The New Odroid-Go Ultra: The New King of Linux ARM Handhelds?

Odroid has recently announced a new portable console, the ODROID-Go Ultra (aka OGU), Linux-based, to hit the market later this year (early october 2022). It’s similar in size to the Odroid-Go Super, but the internals have been massively upgraded so that you can expect to play a lot more demanding games (emulation is the main point here). it’s based on one of the their most powerful boards, the Odroid-N2+.

The specs

Let’s compare it with the specs of the Odroid Go Super. The Odroid Go Super was about just as powerful as the smaller Odroid-Go Advance, so it’s as good a benchmark as any. For reference, as per our reviews of the Odroid Go Advance, you can expect to run pretty much everything up until the PS1 and some Dreamcast games on the Odroid Go Advance. PSP was kind of average for most games in my experience, but it apparently depends also on the distro you have installed.

Odroid Go UltraOdroid Go Super
2.2 GHz Amlogic S922X1.3 GHz Rockchip RK3326
3.5mm headphone jack3.5mm headphone jack
USB2.0 portUSB2.0 port
4000 mAh battery4000 mAh battery
USB Type-C Power CableUSB Type-C Power Cable
No WirelessNo Wireless
5 inches 854x480 pixel LCD (16:9)5 inches 854x480 pixel LCD (16:9)
Mono speakerMono speaker
Digital padDigital pad
2 analog sticks2 analog sticks
6 custom buttons + volume buttons6 custom buttons + volume buttons
Onboard 16GB eMMC, Micro-SD slot push-pullMicro-SD slot push-push
111 USD80 USD

On the paper, the Amlogic SOC is a much more powerful beast to help run games at much better framerates.

That should help for PSP, Dreamcast, N64 and the Gamecube. Don’t expect the Gamecube games to run full speed – here’s a video below of Dolphin running Gamecube games on the N2+ last year:

What could have been better?

While the internals are impressive, specs-wise, there’s two main problems:

  • No wireless by default (need a USB dongle): they are repurposing existing hardware so it’s not too surprising but still somewhat disappointing for a handheld device.
  • The weird USB charging cable (need to charge the device faster, by going thru USB port and the USB-C port), making it less practical to carry (one more cable to bring…)

Have things changed with the Steam Deck?

The Steam Deck has kind of changed the environment, by providing a very powerful device that can be used for gaming anytime, anywhere, including emulation. Almost everything in cheaper ARM handhelds is going to be worse:

Worse specs leading to poorer performance, worse controls, worse software integration, and lack of official support over time.

The Steam Deck is also a swiss army knife of a handheld, which can run x86 games on top of everything else, which is where the largest active market is.

The key advantage of an ARM handheld is price. At 110~ USD it’s very difficult to beat, and it makes it enter almost into a “disposable” category. It’s also likely to have better battery life than the Steam Deck, but then again that’s because it also runs less demanding games to begin with.

Let’s however not forget that not everyone around the world is able to get their hands on a Steam Deck yet, and Box86 is a thing and may be able to run more and more x86 games even on ARM hardware, so the usability of such hardware is going to go up over time.

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