I recently reviewed the Anbernic RG351P a couple of weeks ago on my own website after having purchased the RG350M a couple of months prior to that. The leap between the RG350M & RG351P, in my opinion, was quite a substantial one, mainly due to its better processor and RAM upgrade.
You can read my review and thoughts of the RG351P on my website, as well as the video review on my YouTube channel. I thought it was a great handheld that played the majority of emulators well, only struggling to play some PSP and Dreamcast games due to its now aging and underpowered chipset.
Build quality was great, though it had a plastic shell instead of the premium metal one, which the RG350M had. Whilst it was still a great design and felt good to hold in your hands, I missed the more premium feel of the aluminum shell. However, the RG351P had a much better screen and looked stunning when playing games.
Now, fast forward by a month, and the guys at Ploylab kindly asked me if I would be interested in reviewing not one but two new products from Anbernic. And yes, you guessed it, it’s the upgraded version of the RG351P; we now have a metal version (RG351M) but also a vertical version (RG351V).
So, first thing is to compare the specifications for both of these new handhelds:
- CPU: RK3326 Cortex-A35 Quad Core 1.3 GHz – 1.5 GHz
- GPU: Mali-G31 MP2
- RAM: 1 GB DDR3
- Display: 3.5” 640×480 IPS OCA
- Aspect ratio: 4:3
- I/O: Dual OTG port, RL12
- Vibration pack
- TF card: system on internal card, ROMs on the external card
- Wi-Fi: built-in
- Processor: RK3326 1.5GHz.
- GPU: Mali-G31 MP2.
- Internal: DDR3L 1GB.
- Screen: 3.5 inch IPS screen, OCA full lamination / 320 * 480.
- Size: 152mm x 71mm x 18mm 0.26KG.
- Battery: Lithium Polymer 3500 mAh.
- Vibration Pack.
- Wi-Fi Module
Comparing the specifications, you may be thinking that they are exactly the same machine, and to be honest, you would not be far off. However, look a little closer and you will see three main differences. The battery is larger on the RG351V, the RG351M has an aluminum shell, and finally, the RG351V has a better screen.
Obviously, the biggest improvement for the RG351M over the RG351P and RG351V is that stunning aluminum shell, which feels so much better than plastic. You will pay a premium for this, but really, it’s night and day between the two. It feels so good to hold, it’s heavier with an overall premium feel to it.
The RG351M and RG351V also now come with built-in Wi-Fi, whereas the RG351P required you to insert a Wi-Fi dongle into one of the ports. Whilst it wasn’t an issue, it just looked untidy, which many frowned upon.
Whilst the RG351V is basically the same machine, it does have some differences, but do those differences make it a must buy?
You can choose from a few various colors with the RG351V. Ploylab sent me the wood effect, which I think looks great and really fits into the retro genre. At times I forgot it was not made of wood, it looks and feels that good.
The vertical design is great, but a word of warning, if you have big hands, it may be difficult to get a comfortable resting place for the rear triggers, causing some discomfort or cramp over long play sessions. The triggers are staggered on the back and easy to reach, and they really don’t take that long to get used to. They have a nice “clicky” feel to them.
You have lost the right stick, meaning you only have the L3 button and stick. This may be a deal-breaker for many, but to be honest, their aren’t many games on these handhelds that utilised the right stick, and you can always custom your button layout within RetroArch.
The vertical design reminded me of the Nintendo Game Boy. Honestly, as you can see in the pictures, the design is almost exactly that, which is not a bad thing, especially if you are looking for something that has that retro look and feel.
The screen on the RG351V is stunning and has a 4:3 aspect display that allows all of those retro games to display in their native aspect ratio. And even though it is the same size as the RG351M/P due to the vertical design, it just looks bigger. The colors are more vibrant and pop from the screen. Everything looks smoother and cleaner.
That’s not to say the screen on the RG351M isn’t good, because it is. But you will need to mess around with some of those settings to get that image to come close to that of the RG351V, but it still won’t be as sharp or punchy.
The RG351V runs on the Emulation Station backend, which is easy to use and navigate. Hopefully, other custom firmware will follow soon; however, 351ELEC have already stated they will not be supporting the RG351V due to the amount of work it would take to make it compatible. This is a big blow, in my opinion, as 351ELEC is a great firmware to use. But hopefully ArkOS will get ported at some point.
The RG351M, as I mentioned earlier, is basically the same handheld, other than the screen being not as good, having the aluminum casing and is thinner but slightly longer in size. You also get stereo speakers and twin sticks, which many people may prefer. The gun metal grey, which Ploylab provided, looks stunning and is my favourite colour on any handheld (though I still love the retro look of the wood effect on the RG351V).
Both handhelds play exactly the same emulators and games and tend to work flawlessly up to PS1. However, when it comes to Dreamcast or PSP, both still struggle with intense 3D games, though ArkOS have updated the emulators on the RG351M, which makes them work considerably better than the RG351V.
This issue is purely down to that RK3326 chip, which really isn’t powerful enough to play anything higher than PS1, or at least not without some sacrifices. It really is time now that manufacturers moved away from this aging chip and upgrade to something more capable. Hopefully in 2021, we will see this starting to happen, but if they keep using this same chip, you may see many retro enthusiasts turning off and waiting for better hardware.
So, the question is “which one should you buy?” It all depends on whether you want a better screen, longer battery life and the quirkiness of have a vertical handheld or if you want a more premium build, stereo sound, two sticks and more scope for adding custom firmware.
My mind is very much undecided, but for now, until a better spec model becomes available, damn, I like that wood effect!!