There has never been a better time to be a retro gamer, especially if you want to carry the classics in your pocket. RK Console’s RK2020 is another part of a long line of portable emulation devices that play games from a wide range of classic consoles.
While RK2020 plays everything from the NES to the PS1 with ease using powerful hardware, it falls short of Dreamcast and PSP emulation. The RK2020 comes in three different case variants and the price can be found as low as $ 70 which is the most expensive device like this I’ve tested so far. Despite these minor drawbacks, this is one of the best portable emulators you can buy, and it has become my go-to device for retro gaming in the palm of my hand.
Included in the box:
- RK2020 console
- 32 GB MicroSD card (preloaded operating system)
- MicroSD USB Type A Card Reader
- USB-C charging cable
- User’s Guide
Main emulators included with the RK2020:
- Playstation 1
- Nintendo 64
- Color GameBoy
- GameBoy Advance
- and more
The RK2020 is available in three different housing options. I was sent the Crystal Purple variant which is reminiscent of the semi-transparent plastic Atomic Purple color found on GameBoy Color. It’s a fun look that matches the portable nature of this handheld. The aluminum version is also pretty, but it’s a more expensive option at $ 120. You can also get the handheld in Crystal Black.
- Processor: RockChip RK3326 (1.3 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A35)
- Graphics card: Mali-G31 Dvalin
- RAM: 1 GB DDR3L
- Display: 3.5 inch 320 x 480 IPS
- Battery: Li-Polymer 2600 mAh
The build quality of the RK2020 is solid, but the edges aren’t rounded enough for my liking which contributed to a bit of tension when held for long periods of time. The 3.5-inch screen is beautiful and bright, with crisp pixels and no signs of ghosting. Battery life lasts around 4 hours depending on the emulator used – more graphics-intensive games can cut that by almost half.
The D-Pad is above the analog stick (as it should be) and higher than those found on other emulators like the New PocketGo. I found it a bit steep, but the added height helped differentiate the different directions. The analog stick is also higher than usual on a device like this, but it sits inside a recess that allows it to be a traditional “stick” rather than a “sliding pad”. as found on the new PocketGo. It’s a better design, but it’s still inferior to console controllers, and I’ve turned to using the D-Pad as much as possible.
The face buttons on the RK2020 offer my favorite tactile feel of all the portable emulators I have tested so far – they are creepy. The height of the faceplate gives more than enough depth for a satisfactory trigger, the circumference of each button is large enough to be found easily, and the distance between each button is perfectly placed to avoid false presses. Button presses offer very healthy resistance that gives a lot of feedback, although there is a bit too much wobble for my liking at each end of the press. The only downside to the face buttons is the placement close to the screen. There were times when my thumb slipped a little too much on the screen. The RK2020 is relatively small, and I would have been fine with a larger system to help counter that.
Unfortunately, the Start and Select keys are almost flush with the faceplate, making it difficult to trigger them without looking down or sliding your thumb a bit to check its placement. Worse, the way you exit most emulators requires pressing these two buttons at the same time, twice. It never felt right, and I really wish they were higher out of the system. The Select button must also be pressed along with X in order to display the emulation parameters, another action that never felt normal or natural thanks to the placement of the buttons.
Because the device is so thin, the RK2020 features side-by-side rather than stacked shoulder button placement. I’ve used this placement enough to get used to it, but it’s not my favorite design. I would prefer to see a thicker system to accommodate stacked shoulder buttocks. Fortunately, the buttons have a lot of separation, and the clicky triggers take just enough pressure to engage, but not loose enough to allow false pushes.
The bottom of the RK2020 features a MicroSD card slot and a super slim speaker. You’ll find a power button, headphone jack, USB-C port for charging, and USB Type A port at the top. The USB-A port allows the use of a WiFi dongle or an external controller that can be configured inside the operating system. There is no volume control, it’s a shame. Instead, the volume is managed by holding the Select button again and then pressing the D-Pad up and down. It’s not great, especially with the design of the Select button, but honestly not as bad as I thought at first.
Software and gameplay
The RK2020 now comes with Retroarch installed, an upgrade from custom Linux operating systems common in most portable emulation devices. I say “now” shipped because when the device was first launched it was running firmware from another portable emulator, the ODROID GO Advance. And it wasn’t just firmware, the RK2020 even included some hardware as an OGA. Copyright laws are very different in China than in the US, but that’s a bad aspect for the RK2020. Fortunately, RK Console at least fixed the firmware issue, and the RK2020 you can buy now comes with RetroArch.
The combination of RetroArch and the RK2020’s quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM made most emulators run very smoothly. RetroArch is very customizable. It includes many different display options for your collection, can be connected to scratching services for things like box art, and provides a better overall user experience than you find on most devices. portable emulation. 8- and 16-bit games ran smoothly, even in games with more intense visual processing, like F-Zero and Super Castlevania IV. But at this point, we already know that most 2D game consoles will work fine on systems like these. What about 3D?
PlayStation 1 performance has been hit or miss on the new PocketGo, but the increased hardware power of the RK2020 has made almost all PS1 games perform as expected. This time, it’s the Dreamcast and PSP emulation that has proven its worth. I had to enable frame jump for most of the games. This feature cuts the frame rate in half, but generally allows for a smoother gaming experience. Games like Soul Calibur 2 which were already running at 60fps, remained playable natively at 30fps locked, and looked fantastic. Image leap was not, however, a universal cure. Games like Radio Jet Set that already works at lower frame rates just didn’t work – a real bummer.
Keep that in perspective though. Most portable emulators cannot properly run Dreamcast games. The Dreamcast is probably my favorite console of all time, so being able to run some of these games on the RK2020 is a real treat, and something I didn’t see coming so soon after the new PocketGo’s struggles with 3D games. .
The performance of the Nintendo 64, on the other hand, was not that good. Here we have two problems. One is for rendering N64 games in modern emulators and the other is for controls. The configuration of the N64 controller is a joke (although some of my colleagues would disagree) and mapping this weird control scheme to the completely different layout of this portable device is just a bad situation. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as I think it’s obvious, but I’ve never been able to find a setup that feels natural to me to incorporate the buttons needed by most games.
In terms of emulation, I still had to run everything with frame jump active to get smoother Nintendo 64 gameplay, but still encountered a lot of stuttering, hitching, and screen tearing. With a bit of work on the emulator settings I’m sure you can get closer to a playable state, but I didn’t take the time to do that because playing games with horrible controls is horrible.
The performance of the PSP was ubiquitous, mainly due to the drastically different types of games available on this console. 2D-based games, or games that had very little 3D interaction, performed surprisingly well with frame skipping enabled, and I was even able to get a few games to work fine with frame skippingâTactical ogre and Persona 3 Portable for example. Intensive 3D games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the other hand, it really struggles to maintain frame rates and has a lot of other issues as well. Bottom line: The performance of the PSP is very gaming specific, but just be aware that the RK2020 just doesn’t have enough power to play everything easily.
With extra power, (mostly) comfortable controls, and a crisp screen, the RK2020 has become my go-to device for portable emulation of classic games. The price is a bit higher than my last favorite device, the New PocketGo ($ 65 vs. $ 70), but you get a more powerful system that can actually play some Dreamcast and PSP games. It is worth the extra money.