The Anbernic RG503 is officially up for order. But how does Anbernic’s new handheld compare with the company’s previous offerings? Is this the upgrade fans have been waiting for? Can anything exist at this price point while Ayn is killing it with the Odin?
Find out what the big dogs think of this new device and more in this Anbernic RG503 Review Roundup.
Retro Game Corps
According to Retro Game Corps (RGC), dual-booting into Android is a no-go due to the system’s limiting 1GB of RAM, but broadly, there’s enough power in the specs for the RG503 to be a successful emulation device.
Retreo Game Corps also notes that the inset screen adds a 90s feel to the device, which sounds like it’s a love or hate kind of deal. Some users have criticised the device as ugly and that’d be understandable. That said, RGC notes you do eventually get used to it.
RGC praises the revamped Anbernic design, which includes a more rounded console along with textured back grips – a first in Anbernic history.
One area that does throw up an issue, however, is the size of the face buttons. It appears they’re the same size used in the RG351 range of devices and are a little snug on the console, causing scraping around the outside of the buttons.
Lastly, RGC praised the RG503’s OLED screen, price, and six-hour battery, while bemoaning the higher emulation performance and a fairly lackluster operating system.
Jumping straight into taking the build quality to task, Udon notes when pivoting the d-pad, there’s a slight grinding noise, though it’s possible that could fade away the more the device is used. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on. Oh Anbernic, why you like this?
Udon goes to test out the face buttons, and while he says they’re perfectly fine as controlls, he does notice the same issue Retro Game Corps picked up on with the grinding against the outer shell.
When comparing the RG503 with the Retroid Pocket 2+, the Pocket 2+ offers up a brighter screen and has a better colour temperature compared with the cooler temperature of the RG503.
Also of note the speakers suffer from distortion at higher levels, and for some reason, Udon’s unit has an occasional popping sound. The latter issue appears to only be present in Udon’s unit, though, as I’ve not seen anyone else mention it, but it’s worth mentioning all the same.
Here’s where things get very, very strange. Udon demos Ocarina of Time. I assumed N64 wouldn’t be able to run on this hardware due to the low specs but what Udon shows doesn’t make sense. The title screen struggles as expected until you press a button, then suddenly everything works at around 50 to 55 frames. Hammering a button, somehow, makes the game run at near full speed as opposed to a “PowerPoint” presentation. What?!
If I were to guess, I’d wager this is a firmware issue, but seeing this in action is freaking wild.
On a more positive note, Udon seems impressed with Dreamcast emulation, complete with its wide-screen hack that utilises the full width of the RG503 screen. PS1 works without any major issues and upscaling seems to be available for a lot of titles. Though when playing Harry Potter, the game struggles, and to get back to full speed you need to hammer buttons as was happening with the N64 emulator. Again, what?!
Prime kicks off by discussing the “beautiful” screen, which let’s face it, is the main selling point here.
Where things differ from Udon’s review, Prime says he loves the speakers and audio gets “nice and loud.”
On the demo side of things, everything up to PS1 runs without any issues – with upscaling on PS1 a distinct possibility. Over on the Dreamcast side of things, Marvel vs Capcom 2 (the game of choice) doesn’t run at full speed but runs well enough to be considered playable.
Unfortunately, and due to how much easier Marvel vs Capcom 2 is to emulate, not everything will run at full speed. Prime notes Crazy Taxi and Sonic Adventure 2 sit around the 40 frames per second mark. Playable, for sure, but not perfect.
What’s interesting in Prime’s video is he showcases more from the PSP side of things. Tekken Dark Ressurection, for example, runs at two-times resolution while maintaining full speed and looks “Amazing,” on the OLED display. Nice!
As you can imagine, not every PSP game is going to run as smoothly. As Prime shows, Tekken 6 struggles. You can turn on frameskip to attempt to smooth things out, but that isn’t going to be a one size fits all solution for PSP games. And while I haven’t tested it myself yet, I can’t see the majority of the PSP library running particularly well on the RG503. Or at least until more custom firmwares release.
ETA Prime closes out by discussing the pros and cons. The biggest complaint here is the lack of support for more taxing emulation. That said, Prime has some kind words to say about the battery, which he estimates pulls around five and a half hours of usage out of.
Anbernic RG503 Specifications
- CPU: Rockchip RK3566 (Quad-Core Cortex-A55 up to 1.8GHz)
- GPU: Mali G52
- RAM: 1GB LPDDR4
- Display: 4.94-inch OLED – 16:9 at 960×544 resolution
- Battery: 3500mAh (five to six hours)
- Connectivity: 5Ghz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI out
As far as pricing goes, the RG503 sits in the mid-range at $149.99/£123.98. For comparison, Anbernic’s most powerful handheld the RG552 comes in at $223.73/£187.57, while its lower-specced machine, the RG351, offers an $80.48/£67.15 price tag (prices via AliExpress).
Is that worth it? It’s hard to say. The RG552 doesn’t justify its high cost. It’s a poor benchmark to be comparing the RG503 with. Instead, let’s compare it with the Ayn Odin Lite price of $200/£158.
It’s pricey for what it is that’s for sure. Especially when the Odin Lite isn’t that much more expensive. Still, fans have been clamouring for Anbernic to release a console more powerful than its now-basic RG351 series and we finally got what we asked for. Even so, it’s hard to see how the RG503 justifies its nearly double the price entry fee.
Conclusion: Is the RG503 Worth it?
Yes and no. If you’re a fan of Anbernic products and want a stunning screen to play retro games up to PS1 on, this is most likely going to satisfy that itch. If, however, you’re getting sick of expensive tech that doesn’t move things on far enough, it’s a hard pass.
The RG503 looks like a solid console, but Anbernic is becoming more and more like Powkiddy – rushed products to meet demand with poor quality control. Yeah, NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive,, GBA games and the like will look amazing on this thing. But it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re paying for an OLED screen and slightly better tech than the £80 RG351. While Ayn is creating the best handheld out there in the Odin, Anbernic needs to step it up both in its pricing and quality control if it wants to keep customers in the West happy.
If you can pick up the RG503 at a discount, sure, by all means grab it. But until we see more custom firmware out in the wild to fix the problems Anbernic won’t, it’s a hard handheld to fully recommend based on what we’ve seen.