If you’ve spent a lot of time on TikTok lately, you may have come across the Powkiddy handheld line over the last few months. The small form factor emulation machine has garnered much attention across social media for being pre-installed with noteworthy titles from many retro systems, but is the Powkiddy legit?
The Powkiddy is a family of Android-based handheld consoles that utilize the open-source nature of the mobile OS and allows it to run popular emulation programs. There are many different styles available at the time of writing, with the most in-demand variants being the RGB20S, RBG10 Max 2, and A20.
These handheld consoles are heavily inspired by existing hardware from manufacturers. For instance, the highly-popular RGB20S bares a striking resemblance to the Game Boy Color, complete with very similar color schemes. The key distinction that separates the two, besides the obvious digital innovations, is the button layout. The Gameboy uses the standard D-pad and two-button setup, whilse the Powkiddy adds two thumbstick and a pair of triggers on the back, no doubt making 3D games easier to play.
There are also Powkiddy models based on the likes of the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite, such as the X12p and RGB10Pro, respectively. What’s made this lineage of handheld consoles so in demand, though, is the fact that many variants of the hardware feature the ability to play retro titles.
Are Powkiddy handheld consoles legal?
There’s always a gray area with budget devices like this. Powkiddy handheld consoles are available at established retailers such as Amazon and Walmart in the US, so you don’t have to buy them from the company or specialist outlets. In terms of their legal legitimacy, though, it’s a case of understanding Intellectual Property rights.
You see, the consoles themselves do not come with any games pre-installed if bought as standard – but they do feature a MicroSD card slot, so it’s entirely possible to load ROMS of games that you own. The process varies from system to system, especially if you’re going from proprietary cartridges to CD. Depending on the hardware inside the Powkiddy system, they can emulate everything from NES and upwards to the PSP.
TechRadar does not condone or encourage the downloading of illegal ROMS. If you get your hands on a Powkiddy handheld to play your existing physical game library, then it could be a good way to re-experience older games for that nostalgic kick we all crave. Chances are if you’ve kept ahold of old consoles, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different titles you can translate from your home setup to the handheld Powkiddy.
Some of the best microSD cards are supported by the Powkiddy handheld consoles, too. Capacities appear to go up to 128GB and 256GB depending on the model, which is more than enough storage to hold many of your games. In terms of how big retro games tend to be, your average NES ROM typically runs less than 1MB, with PSP ISOs going up to 1.8 GB as that’s the cap for UMDs.
How powerful are Powkiddy handheld consoles?
The power of different Powkiddy consoles largely scales with their price point, as rates can range anywhere from $40 to $150. The cheaper models have been marketed on their ability to play the less demanding games, with the pricier iterations able to handle more advanced 3D systems.
It sounds as though the emulation quality varies according to the specific model you’ve got. This means that a mid-range system like the RGB20S (around $100 / £135 / AU$199) might be the most cost-effective choice.
If you're looking to spent a little more for a premium third-party gaming handheld, you should take a look at the Ayn Odin. It's able to be set up with Xbox Game Pass and GeForce Now, letting you stream a huge library of games to the device.
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Aleksha McLoughlin is the Hardware Editor for TechRadar Gaming and oversees all hardware coverage for the site. She looks after buying guides, writes hardware reviews, news, and features as well as manages the hardware team. Before joining TRG she was the Hardware Editor for sister publication GamesRadar+ and she has also been PC Guide's Hardware Specialist. She has also contributed hardware content to the likes of Trusted Reviews, The Metro, Expert Reviews, and Android Central. When she isn't working, you'll often find her in mosh pits at metal gigs and festivals or listening to whatever new black and death metal has debuted that week.