Review and Guide: PowKiddy A20

The A20 is the latest device from PowKiddy, and sports an upgraded chip that can provide excellent N64 and PSP performance. But getting the device up and running is quite a bit of work, and there are some frustrations along the way. In this review we’ll take a look at its setup and performance, and help you determine whether this bargain-priced option is a good fit for you.

Buy one here

The PowKiddy A20 is a capable machine, but setting it up will take some legwork. There are several things you can do to improve the experience of using this device, and none of them are 100% necessary; but the more work you put into the device, the more you’ll get out of it. So I’ve devised a four-tier strategy to let you decide what you’d like to do to get the PowKiddy A20 up and running.

Tier 1: Add your own games

This level is very simple. All you have to do is take the stock SD card from your device, put it in your computer, and then add ROMs to the games > downloads folder (into whatever respective system folder you’d like). Once you’ve moved over the games, put the SD card back into your device, boot it up, and then press the HOME button to bring up the menu, then navigate to Enter Games Settings > External Games Management > then press the X button to add all of the games to your menu.

Games will be added in the order you import them, so over time the organization of the games will be all over the place.

To remove some (or all) of the pre-loaded games from your device, go into Menu > Enter Games Settings > Edit Gamelist and remove games at will.

Tier 2: Upgrade the SD card and add your own game library

For this level, we’re going to replace the stock SD card with a card of our own, and then add our own library to the game to curate the experience. These games will run the default/stock emulators, which are stripped of all customization features and have unoptimized performance, but it’s a very simple user experience.

These are the cards I recommend upgrading to:

128GB cards:
SanDisk Extreme
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

256GB cards:
Samsung EVO Select
SanDisk Ultra

In order for this new card to work on your device, you will need to format it to FAT32 file system. Windows can only format cards which are less than 32GB to FAT32, so you will need to use a program called guiformat. For Mac, you can use the Disk Utility program that comes with MacOS to format (“erase”) the card, with MS-DOS (FAT) as the format.

Once you have formatted the new card, download this folder structure, unzip it, and place the three folders (Android, games, and LOST.DIR) in the root directory of your new card. Then, add your bios files to the games > bios folder (hint, grab them from your old SD card, or use your own RetroArch bios pack), then start adding your own games to the games > downloads folder, in the subfolder that corresponds to the system you want to run. Note that while there are NDS and DOS folders in there, the stock OS doesn’t actually support those systems.

If you want to add media (boxart or video clips) to your menu, simply add .png (image) or .mp4 (video) files for each game into the same folder as the games themselves. Make sure the media file names match the name of the ROM. For example:

ROM: Super Mario Bros (USA).nes
Image: Super Mario Bros (USA).png
Video: Super Mario Bros (USA).mp4

Note that if you add both an image and a video file to the folder, only the video file will run. To learn how to scrape media for your games, check out this guide.

Tier 3: Use standalone emulators

The PowKiddy A20 runs Android 9, and it is possible to install and run standalone emulators on the device. To do so, add apks (Android apps) to your microSD card, and then use the File Browser app to navigate to those apks and install them (this process is often referred to as “sideloading”).

To access the Android side, go to Menu > Enter Android Apps list. There is a Google Play Store app but it doesn’t actually launch.

Here are some recommended emulation apps to install:
RetroArch (for everything up to PS1)
PPSSPP (PSP)
ReDream (Dreamcast)
Mupen64Plus FZ (N64)

For each of these emulators, you will need to go into the settings and map the controls, point the app to where your games are stored on the card, and set up your video settings. To assist with this part, it might be easiest to use a USB keyboard/mouse option like this one.

Some emulators don’t work properly (Yaba Sanshiro doesn’t register button inputs), or won’t install at all (Dolphin, Duckstation, Flycast).

Tier 4: Use a frontend to unify the standalone emulators

In addition to using standalone emulators, you could use a frontend app to alter the navigation experience. I recommend trying ATV Launch, which will give you a grid-like navigation experience, and can be set as your Home App so that the system will boot right into that interface instead of the stock experience.

You can also use frontends like LaunchBox for Android to run a game navigation menu. Unfortunately DIG does not work with this device, but other frontends like The Reset Collection may work, too.

2 thoughts on “Review and Guide: PowKiddy A20

  1. A great guide as always but I do wish Powkiddy would be less shady with their software. I do wonder if the device would be better off as stock Android 9 with some emulator freeware preinstalled.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s