Update: June 2016
In the original conclusion to this review (now deleted to avoid confusion), I said that buying the JXD was a no-brainer. However, come May 2016, I have to add a caveat: and it’s a biggie.
Following this review, I put my JXD away for several months. It was stored in its box at standard room temperatures, along with all my other retro gear. When I came to get it out again recently, it was totally dead. At first I just assumed that the battery was drained, so put it onto charge. After three hours it still refused to boot up. I tried with a variety of different chargers and plugs, in case the leads were at fault, but it still remained dead. The unit had probably been used less than a dozen times in total, but is now absolutely useless except as a doorstop or paperweight.
I stand by the positive things I said about the JXD in the review below, because it is a pretty nifty console. However, you might want to think twice before you part with over £100 for an item that might become a brick after barely any use. Perhaps I just got unlucky and picked up a duff unit (which was sadly out of warranty by the time the problem arose) and it won’t happen to you. However, I feel it’s important that I’m honest with my readers and give you the full picture so you can decide for yourself. Based on my own personal experience, though, I can’t say I would recommend it any longer.
When I first heard about the JXD, it seemed too good to be true. A single, easy to operate system that can emulate multiple 8, 16 and even 32 bit systems including the ZX Spectrum, Sega Megadrive and Playstation One? Surely this has to be some sort of April Fool’s joke?
Happily, for us retro gamers, for the most part, it’s true. Whilst the JXD is not perfect on the whole it delivers on its promise.
This review will focus on the user-experience of the JXD from the point of view of a retro gamer rather than looking at the technical build of the device (mainly because I don’t really understand all the technical gubbins!). If you’re interested in the full spec, you can get it from the Funstock website.
The JXD is surprisingly straightforward to use out of the box. Unlike the Dingoo A330 (which I also own), it’s easy to set up, easy to install additional games and emulators and doesn’t require endless tweaking to get games working. The built in (if oddly named!) Happy Chick software offers an easy –to-use store front from which to download free games for each of the built-in emulators for the built-in emulators, although the selection for some of the consoles is a little limited, Happily, you can get access to many more titles either through the Google Play store or by downloading them from the internet. The process is so simple that even novices will have games up and running on the system within 10 minutes of switching it on for the first time.
Indeed, the sheer wealth of games available was my first problem. Browsing the available games and emulators, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. Wherever I looked, there were games that I remembered fondly or games that I’d always wanted to play but never had the opportunity, or games I’d heard about and fancied giving a go. All joking aside, the first night I used the device, I spent all my time excitedly downloading game and didn’t actually play any of them!
This can lead to storage issues. The 16GB built-in storage is not massive by modern standards and indiscriminate downloading of games and emulators will soon fill it (although bear in mind, most older games – even those for the PS1 – are relatively small by today’s standards). Thankfully, the JXD also supports the ability to store games on an SD card (up to 16GB). This means that when you don’t need to keep everything on your device, but can store some games on external storage.
The JXD supports an impressive amount of retro systems. Out of the box, emulators are available to support PS1, N64, Arcade CPS1/CPS2/Neo-Geo, GBA, SNES, MD, NES, but you can download and install many more that will work quite happily with the system. On the whole, emulation is pretty good. You’ll find many games (probably the majority) work immediately, although some do require some tweaking in the settings to get them to work properly. A little bit of technical knowledge is needed to do this, but you will soon work out which are the most common settings to tweak. Meanwhile, the generous 2GB RAM and the 1.6 GHz Quad Core chip are more than enough to handle any retro game you care to throw at it.
Speaking of throwing things, the device build is surprisingly sturdy so you don’t need to worry too much about carrying it around or slinging it in a bag. It could perhaps be more ergonomic in its design, though. The 7” screen is mostly a good thing, but inevitably it does increase the size and weight of the device beyond what you might normally associate with a portable gaming system. I’ve found it’s comfortable enough for shorter gaming sessions, but can become a little heavy and awkward after extended periods.
The screen is decent quality and reproduces graphics well. The touchscreen can occasionally feel a little unresponsive and in my experience multiple taps are sometimes needed to select something. It can also be a bit too easy to click the wrong thing (particularly at the extremities of the screen) because the device doesn’t always correctly pick up precisely where you are pressing. However, this is more a minor inconvenience than a major annoyance.
Sound is a massive improvement over the Dingoo A330 which often sounds as though it has a bee trapped in it. Whilst the in-built speakers are not the most powerful in the world, they reproduce sound faithfully and those old games sound as good as you remember them.
It has all the buttons you would expect, including a D-Pad, two joysticks and 4 main control buttons. These can be mapped using an easy-to-use built in function, according to the needs of the specific games. The main issue I find with some of them is the symbols on them are a little small and it can be quite hard to remember which button does what, and press the wrong one by accident. However, this is probably more a product of my eyesight and fading memory (due to my advanced years!) than a failing of the device itself.
The positioning of the D-Pad and buttons is a little curious. These are located at the top of the device, rather than the more usual bottom. As the JXD is fairly big, this means that you have to stretch your hands over a fairly large chunk of plastic to reach them. Again, I’ve found this is not an issue for shorter gaming sessions, but can become a little uncomfortable after a while.
It’s worth mentioning that as well as being a pretty formidable retro gaming console, the JXD is also a fully blown Android tablet. OK, it’s at the low end of the market in terms of its specifications, but if all you want to do is a bit of web browsing, email checking or run a few apps, you’ll find it perfectly adequate.
There are a couple of bugbears that stop it from being the perfect purchase. First off, the battery life is OK, but it takes an awfully long time to charge and it doesn’t hold its charge very well. Put your JXD back in the box when you’ve got less than 20% battery and the next time you try and fire it up, it’s likely the battery will be dead. At least it is on mine. Maybe I just got unlucky with the one I bought and there’s a slight defect? If you just intend to use your JXD somewhere where you have constant access to a plug, this is not an issue; if you want to use it for mobile gaming, it’s something to bear in mind.
The wireless connectivity is also a little weak. If I take my device into our back room (where I get a reasonable signal on all my other devices) the wireless connection either becomes very weak or is dropped completely. This isn’t a problem if I’m just playing games that I’ve already downloaded, but if I’m trying to download more stuff, I have to be careful where in the house I do it.