Low-profile analog sticks and custom buttons for the RG350

Last updated 23SEP2020 (see Changelog for details)

As an affordable handheld retro gaming device, the original RG350 is almost perfect. There’s a lot to love: the device is lightweight but feels nice and sturdy, and the d-pad and face buttons punch way above its weight class. I also really like how its d-pad below the analog stick and therefore not aligned with the face buttons, because this diagonal button placement makes the unit feel more balanced in my hand. This may come from those years when the Xbox 360 was my primary home console, but either way, I prefer this placement.

But after a couple months with the device, I do have some gripes. First, I wasn’t impressed with its low-res 320×240 screen resolution, especially after getting my hands on its more successful cousin, the RG350M, who has a nice 640×480 screen. Luckily, I was able to remedy this issue by installing an RG350M screen onto my device (read my guide here). The next part are those analog sticks. They stick out (pun intended) like a sore thumb, and make the device much less pocketable than it could be. Moreover, they are covered with these small rubber nubs, which can flip off and disappear in your couch cushions for days or weeks at a time.

So today we’re going to replace the analog sticks with a low-profile that also happens to improve the gameplay experience, too. And while we’re at it, let’s swap out the face buttons with something a little more colorful, just for fun.

Table of Contents
Why upgrade?
Where to buy
Recommended tools
Installation guide

Changelog

Why upgrade?

One of my favorite parts of owning an RG350 is the ability to tweak everything to my liking. That includes setting up a killer SimpleMenu software interface, but also by upgrading the screen and changing out the analog sticks. I’m sure there isn’t another RG350 with my exact combination of hardware and software, which is pretty cool when you think of it.

Other mods I’ve seen people do includes installing an internal WiFi antenna, or a larger battery. The possibilities are out there.

Image courtesy of Sakura Retro Modding

Where to buy

For the highest quality custom parts, I recommend you check out Sakura Retro Modding. I bought the low-profile sticks and custom face buttons from their shop. Everything took about two weeks to arrive from France. They have a wide variety of face buttons and even stickers you can place over the screen bezels to replicate your favorite system.

If you have a 3D printer and are feeling adventurous, you can print your own low-profile sticks and/or face buttons:

Recommended tools

Beyond the materials above, the only tool you’ll need is a small screwdriver. You could just go and rifle through your toolbox and grab the closest screwdriver you have, but using a precision screwdriver is so much better. And yes, you could find decent screwdrivers for about $10, but if you shell out a few extra dollars you could get a really nice set like this one, which is magnetic plus it comes with an anti-static wrist band and spudgers to make it a viable solution for many years to come.

Installation guide

I’ll let the video above do most of the talking for me, but here are written instructions in case you’d rather read them:

Analog sticks: Remove the four screws on the back of your device, and gently pop the back cover off. Remove the shoulder buttons, and unplug the battery clip from the circuit board. Remove the four screws surrounding each analog stick, then pull the analog sticks assemblies from their housing. Take one of the plastic analog sticks and gently “pop” it off its assembly. Place the new analog stick into the assembly, making sure to rotate the stick until it fits properly. Push the stick down until it is snug. Do the same with the other stick. If you’re also changing out face buttons, proceed to the next step; otherwise, replace all of the screws and shoulder buttons, and then the back plate and its screws.

Face buttons: If you haven’t already, remove the backplate. Remove the four screws on the back of your device, and gently pop the back cover off. Remove the shoulder buttons, and unplug the battery clip from the circuit board. If you’re not messing with the analog stick and are only interested in accessing the face buttons, you don’t need to remove the analog stick assemblies; instead, just detach the ribbons from the analog stick assembly (see the picture above for where the ribbons are). Place a piece of masking tape along the bottom of the device to keep those buttons in place.

Remove the upper band from the device, then pull the board up, and you should see the face buttons on the left hand side, held in place by a rubber contact connector. Remove that rubber connector, then take out the current face buttons (it’s easiest to push them up from the front of the device). Replace them with your custom buttons; be sure to align the fatter of the three prongs that jut out from each button with the larger indent that matches the button. Double-check that you have the buttons in the right spot, and that your START and SELECT buttons didn’t become dislodged. Once you’re ready, reapply the rubber contact connector, and then the upper band and circuit board. Pop the board back into place, then reassemble the screws, shoulder buttons, battery, and back plate.

Changelog

In this section I’ll provide a quick summary of any updates I make to this guide.

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