Several attempts have been made 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 didn’t do much to make Android a better gaming platform. It turns out that Google’s operating system isn’t a panacea for building your own ecosystem.
Of late, Android’s open nature and accessibility to manufacturing have prompted countless smaller Chinese companies to put their own spin on the idea. You don’t need to have big ambitions to build a platform ecosystem if you just want to sell to a small group of retro game aficionados. Companies like Retroid and Anbernic produce low-cost, energy-efficient Android handhelds in a variety of shapes and sizes, usually with emulation in mind.
The $200-$300 (depending on configuration) Ayn Odin is a new Android handheld that builds on that approach. It was created by a small company in Shenzhen without any ambition to create a brand new gaming platform, instead you rely on being able to play whatever game you want on the device from scratch. But it’s powerful enough to play more types of games than any of its Android competitors, while the design and control layout give it a lot more flexibility.
The Odin’s design inspiration is pretty clear: it’s basically a Nintendo Switch Lite running Android. However, as someone who has used a Switch Lite for a few years, I think Ayn’s hardware is better. The 5.98-inch 1080p LCD screen is bigger and sharper. The grips are more comfortable and include convenient customizable rear buttons. The D-pad looks identical to that of the PlayStation Vita, and that’s a good thing. The sticks have a slightly lower profile than the Switch’s, but they are comfortable and easy to use.
Overall, the build quality is impressive for these types of devices. The device I tested comes in a Super Nintendo-style gray and purple colorway, which is a great look. There’s blue LED lighting on the sides of the unit and under the analog sticks, which I don’t mind, but I’m glad it can be turned off. At the top there is a flap similar to the one that hides Switch game cards, except here that it covers a microSD card slot and a Micro HDMI port. The only real complaint I have about this hardware is the goofy Odin logo under the D-pad.
There are a few different versions of the Odin. I tested the $287 Odin Pro, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The $239 non-Pro Odin has the same Snapdragon 845 but half the RAM and storage. The $198 Odin Lite also has 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM, but swaps out the Snapdragon for a newer MediaTek Dimensity D900. All models are available to order through Indiegogo, although the Lite has only just started shipping to backers.
The Snapdragon 845 is the flagship Android phone used in 2018, so you get the raw performance of a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or a Google Pixel 3. The difference, however, is that the Odin has active cooling so it can run the processor for extended periods of time at the fastest speed, unlike thin smartphones, which have no fans and have to slow down their performance to stay cool. The Odin’s fan is almost inaudible in the normal setting, very quiet in performance mode, and about on par with a Nintendo Switch at its loudest in power mode. It’s a lot less noticeable than portable PCs like the Steam Deck and the Aya Neo Next.
A chip found in Android phones three or four years ago may not sound impressive, but it’s far more powerful than what you’d get with most other Android handhelds, which often use MediaTek or Rockchip SoCs with a low power. Those devices are meant to play games from 2D consoles or, in short, early 3D systems like the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64. However, the Odin can mimic more advanced consoles like the Dreamcast, PSP, and GameCube. Between the larger 16:9 screen and the built-in controls, 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 hit and miss, and your results will vary depending on how you tweak the settings and which emulators you choose. Overall, though, I found the Odin to do a great job with the three systems mentioned above. In general, you can at least expect GameCube games to run at their native resolution and frame rate, sometimes with the occasional glitch. Not everything worked – I was able to download the GameCube version of . don’t get NBA Street V3 to load past the intro sequence, e.g. despite V2 (which is better anyway) runs fine. On the other hand, PSP games were a revelation, most of which could run at a much higher resolution and with better performance than the original hardware.
Even on more powerful PCs, PS2 emulation is trickier thanks to Sony’s proprietary “Emotion Engine” CPU with its custom instruction set. The Odin can run a number of PS2 games, but I wouldn’t buy it expecting a seamless, interference-free experience with most of the system library. GameCube versions of games, where they exist, are almost always a better option if you want to play something from that console generation.
The Steam Deck is an obvious comparison, and while I can’t get my hands on one to test side by side, it will clearly outperform the Odin for emulation. Here’s a video showing that you can even get good results with PS3 games on the deck, which can be notoriously challenging. On the other hand, the Steam Deck is much bigger and more expensive than the Odin (not to mention harder to buy), so it might be overkill for emulation if you’re mainly interested in older games.
The Odin is a really great device for streaming games, as long as you’re within Wi-Fi range. It has all the controls you need, and the large 16:9 screen is the perfect size and sharpness. I played a ton of Xbox Game Pass titles and found the Odin to be a much better experience than any phone, even one with a controller plugged in. Streaming games isn’t for everyone yet, but if it works with your connectivity and playstyle, it’s a great way to expand the Odin’s capabilities. (An unfortunate note: While Sony’s PS4 and PS5 Remote Play app works fine on the Odin if you pair a DualShock or DualSense controller, I couldn’t 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 aren’t many Android games that can’t get a decent performance on it. Genshin impact is the usual stress test and I got a solid 30 fps at default settings. Games with controller support automatically treat the Odin as if you had a pad connected via Bluetooth, and Ayn’s software layer also allows you to easily assign touchscreen commands to the Odin’s physical controls in games such as Genshin and Call of Duty mobile†
The only big game I couldn’t play was Fortnite, which first returned an error telling me to disable a developer mode I didn’t enable, then booted me from any match I tried to enter due to “internet lag, your IP address or machine, VPN usage, for false play or become on an untrusted platform.” None of those issues should have applied, needless to say, except for the last one apparently.
The Odin software is essentially 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 adjusting the fan speed and the LED lights, but you have to manually add all your games to launch them, which I didn’t really find worth using just regular Android for basic operations. Google’s operating system isn’t perfectly optimized for landscape 6-inch displays, but at least it’s well-known and works as you’d expect.
While Netflix doesn’t show up on the Play Store, other streaming apps like Prime Video do, although you may have to turn the Odin on its side to use the phone-style UI before launching video. If you’re really adventurous, you can install the Arm-based version of Windows on the Odin through an open-source project specific to the Snapdragon 845; I haven’t tried this and don’t think it would be a good idea for most people, but hey, the option is there.
As with any handheld gaming device, battery life will depend on what you’re doing with it, but I really liked the Odin’s overall. The Pro version has a 6000mAh battery, which is bigger than any phone that doesn’t make a giant battery’s main selling point, while the regular Odin and Odin Lite’s are still a pretty hefty 5,000mAh. I didn’t do any special rundown tests, but I never found myself ever rushing to a charger with it – it’s not like the Steam Deck, where you’re lucky to get a few hours of newer ones. games . The Odin and Odin Pro support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge up to 4.0+, while Ayn claims the Lite has unspecified “fast charging”.
Another charging-related feature I couldn’t test was Odin’s “Super Dock”, a charging stand with a ton of ports. There are four USB-A 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, USB-C, Ethernet and unusually two Nintendo 64 controller ports and two more for GameCube controllers. I can’t say how well the dock works, but it sure would be a unique way to play Super Smash Bros.
It’s hard to blame the Ayn Odin for what it wants to do. Android may not be the perfect out-of-the-box gaming platform, but it allows Ayn to build great hardware, step back, and put the user in charge 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 use cases compared to something like a Nintendo Switch Lite. That’s a $199 machine designed solely for playing Nintendo Switch games, and if that’s what you’re after, it obviously does a much better job. The Odin won’t be for everyone.
But there’s something to be said for packing the flexibility of Android into a well-made, capable portable console and letting you do whatever you want with it. While Ayn doesn’t have its own games store to lean on, the appeal of the Odin is that it does for Android what the Steam Deck does for PC gaming – it brings the platform to a handy form factor and says, “Hey, go see what can do this thing.”