Welcome to the future! We don’t have flying cars, teleportation devices or replicators, but what we do have is a vast variety of tech toys to distract us from the ever-deteriorating state of society. That ought to be good enough for anyone, right? But what if part of that magical future means looking back at the past? And by past I mean retro gaming. We’re talking emulation, and you’ve arrived just in time.
The Retroid Pocket Flip is the latest in the long-running line of Retroid’s retro devices; handy Android-powered emulation machines that can play thousands of classic games across multiple generations of consoles (and more). Even better, they won’t break the bank. If you want a gaming handheld for your commute you won’t feel bad about losing when wandering bands of ruffians steal it on public transportation, this is your go-to. You know, it might be best to keep that fancy Steam Deck at home.
Design: Clamshells Are Back
The most immediate design cue about the Flip is its clamshell design, which we haven’t seen much of since the Switch overtook the 3DS, and that makes me nostalgic. Imagine: rather than battling with tempered glass, using a credit card to push out air bubbles and so on, you’ve got a built-in, flawless method of easily keeping your screen safe by closing a lid. It’s almost magical. Is it any wonder that fliphones are also making a comeback?
On top are a USB-C charge/transfer port and a Micro HDMI port if you want to hook this up to a larger display (with a max of 720p output). On bottom are the On/Off button, a 3.5mm audio jack, a tiny built-in microphone. On back are ventilation ducts that help circulate air and keep things nice and cool and two speaker slots offering decent audio output for those going without a headset.
It’s real, folks, and you can hold this miracle technology in your hands with the Retroid Pocket Flip. When you’re done playing just…close it. Boom, your screen is safe. Put the thing in your pocket and go on with your day. Just like the glory days of the Game Boy Advance SP, DS and 3DS. It’s even available in a variety of flavors…sorry, colors.
Controls ‘n Buttons
So that’s cool. It might be the most cool part of this device, actually, given it’s basically just a Retroid Pocket 3+ stuck inside a clamshell. Outside of that lovely clamshell is a decent, if not stellar, experience with its physical interface. The D-pad is workable, the face buttons are workable, the shoulder buttons are workable and the analog nubs, which feel similar to those on the 3DS, are workable. Two bonus M1/2 buttons around the top-back are there to customize as you like.
The D-Pad is also more reliable and responsive than the one found on the Steam Deck, but that probably says more about the Steam Deck than the Flip. It does mean the Flip is the superior option for D-Pad-centric retro gaming, however. Bluetooth 5.0 support means you can pair a compatible controller as well, and the Pocket plays nice with most standard console (Xbox, PlayStation, Switch) Bluetooth controllers.
“Workable” is all well and good, but ergonomics can be a concern. The Flip measures roughly 5.4″ x 3.2″ x 0.9″, a sizable 2″ shorter (horizontally) than the Pocket 3+, and weighs 270g (about 9.5oz), meaning those with normal human-sized hands may not find it that comfortable to hold for longer sessions without cramping.
There’s also a bizarre chunk of the Flip’s lower half, basically the entire middle of the device, that’s dedicated to precisely nothing. No buttons, no sliders, no nothing. It’s not a problem necessarily, but this is prime real estate that’s presumably not being used in order to keep the screen safe. A small, recessed home button might have been nice.
Specs and Compatibility
Specs-wise we’ve basically got the same guts as the recent Retroid Pocket 3+. That means the Flip will easily emulate a dazzling number of classic consoles, including (but not limited to) the NES, SNES, Game Boy (all the variants), Genesis, Game Gear, TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine, NeoGeo, Mame, PlayStation, Saturn, Dreamcast, DS, PSP, etc. You’ll also get some PlayStation 2 and GameCube, though performance varies by title and what emulator you choose. Being an Android device, you get access to Google’s ecosystem as well, and can even stream big-boy games from your PC if you want to venture into that.
This being an Android device (more on this below) capable of running most major emulation software this means you can also tweak, tinker, and improve the visuals and performance of classic games if you like. This could mean filters, it could also mean adding widescreen support…it could mean anything because the retro community has become so robust and ambitious these days. Your mileage will vary, but the Flip will let you do all this and more.
That’s a whole lot of options, and a device with a touchscreen, four shoulder buttons and two analog sticks has the input chops to handle them all. One look at the Flip and you can tell right away it’s built for portable games. Game Boy/Color/Advance look and play fantastic. Likewise, it’s one of the best options for PSP outside of just grabbing an actual PSP. You’ve got all of this on a beautiful, bright screen with plenty of battery life. What more could you ask for?
Well, you could maybe ask for an easier way of dealing with Android (ships with Android 11, btw). It’s a great OS, don’t get me wrong, but the Flip isn’t ready to party right out of the box. You’ll have to do some tweaking to add games, get them running the way you’d like, ensure controls are all set up appropriately, disable annoying notifications and more. It’d be easy to blame Android for this steep learning curve, it’s the nature of software emulation that can make any path a little thorny.
Of course, as mentioned above, this also means you can “improve” your retro experience if you so choose. So choose wisely. Expect your first afternoon with this thing to consist of a lengthy setup process, and you’ll definitely want to find a guide to help out. YouTube will be your friend here.
Conclusion: Game On, Case Closed
Still, this isn’t the end of the world. The Retroid Pocket Flip is, in the end, a surprisingly capable device in one of the most convenient forms we’ve seen in a while. It runs multiple generations of consoles without flinching, has a fantastic display, incredible battery life, and you can pocket the thing without a care. If you still don’t have a retro handheld and are willing to spend time tinkering to get Android configured just right, the Retroid Pocket Flip will get the job done with flying colors.