The GKD Pro is a metal-clad version of the GKD Mini retro gaming handheld that looks good, feels good, and plays many classic games. Just don’t ask where those games came from.
US Street Price$259.00
Unless you want to build a big collection of cartridges, emulation is still the optimal way to enjoy a wide variety of classic video games (though legally dubious at best, unless you’re certain the games on whatever device you get are properly licensed). Emulation-based gaming handhelds offer a handy way to play thousands of different games on the go, if you don’t ask where those games came from. The Anbernic RG351P impressed us with its excellent build quality, strong performance, and good value. The Game Kiddy GKD Pro (also known as the metal GKD Mini) is a similar system, which uses a metal body that feels even better than the RG351P. However, at $259, it’s much, much more expensive, and it lacks analog sticks.
Metal and Sturdy
The GKD Pro, available in blue or grey, looks gorgeous and feels excellent for a retro gaming handheld. The metal body is sturdy and well-constructed, with absolutely no wiggle or looseness. It’s roughly Game Boy-shaped, with a 3.5-inch screen positioned directly above the physical controls rather than between them like on the RG351P or Nintendo Switch. The handheld weighs half a pound, making it light enough to comfortably hold, but just heavy enough to feel solid in the hands.
The controls on the GKD Pro’s face include a plus-shaped direction pad, A/B/X/Y face buttons arranged in the Nintendo configuration (A on the right), Start and Select buttons, a tiny multipurpose utility button, and another tiny button for cycling through screen brightness levels. A volume rocker sits on the right edge of the handheld, while two more utility buttons sit on the left edge. The GKD Pro’s back features a bulge halfway down the device that holds two pairs of shoulder buttons arranged in a single line. That covers all the bases for most game systems up to the fifth generation, but the lack of analog sticks means no Nintendo 64 support, and PlayStation games that take advantage of the DualShock will have inferior control. The good news is that the digital controls that are there are satisfying and responsive, with every button and direction pad input having a pleasantly springy, almost clicky input without feeling stiff.
The 3.5-inch screen has the same 320-by-240 resolution as the RG351P and looks pleasantly bright and colorful. The interface looks a bit grainy, though, and you might need to tweak individual emulators’ upscale settings to get the best picture out of them. The RG351P’s emulators appear to handle this job a bit better out of the box than most of the ones on the GKD Pro.
Under the Hood
Internally, the GKD Pro uses a MIPS32R2 processor with a 1.5GHz clock speed. The CPU is at least eight years old, but it appears comparable in processing power with the RK3326 on the RG351P. The GKD Pro doesn’t have a separate GPU like the RG351P, however, and it has only 128MB of system RAM compared with the Anbernic’s 1GB. Of course, since one is MIPS architecture and the other is ARM architecture, a direct comparison of the two based on specs isn’t feasible, and they can largely emulate the same systems (with the exception of the Nintendo 64, because of the GKD Pro’s lack of an analog stick).
On the software side, the GKD Pro runs on a collection of open source, GPL, and copyleft projects. Specifically, it uses GMenu2X running on top of the OpenDingux Linux distribution, and credits the developers and translators in its About screen. The UI is a tab-and-tile-based affair that’s built around easy navigation; you use the direction pad and shoulder buttons to shift between Settings, Applications, Emulators and Games screens. The interface looks dated and Linux-y out of the box, but everything is sensibly organized. Even better, you won’t have the awkward feeling of missing out on touchscreen controls, something you’ll experience with the Android-powered Retroid Pocket 2’s default UI.
22 emulators come preloaded on the GKD Pro, with some odd redundancies among them. There are two MAME emulators and three Final Burn emulators for arcade emulation, two Picodrive emulators for Sega Genesis games, two PocketSNES emulators for SNES games, and two Game Boy/Game Boy Color emulators. Each emulator has its own pile of ROMs (an iffy issue that we’ll discuss below), and one of the Game Boy emulators doesn’t seem to work at all. As a result, it all feels like a big mish-mash of disparate software stuffed onto the device (but this is built on a Linux distribution, after all).
There are also several dozen Linux-friendly games preinstalled on the GKD Pro. The list is a mish-mash of varying quality, but the original Cave Story is on there, along with the classic shooter OpenTyrian, and the surprisingly excellent Doom-based 3D Sonic the Hedgehog fangame Sonic Robot Blast 2.
Every emulator behaves differently, and this can be particularly awkward when trying to navigate their menus. The GKD Pro has both a pair of Start and Select buttons, and an additional tiny multipurpose system button above them; any combination of those buttons might let you bring up its menu screen or exit the software. The GKD Pro doesn’t have a dedicated home button, so you must figure out what to press to get back to the home screen for every emulator you use. This is particularly difficult with DOSBox (which, fortunately, only has two car racing games on it), because early PC game control mapping doesn’t tend to translate well with gamepad controls.
The Game Question
Then there’s the games. Like the RG351P, Retroid Pocket 2, and many other emulation-based retro gaming handhelds you can purchase online, the GKD Pro comes loaded with thousands of games across many different systems. Those games are almost certainly not licensed and were simply obtained in bulk online to be added onto the system’s microSD card. No game publisher or game hardware developer has successfully blocked these devices from being released, so you can easily buy them on various legitimate retail sites. Still, if the prospect of contributing to copyright infringement bothers you, you should probably steer clear of this category. Conversely, if you’re an eager “classic gaming software archivist,” you can load a second microSD card with any additional games you’ve collected and play them without issue (though you’ll need to navigate to the second card in each emulator’s file menu).
Strong Performance With Experimentation
Assuming you’re still interested in this type of device, that brings us to how the GKD Pro performs. Well, emulation is generally excellent across the board. Arcade, Game Boy, NES, SNES, and even PlayStation games consistently run without issue. The controls are responsive and animations are smooth, and the screen shows everything off nicely. Once you get past any menu-wrestling required to get each emulator to work the way you want it to, the handheld runs everything with aplomb. This isn’t too surprising, since classic game emulators have been extensively improved and refined over decades, and the “newest” game you’ll find here is probably 20 years old. However, not everything is perfect, and arcade games in particular might run slowly or trigger anti-piracy protections, which is why the handheld comes bundled with a good half-dozen different arcade emulators.
The build quality, especially the controls, deserve credit, as well. The direction pad and face buttons feel good under the thumb, and they’re comparable with the RG351P’s controls. The lack of analog sticks holds back what the handheld can do, though, especially with PlayStation games that support the DualShock controller, and the possibility of running any Nintendo 64 games. The metal build quality is also rock-solid, and it edges out the RG351P. That said, Anbernic has released a RG351MP with a metal body and 640-by-480 screen, which on paper combines the best elements of both handhelds and further improves them.
Well-Made, Expensive Emulation
The Game Kiddy GKD Pro is a great-feeling, great-looking retro gaming handheld, if you don’t mind the legal dubiousness of the games that come bundled with it. The metal body is striking, but at $260 to $340 MSRP, or even at the more realistic $170 we’ve seen it sold for online, it’s far too expensive. For that much money, you could get an Analogue Pocket and build your own collection of actual Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges that look and play fantastic on the device’s absurdly high-resolution (1,600-by-1,440) screen. Or, for much less, you could get the dual-analog-equipped Anbernic RG351P, or spend more for the metal RG351MP we haven’t yet tested. The GKD Pro is an attractive handheld on its own, but it costs far too much cash.