Anbernic RG35XXSP Review: "A great Game Boy Advance SP handheld homage"

Anbernic RG35XXSP running Sonic the Hedgehog with pink and purple lights in backdrop
(Image: © Future / Wesley Copeland)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The RG35XXSP marries the iconic style of the Game Boy Advance SP with handhed tech powerful enough to play up to 32-bit systems on the go. It's not without its kinks, but what this pocket-sized powerhouse gets right justifies its purchase with ease.


  • +

    Clamshell design

  • +

    Great budget performance

  • +

    Fantastic screen


  • -

    D-pad isn't great for fighters

  • -

    Mixed results with some emulation

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The RG35XXSP is a clear sign that the Anbernic of today isn't the Anbernic of yesterday. Prior to the Steam Deck, retro handheld makers would constantly cram an RK3326 chipset into every device and hope for the best. Like the RG351? Good, here's one in a different color. And another. Now buy the metal version. People screamed for evolution and were met with a stream of samey devices.

Fast-forward to the now and with the RG35XX series roaming the best gaming handheld battlefield, Anbernic is still reusing parts. However, rather than releasing 200 RG35XXs in varying colors, Anbernic is creating entirely different experiences with each system. The RG35XX Plus is a straight-up Game Boy homage; the RG28XX mimics Game Boy Micro; and the RG35XXSP - my latest pickup - asks “what if the Game Boy SP had deliciously powerful internals?”

The answer to that question is a device that feels like a Game Boy Advance SP with enough power to emulate most retro systems. The best part? It's only $64.99 / £64.99. In terms of nailing the look, specs, and price, the RG35XXSP is a must-have device that impresses in almost all the right ways.


Anbernic RG35XXSP with menu screen on display with orange backdrop

(Image credit: Future / Wesley Copeland)

When it comes to specs, the RG35XXSP uses similar innards as the RG35XX Plus. That may seem like a bad thing, especially when compared with something like the Steam Deck OLED, but it ends up making sense. Anbernic seemingly wants to avoid putting out a high-end device that can play everything, instead aiming for a device that sells on nostalgia first and impresses second.

Anbernic RG35XXSP specs

Price: From $64 / £64
Display: 3.5-inch IPS
Resolution: 640 x 480
Refresh rate: 60Hz
CPU: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A53
Connectivity: USB-C, Wi-fi 5, HDMI
Storage: 64GB TF / MicroSD
Audio: 3.5mm headphone jack

At the helm of the RG35XXSP, you'll find the H700 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 clocked at 1.5 GHz. A solid chipset that's perfect for lower-cost machines and doubles the core count while raising the 1.2 GHz clock speed found in the original RG35XX. For the GPU, we've got the dual-core Mali-G31, which sits alongside 1GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Again, it's a simple pairing designed to get the job done while keeping costs low.

In case it's not obvious, these specs won't hold a candle to the sheer power found in something like the Ayn Odin 2, but that's not the point. The RG35XXSP isn't geared to play recent systems with lush 1080p resolution upscaling activated. It's designed for fans of the Game Boy SP who want to play old-school retro titles in a form factor that thrashes modern gaming handhelds. 


Anbernic RG35XXSP with Comix Zone on screen

(Image credit: Future / Wesley Copeland)

When you see a handheld and your first response is to scream "WHAT IS THAT?!" like an over-caffeinated child, chances are the form factor is going to be the main hook. Who doesn't want pretty toys laced with nostalgia dust? That's why we're all here, right? The layout of the RG35XXSP pays homage to that of the Game Boy SP - flip the top open and you'll find the D-pad, start, select, the screen brightness button which is now a menu button, and the two A and B buttons have been replaced by four buttons in a cross formation.

Along the base of the device, you'll spot the operating system memory card slot, a second microSD slot, and the headphones port. The RG35XXSP, oddly, has Bluetooth for controllers but not headphones. The mind boggles...

Flip the RG35XXSP over and that's where the micro HDMI, power port, and four bumpers buttons are found. Volume up and down resides on the left side of the console, while the right houses the power and reset buttons.

For me, this is the optimal version of the Game Boy Advance, albeit modernized to accommodate extra buttons. One area I'm less than impressed with is the D-pad. As someone who plays a lot of Street Fighter, the D-pad struggles with diagonal inputs, which makes pulling off simple fireballs a nuisance. It's not that the device doesn't register the input either, I've run multiple tests. It just struggles unless you're pressing super-firmly.

Anbernic RG35XXSP with Marvel vs Capcom 2 title screen on display

(Image credit: Future / Wesley Copeland)

It's weird – I've had a blast playing platformers and the level of precision is perfect for games from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. In games where diagonal inputs aren't integral, the D-pad works without issue. It's just fighting games where things are troublesome, so keep that in mind if you like a punch-up.

I'm also less impressed by the console's sleep and resume function due to how wildly inconsistent it is. Sometimes it'll wake the screen when opening the lid, other times the screen stays off until you hit the power button. This isn't a major gripe, but, you know, gotta be thorough.

There's also been a lot of chat about how clicky the buttons are. The original Game Boy Advance SP was quite clicky, but the RG35XXSP feels like the mechanical keyboard of the retro handheld world. I'm personally fine with it as I use an Xbox controller to play, but loads of people I've spoken with can't get on with it. If you're averse to irritating sounds, YouTube has several guides on how to quieten the buttons by adding thin layers of tape under the buttons. You will need to take it apart, but as long as you've got the right tools, nothing looks all that technical.

Moving into more positive waters, the screen positively bangs. It's a 3.5-inch IPS display that works great in medium sunlight and low light conditions. So if you want to play it in bed like it's 2003, you're golden. One thing I do need to stress: Due to the screen's 4:3 ratio, PSP games - and anything with a 16:9 ratio - shrink down to fit. This isn't necessarily an issue as there's no other way to do it. It's more just something for you to keep in mind going in.


Anbernic RG35XXSP with Star Wars: Episode 3 gameplay on screen

(Image credit: Future / Wesley Copeland)

The RG35XXSP says it's capable of playing up to PSP. While that's true, it's not completely honest. PSP games can be played, but anything complex like God of War will plod along at sub-30 frames per second a lot of the time. The more simple games like Loco Roco work well, the same goes for classic collections. But anything above that is a no-fly zone.

What does that leave us with? Old-school retro systems from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras will work without any major issues, but that's a given nowadays. If it can't run those systems and run them well, the device would be dead on arrival. What is impressive is the RG35XXSP has just enough power to pull off some extra feats in the form of Dreamcast. I wasn't able to run Dreamcast games with a ridiculous amount of resolution scaling activated, but if you want mostly smooth performance on a screen that doesn't make you miss resolution scaling, you'll come away happy.

The way I see it, think of the RG35XXSP as a ‘pro’ Game Boy Advance SP. The main draw with this device is its 3.5-inch screen size, as everything looks better as a result. On a seven-inch display, I'm sure the games it plays would look stretched and washed out. Yet, thanks to the smaller panel, everything fits nicely. It's kind of like playing a game on the Steam Deck OLED at 720p 30fps on an external display. On a 4K gaming TV, those elements would translate terribly. However, since the Deck's screen is clean and the size is smaller than a TV, it looks excellent.  The same logic applies to the RG35XXSP. Shrink it down and the lower specs become less relevant. 

Should you buy the RG35XXSP?

Anbernic RG35XXSP with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time on screen and two Super Pocket consoles at top corners and two Anbernic handhelds at bottom

(Image credit: Future / Wesley Copeland)

Do you like the Game Boy Advance SP's aesthetic? Want to play up to Dreamcast? If you answered yes to both, you're going to love the RG35XXSP. It's as simple as that.

If you've already got an RG35XX device, though? That's where things get a little more complicated. Power-wise, everything is the same. You won't get a performance boost in the newer device. It really all comes down to how you want to play. If you're happy with the RG35XX Plus, and prefer the original Game Boy styling, stick with that. If, however, you've been clamoring for a clamshell, then the RG35XXSP is easy to recommend, despite its weird kinks.

In a similar vein, given how ridiculously expensive the OG Avance SP and its games are now (why are they priced like antiques?!), the RG35XXSP's main user case is for people who want to experience the classics in a familiar style who don't want to pay scalper level prices. At $64.99, the RG35XXSP is not just a monumental steal, it's a beaming neon middle finger to the bloated aftermarket prices. 

 How I Tested the Anbernic RG35XXSP

After receiving the RG35XXSP I charged it to capacity before loading up a plethora of emulators to test out a selection of classics as well as more current titles. 

During my testing, I depleted the battery several times and recharged it without any issues. That said, there are reports of some owners suffering a catastrophic battery failure where the battery heats up hot enough to melt part of the shell and then begins to expand. Yikes!

As I say, I didn’t suffer this problem myself, but I’d advise caution. Definitely don’t leave this device unattended while charging and I’d also recommend using a low-voltage charger/charging device just to be extra safe. 

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Got Valve's handheld PC? Check out the best Steam Deck accessories and best Steam Deck dock for excellent add-ons. Alternatively, swing by the best retro consoles for modern ways to play classic capers.

Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland is a gaming, tech, and toys journalist with over 10 years of experience writing online. Originally starting in video games before specializing in tech and toys, you can find his by-lines at IGN, VG24/7, Kotaku, Tech Radar, GamesRadar+, PC Gamer, Heavy, and many more. He's also highly passionate about how tech can be used to better our day-to-day lives.