There have been several attempts to create Android-based game consoles, but none have really gone according 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 great streaming box, but did little to make Android a better gaming platform. It turns out that Google’s OS is not a panacea for building your own ecosystem.
Recently, however, Android’s open nature and availability of manufacturing has allowed countless smaller Chinese companies to produce their own spin on the idea. You do not have to have big ambitions to build a platform ecosystem if all you want to do is sell to a small crowd of retro game enthusiasts. Companies like Retroid and Anbernic produce cheap, low-energy handheld Android devices in a variety of shapes and sizes, usually with emulation in mind.
$ 200– $ 300 (depending on configuration) Ayn Odin is a new Android handheld device based on this approach. It is made by a small company in Shenzhen with no hopes of creating a whole new gaming platform, instead of entrusting you to run the game you want on the device from the start. But it’s powerful enough to play more types of games than any of its Android competitors, while its design and control layout give it much more flexibility.
Odin’s design inspiration is pretty obvious: it’s basically a Nintendo Switch Lite running Android. As someone who used a Switch Lite for a few years, I actually think Ayn’s hardware is better. The 5.98-inch 1080p LCD screen is larger and sharper. The handles are more comfortable and contain useful, customizable buttons on the back. The D-pad looks identical to the PlayStation Vita’s, which is a very good thing. The pins have a slightly lower profile than the switch, but they are comfortable and easy to use.
Overall, the build quality is impressive for this type of device. The device I have tested comes in a Super Nintendo style gray and purple color variant which is a great look. There is blue LED lighting on the sides of the device and under the analog sticks, which I do not mind, but am glad it can be turned off. Upstairs there is a flap similar to the one that hides the Switch game card, except that this one covers a microSD card slot and a Micro HDMI port. The only real complaint I have about this hardware is the silly Odin logo under the D-pad.
There are a few different versions of Odin. I tested the $ 287 Odin Pro, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. $ 239 non-Pro Odin has the same Snapdragon 845 but half the RAM and storage space. $ 198 Odin Lite also has 64 GB of storage and 4 GB of RAM, but replaces Snapdragon with a newer MediaTek Dimensity D900. All models can be ordered through Indiegogo, although Lite has only just started shipping to backers.
Snapdragon 845 is what the flagship Android phones used in 2018, so you get the raw performance like a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or a Google Pixel 3. The difference, however, is that Odin has active cooling so it is able to run the processor at its highest speed for extended periods, unlike thin smartphones, which do not have fans and need to turn down their performance to stay cool. Odin’s fan is almost inaudible in its normal setting, very quiet in performance mode and roughly on par with a Nintendo Switch at its highest in high-performance mode. It’s much less noticeable than handheld PCs like Steam Deck and Aya Neo Next.
A chip found in Android phones from three or four years ago may not sound impressive, but it is far more powerful than what you would get with most other Android handheld devices, which often use low-powered MediaTek or Rockchip SoCs. These devices are designed to play games from 2D consoles or to some extent early 3D systems like the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64. However, Odin is able to emulate more advanced consoles like Dreamcast, PSP and GameCube. Between its larger 16: 9 screen and built-in controllers, it’s a more convenient and console-like experience than using a newer Android phone with an external controller, even if you sacrifice a bit of performance.
Emulation is inherently a hit and miss, and your results will vary depending on how you adjust settings and which emulators you choose. Overall, though, I thought Odin was doing a good job with the three aforementioned systems. In general, you can at least expect GameCube games to run at their original resolution and frame rate, sometimes with a problem. Not everything worked – I could not get the GameCube version off NBA Street V3 to load past the intro sequence, for example despite V2 (which is better anyway) runs fine. PSP games, on the other hand, were a revelation where most of them could be run in much higher resolution and with better performance than the original hardware.
Even on more powerful PCs, PS2 emulation is more difficult due to Sony’s proprietary “Emotion Engine” CPU with its custom instruction set. Odin can run some PS2 games, but I would not buy it in the expectation of having a hassle-free, error-free experience with most of the system’s library. GameCube versions of games where they exist will almost always be a better option if you want to play something from that console generation.
Steam Deck is an obvious comparison, and although I do not have one in hand to test side by side, it will clearly perform much better for emulation than Odin. Here’s a video that shows you can even get great results with PS3 games on deck, which can be notoriously challenging. On the other hand, Steam Deck is much bigger and more expensive than Odin (not to mention harder to buy), so it can be overkill for emulation if you are most interested in older games.
Odin is a really good device for streaming games as long as you are within Wi-Fi range. It has all the controls you need and its large 16: 9 screen has the perfect size and sharpness. I played a ton of Xbox Game Pass titles and found that Odin was a much better experience than any phone, even one with a controller connected. Streaming games is not yet for everyone, but if it works with your connection and playing style, it’s a great way to expand Odin’s possibilities. (An unfortunate note: while the Sony PS4 and PS5 Remote Play app runs fine on Odin, if you pair a DualShock or DualSense controller, I could not get it to work with the built-in controls.)
Native Android games also work well and you can download everything from the included Google Play Store. The Snapdragon 845 may not be the latest chip, but there are not many Android games that can not get a decent performance on it. Genshin Impact is the usual stress test and I got a solid 30fps at default settings. Games with controller support automatically treat Odin as if you have a pad connected via Bluetooth, and Ayn’s software layer also lets you easily map touch screen commands to Odin’s physical controls in games such as Genshin and Call of Duty mobile.
The only big game I could not get to run was Fortnite, which first returned an error message telling me to disable a developer mode I had not turned on, and then booted me from any match I tried to enter due to “internet layer, your IP or machine, VPN usage, for cheating or being on an unreliable platform. ” None of these questions should have been relevant, needless to say, except apparently the latter.
Odin’s software is essentially stock Android 10 – the Lite model has Android 11 – with Google services included, as well as an optional launcher. I found this launcher useful for system level features like fan speed adjustment and LED lights, but it requires you to add all your games manually to start them, which I did not really find worth the effort compared to just using regular Android for basic operation. Google’s OS is not perfectly optimized for 6-inch landscape displays, but at least it’s familiar and works as you would expect.
Although Netflix does not show up in the Play Store, other streaming apps like Prime Video do, though you may need to flip Odin on the side to use the phone’s user interface before your video launches. If you are really adventurous, you can install the Arm-based version of Windows on Odin through an open source project specific to Snapdragon 845; I did not try this and do not think it would be a good idea for most people, but hey, the opportunity is there.
As with any handheld gaming device, the battery life depends on what you do with it, but I found that the Odins were generally very good. The Pro version has a 6,000 mAh battery, which is larger than any phone that does not make a giant battery its main selling point, while the regular Odin and Odin Lite’s are still quite large at 5,000 mAh. I did not do dedicated wear tests, but I have never experienced that I need to rush to a charger in my time with it – it’s not like Steam Deck, where you’re lucky to get a few hours from newer games. Odin and Odin Pro support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge up to 4.0+, while Ayn claims that Lite has unspecified “fast charge”.
Another charging-related feature I was not able to test was Odin’s “Super Dock”, a charging stand with a wealth of ports. There are four USB-A 3.0 ports, one HDMI output, USB-C, Ethernet and unusually two Nintendo 64 controller ports and two more for GameCube controllers. I can not talk about how well the dock works, but it would certainly be a unique way to play Super Smash Bros.
It’s hard to blame Ayn Odin for what she intends to do. Android may not be the perfect ready-made gaming platform, but it does allow Ayn to build great hardware, step back, and give 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 of course all relatively niche issues, compared to something like a Nintendo Switch Lite. It’s a $ 199 machine designed solely to play Nintendo Switch games, and if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s obviously doing a much better job. Odin will not be for everyone.
But there is something to be said for putting Android’s flexibility into a well-made, suitable portable console and letting you do whatever you want with it. Although Ayn does not have its own game store to lean on, Odin’s appeal is that it does for Android what Steam Deck does for PC games – it brings the platform to a convenient form factor and says “hey, check out what this thing can do . “