Buying Guide: RG350 vs RG350M vs RG350P

Last Updated: 13OCT2020 (see Changelog for more details)

Ah, 2019. Life was simpler then: we didn’t have 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic to worry about, and there was only one model of RG350 device to choose from. Things are not so simple today; there are now three models to consider when buying what is arguably today’s most popular handheld emulation device. So let’s go through all of your options so you can make the best buying decisions.

Table of Contents:

What is the RG350?
Spec sheet
Supported systems
Price and where to buy
Screen comparison
Dimensions
Weight
Button and analog stick layout
Button travel
Port configuration
Battery life
Overall feel
What's in the box?

Changelog

What is the RG350?

The Anbernic RG350 is a handheld emulation device first released in 2019. The RG350 is considered a “clone” of the GCW Zero, a Linux-based emulation system that was part of a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013. There have been several other devices modeled after the GCW Zero over the years, but the RG350 has risen to the top thanks to its excellent build quality and ease of use. The RG350, like all other similar handheld devices, are designed and manufactured in China. Since its initial release, Anbernic has released two other RG350 models: the RG350M (“Metal”), and the RG350P (“Plastic”), which have a number of differences from the original RG350 model.

Spec sheet

ModelDateCPUGPURAMScreenBatteryWeight
RG3509/20191.0GHzGC860512MB DDR2320 x 2402500 mAh160g
RG350M3/20201.0GHzGC860512MB DDR2 640 x 4802500 mAh250g
RG350P7/20201.0GHzGC860512MB DDR2320 x 2402500 mAh160g
Spec comparison of the three RG350 devices. The 350M has a higher-resolution display, and weighs 90g more than the others.

As you can see from the spec sheet above, all three models have the same internal components: JZ4770 dual-core 1.0GHz CPU, Vivante GC860 GPU, 512 DDR2 RAM, and a li-polymer 2500 mAh rechargeable battery.

Supported systems

All three devices can run the retro systems listed below. Bear in mind that the emulators which run these gaming systems are likely not going to be significantly improved over the life cycle of this device. In other words, I would not expect that in the future this system will run games that are currently not supported (Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation Portable, etc).

  • Home Consoles: Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES/Famicom), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES/Super Famicom), Sega Master System, Sega Genesis (Mega Drive), Sega CD (Mega Drive CD), Sega 32X, TurboGrafx-16 (PC Engine), TurboGrafx-16 CD (PC Engine CD), Neo Geo CD, and Playstation 1 (PSX). It also supports more obscure classic systems like the Famicom Disk System, so you can play the original Doki Doki Panic! game (which was redesigned and released as Super Mario Bros 2 in western markets).
    • Most PS1 and Sega CD games play fine, while others (such as Bloody Roar II on the PS1) will require some tweaking to play at full speed.
  • Handheld Consoles: Gameboy (GB), Gameboy Color (GBC), Gameboy Advance (GBA), Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, Neo Geo Pocket Color, WonderSwan, and WonderSwan color.
    • All of these systems run great, no issues with slowdown at all.
  • Arcade Systems: The RG350 supports three arcade emulators: MAME4All, XMAME, and Final Burn Alpha. Between these three programs, you can emulate most arcade games through the mid-1990s. For example, supported arcade systems include Neo Geo, CPS1, and CPS2.
    • More modern games like those on CPS3 (Red Earth) will run but with significant slowdown. The way I like to describe its arcade performance is that it passes the Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam tests, but won’t play Killer Instinct or NFL Blitz.
  • Home Computer Systems: The device supports a number of classic PC environments, to include Commodore 64, Amiga 500, and classic DOS/PC games via ScummVM, DOSBox, Daphne, etc. You can play everything from classic point-and-click adventures (King’s Quest, Monkey Island, Blade Runner) to Oregon Trail.
    • Note that the traditional input system for these games was a keyboard and mouse, so playing them with a gamepad is sometimes not as fun as you’d think.
  • Native Apps and Ports/Games: The device also supports several native ports of classic games, created specifically for the RG350 operating system. Examples include Cave Story, Doom, Quake I through III, Hexen, Heretic, Streets of Rage Remastered, Marathon, Duke Nukem 3D, Descent, Wolfenstein 3D, Strife, and Shadow Warrior.
    • These ports are great because they run the original game files, so if you have an old copy of Doom floating around, you can use those files to run the content. Additionally, the controls for these games are often automatically mapped; playing Quake II on dual analog sticks is a lot of fun. For more info, see my guide here (coming soon).
    • The RG350 also supports OpenBOR games, which stands for “Open Beats of Rage”. Open BOR is a royalty-free, sprite-based game engine optimized for side-scrolling beat ’em ups like Final Fight or Streets of Rage. There is a robust indie gaming community around OpenBOR, and most of the titles are available for free download directly from the developer.

Price and where to buy

The price on these devices varies by store, but in general, I would expect to pay about $90 for the RG350 or RG350P, and $130 for the RG350M. If you buy from the official Anbernic store on AliExpress, expect a 1-2 month shipment time since it’s usually shipped from China (sometimes they have inventory in Spain, which results in faster shipping across Europe). Another reliable webstore that ships from China is RetroMiMi, which carries a number of different handheld devices and offers free shipping (but also takes 1-2 months to arrive).

But if you want to get your hands on one of these devices quickly, I recommend paying a little extra and buying from Amazon resellers with Prime shipping. For example, I bought my RG350M for $150 and received it in less than a week (even in the middle of a pandemic); that $20 premium was very much worth it to me, since I had already spent two agonizing months waiting for my original RG350 to arrive. Additionally, some of the Amazon resellers offer unique perks, like an upgraded microSD card, or even pre-loaded games.

Another US-based reseller is Dreamesper, who offers fast shipping, price matching, and frequent sales and perks for customers. Finally, if you’re in the UK, DroiX offers fast shipping at a fair price. Here are some direct links:

Screen comparison

All three devices come with a 3.5″ IPS display made with tempered glass, with a 60Hz refresh rate. Each of them look great, and there is no screen tearing or other visual artifacts. The RG350M has a higher-resolution display, which improves the operating system and menu interface, but does not necessarily result in higher resolution gaming.

That being said, any emulator that allows for hardware-based video scaling (like the GBA, SNES, GB, and PS1 emulators) will allow for you to play the games in full resolution to take advantage of that 640×480 resolution. New emulators are being upgraded fairly often, but it’s somewhat unlikely to keep going during the end of RG350M’s life cycle (after all, Anbernic released RG350’s successor in September 2020). Be sure to check out my install guides to get the latest and greatest emulators.

If you want to upgrade your 320×240 screen to the 640×480 display yourself, the process is fairly simple: just buy an RG350M screen, install it on your device, and update the display drivers (check out my guide here).

Above you can see side-by-side comparisons of the RG350M and RG350. The screens on the lower device (RG350) appear more pixelated in these photos, but it is very hard to discern with the naked eye. What is more apparent, though, is the coloring differences between these devices. The RG350M appears a bit “warmer” (i.e. the whites appear a little yellow), whereas the white balance and coloring on the RG350 feels a bit “bluer” and true to what I remember on my old TV. Note that my RG350 has upgraded buttons and low-profile analog sticks, which you can do yourself (here is that guide).

Dimensions

The dimensions for each of the devices is 145mm width, 73mm height, and 18mm or 20mm thickness. On the product sheets, the original RG350 is 20mm, and the other two are 18mm, but my own personal comparison has shown that the RG350M and RG350P are a a smidge thicker than the RG350; additionally, the two newer models have rubber pads/grips on the back (pictured above), which add to their bulk (although none of the devices feel too thick at all).

Weight

The RG350M’s aluminum case means that it is weighs 90g (about 3 ounces) more than the other two devices. I prefer the heftier weight of the RG350M compared to the other devices, but it is more fatiguing over a long gaming session. My wife, on the other hand, prefers the plastic models because of their light weight.

RG350 (top) and RG350M (bottom). Note that the RG350 has been upgraded with low-profile analog sticks.

Button and analog stick layout

As you can see in the picture above, the RG350 has an Xbox or Nintendo Switch-style gamepad setup (where the left analog stick is above the d-pad), while the RG350M and RG350P is arranged like Playstation dualshock controller (both analog sticks at the bottom). The RG350M and RG350P also have recessed analog sticks, which make the device more pocketable. With the original RG350, some people complain about the right stick getting in the way of your thumb when pressing the “B” button; the newer devices minimize that problem with their recessed analog sticks. The RG350M and RG350P analog sticks are basically identical to those found on the Nintendo Switch joycons; like with the Switch, there have been reports of analog stick drift on the RG350M.

If you prefer the analog stick layout of the RG350, but want to enjoy low-profile sticks, check out my Hardware Upgrade guide (coming soon) on how to add your own. Other buttons have been reconfigured as well, such as the volume rocker and power button; these are negligible changes and I don’t have an opinion about their placement at all (other than to say, “both are fine”). The d-pad on the RG350M and RG350P are a little less textured than on the RG350; most people say that prefer the RG350’s d-pad.

Button travel

The face buttons are all the same size across the three devices, which are slightly bigger than the buttons on a Nintendo Switch joy-con, and are similarly “clicky” feeling (as opposed to the “mushy” feeling of an NES or SNES controller). The buttons on the RG350M and RG350P are just a *tiny* bit more set into the system, so they don’t stick up as much and they have less “travel”. To me, the button travel on the RG350M is superior; when you fully press a button with your thumb, the rest of your thumb rests on the metal case, and it just feels more natural. Similarly, you don’t have to make as much effort to press down on the shoulder buttons with the RG350M and RG350P, which feels better and more precise. Bear in mind that these are tiny differences, something you wouldn’t notice unless you compare the devices in person; long story short, the buttons on all three devices feel excellent.

diagram image courtesy of RetroMiMi

Port configuration

The RG350’s internal (firmware) microSD card is located inside of the device itself, which means you have to remove its backing in order to get to the card. So if you plan on upgrading your firmware card or backing up its firmware for safe keeping, you must open up the device itself. The RG350M and RG350P resolve this issue by moving the internal (firmware) microSD card to the bottom of the device.

Battery life

All three models boast a 6.5 hour battery life, but your real-world experience may vary based on screen brightness and system you are emulating (Atari vs Playstation). Additionally, bear in mind that because the RG350M has a higher resolution screen, it has to push twice as many pixels through the display — this reduces its battery life by about an hour when compared to the other systems. These devices have room for a larger battery, and upgrading the battery is apparently a simple process, but something I haven’t tackled yet.

Overall feel

Make no mistake, most people who try the RG350M say that it feels incredibly good in the hand, and it’s machined aluminum alloy case feels very premium. The aluminum case, thanks to its premium build quality, just feels more precise and sturdy. Both the RG350 and the RG350P are made with a plastic housing, which still feels nice and solid, albeit a little “cheap” when compared to the RG350M. I like to think of the RG350 and RG350P as feeling like a Nintendo 3DS, while the RG350M feels like an Apple MacBook. The price difference for the feel alone seems outrageous; for example, I purchased the RG350 over the RG350M in order to save a bit of cash. But it turns out that I loved my RG350 so much that I ended up buying an RG350M anyway because I wanted to see how it felt. As soon as I picked up my RG350M for the first time, I realized that I should have bought this model the first time around.

What’s in the box?

The devices will come with a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a set of poorly-translated instructions, and the device itself. Depending on where you buy your RG350, it may also come with a glass screen protector, spare microSD card, or a microSD-to-USB adapter.

Hopefully this guide will help you decide on your ideal RG350 model. In truth, the only mistake you can make is deciding not to pick up one of these fantastic devices. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below!

Affiliate disclosure: if you purchase anything using the Amazon (US) links above, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Changelog

13OCT2020
– updated guide with links to hardware modifications
– added links to RG351P guide

18AUG2020
– published guide

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