Anbernic RG280V Review

Well built and Pocket Friendly…the RG280V!

The RG280V is a handheld console from the Chinese company, Anbernic. Its main focus is playing retro video games via emulation.

Anbernic have produced many great devices (and a few bad ones) in recent years. They have designed and manufactured horizontal style consoles similar to the GBA, vertical style consoles similar to the Game Boy and they have produced large screened devices similar to the Nintendo Switch. But the RG280V takes a somewhat different approach – although a vertical console, it is absolutely tiny in size. This device is designed to be ultimate, pick up and play, pocket friendly retro games console.

I won’t bore you with a list of specs, but it is fair to say that the RG280V doesn’t have the strongest chipset – however it is still capable of playing thousands of games. The RG280V is powerful enough to play most retro systems up to and including the original Playstation. These games include everything from the 8bit and 16bit era and below – including, but not limited to; Super Nintendo, SEGA Mega Drive, NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, NeoGeo, PC Engine, Game Gear etc. Basically, anything Playstation and below works great on this system.  It will not successfully play N64, Dreamcast, Saturn or other higher specification consoles. Arcade games work great, but only up to a certain point.

The RG280V is available in two colours – a more modern silver and black, and a more retro Famicom style colour. I chose the Famicom colouring.

Controls consist of a dpad, 4 face buttons, 4 shoulder button, start and select. These buttons are sufficient for all of the systems that the device can play, with the only minor caveat being that there is no alalog stick for Playstation games that support such control (though very few games actually require it). The dpad is of beautiful quality, the kind of dpad that Anbernic does so well on all of their devices. It is most similar to the dpad found on an original Super Nintendo controller. Like the dpad, the face buttons are soft to the touch with what feels like a high quality membrane underneath, giving the dpad and face button experience a premium feel. It really does feel very nice to use. The shoulder buttons are in line, with one set slightly raised. These are not so nice, and do feel clicky in comparison to the face buttons. The Start & Select buttons feel nice and rubbery, giving off a nice nostalgic retro feeling.

Other buttons and ports on the device consist of a volume rocker, a power button and a reset button. There is a USB-C charging port on the top, as well as a headphone socket. There are two micro SD car slots – one slot is used for the operating system, the other is used for storage of game files (ROMs).

The main selling point of the device is its size.  The size is roughly the same size a yellow Post-It note – you know the ones, right? This is an extremely small, portable device. It is thin, light and dimensionally much smaller than other devices on the market. The RG280v measures approximately 87x78mm and is 16mm thick. Yet, it packs in all the controls and specs of larger devices. The screen is 4:3 2.8” yet looks huge on this tiny device – in fact, the screen takes up over half the RG280’s front surface area. The thin bezel around the screen does make the device look more premium. The device feels extremely solid, it is very well built. You feel like you could drop this and it would survive (don’t test that though, just in case). From the screen, the buttons to the actual plastic used in construction – the RG280V really does feel like a device that could cost twice as much.

The stock software firmware included with the device feels slow and antiquated. In recent years, Anbernic have made huge, positive strides in improving the firmware shipped with their devices. The RG280V was released before these strides were made. The stock firmware does work, and it is easy to add your games and get playing relatively quickly. But really, the stock firmware is not something that should be used. Instead, a firmware called ‘Adam Image’ should be installed – this is very quick and easy to set up. Adam Image will revolutionise how you use the RG280V. It is a simple yet effective firmware that allows you to get the best out of the RG280V – it will improve the performance of many emulators, as well as providing a beautiful menu from which to launch your games. Adam Image also adds a much needed sleep function, which is always welcome in pick up and play handhelds. As previously mentioned, the RG280V is small, thin and light. This does have some effect on the ergonomics of the device. Don’t expect it to be as comfortable as larger devices. I personally find it comfortable, but not for excessively long sessions – I see this more as a pick up and play, pocket friendly device. The main issue most users seem to have, other than the small size, is that the shoulder buttons can seem awkwardly placed when you consider your natural grip of the device. It is something I can understand, though don’t necessarily agree with – with myself having very little issues. But then, everybody is different, everybody has a different grip, and it really does depend on the emulation system you are playing. Anything without L/R then it all becomes a moot point. In reality, the only emulation system you might have issue with is Playstation.

Overall, the RG280V is a fantastic device. The controls and screen feel premium. The unit is also very well built. Once updated to Adam Image, the firmware is reliable and user friendly. The device excels in playing emulation systems up to Playstation. One of my favourite systems to play on the device is Game Boy or Game Boy Color – it just looks and feels right. Pure nostalgia! The RG280V is a relatively cheap purchase as well, with many 3rd party sellers on the likes of Amazon, eBay and AliExpress frequently discounting the device to between £40-60 ($50-75). If you want something ultra portable and well built, that you can literally take with you anywhere, then the RG280v should definitely be considered.