Retroid Pocket Flip Review

Oh Flipping Heck…?

The Retroid Pocket Flip is an Android based handheld gaming console, geared towards those who wish to emulate retro video game systems. It is made by the Chinese based company, Retroid, who have previously produced a number of high quality handheld gaming devices at affordable prices.

The term ‘flip’ refers to the console’s clamshell form factor, similar to the design of the Nintendo DS range of consoles.

The Flip is available in 5 colours – Watermelon (translucent red), Sport Red, Indigo, US 16 bit and black.

The console has a large 4.7” touch screen display with a resolution of 1334×750. The CPU is a Unisoc Tiger T618, paired with a Mali G52 MC2 GPU. The unit contains 4GB LPDDR3 RAM and 128Gb onboard storage. All of this is powered by a large 5000mAh battery. Ports include a USB-C connector, a mini HDMI out and a wired headphone port. There is also an active cooling fan present. A micro SD card slot is available to expand storage.

But enough of those boring specs…you just want to know what retro games it can play, right? Well, it can run everything up to Dreamcast and N64 with ease. Both of those systems run beautifully. The Flip also plays the majority of PSP titles as well. DS can be played, but controls and screen settings will need to be considered.  It can also run some GameCube and PS2, but will struggle with most games on those systems. However, if you have a favourite game on the PS2 or GameCube, it may be worth giving it a try – with a few tweaks, you might be pleasantly surprised. In reality though, think N64, PSP and Dreamcast downwards – anything above is just a bonus.

Running Android 11, with full access to the Google Play Store, the Flip can utilise any of the emulators available on the Google Play Store. It really is no different than your mobile phone, tablet or android box in terms of what can be installed. Android is obviously a well supported and well established operating system – many of the emulators available on android are mature, receiving constant updates and are superior (in terms of performance of the higher powered systems like Dreamcast, N64, Gamecube) to those found on similar Linux based devices. You can add your own emulators via the store (most are free), or you can use the emulators that Retroid bundles with the device. Most of the bundled emulators will be the same as those found on the store.

So what happens when you turn on the device? You are greeted by the Retroid logo and a device set up tutorial. This tutorial will help you set up the included emulators and the Retroid Game Launcher. The Retroid Launcher is basically a front end for your games – it will point to all the games on your device, displaying information and box art. You can then link those games to an emulator. When you click a game, it will launch that emulator and you can play your game. The Retroid Launcher is a very nice frontend. At this stage, it is still somewhat new, so features are limited – but if you just want to get started, then it does the job relatively well. However, there are a number of different front ends (or launchers) available for Android. I would suggest you look at the likes of Daijisho or Arc Browser – both of these are more mature launchers, offering more features and ease of set up. In particular, Daijisho makes the process of setup very easy. But lets be clear, you will need to supply your own games (ROM files), the Flip does not ship with games – but you probably already knew that. Once set up, you can select your chosen launcher as your HOME app, this means the device will boot directly into your chosen launcher – basically making the device more console like, and less like a mobile phone with your usual app drawer type screens.

Set up on Android can be a pain however, especially to someone with little experience. Even someone who has experience of Android might struggle to get everything just right. Setting up controls, screen settings, emulators settings etc can be daunting and confusing. Truth be told, a Linux based device with a dedicated retro gaming operating system will be easier and quicker for many. The trade off here is that you are probably getting more for your money in terms of what systems can be emulated, than you would with a Linux based device. Retroid have been at the forefront of offering the best spec for a reasonable price, for some time now.

The screen? The controls? Let’s get to them. The screen is stunning. It is bright and vibrant. Retro games look great on this screen. Combine with the many shaders, filters and resolution boosters available in the emulator settings, and you will certainly be wowed by the visuals. Pick your poison…CRT effects, scanlines, HQ Filters and shaders…whatever your preference, retro games on the Flip do look fabulous. But there is a downside of course. The screen is 16:9 – not ideal for retro gaming. Most of the systems the Flip can play will look better on a 4:3 screen. That means big black bars either side of your game. You can fill those black bars with bezels, you can stretch your game image, use widescreen hacks or you can just leave the black bars – up to you. Thankfully, the 4.7” screen is large enough that you still get a clear and large image if you do decide to leave the games in their native aspect ratio. As this is an android device, the screen is also touch capable – which can come in handy for DS emulation.

The controls have their positives and negatives. Starting with the dpad and face buttons – they are fine, great even. I find the dpad a little mushy though, same with the face buttons. But it is a very minor gripe. I do wish the face buttons had been full size. There is a lot of empty real estate on the front of the Flip, could we not have used that space for some full sized buttons? Again, it is a minor gripe though; the buttons are roughly the same size as those found on Nintendo Switch joycons, which are perfectly fine. Start and Select are possibly the smallest Start and Select buttons ever seen on a handheld console, they really couldn’t be much smaller. Again…why? They work fine, but disappointingly they are plastic clicky buttons – I’m sure we all would have preferred the nostalgic feel of a big rubber button like those found on the Game Boy or Super Nintendo. Also on the front are two HAL Analog Slider sticks. Lots of people hate these, I don’t. I think they work great; they have full motion as well as being clickable for L3 and R3. To facilitate the clamshell design, there really wasn’t another option. If you’ve ever played the PSP or 3DS you will know what to expect with these. Next we have stacked shoulder buttons. We have normal R1 and L1, and analog triggers in the R2 and L2 space. These work great. I do find the ergonomics slight off for myself though. I have always been a person who rests their entire finger along the trigger buttons, rather than using the tips of my fingers. I find that my fingers sit in-between the L1/L2 and R1/L2 buttons. If I adjust and use my fingertips – then no problem. As I say, maybe I’m weird, in fact…I know I’m weird, but there you go. On the top of the device there are two additional buttons that can be mapped at the user’s discretion. These are great for systems requiring a few more buttons, or to simply set hot keys for saving, loading, exiting etc.

The device feels great in the hand and is clearly well made. You could mistake this for a genuine retro Nintendo product. The hinge on the flip feels very sturdy, unlike the hinge found on many Nintendo DS devices. However, the hinge does have limited range – it will not fold flat. I find the opening angle somewhat limiting. I wish the hinge would open just a few more millimetres. The screen is physically stopped by two small pieces of plastic on the back of the device, if these were a tiny bit smaller – I would not have issue. The hinge can be set at any angle between closed and its maximum opening. When closed, the device feel chunky and secure – you do not feel it would get damaged in a bag or pocket, with the exception of the analog triggers. These analog triggers whilst welcome for gaming, do protrude from the device and are liable to catch if caught at the wrong angle. It makes me questions whether they are worth the risk, and whether inline shoulder buttons or flat triggers would have been better. Many will disagree though; analog triggers are great for gaming.

Being an Android device, a quick press of the power button will send the device into sleep. Shutting the Flip clamshell will also send the device to sleep. Though weirdly, opening the Flip from its closed position does not wake the device – you will need to press the power button for that. Sleep and suspend is a feature that is often dismissed as minor – not a lot of people talk about it. But to me, being able to quickly sleep the device is in fact a major, major feature.  I guarantee the amount of times you will be thankful that you can simply shut the lid and go on to other business, will be great. You might not think it a big feature now, but it will sure come in handy. You won’t have to save, shut down or do anything else other than shut the lid. It is not a feature unique to Android devices of course, many Linux based devices also have a sleep feature, but it is a feature than Android most certainly does best.

Battery life is good. This will largely depend on what type of content you are consuming. You will be able to play much longer on a system like the NES, than you would playing Dreamcast for example. Battery in sleep is also good; my unit only went down around 5% when left overnight in sleep. Think of the Flip like a mobile phone, and you will get a good idea of battery life.

I chose the Indigo colour as that colour gave me the most retro feels. I loved that colour for the GameCube and Game Boy back in the day. It is a pretty close match when looking at my older retro consoles.

So there you have it, the Retroid Pocket Flip. It’s more or less the same spec as the Retroid Pocket 3+, so if you don’t want a clamshell, then go for that instead. If you’d rather have a Linux based device, then explore other devices from the likes of Anbernic. The Flip does offer a lot of power for the money, in a form factor that isn’t often utilised by Retro handhelds, so that is good to see. For the same amount of money though, you may find a device more suitable to your needs. The conclusion here would be…yes, this device is excellent, but could be better and only buy if you are attracted to the design and form factor.