With millions of dollars raised in Kickstarter projects, and big manufacturers launching into the race, we can be sure that the gamer revolution in portable android consoles has only just begun. It was a matter of time before hardware manufacturers saw an opportunity to build portable consoles that supported the Android operating system. The market for games and applications on Android is broad, diversified and mature.
The Era of Android Gaming Consoles
Hundreds of mobile video game development companies are investing heavily in creating games for this platform, and the injections of public and private capital and the statistics of use and collection corroborate this. The Android gaming ecosystem is here to stay, of that there is no doubt, but unfortunately, any gamer who boasts will have experienced the side effects of these applications: Excessive battery consumption in phones, screens of limited size, heating of the terminal.
We are at a turning point, where there is a demand from users and portable Android consoles capable of filling that gap are coming to the market. There are great differences in features, hardware, firmware, and other aspects when choosing your console, so we have reviewed dozens of models to develop the following list.
Best Android Consoles
1. Nvidia Shield – A Beast
The Nvidia Shield is the perfect idea for a portable and powerful console, with a high-quality screen attached to a dedicated controller. This game station is a beast in terms of performance and power. The design of this console consists of a complete panel of buttons with two analog joysticks, together with a folding screen. The screen offers a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, in a size of 5 inches, and an image definition and colors out of series.
The aesthetics of the Nvidia Shield is very successful, built with high-quality materials, and finished in black. The upper part of the device is occupied in its entirety the screen, while in the back we find a micro USB connector to charge the battery, and a mini HDMI port to connect to television screens or compatible monitors. The connection in the mini HDMI port offers a full 1080p quality. The device is also equipped with a standard 3.5mm jack connection for headphones or headphones.
One of the most powerful and useful aspects of the Nvidia Shield is the option of streaming video games from the PC. This feature, supported by modern models of Nvidia graphics cards, allows access to games on our computer and enjoy them in streaming.
It is enough to have a minimally stable connection to the Wi-Fi network in order to connect the Android console to the computer and enjoy playing with your games, including those from your Steam library. Can you imagine being able to play titles like Dark Souls or Tomb Raider on a portable console?
If you are a little handy, you can configure the console to support emulations from the PC, including PS3 and PS4 in streaming. In this type of configuration, it will be your computer that does the hard work but allows you to enjoy the best games on your portable console.
The Nvidia Shield comes with a 28.8Wh battery, which gives us an autonomy of around 6 hours of continuous play, or about 10 hours of streaming. This android console offers enough battery charge to compare it with the PSP, in terms of autonomy.
2. GPD XD – Powerful and flexible
The XD GPD is an ideal Android console for lovers of retro. With a battery of 6000 mAh, this wonder offers an autonomy of up to 9 hours in Android games (Google Play) or 11 playing with the emulator, which undoubtedly is enough to endure playing the whole day away from home.
The hardware of the GPD XD is oriented to offer us a speed of processing and visual fluidity. Equipped with a 1.8 GHz Quad-Core processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 16-core GPU, this android console gives us unparalleled graphics power.
The power of the XD GPD allows us to easily emulate modern platforms such as Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 or the first Sony PlayStation, perfect for the most romantic fans of the classics.
If we focus on the quality of the screen, the XD GPD offers a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, on a 5-inch multi-touch high-definition display, which will delight the most demanding players. The controls on the console are great, with two physical joysticks arranged on each side, and an 8-button pad ideal for old school games.
This portable console can be purchased with different internal storage options, starting from 16 GB. All models of the GPD XD offer a slot for microSD cards, which allows us to expand storage to a maximum capacity of 64 GB. Without a doubt more than enough to keep all our games, emulators, ROMs, movies, music or whatever you can imagine. Despite being designed primarily as a gaming station, this android console offers all the advantages of the Google operating system.
We can install all kinds of native apps on the device from the Google Play market, or via the apk package, from the internal memory, turning our console into a multimedia station. This android console comes pre-configured with emulators of PlayStation, PSP, Nintendo 64, Gameboy, Sega, Arcade Mame, Dreamcast, and even some game ROMs, but there are some areas for improvement, such as the effort required to perform the initial configuration.
3. JXD S7800B – Very complete
The JXD S7800B is a great android console that includes a 7-inch screen and physical controls. Designed to be held in a horizontal orientation, the S7800B comes equipped with an 8-way digital pad, four buttons on the front and four more on the back.
This console is ready to offer us a unique experience in Android games and is loaded with lots of emulators and ROMs that will delight gamers. The game controls on each side of the screen are the most obvious difference with other models of android consoles.
The JXD S7800B is designed to be your game console, and that is why it has a wonderful ergonomic design in the back, to facilitate a better grip. The digital ‘pad’ is precise and solid, making it ideal for those games that are not ready for analog controls.
The twin joysticks are a great advantage when playing Android games, providing much more precision than the virtual controls shown on the screens of other tablets. JXD engineers have put a lot of effort into making the analog controls one of their most noteworthy features, and have included an app to configure and map the physical controls with the controls and buttons shown on the screen, making this console compatible with virtually all the games available in the Google Play store.
The S7800B comes equipped with a quad-core processor at a speed of 1.6 GHz and 2 GB of RAM. This processing capacity allows emulating Sony Playstation, and Sega Dreamcast in a comfortable way. In addition to the powerful hardware for graphics, the S7800B also brings two cameras, one in the front and one in the back, which can be used perfectly to make video calls via Skype or Google Hangouts.
This android console comes with a 5000 mAh battery, which gives it an autonomy of up to 5 hours of play, comparable with other models such as PS Vita or Nintendo 3DS, which have screen sizes significantly lower than the JXD S7800B. While the console performs its functions magnificently, there are certain aspects in which it should improve.
The quality of the materials is arguably mediocre, and the battery life could be better. If you are a player who remembers with nostalgia the days in which you spent your coins in arcade machines playing classics like Street Fighter, Golden Ax or Metal Slug, the JXD S7800B will make you immensely happy.
4. GPD Q88+ – Good, beautiful and cheap
The next console on our list is the GPD Q88 + from the GamePad Digital manufacturer. This console of 7 inches of size is similar to the GPD G7 in specifications, but with a more accomplished design comparable to the JXD S7800.
The Q88 + GPD comes equipped with powerful hardware, with an RK3188-T processor running at 1.4GHz speed, 1GB of RAM and a 7-inch screen. The processing speed can be configured to operate up to 1.6 GHz by making adjustments in the kernel.
The battery that brings the console is lithium-polymer and has a capacity of 5000 mAh. This android console has a great graphic quality, and a resolution of colors and screen contrast much better than its predecessor the G7 GPD. The 7-inch screen, IPS type, offers a resolution of 1024 x 600.
The analog controls are of very good quality, similar to those of Sony PSP, but larger. The four front buttons (XBYA) are slightly soft but do not make any noise when pressed. The buttons located at the corners at both upper ends of the screen are easy to use.
The Q88 + GPD comes pre-installed with the Kit Kat version of Android, with a much better launcher. The firmware is stable, and the installed ROM is similar to that of its little sister the G7. The refresh of the screen is at 60 Hz, without major problems to connect with HDMI or VSYNC.
The quality of the front camera is 0.3 MP and leaves much to be desired. The console is mainly aimed at gaming and is not really optimized for other types of tasks. This android console is definitely a great purchase in terms of value for money. It offers everything you need to play, without frills, and with a sober and elegant aesthetic.
5. Chuwi Vi8 Plus – The dual solution
The Chuwi Vi8 Plus, unlike other economic tablets, has good technical characteristics. The tablet comes equipped with 2GB of RAM and allows Windows and Android support. The Vi8 comes equipped with a quad-core Z8300 Trail processor that offers processing speeds of up to 1.84 GHz, with a 1280 x 800 IPS screen and a microSD card slot.
This android console is built in plastic with a textured back cover, which resembles the touch of metal. No clicks or noises when handled, and has a size to make it easily manageable, with about 207 mm high by 122 mm wide and weighing approximately 310 grams.
The device offers a microSD card slot, a micro USB port with OTG support and an HDMI port. The Hynix HBG4e eMMC hard disk offers good performance and a storage capacity of 32 GB. The CrystalMark tests reflect that this hard drive is one of the fastest in terms of reading and writing. The IPS screen offers a resolution of 1280 x 800, excellent brightness and colors, even from various angles of perspective. The 8-inch screen is fluid and has low response latency.
The processor of the Vi8 Plus offers great performance. It allows playing videos at 1080p while doing other tasks on the split screen of Windows or Android. This device allows us to use it for other tasks such as browsing, opening documents, watching movies, etc. with unparalleled speed.
The battery of 5000 mAh offers a range of about 5 – 6 hours, depending on the use we make, and the operating system in which we are operating. Without a doubt, it is the weak point of this console, but it makes up for it with the powerful hardware with which it comes equipped and its affordable price.
6. GPD Q9 – Very top
GPD Q9 is the natural evolution of her little sisters, GPDs Q88-89. This console comes equipped with hardware more powerful than its predecessors, with a very successful design and luxury finishes. The processor chosen for GPD Q9 has been a Quad-Core RK3288 chipset running at 1.8 GHz, standard, and ready for overclocking.
The console brings 2 GB of DDR3 RAM and a powerful graphics card: a Mali T764 16-core GPU, far superior to other consoles in the same price range. The GP9 Q9 comes equipped with a 7-inch IPS multitouch screen, which offers a resolution of 1024 x 600. The image definition and color balance are excellent, and the touch response of the screen very accurate.
This android console has a ROM internal memory of 16 GB, with the possibility of extending it up to 64 GB using a microSD card. The lithium-polymer battery has a capacity of 5000 mAh, which offers a range of approximately 4 to 6 hours, depending on its use, or up to 3 days on standby. The controls, like other machines of the GamePad manufacturer, are robust and of good quality.
The team comes with Android 4.4 installed, and emulators and ROMs for most popular consoles: PlayStation, PSP, Nintendo 64, Gameboy, Sega, Arcade Mame, Dreamcast. In addition, the console is ready to use the Happy Chick store, where you can download games for free. Within the android consoles with a 7-inch screen, the Q9 GPD is one of the best options, due to its spectacular graphics performance and size.
7. GPD G7 – Compact and solid
The GPD G7 is another android console from the GamePad Digital manufacturer, with some wonderful technical features. No doubt a strong competitor within the competitive market of laptops with 7-inch screens. This console is built in rigid plastic with matt finishes and an ergonomic design that makes it very easy to hold, even for long periods of time.
The touch of materials and finishes are of exceptional quality. At the heart of this gem, we find a Quad-Core processor with a serial power of 1.6 GHz and a DDR3 RAM of 1 GB. The Mali 400 3D processor offers smooth, crisp and smooth graphics. The console has an internal memory of 16 GB expandable, with a microSD card, up to 64 GB. The analog controls are robust and well built, and they feel solid while we play.
The G7 GPD brings the usual controls configuration in this type of android consoles, with two joysticks, crosshead, 6 buttons on the right front and two triggers located at the corners of the screen. The IPS 7-inch screen offers a resolution of 1024 x 600, sharp, bright colors and enough brightness to play outdoors without major problems.
The battery of series is of 5000 mAh and is without a doubt the weak point of this console. The autonomy of the battery leaves to be desired, offering a useful life of between 4 and 6 hours, depending on the use that is given to it.
The GP7 G7 stands out for its solid and robust design, but the position of the speakers is at least misguided and makes that when we are holding it we partially cover the audio output. Obviating these small details, we can affirm categorically that the GP7 G7 is a great machine with a wide and clear screen and an enviable hardware.
8. Leotec Gamedroid – Practical and concise
The Leotec Gamedroid is an Android console with a design almost the same as the Sony PSP. If something works, why change it? Something like that must have thought about Leotec when they were designing the device. Jokes aside, the Leotec Gamedroid is a worthy machine, and more than enough for the large public gamer looking for a portable console to use on public transport, or at home with the pajamas on.
This console comes equipped with an ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 1.2 GHz, 512 MB of RAM and a Mali 400 3D graphics chipset. While it is somewhat inferior in terms of hardware, comparing it with the other consoles on our list, the performance it offers is excellent.
The Leotec Gamedroid has a 5-inch multitouch screen, a 4GB flash internal memory, and a microSD card slot, which allows the storage capacity to be expanded to 32 GB. The console has multiple connection ports including Full HD output via HDMI. The hardware supports a long list of video formats. The battery of the Gamedroid is only 2000 mAh, which limits its autonomy to between 3 and 5 hours depending on the use. It is undoubtedly one of the areas of improvement of this device.
9. Mojo – An interesting concept
The Mad Catz Mojo is an android console assembled in a small and elegant black metal case and a wireless controller. This micro-console connects to your television and offers Android games, multimedia center, among other wonders.
Designed to be something more than your Android console, the Mojo offers many possibilities, sacrificing the portability of other consoles with screens assembled in the controller. The Mojo comes equipped with a powerful Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, 2 GB of RAM and an integrated storage of 16 GB, expandable by microSD card up to 128 GB.
The controller of the Mojo is designed following patterns similar to those of large consoles. Although the distribution of the crosshead and the analog joysticks is unconventional, in a matter of minutes the trick is taken.
The same manufacturer sells accessories for the control, such as a clip that allows you to hold your Android phone and play while you are away from the television. One of the most innovative features of the Mojo is its open platform. The operating system is compatible with many markets and platforms such as Google Play Store, TegraZone and Ouya Everywhere.
10. Ouya – A twist
When the Ouya ended its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, the open source console raised an incredible $8 million. Consumers were prepared for a new type of console, and the Ouya was the ideal candidate.
The idea of the project was to create an open source micro-console, where the user could change components, install third-party hardware and software, and still maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. Technically the Ouya is not an android console, but it brings its own firmware and open operating system installed.
The proposal of this project is very interesting and involves an innovation in several senses, from its minimalist design to the publication of video games through its native platform. The portable console comes equipped with a 16 GB storage hard drive and can be expanded in capacity using a USB disk or external hard drive.
Most of the games available for this console have been designed to work on mobile devices, and when connecting the Ouya to a television screen, the graphics quality is less than desirable.
Despite this limitation, there are several titles of outstanding graphics performance. The Ouya is very small and compact and comes basically in two pieces: the console and the control. The game control that comes standard is functional but has areas for improvement.
The buttons are sometimes pressed, and the joystick is not as firm as it should be. Fortunately, the console allows the synchronization and pair of Bluetooth devices, so we can use PS3 or Xbox 350 commands without any problem.
One of the strengths of this micro-console is the strong community of developers and users, who congregate in the official forums. The software, firmware, applications, and games are constantly evolving and everything seems to indicate that there is still a lot of potentials to discover and exploit on this platform.
Undoubtedly an interesting idea, but perhaps at an early stage of consolidation. La Ouya offers many free indie games, and most paid games offer a demo or trial version, before purchase.