talk too much as you likely know it, but with new firmware coming out of the gate from muOS to Knulli and MinUI, this is quickly becoming the H700 handheld to get. It covers a lot well and it’s currently my favorite clamshell for emulation.

Flashing the V90 with Miyoo CFW 2.0

Flashing the V90 with Miyoo CFW 2.0

Powkiddy has tried a few times with middling success. The Powkiddy V90 is their cheap clamshell hit. The Allwinner F1C100S isn’t very powerful, the device feels incredibly cheap, and it’s running some pretty meh software out of the box. But it does wonders after CFW. It doesn’t play a lot, but for $30 it was hard to complain, and I’ve still got one. The X18, X18S, X18S Black Editions? Yeah, that was a bit of a struggle. Widescreen Android Clamshells including the first T618 chip in a handheld had potential but floundered under borked software and lackluster performance on a T618. What could’ve been great held sad build quality and buttons. 

Next up was Retroid and their Flip. Despite hinge concerns, this T618 clamshell did really well on the market and is one people are clamoring for a sequel on. I hope for a sequel, but just because I love getting more clamshells.

Finally was GPD with their XD and XD+ all the way back in late 2015 we were treated to a 3DS-styled device with a solid hinge, solid battery life, and solid performance. This was a surprisingly good device that was made better with its XD+ sequel. Out of all the flips on the widescreen list, this is the one I’d like to see a sequel of. GPD XD 2 anyone? Put an 8Gen2 or similar in it? Please?

Nvidia Shield Portable

The biggest clamshell freak

Oh, and don’t forget one of the earliest clamshells, and in my opinion one of the freakiest looking ones, the Nvidia Shield Portable. Running an ancient version of Android that, can surprisingly still do some streaming legwork today. At least in my tiny apartment with gigabit internet… Don’t buy this one though.

The Freaks

Ayaneo Flip DS - Animal Crossing

Thanks to TeamRetrogue for spending all of his money on the Flip DS for me to steal his pictures.

As for the freaks, I leave this spot relegated to the things that I don’t quite think fit the standard of a clamshell mantra. The most prevalent of these is Microsoft’s Surface Duo line. If you’ve watched any emulation videos on it you’ll know many people think of this as being a great 3DS machine, especially when paired with a controller like the Gamesir X2S. But I like the fact you can fold it all the way around for some great single-screened emulation.

The other freaks in the scene come from the x86 market. Devices that I’d call tiny laptops before handhelds. Thinks like the GPD Win 2, or the GPD Win Max, or the GPD Win Mini. That’s a lot of GPD so I’ll finish the list with the Ayaneo Flip KB and DS. x86 handhelds that can emulate systems not even available on Android yet. Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 to be specific. Great devices with a lot of potential for play. Once they get over their battery lives. 

However, if you have any of the freaks, don’t be disappointed. We love them just the same this month. 

What I Use

When it comes to what I use, it’s kind of one-sided. If you read my form factors matter article, you’ll know the GBA SP is still my go-to clamshell for GBA games. And just like many of you, I’m still under the impression that the best way to play DS and 3DS games is on a 3DS or DS. Unless you’re Mr. Tech Dad himself who has a Surface Duo and likes to claim otherwise. 

But outside that scene, the Anbernic RG35XX SP has really cemented itself as one of my favorite clamshells for emulation. PS1 and below run great on it, and having that 4:3 screen means everything fits really nicely on it. Plus, I don’t have to worry about screen protectors or cases because clamshells are their own case. Devices like the Ayaneo Flip DS are a bit out of my wheelhouse personally, and the Surface Duo line is just too expensive for me to want to get into. But the 35XX SP? Yeah, that one hits the spot. 

Final Words

Ban's Stack of DS's, closed

Ban’s Stack of DS’s, closed

When it comes to clamshells, I’m not too sure there’s a way to really go wrong with it. Unless of course, you make a bad product to begin with. Nintendo has always made some good clamshells. Anbernic, Powkiddy, and Retroid have all taken their turns making clamshells with good qualities and good hinge clicks. And of course, we can’t forget a Stubbs favorite, the GPD XD, taking an early lead into the clamshell emulation scene. 

Whether or not you want to play your games natively, or emulate the snot out of Wii U on an $800 clamshell, there’s a flippy boy for you. Just be sure not to get one with a broken hinge. I’d hate to hear someone’s flippy boy turn into a floppy boy. 

Now that’s just a sad reality.

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.