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Powkiddy Q90 review: A solid retro gaming option

The Q90 by Powkiddy is yet another portable device for lovers of handheld retro gaming emulation. Priced affordably at $36 on Powkidy.com (sic), it comes with some nice features and a nice build quality. But like all the products on the market today you still have to deal with some quirks. This tiny handheld emulator is worth checking out, especially given its price, though it falls short in some key places.

In my opinion the real competition in this $30 space is the PocketGo, which I reviewed last year and continue to use even though I own more powerful hardware. The Q90 boasts a number of upgrades over the PocketGo and should be considered when looking for such a small and cheap device.

Powkiddy Q90 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Powkiddy Q90 (left) and PocketGo (right) are similar in many ways but diverge in key areas.

Q90 vs PocketGo: Hardware

The Q90 improves upon the PocketGo in overall size. The PocketGo is super-small at roughly 12.5 x 5.5 x 1.5mm. While that petite size helped with portability, the device could cramp up my hand after long gaming sessions. The thicker Q90, at roughly 13.8 x 6.5 x 1.8mm, helps for those longer gaming sessions but is still small enough to throw in a pocket. When it comes to physical size I give the edge to the Q90.

When we get to the screen, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Both devices feature a 320×240 IPS panel, but thanks to the bigger size of the Q90 the screen is bigger, too—3 inches diagonal, vs 2.4 inches on the PocketGo. While that difference doesn’t seem like much, that extra half-inch or so does ease eyestrain over time.

Other than the size, however, the PocketGo’s screen is vastly superior: brighter, sharper, and with better off-axis viewing angles. Unless you must have a larger screen, the PocketGo wins here.

Powkiddy Q90 Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Q90 is bigger than the PocketGo, but it’s still comfortable enough to carry in a pocket.

When it comes to inputs we see a few notable differences. In the Q90’s favor, it charges via USB-C, a welcome upgrade to the Micro-USB on the PocketGo.

The rest of the picture is more problematic. The buttons and d-pad on the Q90 are squishy and feature sharper edges, compared to the PocketGo’s clicky feedback and rounded edges. I’ve preferred clickier controls, so there is some subjectivity here. However, I also wasn’t a fan of the Q90’s thumbstick (on the left side) for use in supported games. It’s of the sliding variety, which means there is very little travel. Resistance is tight enough that it’s hard to slide in a smooth fashion. 

In the audio department, both feature a 1/8-inch headphone jack. The Q90 has stereo speakers where the PocketGo has mono, and that seems like a plus. Unfortunately the Q90’s speakers are located on the back of the device, so the sound moves away from you, and can also get muffled by hand placement. The PocketGo is the better option if you don’t want to use headphones.

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