The GPD XD Plus was first released in 2018 and was the successor to the GPD XD, which came to market in 2015. The XD Plus had various conflicting reports and split opinions across the handheld gaming community.
Some people loved its versatility to play Android as well as retro games, being able to use it for multi-media and surfing the web. However, other people were not too impressed with the price at that time, as well as the lack of ‘grunt’ that many had hoped the XD Plus would bring to the marketplace.
Now fast forward to 2021, and the guys at PloyLab have sent me one of these handhelds to take a look at. This version has the upgraded board that was introduced in 2019. With so many different gaming handhelds out there, can the XD Plus keep up with the likes of Anbernic, especially when it comes to retro gaming?
If you are a fan of the Nintendo 3DS and its design, you may be fooled when at first you set eyes on the XD Plus. As you can see in its box, the design is somewhat similar.
The clamshell design is welcomed even in 2021 as it allows portability and robustness. One thing that has to be mentioned is this thing is still a fingerprint magnet. But to be fair, so was the 3DS and many other handheld gaming devices of this type.
As you can see in the images, the dimensions were very similar too, making the XD Plus portable enough to slip into your bag or pocket, though you may still need large pockets for it to be comfortable.
Overall, the design of the XD Plus is pretty good. It’s made from decent materials, and whilst it’s mainly plastic, it does still feel good to hold. In comparison it still bodes well when compared to the 3DS and, again, with the PS Vita, though both of those handhelds are still quite old in comparison to the likes of the Nintendo Switch, where the XD Plus falls short.
When it comes down to the aesthetics and button set-up, some people argued that it felt a bit clustered and outdated. I would disagree as I think the design of the XD Plus still holds up well today. The buttons are responsive, and the D-pad and sticks allow decent movement and control.
Alongside the sticks, there are your traditional L/R button, volume, settings, and power on. Whilst they are pretty average and feel like any lower-end controller or handheld that you’ve played, they do the job well. I really dislike the branding at the bottom, which cheapens the console.
One problem with the design is with the placement of the speakers as you tend to cover them with your hands, making them muffled. Whilst they sound okay, I was disappointed by them and expected more.
The console has two analog sticks that are easy to use and feel robust. They are rubberised, which helps your thumb from slipping off them. They are of decent size and placed in a decent position, which helps reduce hand strain and fatigue while playing. I played on the XD Plus for a long period of time and found it comfortable to use.
The best feature is the 5” screen. It is bright with a good image quality. Whilst it is at 1280*720, at this sized screen, it still works extremely well at night and during the day. Watching an HD video on the XD Plus was excellent, with a fantastic level of detail in place.
So, taking a look at the specs, we can see how it compares to handhelds:
- The GPD XD+ is powered by a Mediatek MT8176 processor running at 2.1Ghz, the graphics chip is a PowerVR GX6250 running at 600Mhz.
- The Android gaming tablet has 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 32GB of eMMC storage and it can be expanded via a Micro SD Card.
- Powered by Android 7, the GPD XD+ features built in game controls including dual analogue sticks, a D-Pad and 12 gaming buttons.
- It measures 7.87 x 7.09 x 2.44 inches and features a 5 inch H-IPS display which is vibrant and clear. It can also be connected to a TV for big screen gaming via HDMI
So, on paper the specs are favourable to what you can get in other handhelds today, and in some places will be better than those handhelds, especially with the 4GB of Ram. But companies such as Anbernic are already bringing out handhelds at a fast rate, which in practice actually work better than the XD Plus, especially when it comes to retro gaming, and are priced much cheaper in comparison.
The XD Plus comes with Android 7 pre-installed, as well as a custom launcher by the GPD devs. Whilst this allows you to get straight into some gaming, the custom launcher isn’t great and at some point will be getting replaced by myself, probably with CleanRom.
The XD Plus comes with a 6,000MAH battery that allows you to play for a long time and recharges fairly quickly.
The XD Plus runs on Android 7 Nougat out of the box. In 2021 this is too outdated, and very little support is now available for the XD Plus as GPD concentrate on their window handhelds. It is possible to get Android 8, 9 and 10 on the XD Plus, just not from GPD. This is a really big issue as some games will no longer work on older Android operating systems. I often came across glitches, crashes and some of my favourite games not working, which was disappointing.
There are a number of ways you can play games, which in my opinion, is the main selling point for this handheld. You can download from the Android app store, both emulators and game. There are some arcade emulator platforms, such as Happy Chick, which allow you to find your favourite retro games. And then you have the likes of RetroArch or DIG frontends, which will collate all of your ROMs. However, I still came across issues with both of these apps crashing, which I hope will get better once I have changed the OS.
It can play the majority of ROMs fairly well, but this will be totally dependent on what emulators you use. Unfortunately, you can forget playing any PSP God of War games, even on this handheld. I was way disappointed with this, and even though it has 4GB of RAM, the MediaTek MT8176 chip is just too underpowered and cannot really compete with the handhelds of today.
Game streaming from the Xbox streaming app worked flawlessly for me and with few dips in frame-rate. Though I do have a decent broadband connection, and whilst it sometimes took a while for a game to start, it was great playing Forza on the XD Plus, and the image quality was fantastic. I noticed very little lag, if at all, and it really showcased how versatile this handheld is, even with its underpowered architecture and OS.
A lot of games you will want to play may require you to button map the controls. Whilst it isn’t difficult to do, it can be fiddly as you will need to do it with each and every game, and it can be a little time consuming. If you are new to handhelds, it may take you some time. I also found it difficult to map the right stick, for some reason, as the touchscreen would not allow me to move it.
I have to be quite honest and say that this handheld is not perfect in any way, and there are much cheaper devices out there. But when comparing them to the versatility of what the XD Plus is capable of, even in 2021, it is still going to be a useful device to have. You can watch movies, play games from various platforms, as well as browse the web. Many handhelds can’t do what the XD Plus does, it’s just such a shame it wasn’t more polished and had the support from GPD in updating the OS, etc.
The price of the XD Plus has come down quite a bit since it was first released. You can grab one for around £190, which is still a lot to pay compared to other devices.