For those not familiar with retro emulation handhelds let us tell you about the bizarre release of the Retroid Pocket 3. It’s been an interesting ride for those who are interested in the cheaper end of the retro emulation handheld scene. The market has been hotting up of late with lots of new devices coming out of China. One of the most eagerly awaited was the Retroid Pocket 3.
GoRetroid are a Chinese manufacturer that have released several budget priced retro emulation handhelds. The handhelds typically punch above their weight in terms of performance versus cost. The 2020 Retroid Pocket was a Game Boy shaped device that was closely followed by the Retroid Pocket 2, both running Android and boasting some solid performance.
A popular line of handhelds
The devices weren’t perfect. The Pocket 2 having a slider for the right analogue and some cut corners on screen size/quality and buttons. However, there were some pretty cool features, including a launcher that made the setup of emulators and ROM’s quicker and easier. It won a lot of fans.
With everyone expecting a Retroid Pocket 3 release, the manufacturer instead released the Retroid Pocket 2+ in December 2021. This had a better screen, buttons and more powerful chipset. With the right configuration, you could confidently expect it to now handle Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and most PSP emulation nicely. At the same time, it was just a refresh of the Pocket 2 with the same design limitations.
Self upgrades? Cool!
To emphasise the fact, owners of the Retroid Pocket 2 could just buy the upgraded screens and internals and do a replacement themselves. It was odd but kinda cool – no need to waste a device when you can upgrade it yourself. At $99, there wasn’t really a lot out there that could compete. So it became a bit of a no brainer for fans of retro emulation to tinker with. The only fly in the ointment was that demand outstripped supply, with Covid lockdowns and New Year not helping. This author waited for 3 months to receive theirs after a promised 1 month wait.
Fast forward to Summer 2022 and GoRetroid announce the Retroid Pocket 3. From a power perspective, the device has the same chipset as the Pocket 2+ so won’t give any more oomph. Instead, it has been upgraded to Android 11 which may give a little bit of an optimisation boost. More importantly, the screen and form factor have been improved, instead mirroring a Switch Light style design.
This means full analogue sticks with L3 and R3, as well as a bigger screen making it more comfortable for retro emulation but also a good contender for game streaming now it could handle modern titles with its updated controls. The Pocket 3 is also still pretty cheap; between $119 and $129 depending on whether you choose 2 or 3 GB of RAM.
Claims of manufacturing issues
It’s another competitive price point and one that attracted a lot of attention. GoRetroid announced that the pre-orders would start on the 5th August with those orders shipping on the 20th August, a modest two week pre-order window. Nice!
Then things got really strange. Enter YouTuber Taki Udon. The channels run by Taki focus on devices and device testing and by their own admission, are regularly involved in early device testing with multiple manufacturers. It means that Taki Udon often has exclusives before release on new devices.
On August 19th, the day BEFORE pre-orders were due to ship, Taki released a new video titled ‘This is Why I Didn’t Review the Retroid Pocket 3’. In the video, they allege that the Pocket 3 had actually been in testing since 2020 and that it was supposed to release late in 2021 – even getting into a major production run.
The plot thickens…
Taki also alleges that he had raised some issues with the unit, related to bugs and a screen issue. These were unfortunately found after the initial manufacturing batches had been completed. They had been given assurances that before any release, these batches would be opened up and corrected.
In the summer of 2022 a new review unit was sent out. Again, after testing, Taki alleges that there are still screen flickering issues as well as some bugs that could crash emulators. A fix for that was then promised as a software update. Lastly, the ‘white’ SKU being advertised was not the actual release colour – instead it is a more egg coloured white. Strange.
In addition, it was also confirmed that quality complaints on the controller buttons had been addressed… by packing spares in the box and asking the consumer to update them if they want to. Interesting choice. Now, we can’t validate all claims by the video at this point but it was enough to make some get pre-order regret and request refunds.
As of today, some devices have made it into the hands of reviewers and as of yet, there is no definitive answer on quality issues being apparent in large numbers. This isn’t the end of it though. Through discussions on Twitter and forums, it is clear that there are problems with the availability of the device.
Those who even pre-ordered on exact day the pre-order went live still haven’t had any update on the delivery of their unit. GoRetroid has put a pre-order dashboard to show when orders will likely be fulfilled and that… hasn’t been updated since the 23rd August. It is even showing, erroneously, that orders will have been fulfilled that have not been.
If you want to order a device itself you still can. It will show as a pre-order but states that it will ship on the 20th August. Which would suggest time travel. It has got some eager handheld enthusiasts wondering when they will get theirs, especially if they are being manufactured to order.
The bizarre release of the Retroid Pocket 3
It has been a staggeringly bizarre release for the Retroid Pocket 3, a device that should have been relatively cheap and cheerful but has now become a bit infamous. Time will tell if the device starts to ship beyond Youtube reviewers and in solid numbers. We’ll be sure to give the Any Button Gaming impressions once our device ships!
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Rudy Manchego has been gaming since the days of the BBC Micro Computer and spreads himself thin with a love of retro, indie and mainstream gaming. He’s one half of the Jambags Comedy Gaming podcast and likes nothing better than kicking back with a nice pot of lapsang souchong, a good game and a background podcast on the intricacies of Spanish cheese making.