As companies like Asus, Logitech, and Sony continue to push the limits of handheld gaming devices (seriously, Sony, an eight-inch screen?), companies like Anbernic are making them smaller and smaller. Its latest, the RG Nano, looks to be smaller than a pack of playing cards, but still capable of playing thousands of retro games.
Anbernic is a Chinese company that’s been making handheld emulation devices for quite a few years now, and having been reviewing them for just as long, I’ve been impressed with how the company’s quality and performance has improved over time, now rivaling the caliber of hardware you get from companies like Nintendo. The last time we checked in with Anbernic, we tested the RG35XX, which reminded us of the classic Nintendo Game Boy, but with a modern color screen and the ability to play titles from countless classic consoles.
The RG35XX packed an entire childhood’s worth of retro nostalgia into a compact handheld, but rumors and leaks startled to swirl a few weeks ago that Anbernic wasn’t done miniaturizing its hardware yet. Although the full details and tech specs haven’t been revealed, the company recently gave us our first official look at its upcoming RG Nano on its YouTube channel. The RG Nano appears to be Anbernic’s smallest handheld emulator to date.
The video demonstrates some of the RG Nano’s features, including an “offline clock function” for those who’d prefer to keep it hanging on a keychain (instead of wearing a watch), a microSD cart slot, as well as a media player for “high fidelity lossless music playback.” The tiny handheld is just 2.7-inches tall, but sports a “textured aluminum alloy body” instead of a plastic housing. While there’s no dedicated headphone jack, a USB-C charging port on the top is compatible with headphones connected via a USB-C adapter. The RG Nano skips analog joysticks for just a single D-pad and four action buttons, but does include a pair of shoulder buttons, which provides insights into what its performance could be like, extending to at least 16-bit gaming.
We don’t think it’s Anbernic’s choice of (still unknown) processor that will limit what kinds of games the RG Nano can play, but the shape of its screen, which looks to have close to a 1:1 aspect ratio. That’s fine for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, NES, Sega, SNES, and even Genesis games, which were all designed to be played on older hardware, but the wider aspect ratio of the Game Boy Advance’s screen means GBA games played on the RG Nano could come with annoying letterbox bars on the top and bottom. That will make games appear even smaller on an already small screen, which is far from ideal.
We also don’t know what pricing will be, but assuming it comes with even less processing power than the RG35XX, we’re optimistic for a price tag much lower than $65, which could push this handheld dangerously close to impulse purchase territory.