Well folks they finally did it, Ayn finally shipped something out on time, it’s a Christmas miracle! Seriously though, I don’t think any of us quite expected it, and it’s a pleasant surprise to say the least. When Ayn first launched the Odin they made a huge splash in an Android market that was primarily still either cheap little entry-level chipset devices, expensive custom-built units like the RetroidBoy, or the common and simple solution of attaching a controller to your smartphone. They brought in a well-crafted premium device with killer specs and a reasonable, if not still certainly a luxury-level, pricepoint. Everyone wanted one for a while, and the only problem was that you simply couldn’t get one without waiting for months on your order.
Now Ayn is back with the Odin 2, and is looking to shake up the market AGAIN by bringing Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 into a refined and updated Odin, and doing so again at an unbelievable pricepoint. To top it all off, this time they not only released on time but ahead of schedule. Will this disrupt the market yet again? Will the Odin 2 stand out as the definitive Android handheld going in to the Holiday season and beyond? Will Stashia admit that she poisoned Robbie’s drink in the name of true love? Wait, that last one is for a different article I’m working on, pay no mind. Anyway early signs point to yes for the actual Odin questions (and probably the soap opera one too, spoiler alert), but let’s take ourselves a deeper look at this device and hopefully answer these questions definitively.
I’ll start as I usually do with Hardware, and boy what a list that is. The Snapdragon 8Gen2 is currently the flagship chip for Qualcomm, and it’s a real stunner. For any gaming or even productivity, this thing can basically crunch it all. You’re not going to see it breaking a sweat in Android, so the real test over time will probably be with Windows on ARM projects. If your Odin plans involve Windows, this would also be a good reason to spring the extra on the Pro or especially the Max variant, as the extra RAM and storage space will benefit most greatly in that OS. Folks in the community are also suggesting the extra RAM will benefit Switch emulation, but that remains to be seen as the emulators are still in rather early development for Android.
Meanwhile things like Wifi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3 will mean not only faster, but also more stable connections, if you have the appropriate hardware on the other end to accomodate these features. Even without, however, the higher-end specs should mean it keeps top-notch performance with older Wifi and Bluetooth devices up to their rated specifications. Speaking of speed, the upgrade to the UFS4.0 connection for the storage is going to mean faster reads and writes, which should be a nice little bump for certain types of tasks. The fingerprint reader built into the power button is nice and fast too, providing an excellent, secure, and speedy way to quickly wake up your device. It’s by far my favorite way to unlock a device.
Let’s talk screen to wrap this up, and boy is it a killer screen. There have been some complaints floating around about some granular technicalities surrounding color gamut and whitepoint targets, but in practice this thing is gorgeous. Sure it’s no OLED, with the perfect inky black levels and infinite contrast ratio, but the colors sure will still pop with saturation like an OLED does. Besides the color boost, though, it doesn’t look like much is changing from the original Odin screen. 6-inch, 16:9, 60hz, a lot of familiar numbers going on with the screen. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it seems to be the name of Ayn’s game, and we’ll see more examples of this throughout the design of the Odin 2.
At the end of the day from this look at the hardware specs it’s easy to say that this handheld provides a ton of value for the money, especially with that Base price still sporting the most important bits. We move further away from killer value as we add RAM and storage to the device, but the people for whom that’s a worthwhile trade-off likely already know who they are. With that said, let’s move on and see if the device feels as good in the hands as it looks on paper.
INPUTS AND COMFORT
Now I can’t be the only person who, upon opening a new handheld, immediately begins mashing all the buttons. The Odin 2 was no different, and it gives a quick first impression of which inputs I’m going to like and which I’ll be less thrilled with. While I like a lot of what the Odin 2 is doing here, I do have my complaints as well, and we’ll be examining both here. As someone who has held both the original Odin as well as the recent Ayn Loki device, the design language of both is on clear display here. Firstly, the overall dimensions are nearly identical to that of the first Odin, coming only millimeters larger in certain aspects. It adopts the chunkier handles of the larger Loki, however, as well as a very similar feel to the triggers. It ends up being sort of in the middle of the two in total footprint. Though I understand why they stuck closer to the Odin’s design, I do wish they had taken just a bit of an extra lesson, as well as some extra length, from the Loki. Allow me to elaborate as we talk about face buttons.
The face buttons and sticks will be used more than anything else during gameplay, except maybe in certain racing games. It is important then to get them right, as these could make or break a device. The Odin 2 does a lot of this right, but also enough wrong that it is perhaps my largest source of complaints about this device. Let’s start safe with the dpad. This is a dpad you have used before, numerous times. It feels a lot like a Vita dpad, or a Retroid dpad, or the original Odin dpad. It’s clicky, it’s dome based, it does the job well. I like this dpad. The abxy cluster is a bit more controversial for me. They’re membrane buttons, similar to the original Odin, but with far less travel and actuation force. On the one hand this leads to them being far more responsive and precise, but on the other hand it can feel a bit like taking a big step down a short stair. You made the landing, but it was much quicker than expected and left you a bit surprised. Some people will love these, I’m very undecided, but they are undoubtedly high quality buttons.
Moving on to the sticks and I again have some trouble. Now maybe I’m being spoiled lately by so many great sticks, like the Ayn Loki, but these are not as revolutionary as I hoped. They are, however, way better than the extra-recessed sticks on the original Odin, and even fare better than your average Switch sticks. I’m fairly certain these are the same sticks we’ve seen on the Retroid Pocket 2S. They’re Hall-based, so thankfully we can say goodbye to any worries about stick drift. To be fair most of my personal problem with them is just that I feel the caps are not grippy or wide enough, but those problems could be fairly simply solved by thumbstick covers. As an Android device these do manage to be one of the best examples of analog sticks besides perhaps the Logitech G Cloud, and so the verdict is good.
I did say something about the Loki’s length in regards to the face buttons though didn’t I? In staying close to the Odin design they have kept the analog sticks and face buttons in a completely vertical orientation atop eachother. Now this may be a smaller issue for those with smaller hands, and this is a common concession made with these types of handhelds to preserve portability, but it does make the dpad and the right thumbstick uncomfortable to use. Despite the chunky grip handles on the back of this device, I feel the need for a grip extension to align my thumbs in such a way where they can comfortably stretch down while still being able to keep my hands in a neutral position for shoulder and trigger usage. The Loki had solved this problem by widening a bit to align them diagonally to one another, and I sorely wish this habit had been kept for the Odin 2.
Enough complaining though, let’s move on to something I really enjoyed: the shoulders and triggers. There was never anything outright wrong with the original Odin in this regard, at least as far as I’m concerned, but this just really took it up a notch. The shoulders are a bit larger than before, and nice and clicky all along the length of the button. I think they may have used some form of hybrid microswitch/membrane connection here, because it definitely clicks but it’s softer than many other handhelds with clicky shoulders. Meanwhile the triggers are fantastic. Nice and wide, with a perfect amount of travel, I kind of want these triggers on every handheld from now on. I loved em on the Loki and these feel extremely similar to those.
If we move around the device a bit we can examine the rest of the miscellaneous buttons, as well as some of the IO present on the device. Coming back to the front, we never addressed the four buttons that sit at each corner of the display. On top we have select on the left and start on the right, nice and close where they’re convenient to hit during gameplay. On the bottom we get a home button on the left, and a back button on the right, which are perfect for navigating Android without having to get all swipey with the touchscreen. These are all clicky and get their job done without fuss. Right next to the select button is a small hole for microphone input, and then at the bottom are two frontfiring speakers. These are good sounding speakers, certainly a large step up from the downfiring ones in the original Odin, and continue to be a case for why all handhelds should just stick to frontfiring from now on. All the best handhelds are doing it, after all.
The bottom of the device is pretty plain, just the USB-C charging port and 3.5mm audio jack down here. The sides simply feature the RGB light strips, which are adjustable in the same way as the RGB around the thumbsticks I neglected to mention earlier. The top is home to all the action it would seem. On the right the power button sits, slightly recessed and with a divot for where your fingertip should rest for fingerprint unlock. You’ve got a digital volume rocker next to that, same as you’ll find in almost anything that doesn’t bizarrely decide to put start and select right here. On the other side you’ll find the SD card slot closest to the left shoulder, with a little flap to cover and protect it from dust. Next to that is your micro-HDMI port, which is one of two video-out options you have considering the USB-C port on the bottom also provides video-out. Last of all in the middle is your exhaust port for the fan, since this device features active cooling. The intake is on the back, a nice wide grille for plenty of fresh air spreads across. Then nestled into the big grip handles is a couple of assignable function buttons, known as M1 and M2, which should be familiar as basically the same buttons from the original Odin.
So as a follow-up to the Odin this succeeds in being more well-crafted, more comfortable, an ergonomic upgrade from its predecessor. However, in trying to maintain the overall footprint of the original Odin it commits to some ergonomic flaws that I would have hoped could be resolved. This is especially true when considering their interim Windows handheld solved some of these issues quite capably. However, my personal issues aside, there are many people already playing this handheld that are quite happy with the refinements that have been made and share none of the same issues that I have with it.
SOFTWARE AND OS
While there are strides being made to boot this device into Linux and Windows and all sorts, at least for the purposes of review I’m going to focus on the stock experience since that is likely to be the use-case for the majority of users. If you’re familiar with Android there are no really big surprises to be had here, but Ayn does add quite a few small touches that overall make the experience more convenient and enjoyable on the Odin 2.
You’ve got a few easy access settings in the drop-down menu like performance modes, fan profiles, lighting controls, and the toggle for what they call the “floating icon.” The floating icon is a small line on the right side of the display which indicates for you to swipe in from that edge, and there lies a special menu. While inside applications you can access this menu and it’ll provide you with FPS and temperature metrics, CPU and RAM utilization, key mapping functions, screen capture functions, do not disturb mode, per-game profile options and quite a bit more. This can be pulled up any time while in games and is quite a bit handier than having to go into any dedicated menu for this stuff. There is one of those as well, though, the “Odin Settings” menu inside the overall Settings options. This provides all sorts of options like mapping the extra buttons, calibrating joysticks, switching controller modes, running scripts, configuring your video output settings, and the list goes on. Needless to say all of these extra menus and features make the handheld gaming experience feel more complete and less like they chucked a controller onto a smartphone.
Outside of that, however, you’ll be greeted by a pretty familiar Android, and this is running Android 13 by default. Surf the web, watch Youtube, send photos of that weird bump on your toe to your family doctor, download apps from the Google Play store, chat on Discord, whatever you would normally do on a smartphone or tablet is accessible on this device. This naturally leaves you with plenty of options for customizing your handheld experience, including various launchers and front-ends. One such launcher is actually built-in, and you get the opportunity to select it during the setup process. The Odin Launcher tries to go for a more controller-friendly tiles menu that I suspect is meant for when you’ve hooked up the Odin to the TV and don’t have access to the touch screen.
WHAT CAN IT PLAY?
If I just say it plays everything can we all call it good? Well, no, that’s not technically accurate, there’s some definite nuance missing from that answer. As far as the current emulation capabilities go of the Android OS, it pretty much tackles all that is compatible. There are, of course, compatibility gaps in such emulators as the PS2 or Switch emulators that no amount of power is currently going to push past. It’s all just a matter of letting development on those emulators mature, which unfortunately might be harder for PS2 since it is no longer in active development. The emulators that do have broad compatibility, even on the upper end like Dolphin and Citra, are a piece of cake for the powerful chipset in the Odin 2. Upscale your Gamecube, your Wii, your 3DS, even your PS2, and you’ll find compatible titles run great. On the native Android side of things, well let’s just say they haven’t created an Android game that can make the Odin 2 break a sweat. Anyway let’s look at some specific examples I’ve run through. Obviously I’m going to skip a lot of the lightweights here. Stuff that ran on the older Odin, or even a humble T618, like Dreamcast, N64, PS1, Saturn, DS, PSP, and the like? Obviously chump change for the formidable Snapdragon 8Gen2, so we’ll just focus on the big leagues for now.
So while with most of these systems the Odin 2 has plenty of pure power to blaze through your favorite PS2 classics, the PS2 sits in a unique position. The leading Android emulator for PS2, AetherSX2, is no longer in active development. This means that unlike its contemporary, Gamecube, the PS2 may be more prone to running into compatibility issues than with the more mature Dolphin emulator. Regardless, there are still numerous very popular titles that run great on AetherSX2, and the Odin 2 crushes them handily. While you can go up and down in resolution scale depending on how intensive the game is, there’s no real good reason to go over the Odin 2’s native 1080p resolution. At 1080p you should have full-speed and smooth gameplay from any game that doesn’t have other compatibility issues, and some users are estimating somewhere in the 10 hour battery life range for PS2 emulation. Incredible!
The Gamecube comes from the same generation as the PS2, but as stated before has the advantage of being run on a far more mature emulator. Dolphin has been in development for a very long time and has had plenty of time to ripen on Android. The Odin 2 once again blazes through gameplay on Gamecube. I was able to crank several games up to their max resolution scaling of 6x (stated to be for 4K gaming) and still didn’t see the Odin 2 breaking a sweat. Not that it sweats, that would be weird, but you know what I mean. Once again there’s not much reason to push the system to that level, especially if you want to keep battery, heat, and fan noise down, so stick to 3x (1080p) and you’ll be sailing easy street with Gamecube.
Wii is in a similar spot to Gamecube, after all it does run on the same Dolphin emulator. Something something same architecture you’d have to ask someone, but regardless the Wii enjoys the same benefit of emulator age here. Of course, the Wii is a more demanding system, and so you might not always hit that 6x scaling, but once again 3x should run swell in pretty much every game. The real challenge with Wii emulation is the non-standard control scheme; notably the Wii remote. It can be difficult to map the controls on a standard device like the Odin 2 to properly emulate the motion controls and pointer functions of the Wii remote. A lot of games did come with Gamecube control options as well, which is always a benefit when they do, but for the ones that don’t you may have to find a community suggested mapping. Darn that Nintendo foiling our emulation attempts all those years ago, darn them to heck I say. Anyway, let’s move on.
I’m not entirely convinced when it comes to 3DS on a single-screen device. It just never feels quite right, I dunno. More of Nintendo’s rascally emulation-busting no doubt. Still, despite the fiddly nature of displaying two screens on one, and the touch controls, and all those shenanigans, it runs very well on the Odin 2. I was able to max out the resolution scaling to 4x in my testing, even on games that required accurate shader multiplication like Pokemon Ultra Moon, which had texture glitches without it. Despite this, the Citra emulator can be a bit of a rollercoaster even with all this power, notably causing the biggest stutters when it is compiling new shaders. In theory, this problem will disappear over time as you play through a game and it fills up its shader cache. In practice, Citra can still have strange hitches and glitches for no discernible reason, and is just in need of more maturity before it’s a truly seamless experience.
Alright, the one that doesn’t actually run all that well, but then again that probably isn’t the Odin 2’s fault? Switch emulation on Android is still fairly fresh, and is still kind of a risky topic considering Nintendo’s stance on emulation. They don’t like it when you emulate their old stuff they don’t sell anymore, imagine how mad they must be about people emulating their current-gen hardware. As with all emulation, we here at Retro Handhelds strongly urge you to purchase and legally back up all of your own personal game files from your own personal games.
Anyway the Yuzu emulator is the new kid on the block, at least for Android. After Skyline stopped development, it seemed we were left in a rut. Yuzu has been on x86 devices for some time, and thankfully it seems the team was ready to port it over to Android as well. Currently it is still in early development, and some of the games I attempted to test crashed without ever booting to a menu. Those that do run, though, show a lot of promise. This is a device that in the future should be a very good match for Switch emulation, even the Base model as long as you’re not dealing with a game too RAM intensive.
Native Android & Streaming
Besides emulation there is of course the option of Android games on the Odin 2. While there are a fair few ports of classic games, and a fair few more mobile skinner boxes (Google it), most of these games are meant to be optimized around lower-tier chipsets. After all, these games would scarcely do well if they were only targeting flagship phones right? Well except Genshin Impact which seems to tax basically every phone and still finds success. Yes, even Genshin Impact manages to fall beneath the blade of the mighty 8 Gen 2, boasting maxed out settings at full framerate. The responsive controls and likewise responsive touchscreen will leave no Android games out of your reach.
Meanwhile your streaming options are as numerous as ever if that’s what you’re into. The nice 6-inch 1080p display will hold its own as well when streaming the higher-end content. Moonlight streaming, Xbox Cloud, Geforce Now, maybe even the Shadow PC service, there are plenty of ways you can play all the latest and greatest console games on this device as well. The strong Wifi chip inside will provide all the speed and stability you should need for any high bitrate streaming, so long as your modem and/or router are up to the task as well.
Ayn certainly didn’t miss with this one. While I have my own subjective gripes about the ergonomics, it doesn’t change how well-built and full of function this device is. Boasting more power than it knows what to do with, a refined variation of an already-popular design, and a well-crafted suite of software extras to make the handheld experience more robust, it’s not hard to see why early reviewers were excited about this. If you’re only going to have one handheld, and you’re not ready to sink your teeth into the wide world of x86 handhelds like the Steam Deck, then the Odin 2 makes a good case for being The One. For most users I would advise saving your money and going for the Base tier model, as the higher end models only really add features that appeal to certain varieties of power-users. Even the jump in price from the 128GB to the 256GB storage can net you a 1TB SD card after all. Regardless of which model you choose, however, the overall value this can provide with its sheer versatility and power should leave you satisfied with your purchase.
- The Odin 2 brings smart ergonomic refinement over its predecessor, with thicker grip handles, better sticks, more substantial shoulders and triggers, and more small touches to enjoy.
- That enormous 8000mAh battery paired with the efficient ARM chip means marathon game sessions are a real possibility. Don’t expect to need to charge this very often.
- The power of the amazing Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip inside means you can play virtually anything your heart desires, as long as Android supports it.
- May not be very comfortable for certain types of users due to the vertical layout of the buttons and sticks.
- Android OS is still fairly limited and removes the ability for the Odin 2 to stretch its legs in PS3 or Xbox emulation until further developments for alternative OS options.
- Color options are limited to the higher and more expensive models, only Black is available for the Base model.
- A lot to love and very little to criticize leaves the Ayn Odin 2 in a position where it may be correct to consider it the definitive Android handheld. As with the Steam Deck in the x86 sector it will be interesting to see what sort of competition this device manages to spark, but for the time being the prevailing recommendation for an Android handheld that does everything you could want is the Odin 2.
Purchase the Odin directly from Ayn’s website.
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.