Anbernic RG280M Review (Second Look mid-2021)

***The 280M is back on Sale on Amazon!! Still a great buy in 2022. $55


Anbernic RG280M Review (Second Look)

Original Release Date: June, 2020


While the Anbernic RG280M (M for Metal) is getting fairly old in the world of retro handheld emulation (a year old is OLD in this realm), it's still a very viable option especially if you find it cheap. I purchased another recently for $55.99 on Amazon myself. The Handheld was $109.99 a year ago and the current MSRP is $81.99 which is a fair price. $100+ was a bit steep even a year ago but it's now a great price. 2020 was an insane year for retro handhelds with one release after another and the 280M got lost in that shuffle especially being released a month apart from the 350P and not long after the 350M.

Overall Score: 8.6/10 

The Good 

🍬Very pocketable 
🍬Build Quality is Top Notch 
🍬Battery Life Is Good (6.5-8 Hours per Charge)
🍬Dual microSD Slots 
🍬Great Value at Current Prices

The Bad 

👎Limited Emulation Performance At This Point
👎Power Indicator (LED) Located In A Distracting Spot
👎Dated UI with Stock Setup
👎No Mini HDMI like the 350 series

In The End...

In essence the RG280M is a RG350M-Mini with a smaller screen and only one analog stick. While $109.99 was a little too much last year, you can now regularly find them new for under $80 making it a really good deal. The bigger RG350M currently averages $109.99 in price. Like everything in the 350 Series, this handheld can handle most emulation needs up to PS1 (PSX) fine. If N64/PSP/DS/Dreamcast etc are necessary for you,  you'll have to step up to the 351 series but there are ways that the 280M still has advantages over the 351P/M/V models the biggest advantage being battery life and pocketability. 

The only reasons I see to not buy one at current prices is if you absolutely need beyond PSX emulation or you need  onboard WiFi (there is no wireless connectivity with this device without using a dongle).  

Where to Buy

Currently I'd suggest buying directly from Anbernic at the link below or from BAORUITENG on Amazon particularly if you live in the US. Amazon usually ends up costing more than ordering direct from the manufacturer but not in this case. BAORUITENG also has extremely fast shipping. 




RG280M Specs

🟤 Ingenic J4770 Processor (Same as RG350/RG350P/RG350M/RG300X/RG280V/New PocketGo)

🟤 4:3 320*480 IPS Tempered Glass (OCA Laminated) 142.86 PPI

🟤 Orientation: Landscape

🟤 Stock OS: OpenDingux

🟤 CPU: 1.0 GHz (Secondary 500 MHz) Dual Core Xburst 

🟤 Architecture: MIPS 

🟤 GPU: Vivante GC860 315-575 MHz 

🟤 RAM: 512MB DDR2

🟤 2500 mAh Battery

🟤 Size: 136mm x 61mm x 18mm. Weight: 204 Grams 

🟤 Aluminum Shell available in Black, Silver or a Teal/Silver/Gold/Blue/Pink rainbow style finish. 

RG280M Screen 

Smaller isn't always a bad thing and the 280M is proof of that. While the 350M has an amazing screen, the 280M's screen isn't a huge step down. I like the screen on the 280M more than the 351P/M by a lot though due to sharpness and it's a little nicer than the 350/350P. The pixel density and size matches up well and results in a very sharp image (easy to read text) with great colors. 320*480 resolution (4:3 aspect) simply works really well on a 2.8" screen. It does require some tweaking with scaling to get it looking great. Flat full scale with without any tweaks results in staggered pixels that might look a little off with some systems.  This particular screen really shines with home console emulation especially NES, SNES, SEGA Genesis, PlayStation 1 (PSX) and TurboGrafx-16 (PCE).NeoGeo and Final Burn Alpha emulation looks great on this screen as well. Handheld console emulation looks good as well. 

The one thing I don't like about the screen is where they located the power indicator LED. It's fairly distracting where it's located and does cause a little light bleed through the d-pad which becomes very noticeable in a dark room. Build Quality outside that is great. I feel like its a better screen than what's on the 351P/M and doesn't have the massive light bleed that those two options have. While the aspect ratio on the 351P/M on paper is better for GBA, I'd honestly still take the 280M over those options for GBA gaming especially using RetroArch filters. 

Buttons/Inputs

There are the standard A/B/X/Y face buttons on this device along with a d-pad, one thumb-stick (w/L3) on the left, L1/L2/R1/R2 triggers, Power, Restart Button, Start/Select and Volume Up/Volume Down. Inputs include USB-Cx2 (one for charging), dual external MicroSD, USB OTG, WiFi, 3.5mm headphone out and Support w/ Dongle Use. The 280M has dual rumble, and dual bottom facing stereo speakers.  

The d-pad is responsive and almost on the stiff side but that's far better than being on the loose side. A lot of tiny handhelds like this one aren't designed well but this one definitely is. The d-pad and face buttons along with Start/Select are positioned extremely well. The face buttons are very responsive and about as good as anyone could want. 

It would have been nicer to have a volume wheel instead of buttons and some extra inputs for function. The speakers are "ok" soundings but would have been nice for them to be from facing. The headphone jack would have been better placed at the bottom. L1/L2/R1/R2 are very responsive but also stiff and clicky but they do the job well enough. 

Build Quality 

The build quality on the 280M is top notch and possibly the best build quality of all the Anbernic devices (equal to the 350M).  The aluminum is sturdy and makes the device a little heavy and solid feeling but it has a very premium feel to it. The 280M is heavier than the larger 350P.  

Emulation Performance 

Performance up to PSX is great. There are a few PSX games that give the system trouble but that can be eliminated using RetroArch custom settings (if you add RetroArch).  Anything beyond PSX isn't going to happen with this handheld although the Mario 64 Port for OpenDingux does run really well on it. 

Stock Firmware/Customization Options 

In the case of the RG280M, stock firmware (OpenDingux) is fine for most scenarios although I'd highly suggest flashing a fresh OD firmware on your own card and use a new card for the external slot to store ROMs. The included microSD cards from Anbernic are prone to failure. 

 I like how it's easy to use and very familiar as a long time OD user. You can very easily add more emulators and software to the system using OPK files as well. I'd highly suggest keeping the stock firmware and just adding OPK files of interest especially if just getting into these devices. 


There are a few custom firmwares out there but I find plain OpenDingux is fine especially if you add on RetroArch and use Simple Menu for a cleaner front end. 

RetroArch is an optional install add-on for the 280M that's definitely a great idea to do particularly if you ate interested in using cheats, using filters to tweak the screen more for devices or setting up Playlists considering the OD UI is a little cumbersome with large numbers of games in folders. Check out the guide at RGC for that:


SakuraRetroModding 

As usual I'd highly suggest modifying the look of the 280M with custom face buttons and a screen frame sticker from SakuraRetroModding on Etsy. 



J4770 Handhelds Ranked (As of August 2021) w/ all factors considered ($ for $ value heavily weighted):

#1 RG280M 8.6/10
#2 RG350P 8.5/10
#3 RG350M 8.4/10
#4 RG280V 8.3/10
#5 RG350 8/10
#6 RG300X
#7 New PocketGo

+ If price wasn't a factor the order would be #1 RG350M, #2 280M, #3 350P, #4 300X, #5 280V, #6 350, #7 New PocketGo...

In Closing

All in all, I actually like the 280M more now than I did a little more than a year ago. It has a great size for pocketing on the go,  a rugged build and a battery that will likely last you the whole day away from home. You get a lot less battery out of the 351 series than you do with this. If you can find one for under $60 or in that ballpark, it's a real steal at this point. The 280M is a great option for people new to the emulation realm as its very easy to set up. 





2 Comments

  1. Hey Dan, you might want to update this review to mention the excellent Adam firmware option. I got my 280m for $55 as well, and it's a great pocket device!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I think I'll update this again this week. I use Adam firmware on it myself. Definitely the top CFW option.

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