At that place accept been several attempts to create Android-based game consoles, but none have really gone to plan. The Ouya, for example, was a high-profile Kickstarter success and a disastrous commercial flop. Nvidia’s streaming-focused Shield, meanwhile, evolved into a nifty streaming box but didn’t exercise much to make Android a amend gaming platform. Information technology turns out Google’s OS isn’t a panacea for edifice your own ecosystem.
Recently, though, the open nature of Android and the accessibility of manufacturing have allow countless smaller Chinese companies produce their own spin on the idea. You don’t have to have sweeping ambitions to build a platform ecosystem if all you want to practice is sell to a pocket-sized oversupply of retro game enthusiasts. Companies similar Retroid and Anbernic are churning out cheap, low-powered Android handhelds in a variety of shapes and sizes, usually with emulation in mind.
The $200–$300 (depending on configuration) Ayn Odin is a new Android handheld that builds on that arroyo. It’s fabricated by a small company in Shenzhen without any aspirations to create a brand new gaming platform, instead entrusting you lot to run any game y’all desire on the device from the get-go. But it’s powerful enough to play more types of games than whatsoever of its Android competitors, while its design and command layout requite information technology much more flexibility.
The Odin’s design inspiration is pretty obvious: it’s basically a Nintendo Switch Light running Android. As someone who used a Switch Lite for a couple of years, though, I actually think Ayn’south hardware is better. The 5.98-inch 1080p LCD is bigger and sharper. The grips are more than comfortable and house useful customizable rear buttons. The D-pad appears to be identical to the PlayStation Vita’south, which is a very skillful thing. The sticks are a little lower-profile than the Switch’s, simply they’re comfy and easy to use.
Overall, build quality is impressive for this kind of device. The unit of measurement I’ve been testing comes in a Super Nintendo-style grey and purple colorway, which is a great look. At that place’southward blue LED lighting on the sides of the device and underneath the analog sticks, which I don’t mind simply am glad tin be turned off. Up top, at that place’south a flap similar to the one that hides Switch game cards, except here it covers a microSD card slot and a Micro HDMI port. The only existent complaint I take well-nigh this hardware is the goofy Odin logo underneath the D-pad.
In that location are a few different versions of the Odin. I’ve been testing the $287 Odin Pro, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The $239 non-Pro Odin has the same Snapdragon 845 but half the RAM and storage. The $198 Odin Lite also has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM simply swaps the Snapdragon out for a newer MediaTek Dimensity D900. All models are available to social club through Indiegogo, though the Lite has only just started shipping to backers.
The Snapdragon 845 is what flagship Android phones used in 2022, then you lot’re getting the raw performance of a Samsung Milky way Note 9 or a Google Pixel three. The departure, though, is that the Odin has agile cooling, so information technology’s able to run the processor at its highest speed for longer periods of time, unlike thin smartphones, which don’t have fans and need to throttle their operation to stay absurd. The Odin’southward fan is almost inaudible on its normal setting, very placidity in functioning mode, and about on par with a Nintendo Switch at its loudest in high performance fashion. It’southward a lot less noticeable than handheld PCs like the Steam Deck and the Aya Neo Next.
A flake found in Android phones from three or four years ago may not audio impressive, but it’s far more than powerful than what you’d get with most other Android handhelds, which often apply depression-powered MediaTek or Rockchip SoCs. Those devices are intended to play games from 2D consoles or, at a stretch, early on 3D systems like the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64. The Odin, though, is able to emulate more avant-garde consoles like the Dreamcast, PSP, and GameCube. Between its bigger sixteen:9 screen and built-in controls, information technology’s a more convenient and console-similar experience than using a newer Android phone with an external controller, even if you sacrifice a little performance.
Emulation is inherently hit and miss, and your results will vary depending on how y’all tweak settings and which emulators yous choose. Overall, though, I constitute the Odin to do a great job with the iii aforementioned systems. By and large, you can at least expect GameCube games to run at their original resolution and frame charge per unit, sometimes with an occasional hitch. Not everything worked — I couldn’t get the GameCube version of
NBA Street V3
to load past the intro sequence, for instance, despite
(which is ameliorate anyway) running fine. PSP games were a revelation, on the other hand, with nearly of them able to be run at far higher resolution and with ameliorate performance than the original hardware.
Even on more powerful PCs, PS2 emulation is trickier due to Sony’s proprietary “Emotion Engine” CPU with its custom instruction set. The Odin can run some PS2 games, but I wouldn’t buy it expecting to get a seamless, glitch-free experience with a bulk of the system’s library. GameCube versions of games, where they exist, will almost always be a better option if you’re looking to play something from that panel generation.
The Steam Deck is an obvious comparison, and while I don’t take ane in mitt to test next, it’ll conspicuously perform much ameliorate for emulation than the Odin. Hither’s a video showing that you tin can even get good results with PS3 games on the Deck, which tin can be notoriously challenging. On the other hand, the Steam Deck is much bigger and more expensive than the Odin (not to mention harder to buy), so information technology might be overkill for emulation if y’all’re more often than not interested in older games.
The Odin is a actually corking device for streaming games, as long equally you lot’re in Wi-Fi range. Information technology has all the controls you need, and its big sixteen:9 display is the perfect size and sharpness. I played a ton of Xbox Game Laissez passer titles and found the Odin to be a much improve experience than any telephone, even 1 with a controller fastened. Streaming games isn’t for everyone yet, but if it works with your connectivity and play style, it’due south a good way to expand the capabilities of the Odin. (1 unfortunate note: while Sony’southward PS4 and PS5 Remote Play app runs fine on the Odin if you pair a DualShock or DualSense controller, I couldn’t become information technology to work with the built-in controls.)
Native Android games also work well, and yous tin can download anything from the included Google Play Shop. The Snapdragon 845 might non exist the latest chip, but there aren’t many Android games that can’t become decent performance on it.
is the usual stress examination, and I got a solid 30fps at default settings. Games with controller support automatically treat the Odin as if you take a pad hooked up over Bluetooth, and Ayn’s software layer also lets you easily map touchscreen commands to the Odin’s physical controls in games like
Telephone call of Duty Mobile.
The one major game I couldn’t get to run was
Fortnite, which first returned an error message telling me to disable a programmer mode I hadn’t turned on, then booted me from any match I attempted to enter considering of “net lag, your IP or auto, VPN usage, for cheating, or being on an untrusted platform.” None of those problems should have applied, needless to say, except plain the terminal i.
The Odin’s software is essentially stock Android 10 — the Light model has Android 11 — with Google services included, as well as an optional launcher. I found this launcher useful for system-level features like adjusting fan speed and the LED lights, but information technology requires you to add all your games manually in society to launch them, which I didn’t actually find to be worth the effort over but using regular Android for basic operations. Google’s Os isn’t perfectly optimized for half dozen-inch landscape displays, but at least it’s familiar and works the way you’d expect.
While Netflix doesn’t show upwards in the Play Store, other streaming apps like Prime Video do, though you might have to turn the Odin on its side to use the phone-manner UI before your video starts. If you’re really audacious, you can install the Arm-based version of Windows on the Odin through an open-source project specifically for the Snapdragon 845; I did not try this and don’t recollect it would be a good idea for most people, but hey, the option is there.
As with whatever handheld gaming device, battery life depends on what you’re doing with it, but I institute the Odin’s to be generally very good. The Pro version has a 6,000mAh battery, which is bigger than whatever phone that doesn’t brand a giant battery its main selling point, while the regular Odin and Odin Lite’s are a nevertheless-pretty-big 5,000mAh. I didn’t do dedicated rundown tests, merely I haven’t found myself e’er needing to blitz to a charger in my fourth dimension with information technology — it’southward not like the Steam Deck, where you’re lucky to get a couple of hours from newer games. The Odin and Odin Pro support Qualcomm’s Quick Accuse up to four.0+, while Ayn claims the Lite has unspecified “fast charging.”
Another charging-related feature I wasn’t able to test was the Odin’south “Super Dock,” a charging stand with a ton of ports. In that location are 4 USB-A 3.0 ports, an HDMI out, USB-C, Ethernet, and unusually, 2 Nintendo 64 controller ports and two more for GameCube controllers. I can’t speak to how well the dock works, but it’d certainly be a unique manner to play
Super Blast Bros.
It’southward hard to fault the Ayn Odin for what information technology sets out to do. Android might non exist the perfect ready-made gaming platform, but information technology’s allowed Ayn to build swell hardware, stride back, and requite the user the responsibility of figuring out what to run on it. For a certain kind of person, this will make them very happy.
Streaming, traditional Android gaming, and emulation are all relatively niche use cases, of grade, when compared to something like a Nintendo Switch Lite. That’s a $199 automobile designed solely to play Nintendo Switch games, and if that’due south what you lot’re after, it patently does a much better job. The Odin won’t be for everyone.
But there’south something to exist said for putting the flexibility of Android into a well-made, capable portable panel and letting you do what you want with it. While Ayn doesn’t have its ain games store to lean on, the Odin’s appeal is that it does for Android what the Steam Deck does for PC gaming — it brings the platform to a user-friendly form factor and says “hey, become cheque out what this thing can do.”