This is it, ladies and gentlemen (and Gary), the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We’ve had traditional horizontals, and even clamshells, but your chipset library just isn’t complete until you have a vertical handheld now is it? That’s right, those madlads over at Anbernic have done it again, squeezing the T618 into a vertical form factor. It’s definitely their most bizarre looking vertical to date, though, if we’re being honest. While the 351V was very DMG-alike, and the 353V was almost one-for-one in overall exterior dimensions with the GBC, the 405V is… a Turbo Express? If you don’t know what that is, ask an old person who disliked being mainstream or having friends. My point being, the 405V is thicc, a chonker, a big ol’ slice of whoa mama. It’s a fairly large vertical handheld is what I’m saying, but we’ll get into that more in another section.
For now strap in as I take you down the Deja Vu tunnel of T618 hardware specs, since it seems like all the manufacturers are getting their drugs from the same dealer.
By now many handheld enthusiasts are getting pretty familiar with the ol’ T618, or Unisoc Tiger T618. Does the T stand for Tiger? Is this an “ATM Machine” redundancy conundrum? The mystery continues. Anyway, the T618 is an octa-core processor sporting two powerful Cortex A75 cores and six “efficient” Cortex A55 cores, all running at a 2GHz clock rate. It’s an entry level chip, it’s pretty cheap so they can make affordable handhelds, but it definitely has enough overall power to impress, reaching into some of the lower boundaries of Gamecube and PS2 emulation.
Paired up with those cores is the Mali G52MP2 GPU, and the reason this is important to point out is the Mali part. Some emulators seem to have unusual behavior with Mali GPUs, I know Citra did for a while, and so there are usually special settings or workarounds to keep in mind sometimes in order to squeeze better performance out of a Mali-driven system. Then of course the RAM is the same 4GB of LPDDR4x-1866 that all the other T618s come with, and it’s usually more than sufficient for the emulation and gaming tasks you could realistically expect from the power level of the rest of the device. Google Play services can often eat into your RAM usage a bit, and there’s currently no easy toggle for that like there is in Retroid’s Android, but even then most of the time you probably won’t be suffering for more RAM.
Moving on we’ve got a solid 128GB of onboard eMMC storage space, plenty for a generously sized game library, but for those of you really hoarding an entire childhood in your game library there is also a convenient micro-SD card slot for expanded storage. Now the battery, this is one of the aspects of the device I’m most excited about, and probably also part of the reason the 405V is so chunky. 5500mAh, the biggest battery in any current T618 handheld. Oh yeah, it’s time to marathon some nostalgia, no charging breaks. Also from my personal testing with the stock OS, standby battery drain is nice and low, not like my Retroid Flip that seemed to go from 100 to 0 if I stepped away for more than a minute. Yeah, yeah, that’s hyperbole, but it still weakened my trust in the battery. The 405V could sit and hold my game for a week, and I’d still trust it to have some charge, now that’s what I’m lookin’ for!
Anyway enough battery praise, let’s round out the rest of the hardware features here by going over connectivity options. No real surprises here, dual-band AC wifi, Bluetooth 5.0. We’ve got a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the machine, centered between two down-firing speakers. Maybe due to the size of the device, they’re actually pretty solid, bringing a lot more low-end frequencies to the table than I’m used to from similar speaker configurations in other handhelds. Unfortunately, they do distort pretty harshly at really high-volume levels, and in the Stock OS the minimum volume level is way too loud, so hopefully these are both problems that can be solved with software or a custom OS. The last connector to speak of is the lone USB-C port on the top of the device, nestled next to the intake vents. A little disappointed by the lack of any sort of HDMI-out capabilities, especially when they managed to fit it into the smaller 353V, but I guess we can’t win em all.
The speakers in question, and a well-placed headphone jack.
Let’s finish out the Hardware section with a bang shall we? The display on the 405V is definitely a stand-out feature and is worth talkin’ about. First of all the somewhat dull, it’s 640×480. We been rockin’ this resolution for a good long while and it gets the job done nicely, looks crisp, and is more battery efficient than going up to a 720p+ panel, but at the expense of having less overall scaling options. Putting that aside, while the jump from 3.5-inch screens to 4-inch may not have seemed huge on the 405m, due to the vertical form factor of the 405V the screen just seems enormous. It’s simply captivating, and has nice thin bezels with no big ol’ ANBERNIC logo plastered on. I love this screen for 4:3 content, and even GBA scaling to 3:2 still gives you a real big display, but you’re playing with some real black bars once you jump to 16:9 content like PSP or streaming. Regardless of what you play on it, the display is crisp, vibrant, and beautiful. In a side-by-side comparison with my RP3+, it reached roughly the same peak brightness, but got quite a bit dimmer at minimum brightness, which is nice for those of you who play in your pillow fort late at night. At least with my unit I experience more neutral handling of reds, with slightly more saturated greens and blues, compared to the RP3+, but honestly displays are a real lottery, so the conclusion of this is that the 405V overall has capable color gamut coverage. All in all, I really enjoy this display, especially in this form factor.
Inputs and Comfort
Well if the first impressions of the device upon looking at it was “whoa, that’s a face only a mother could love,” then the second impression upon holding the device is “this is super comfortable for a vertical handheld.” That’s right, there’s still that caveat, “for a vertical handheld,” but it really is quite pleasant in the hand. This is due in no small part to the thick and chunky size, and that is heavily contributed to by the badonkabumps on the back of the device. Perhaps taking some inspiration from the recent D007 handheld, or perhaps just the Steam Deck, Anbernic has seen fit to add big ol’ love handles to the back of the device to improve your gripping experience. It certainly doesn’t help with the pocketability of the device, but if comfort is King then look no further for your vertical handheld needs.
Let’s begin our evaluation by taking a look at the d-pad and face buttons, in their rightful place above the analog sticks unlike the 405m. And yes, I’ve already had this argument with my dissenters. Now call me a broken record, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, these are the same Anbernic experience we’ve had for years now. After all, why mess with a formula they’ve practically perfected? Their rubber membranes for the d-pad and face buttons are responsive and comfortable as they always are, perfectly tuned for the right amount of tension and travel distance. For all the complaints I’ve ever had about their devices, this has never been an area for me to find a complaint. I also really love that the Start and Select buttons have joined the party with nice deep membrane connections, they’re quite a pleasant delight even if they are a half mile away to reach for past the analog sticks. At least they’re not in some bizarre spot like, say, the top of the device? Just… hypothetically.
Nope, no start button up here!
If we continue onward to the analog sticks, we’re in for another pleasant surprise. I’ve been a bit hit-or-miss about Anbernic’s hall sticks in the past. The 505 especially, I found the sticks to be pretty lackluster in their feeling, and they were uncomfortably placed for dual-analog use. These? These are nice, they feel very smooth in operation and I’m pretty happy with this, and I’m grateful to every manufacturer who starts moving the needle forward toward hall-based sticks, since we apparently slept through the Dreamcast pioneering this tech back in 1998. In other words there are almost 20 years’ worth of reasons why Joycon drift should never have existed in 2017. Nevermind that, though, I’m just a grumpy old man who is happy to see progress. Lastly the sticks on this are very well positioned, being diagonal from the d-pad and face buttons rather than stacked directly on top like they were in the 353V. This makes for a much more natural adjustment to use the sticks without repositioning your entire hand. Plus being a good distance away from the chin of the device means kudos to Anbernic for actually considering the ergonomic placement of these sticks.
That does it for the front of the device, so let’s jump around a bit and see what else is on here. Nothing on top and bottom, ok cool. On the left we find a little mystery button just above the SD slot. This is a quick shortcut to launch Anbernic’s built-in game launcher, which we’ll go over in more detail in the next section. On the right side we find the power/standby button, as well as a volume rocker. Nothing wild and crazy, they’re all clicky and responsive.
That brings us to the bumpers and triggers. Was I mean to the 353V triggers? What about the 35XX? If I wasn’t, I should have been, maybe I just felt it more over time but they were pretty lousy and required way more actuation force to remain engaged than I felt was entirely necessary. Fast forward to now, the 405V has really very nice bumpers and triggers with one fairly significant caveat. They’re angled nicely for better use and differentiation, they’re really responsive and require a lot less effort to stay pressed down, I gotta say these are probably Anbernic’s best shoulders and buttons on a vertical, well, ever! However, as I said, there is one big issue. They’re responsive, yeah, but maybe a bit too responsive. In what I can only assume was a fit of ergonomic brainstorming, somebody on the design team decided to have the bumpers wrap around the edge of the device just slightly. This wouldn’t be such an issue if they had tweaked the actuation force accordingly, but no they’re still super responsive. This means that most of the time the way you hold this device will cause accidental presses of the bumpers. This is annoying, but probably fixable, and really in my personal opinion better than the not-quite-responsive-enough triggers of their predecessors.
Software and OS
We’re getting pretty familiar with Anbernic’s Android build at this point aren’t we? An earlier version of it showed up on dual-boot systems like their 353 handhelds, and meanwhile the 505 and 405m got the full treatment due to their reliance entirely on Android. There won’t be any real surprises here if you’ve used any of the aforementioned devices, but it’s worth going down the list for newcomers.
The 405V is running a slightly tweaked version of Android 12. If you’re already familiar with Android from your personal devices then you should feel pretty much at home here, but any of you iOS converts should buckle up a bit. Now Anbernic does start you out with a loadout of emulators they consider to be the standard or optimal choices for this device, complete with some of the settings already pre-configured on certain emulators. I personally don’t like this approach for my personal needs, as I don’t know what settings have been changed or how current these emulator versions are, so I typically uninstall them and wipe their config folders from storage before re-installing them myself from the Google Play store.
This build comes with some neat little additions to the quick settings menu, including specifically for this device a fan control setting. You’re able to toggle it between Stop, Auto, Cool, and Strong with each setting getting progressively faster, and by extent, louder. It feels like it’s pushing a good amount of air through if you hold your hand to the exhaust vent. However, it’s unclear at this point if the T618 enjoys any performance benefits from this cooling. At the very least it may improve its lifespan, if you don’t mind the fan noise. There is also a toggle for the CPU between Auto and High mode. Without any sort of metrics to judge by, I’m assuming the High mode is forcing the CPU to stay at its maximum clock speed instead of adjusting dynamically with power needs. Lastly, there is a key-remapper found here that allows you to map your controls to on-screen presses for games that don’t have official controller support.
One of the big additions that Anbernic has had for a while is their Game Mode. It’s something they’re so proud of they even have a dedicated button for it next to the SD card slot, though you can also launch it through a quick settings toggle. Entering this mode brings up a special full-screen launcher reminiscent of Emulation Station based frontends. This is basically their answer to the popularity of these frontends within the retro handheld community, and it does its job serviceably. If you want a “pick up and play’ experience with none of the personal tweaking and configuring that Android demands, then this is where you want to go. If you buy the 405V with one of Anbernic’s preloaded SD cards, then all of this should just work by default, setting the emulator pathways and aspect ratios for each system without input from the user. Granted, this path does have some small nags from some users, such as a confusing ordering system for the preloaded ROMs or using Retroarch cores for systems that would benefit much more from standalone emulation options, such as Saturn or Dreamcast. The pre-configured option won’t be perfect and may still demand some small tweaks for you to get the perfect experience, but that will be up to you to decide.
All in all, this is a capable version of Android with some nice tools at our disposal, but it could always be improved a little more. Though it’s outside of the scope of this review, it might be worth checking into the Gamma CFW for this device, as it has done wonders for the Anbernic predecessors running this same chipset, the 505 and the 405M.
So What Can It Play?
|Atari 2600, Atari 5600, Atari 7800|
|Nintendo Entertainment System|
|Super Nintendo Entertainment System|
|Nintendo Game Boy|
|Nintendo Game Boy Color|
|Nintendo Game Boy Advance|
|Nintendo Virtual Boy|
|Sega Master System|
|Sega Genesis / Mega Drive|
|Neo Geo Pocket|
|Neo Geo Pocket Color|
|Sony PlayStation Portable|
|Oops? No, this section is empty on purpose.|
|Sony PlayStation 2|
|Out of Reach|
|Sony Playstation 3|
So once again we’re left in the situation where since we’re at the end of a long line of devices using the same chipset, we’re very well aware of the capabilities of this device at this point. The T618 is quite capable for what is ultimately a budget entry-level chip, getting you peeking into the libraries of the Gamecube and PS2, as well as some 3DS. For all earlier 3D-based systems, as well as the even older 2D era, this handheld has more than enough horsepower to run basically their entire libraries. PS1, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, N64, you’re not going to run into any issues with these systems as long as you’re running their standalone emulators, since the Retroarch cores for most of these are often severely lacking in both performance and compatibility. PS1 is of course one exception where the PCSX Rearmed core in Retroarch is also an excellent way to play. So with those systems being capably run at the native 480p resolution of the 405V, let’s take a look at some of the systems this device will have some issues with.
The PSP? Issues? Well, here is a device that the 405V won’t have any power issues with but will instead struggle due to its form factor. See, the device has the power to run PSP at up to even 4x or 5x resolution in some games, but unlike many of the consoles on offer here the PSP was natively rendered at a 16:9 aspect ratio. As a result, playing this on the 4:3 screen of the 405V means big black bars on the top and bottom of the viewing window, and thus the PSP not taking full advantage of the 4-inch screen available. It’s not the same great fit that competing devices like the RP3+ or even Anbernic’s own RG505 are well-suited for.
While these systems may have an entire console generation dividing them, the similarities in their architecture have often seen them lumped together, particularly in the most popular Gamecube and Wii emulator out there – Dolphin. Despite these similarities, almost all of the Wii library will be out of reach of this handheld. The Gamecube meanwhile, will grant a fair amount more of its library, but oftentimes you’ll need to dial in specific settings, overclocks, or even use various speedhack forks of the Dolphin emulator in order to get your games to run well. Using PAL versions of these games is often recommended as well, setting the framerate target for 100% speed at 50 instead of 60, and in games that run at half the refresh rate, 25 instead of 30.
The 3DS has a couple of problems going for it with relation to this device. First of all, it’s a dual-screen system, and so unless you’re playing a game that handles being played on one screen at a time, you may have to settle for a lackluster viewing experience as the system tries to wedge two screens onto the singular 4-inch display of this device. This is also a problem for normal DS emulation, but thankfully besides the screen issue original DS runs really well on this chipset. Second problem with 3DS? Texture caching. Due to the way the emulator works, whenever it is displaying a new effect, model, or animation that requires a texture not already in the cache, it experiences a great deal of slowdown and stuttering on this device while attempting to catch up. Over time your texture cache will grow, and this will become less of an issue overall. Besides that lastly 3DS emulation is just still relatively young on Android, and neither performance nor compatibility is up to a point where it makes it comfortable on the lower powered T618. Like with Dolphin there are some speedhack forks available of the Citra emulator that may remedy certain issues with specific games, while breaking others.
PS2 emulation is in a tricky spot. The existing definitive PS2 emulator, AetherSX2, has been abandoned by its creator due to certain unfavorable conditions within the community. It is also not in an open-source state where another passionate and talented developer could come along and continue the work. So what you have now is what you get, and what we’ve got on the T618 is not much. Less than the Gamecube, but certainly enough of the library that it’s not worth writing off entirely. Using various speedhacks and cycle skipping, you can get a decent number of great classic titles to run. Just go into it emulating this particular system expecting not to be able to run much and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if your favorite is indeed playable.
If you’re getting into Switch emulation on this device, hopefully you already know what a mess you’re getting into. If you don’t? My advice would be to stay away from it on this particular machine. Not only are you coming up against the same 16:9 problem as we had with the PSP, but on this chipset you’re going to see a very, very small number of lower-end indies that run at a playable rate. A lot of the most popular ones have Android ports anyway, whether official or fan-made, so you’re far better off seeking those solutions out over attempting to emulate Switch on the 405V.
Native Android and Streaming
Let’s touch real briefly on the subject of Android gaming on this device. Now of course, the T618 has the power, the grunt, to get through just about any Android game on the market right now. You may have a bit of an issue with Genshin Impact, i suppose, but short of that most Android games are developed for a wide enough range of devices that the 405V can handle them fine. The problem? The 4:3 screen. Look around at the Android devices around you, what do you see? Alot of long displays, right? 20:9? A whole lot of 19.5:9? Modern Android games are normally built with widescreen in mind, at the very least 16:9. So while you can play a wide variety of games on this device, you may end up with a compromised viewing experience compared to what is intended. This problem extends to streaming from a PC with Moonlight, or the cloud with Xbox Game Pass. Unless you’re specifically streaming an older game designed for this aspect ratio in mind, you may once again be faced with either squished visuals or large black bars on your display. So while it’s possible, this is probably not the optimal device for this particular use.
Where Can I Buy This?
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I have a soft spot for ugly handhelds, so the fact that the 405V is a little bit of a Franken-handheld is charming to me, but this is definitely a subjective metric. Anbernic definitely went for function over form with this device, abandoning sleek or refined for pure comfort and useability. If you’re not a fan of vertical handhelds then it may not matter either way, but if you are a fan and not bothered by a proper brick of a handheld, you should definitely check this out. Otherwise, the horizontally favoring amongst you already have plenty of competing options available for the T618 chipset, and the 405V certainly isn’t breaking any new ground in that field. No big surprises here, just a capable and comfortable vertical take on the T618 fever that’s going around the handheld community at the moment.
- Bringing comfort to the vertical form factor by doubling down on the calories in its diet, the 405V’s love handles are handles you’ll love to handle.
- That nice big 5500mAh battery for both nice long gaming sessions and plenty of days of quick session sleeping and waking before needing a top-up.
- Big beautiful 4-inch screen that elevates our standards from the 3.5-inch glory days. Will it stick, or is it just a phase? Doesn’t matter, it looks great here right now.
- You’d better bust out those 90s jeans if you want to consider this thing pocketable. Many of the pros of the device came at the cost of its portability, especially compared to the 405M.
- Many users report problems with the bumpers being triggered too easily and unintentonally, leading many of them to attempt DIY adjustments for the problem.
- Same software issues as previous Anbernic T618 devices, including the display problems with over-sharpening, leading many users to Gamma OS to fix the issue.
- This proper chunky monkey of a Gameboy clone has outgrown even the original DMG brick, but brings with it plenty of modern convenience and power. If you enjoy vertical handhelds this is a no-brainer definite winner in the category. It’s not a perfect device, but in this reviewer’s opinions the pros outweigh the cons significantly. It makes this an easy recommendation to check out if you’ve either held off on the T618 handheld craze so far, or if you’ve gone all-in and collected ’em all the way the song told us to. Gotta catch ’em all…
If you have enjoyed this review and would like to see more on the Anbernic 405V, please enjoy the following review video from the whimsical Zu on our Youtube channel.