RG351V Review (With Stock Firmware)


 
(RG351V) $108.99

Released 3/8/2021

The RG351V aka "Wood Boy" is Anbernic's latest SBC handheld offering and it's a good one despite being yet another RK3326 chip device...

*This post includes some photos I took of the device mixed with stock images Anbernic used for marketing. There are no referral links here and this post is 100% my own personal non influenced opinions. 


My Verdict: Guilty of Being a Must Have Handheld 

Overall Score 9/10 

Making it the best RK3326 device I own and has replaced the Retroid Pocket 2 (Which I rated as an 8.5/10) as my favorite budget handheld.  As it stands, the RP2 is still a better option for N64, Dreamcast and DS emulation but that could change with CFW options. 


The Good 

  • Build Quality
  • Amazing 4:3 Display That Looks Great
  • Great Nearly Flawless Emulation Up to PSX
  • Great Vertical Form Factor Comfortable for Big Hands
  • Drastically Better Battery Performance than the 351P

The Bad 

  • Few Minor Design Flaws
  • Only One Thumb-stick Which is a Deal Breaker for Some
  • Non Optimized Slapped Together Firmware

In the end, if they had added second thumb stick, added in a sound wheel instead of buttons, a more optimized firmware and taken a little more time with the design, this would have been a 10/10 system.  Don't let let the minor complaints or flaws keep ou from getting one though.  RK3326 chip devices are starting to get a bit old but this one is definitely the King of RK3326 Land! The 351V is not a game change but more of a final goodbye to the RK3326. (We hope it's the goodbye anyway).

Price I paid: $109.99 including shipping.   

Firmware Options: At the moment there is one publicly available firmware options and that's the one that came with it.  It mostly works well but is not properly optimized for the unit and leaves a lot to be desired.  Several custom firmwares from community developers are currently being worked on though.  One issue I do have with some of these devices is how firmware and software is just slapped onto these things without little to no involvement from the developers. This results in firmware that is basically just slapped together for minimal functionality.  I think it would be in the manufacturer's best interests moving into the future to develop a relationship with the community developers who are the ones who really make or break these devices.  The devices are open source in nature but for some reason often are locked down in ways.  The stock firmware on this device is simply just another knockoff from Odroid Go which is not even a hidden fact resulting in just a smashed together firmware that works pretty good but has some problems.  With a good firmware optimized for the system, this would have been an easy 10/10 kind of score.  



The Build:

Build quality on this console is top notch when it comes to budget handhelds.  I was pleasantly surprised to find no obvious problems like I did with every 351P or 351M that I got my hands on.  No light leak issues etc (it should be noted some people are reporting some minor light leaks with the Black translucent model)...


The console itself is very solid with no rattling internals etc.  The three color options are faux wood grain (Wood Boy), Translucent Black and an interesting Grey which looks very retro.  I cracked it open just for a quick look around and it appears well built.  If you shake the system hard enough you can hear a little tiny rattling with the R and L triggers but nothing like the crazy rattling with the PowKiddy RBG20.  The 351V is large for a modern vertical probably about an inch wider than a Game Boy Color but that's necessary with the large screen.  It feels heavy but not too heavy and is probably about the same weight as the Retroid Pocket 2 and slightly heavier than a Game Boy Color from estimation.  

The face buttons and d-pad are almost stiff but are very responsive.  The d-pad I feel is the best of any Anbernic device despite feeling almost stiff. The responsiveness is excellent.  The left stick (there is no right stick) functions well and is clickable.  Due to having large hands I really feel like design-wise the left stick should have been placed further to the right almost like the RGB20 design. It's not a deal breaker but it is a noticeable design flaw. Not having a right thumb-stick really isn't an issue for me with retro gaming where you rarely need one but I feel like there could have been something added in (even one of those 3DS style slider sticks like they used with the RP2.  

The 351V returns to dual micro SD slots which makes it more convenient to load up files on and easier to develop for in ways.  This was an excellent decision by Anbernic.  I ran into a few issues with the External slot not recognizing cards and causing save states to freeze the system but that was fixed easily by resetting a few things. I was not particularly excited about going back to just one mono speaker but I have to admit the single speaker is louder and sounds a LOT better than any previous Anbernic device.  The headphone jack is properly placed at the center bottom of the console and sounds great through headphones. Sound is decent using Bluetooth as well.  L1/L2, R1/R2 are designed pretty well.  It's comfortable to use both and they are sized differently enough to have no problems with hitting the wrong one while gaming.  I feel like they could have gone a little bigger with the triggers though.  

The buttons on the system I don't like a lot are the function button awkwardly placed up by the bottom of the screen and having to click the left trigger and function button to exit emulation in RetroArch.  The power button and reset button are ludicrously way too small and pretty awkward as well and the volume up and down buttons a bit small and positioned too high on the device.  I feel like a volume wheel halfway up either side would have been the way to go.  Most of these design flaws are very minor and don't ruin the experience.  


The real highlight of this device is the awesome 4:3 screen and great viewing angles.  This screen looks and plays better than anything else in the budget handheld arena.  Even with the screen upgrade, the larger battery really paid off as battery performance is drastically better than the 351P.  I'm getting around 5 hours of gameplay off every charge.  

There is no HDMI out for those looking for that option. 

Out of the Box: 


I'm not a big fan of the firmware which is just a slapped together Odroid knockoff but it mostly works well. Emulation Station at this point is pretty familiar, very easy to navigate and looks good especially if you download a few themes to mess around with.  Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc all work fine out of the box.  For the most part even a beginner in emulation shouldn't have many problems loading up a few files and playing games fast.  

Specs: 

  • CPU: RK3326 Cortex-A35 Quad Core 1.3 GHz - 1.5 GHz
  • GPU: Mali-G31 MP2
  • RAM: 1 GB DDR3
  • Display: 3.5'' 640x480 IPS OCA
  • Aspect ratio: 4:3
  • I/O: Dual OTG port, RL12
  • TF card: system on internal card, ROMs on the external card
  • WiFi: built-in
  • Battery:3900~4000mAh
On-Board ROMs:

People seem to always want on board ROMs but I don't see why.  Anbernic uses some really terrible micro SD cards that are prone to failure.  The first step to using these devices should be making a clone of the card that comes with it onto a decent card and throw the stock one into a drawer for safe keeping in case you need it as a back up. I received the version that had no included ROMs and that's fine by me.  I don't like the idea of companies basically selling ROMs which then treads into the territory of being highly illegal.  It's not hard to put your own stuff on the systems too.  The 351V's that come with ROMs on them cost a little extra for the extra card and I don't think they are worth the cost as it's still a generic card prone to failure. Reportedly the ROMs include a lot of bad dumps and bad versions of the games as well.  My advice to anyone new to retro handhelds is to learn how to add your own stuff and never pay extra for ROMs as that's against the law and also just not worth the money.  

Emulation Performance:

A+ Grades: Game Boy, Game Boy Color (GBC), NES, FDS, SNES, SEGA Master System, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, 

A Grades: Game Boy Advance, Game and Watch, Atari Lynx, Neo-Geo, NGPC, PC-Engine/TG16, SEGA 32X, SEGA Game Gear, Playstation 1 (PSX), Intellivision

B Grades: Atari 2600/5200/7800, ColecoVision, SEGA SG-1000, Vectrex, Wonderswan Color, Final Burn Neo, CPS1, CPS2

C Grades: Sony PSP, Virtual Boy, SEGA CD

D Grades: N64, MAME

F Grades: Nintendo DS, SEGA Saturn, SEGA Dreamcast

*Everything I tested went about how I expected but I was a little disappointed with DS, MAME, CPS1 and CPS2 performance issues.  DS the biggest problem is the bizarrely terrible chop job with Drastic.  The other systems I suspect will get a huge performance boost with custom firmware so all is not lost with any of these.  


In the End

I have to say I really like the 351V a lot.  It is now my go to budget handheld. I think this is about it for the RK3326 chip systems other than the GameForce RK3326 (by Gao Feng) which I plan to buy if it comes out.  At this point with these devices by Anbernic, the build quality is almost top notch, the face buttons and d-pad etc are great but it's time for a better processor and a little more RAM etc.  We've seen a huge boom in these devices over the past 2 years but now we are at a point where too many devices have too similar capabilities combined with too similar flaws.  

Early Leaked Image RG351V


What Others Are Saying:

Retro Dodo RG351V Review 9/10

Gaming Respawn RG351M/RG351V Review 

The Game Pad Gamer RG351V Review 

KiboTEK RG351V Review

351V Links & Resources:

351V Starter Guide by Retro Game Corps

If you are unfamiliar with Retro Game Corps and have an interest in the retro handheld gaming hobby, you definitely need to get familiar.  RGC is perhaps the biggest community asset at this point with in-depth analysis, guides and is constantly coming up with new ways to make the user experience for these devices better.  

Anbernic Official Site 

+Header image generated on the classic and beloved site https://cooltext.com/



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