Review: PowKiddy X18S

Finally we have a retro handheld device for under $175 that can play upscaled PSP, N64, Dreamcast, and Saturn, plus about half the GameCube catalog, and a bit of PS2 as well. The PowKiddy X18S sounds like the perfect handheld emulation machine, so let’s take a deep-dive look at its performance and potential.

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Timestamps:
00:00 introduction
02:24 unboxing & impressions
05:49 testing the buttons/controls
12:19 software experience & upgrade
16:23 OS setup tips
18:23 RetroArch testing
21:56 PS1, Saturn, DS, 3DS
23:28 PSP, N64, Dreamcast
27:09 GameCube, PS2
29:38 Android games & streaming
31:21 summary (likes/dislikes)
33:20 conclusion

Some notes:

  • When setting up your SD card, you have the choice between internal (adoptable) storage, also known as “extra tablet storage”, and portable storage.
    • Adoptable storage means that it will format the SD card and it will function as an expansion of the internal 64GB that are available on the device internally. This is advantageous because many apps in Android 11 cannot access the external SD card when in portable mode. It has some disadvantages too; for example, you can’t eject the SD card and plug it into your computer for easy file transfer, you must transfer files between your PC and device via USB cable using the MTP transfer protocol. Additionally, if you reset or update the firmware on your device, you will lose everything — including the data on your SD card.
    • Portable storage means that the SD card functions as external storage. This will allow you to eject the SD card and plug it into your PC for easy file transfer. But unfortunately, many apps in Android 11, like RetroArch, cannot read the external SD card unless you do some serious workarounds. This disadvantage can be overcome by using a frontend like DIG, which can work as an intermediary between the internal and external storage options.
    • My recommendation is to initially try out portable storage and see if you can figure out how to access all of your files. If so, then you’re good to go. If you want an easier time accessing your files, adoptable storage is a good choice, but be sure to set that up on a firmware you’re comfortable using in the future, since updating the firmware will wipe your internal storage and make your SD card unreadable, too.
    • If you do use adoptable storage, you’ll find that initially you can only access the internal storage via MTP on your PC, and not the card. To gain access to the card, you must go into your Android Settings > Storage and click on the SD card, then click on the three dots on the top right, and select “Migrate data”. This will migrate data to your SD card and then make it readable by your PC from there on out.
  • If you want to use RetroArch with external/portable storage, check out this guide from Wagner’s Tech Talk.

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