Find it on: eBay, Amazon, AliExpress, BittBoy
Every once in a while, there is a product that comes along in a price class in the retro gaming world that becomes a must-have item. For the $40 and under category, that product as arrived with the new BittBoy V3. Aside from the premium feeling, GameBoy clone form factor and eye-popping screen, the BittBoy V3 plays the large majority of your 16-bit library and fits easily in any pocket.
Out of the box, you can tell the BittBoy V3 is a special product. It obviously pays homage to the original Nintendo Gameboy, but is about 1/3rd the size of its predecessor. The casing is a premium matte that feels smooth on the hands and is a clear upgrade from the typical cheap plastic that’s normally found in this price range. The buttons have a similar upgraded feel, and they appear to be built for the long term. I put this in my pocket for a week and had no issues with it.
Once the machine is on, the BittBoy V3 shines even more, with a picture perfect 2.4-inch IPS screen that is as bright as the best smartphones on the market and has outstanding viewing angles. There are other products in the next bracket up in price range that have the IPS display (the RG350, for instance, is double the price at $80), but it is a treat to have one in the $40 category. The 700mAh removable lithium battery gives a solid 3 hours gameplay before needing a recharge, though you won’t get much of a warning when the unit starts to lose its juice. It’ll start fading in brightness, and you’ll have a few minutes to save and power down.
The BittBoy V3 is powered by the AllWinner F1C500S SoC, which means that you’ll be able to play the majority of your 16-bit library. The OS is fairly basic and relatively easy to navigate around. Just push the center system button to bring up things during gameplay such as save/load states, screen ratio and other system settings. A huge drawback of the BittBoy V3 is the lack of a volume wheel. In order to change the volume range, you’ll need to hold the system button down while pushing the up or down button. That said, for such a tiny unit, the volume is quite crisp.
As I mentioned, you can play everything up to the 16-bit level, though there are some games on the SNES emulator that really struggle. I wasn’t able to play SNES Mario Kart, so I settled for Mario Kart on the GameBoy Advance emulator. Other games on the SNES are hit or miss as well, but the F1C500S SoC has no problems playing NES, GB, GBC, GBA and Genesis games. BittBoy advertises PlayStation 1 compatibility, but that’s a stretch. If you can even get a PS1 ROM to load (I couldn’t), the BittBoy V3 has no shoulder buttons, so PS1 gameplay would be a fruitless activity, anyway.
My BittBoy V3 came with an 8GB SD card that had about 100 ROMs preloaded, and there are also other games that are specifically built on the system, including DOOM. To add more games, you’ll need some basic technical know-how to pop the card out, put it into the reader on your computer and drop other ROMs in there. It’s got enough on there to be a decent plug-and-play, but a more avid gamer will want more than what it’s shipped with.
Still, for the price of $40, there is just no beating what you get. If you are OK with staying in the 16-bit category, and want a highly portable, premium looking and feeling retro handheld, this is absolutely worth your time and money.