Ian Cooper delivers his verdict on the Dingoo A330 handheld device – a nifty piece of kit that can play some of the most iconic retro games in history.
If you grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s and you’ve loved gaming as much as I have, then the legendary consoles of ages gone by are no stranger to you.
I’m talking about the 8 bit and 16 bit era of video games. Iconic mascots such as Mario and Sonic were created in these ages, and what better way to play them nowadays than to buy a retro console? Of course, emulation and ROM’s are a bit of a grey area as far as the law goes, but it’s perfectly legal to download the games if you own the original cartridge.
Now that that’s out of the way I can talk about the feature product. I own a Super Nintendo and a Sega Megadrive along with the Super Mario games and the Sonic the Hedgehog game. Not necessarily in good nick though, and it takes a few blows on the circuitry before things are up and running, so this console was a must-own for me. I’m talking about the A330 retro handheld console from Dingoo. The only place I could find where you can buy one of these is from the guys at Funstock.co.uk.
The A330 is the successor to the A320, with a better design, easier user-interface and a few upgrades. It looks like a miniature version of the Sony PlayStation Portable, taking on its color, shell design and button placements, and considering its surprisingly small size, it’s comfortable to hold and all of the face buttons are easy to reach.
On the front you have your A, B, X and Y buttons and your start and select buttons; on the top are the L and R shoulder buttons; and on the right of the device there is the power slider button. The A330 does have an AUX jack for headphones and an AV OUT port to connect it to a television via the AV cable provided in the box. Also in the box you get a mini USB cable to connect it to a computer or a charging plug which is included too, and you also get a set of headphones. On the left side of the unit is a microphone and a reset hole in case of any bricking emergencies, although these are rare and it hasn’t happened to me yet thankfully.
Overall the A330 is a nicely manufactured piece of kit considering its size, though I would have liked some sort of a carry case or sleeve to hold it in – as the screen and the back of the unit can be easily marked. It comes with 4 gigabytes of on-board memory, but a mini-SD slot situated on the bottom of the unit is present for up to 16 gigabytes of storage if needed.
The A330 is capable of playing video files, however they don’t look too great on its 2.8 inch TFT screen. E books can be read on its built-in E reader, but doing so can incur nasty eye strain. You can view pictures or photos on it, record audio clips, listen to music via any file format, listen to radio with its built in radio app and, of course, play old games. All of this is viewed in the form of a simplified version of Sony’s Cross Media Bar, so navigation is extremely easy- especially if you’re a Sony’s veteran.
All that is fine but, I hear you cry, ‘what about the games?!’ Well, the Dingoo A330 can impressively play Super Nintendo, Sega Megadrive, Neo Geo, Gameboy Advance, NES and CPS 1 and 2 games which are Capcom arcade game files, all of which have their own emulator built into the A330 with an astounding library of compatible titles.
I tried out the Sonic games, Mario games and a few Game Boy Advance games and I was impressed with the visual quality. The screen is bright and vivid and shows all the colours perfectly; the frame skipping however was a big problem for me. Even though it was fully changeable via each emulator’s built-in menu, I could never have a fully smooth gameplay experience, although when set on Auto it did provide increased playability.
The major problem for the A330 is the sound when you’re not using headphones, which comes out of one sole speaker. Even on the highest volume level the A330’s sound is terrible and too quiet, and the music sampling is drowned out by the sound effects. This is a bit of a devastating blow to the A330, as Sonic and Mario games were renowned for their awesome music and not being able to hear it clearly proved upsetting. Fortunately, sticking some headphones in does eliminate the issue with the sound: it becomes crystal clear – so be sure to carry some with you at all times!
There were also some graphical glitches here and there, but it didn’t hinder the gameplay experience much. The Game boy Advance emulation was by far the best of them all, due to its high quality of visuals and a slightly better audio.
The successor to the A320 is a good one overall, with some nice features and compatibility all packed into a small unit that’s nicely crafted. Videos, music, photos, radio, recordings and of course good old retro gaming all for £90 is a great buy for any retro fans who like gaming on the go.
Usability – 3/5
Comfort – 4/5
Value for money – 3/5
Overall – 3/5