Unless you want to build a large collection of cartridges, emulation is still the optimal way to enjoy a wide variety of classic video games (although legally questionable at best, unless you are sure the games on the device you get are properly licensed). Emulation-based gaming handhelds provide a convenient way to play thousands of different games on the go, if you don’t ask where those games came from. The Annbernic RG351P impressed us with its excellent build quality, high performance and good value for money. The Game Kiddy GKD Pro (also known as the Metal GKD Mini) is a similar system, which uses an even better metal body than the RG351P. However, at $ 259 it’s much, much more expensive, and it lacks analog sticks.
The GKD Pro, available in blue or gray, looks gorgeous and feels great for a retro gaming handheld. The metal body is sturdy and well-built, with no movement or play. It’s roughly in the shape of a Game Boy, with a 3.5-inch screen positioned directly above the physical controls rather than between them like on the RG351P or Nintendo Switch. The handheld weighs half a pound, making it light enough to hold comfortably, but just heavy enough to be sturdy in your hands.
The controls on the face of the GKD Pro include a plus-shaped directional pad, A / B / X / Y face buttons arranged in the Nintendo setup (A on the right), Start and Select buttons, a small, versatile utility button, and another small button to cycle through screen brightness levels. A volume rocker is on the right edge of the handheld, while two more utility buttons are on the left edge. The back of the GKD Pro features a bulge halfway up the device that contains two pairs of shoulder buttons arranged in a single row. This covers all the basics of most gaming systems up to the fifth generation, but the lack of analog sticks means there is no Nintendo 64 support, and PlayStation games that take advantage of the DualShock will have a lower control. The good news is that the digital controls that are there are satisfying and responsive, with each button and directional pad input having a pleasantly springy input, almost clickable without feeling stiff.
(Photo: Will Greenwald)
The 3.5-inch screen has the same 320 x 240 resolution as the RG351P and is pleasantly bright and colorful. The interface looks a bit grainy, however, and you may need to tweak the settings of the individual emulator’s upscalers to get the best picture out of it. The RG351P emulators seem to handle this job a bit better than most of the GKD Pro.
Under the hood
Internally, the GKD Pro uses a MIPS32R2 processor with a clock speed of 1.5 GHz. The processor is at least eight years old, but its processing power seems comparable to that of the RK3326 over the RG351P. However, the GKD Pro does not have a separate GPU like the RG351P and it only has 128MB of system RAM compared to 1GB for the Anbernic. Of course, since one is a MIPS architecture and the other is an ARM architecture, direct comparison of the two based on specifications is not possible, and they can largely emulate the same systems (except for the Nintendo 64, because of the GKD Pro absence of analog stick).
On the software side, the GKD Pro runs on a collection of open source, GPL and copyleft projects. Specifically, it uses GMenu2X running on the OpenDingux Linux distribution and assigns developers and translators in its About screen. The user interface is a tab and tile based affair that is built around easy navigation; you use the directional pad and shoulder buttons to switch between the Settings, Applications, Emulators, and Games screens. The interface looks dated and Linux out of the box, but everything is thoughtfully organized. Best of all, you won’t have the awkward feeling of missing the touchscreen controls, something you will experience with the default user interface of Retroid Pocket 2 on Android.
(Photo: Will Greenwald)
22 emulators are preloaded on the GKD Pro, with some weird redundancies among them. There are two MAME emulators and three Final Burn emulators for arcade emulation, two Picodrive emulators for Sega Genesis games, two PocketSNES emulators for SNES games, and two Game Boy / Game Boy Color emulators. Each emulator has its own ROM stack (an uncertain issue we’ll cover below), and one of the Game Boy emulators doesn’t seem to work at all. As a result, it all looks like a big hodgepodge of disparate software stuffed on the device (but this is built on a Linux distro, after all).
There are also several dozen Linux compatible games preinstalled on the GKD Pro. The list is a mishmash of varying quality, but the original Cave story is there, with the classic OpenTyrian shooter and the surprisingly excellent Doom-based Sonic the Hedgehog Sonic Robot Blast 2 3D fan game.
Each emulator behaves differently, and it can be especially annoying when trying to navigate their menus. The GKD Pro has both a pair of Start and Select buttons, as well as an additional small, versatile system button above them; any combination of these buttons can allow you to display its menu screen or exit the software. The GKD Pro doesn’t have a dedicated home button, so you need to know what to press to get back to the home screen for each emulator you use. This is especially difficult with DOSBox (which luckily only contains two racing games), as early PC game control mappings don’t tend to translate well with gamepad controls.
(Photo: Will Greenwald)
The question of the game
Then there are the games. Like the RG351P, Retroid Pocket 2, and many other emulation-based retro gaming handhelds that you can buy online, the GKD Pro comes with thousands of games on many different systems. These games are almost certainly unlicensed and were simply obtained in bulk online to be added to the system’s microSD card. No game publisher or game hardware developer has been successful in blocking the release of these devices, so you can easily buy them from a variety of legitimate retail sites. However, if the prospect of contributing to copyright infringement bothers you, you should probably avoid this category. Conversely, if you’re a ‘classic gaming software archivist’, you can load a second microSD card with any extra games you’ve collected and play them without a problem (although you will need to access the second card in each emulator. File menu).
Strong performance with experimentation
Assuming you are still interested in this type of device, that brings us to the performance of the GKD Pro. Well, emulation is generally great across the board. Arcade games, Game Boy, NES, SNES, and even PlayStation still work flawlessly. The controls are responsive and the animations are smooth, and the screen shows everything well. Once you’ve gotten past any menu struggles required to make each emulator work the way you want it to, the handheld performs everything with aplomb. This isn’t too surprisingly, as classic game emulators have been vastly improved and refined over the decades, and the “newest” game you’ll find here is probably 20 years old. However, not everything is perfect, and arcade games in particular can run slowly or trigger anti-piracy protections, which is why the handheld comes with a good half-dozen emulators. different arcade.
(Photo: Will Greenwald)
The build quality, especially the orders, also deserves credit. The directional pad and face buttons feel good under the thumb, and they’re comparable to the controls on the RG351P. The lack of analog sticks limits what the handheld can do, however, especially with PlayStation games that support the DualShock controller and the ability to run any Nintendo 64 game. The metal build quality is also rock solid, and it outperforms the RG351P. That said, Anbernic has released an RG351MP with a metal body and 640 x 480 screen, which on paper combines the best elements of both handhelds and makes them even better.
Well-made and expensive emulation
The Game Kiddy GKD Pro is a nice and enjoyable retro gaming handheld, if you don’t mind the legal doubts of the games that come with it. The metal body is striking, but at $ 260 to $ 340 MSRP, or even the more realistic $ 170 we’ve seen sold online, it’s way overpriced. For that much money, you can get an analog pocket and build your own collection of real Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges that look fantastic on the device’s absurdly high-resolution screen (1600x 1440). . Or, for much less, you could get the Anbernic RG351P equipped with dual analog, or spend more on the metal RG351MP which we haven’t tested yet. The GKD Pro is an attractive handheld on its own, but it costs way too much.
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