I took a chance on this $17 retro handheld that’s also a power bank, and it’s surprisingly not awful

Hand holding DY19 retro handheld with Sonic 2 on screen
(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

I have a bit of a soft spot for janky gaming handhelds, but my latest $17 purchase is far more useful than I’d ever expected. For whatever reason, this oddball device doubles as a power bank, meaning it’ll provide your other expensive portables and phones with juice. For under $20, I can’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t want to play Sonic 2 on my spare charger, and it’s probably going to live in either my glove box or tech bag.

Unlike the best gaming handhelds, cheap emulation consoles rarely stick with a singular name. As far as I can tell, the device I’m talking about today is usually called the DY19, and you can grab one for $17.06. There are various listings that cost as much as $25, but I can confirm that the cheapest arrived safe and sound. Not that I’d have been completely heartbroken if it arrived in several chunks, as it’s not like this thing is going to replace my Steam Deck OLED. 

In truth, I tend to pick up portables like this as almost a gag or something I can whip out down the pub as a weird show and tell. Yet, I can’t think of more reasons to pick one of these handhelds up than not, not least because its 6000mAh power bank abilities are actually serviceable. The device wears a USB-C and Lightning cable on each side like a pair of flappy arms, and you’ll find an extra USB-A, USB-C, and one of those cursed micro USB ports from back in the day. There’s even a tiny LCD screen to fill you in on remaining capacity, not unlike the Jsaux 20000mAh 65w power bank included on my best Steam Deck accessories round-up. 

DY19 Retro Handheld Power Bank | $17.06 at Aliexpress

DY19 Retro Handheld Power Bank | $17.06 at Aliexpress
Against all odds, this cheap handheld battery bank hybrid is actually perfectly usable, and its six-button layout means it’s great for bashing out a few rounds in classic fighters. For under $20, you’re getting a handy low-spec charger for your phone and a device that can run classic capers.

Buy it if:
You want a cheap handheld
You need a backup battery bank
You like collecting weird handhelds

Don't buy it if:
You want perfect emulation
You want a high-spec power bank 

DY19 retro handheld in green with Sonic 2 on screen

(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

Upon taking the DY19 out of its thin cardboard box, I started to wonder whether my senses were compromised. By that, I mean that the device didn’t remotely match up to the cheap feel I was expecting, instead providing a half-decent chonky body with no sharp edges and some weight. Is it still ugly? Well, yeah, it looks like someone smashed a six-button controller onto a bar of soap and added a Switch Joystick, but it’s still pretty charming. 

I’ve got more than a few handhelds in my collection, and it’s amazing to see the level of build quality you get from cheap portables in 2024. Don’t get me wrong, the gold metallic trim on the green version I have is the epitome of tacky, but the plastic itself feels robust. I say this as someone who has one of those atrocious Game Child LCD games from back in the ‘90s, which feels like it’ll break into a thousand sharp pieces if you look at it the wrong way.

As for the DY19’s emulation capabilities, I’ve almost certainly used worse handhelds. My normal gauge is “If I can reach the end of Sonic 2 without shenanigans, then all is well,” and that’s certainly the case with this device. Performance is admittedly sketchy depending on the platform you choose, with some SNES games falling short due to slowdown. That said, it handles arcade emulators nicely, and most Game Boy romps are going to work just fine.

There are no accessible emulation settings, even though it manages to offer up save-state functionality, but the handheld community has been known to load custom firmware onto cheap devices. But hey, for $17, this weirdo battery bank hybrid does a commendable job out of the box, serving as a way to both entertain me and charge my Asus ROG Phone 8 Pro if I ever get lost somewhere (or need to stop myself from talking to a ball named Wilson on a desert island).

I’m not remotely suggesting you should make the DY19 your main gaming platform. However, just like with the $30 PlayStation Portal clone we checked out earlier in the month, this handheld isn’t as awful as you’d expect. Hell, it might even be a great option for younger players looking to explore the classics, as if it does end up being lovingly smashed into the ground, you’ll only be down $17. 

Already got Valve’s portable powerhouse? Swing by the best Steam Deck accessories and best Steam Deck dock for add-on options. Alternatively, check out the best gaming laptop for something extra oomph.

Phil Hayton
Hardware Editor

I’ve been messing around with PCs, video game consoles, and tech since before I could speak. Don’t get me wrong, I kickstarted my relationship with technology by jamming a Hot Wheels double-decker bus into my parent’s VCR, but we all have to start somewhere. I even somehow managed to become a walking, talking buyer’s guide at my teenage supermarket job, which helped me accept my career fate. So, rather than try to realise my musician dreams, or see out my University degree, I started running my own retro pop culture site and writing about video games and tech for the likes of TechRadar, The Daily Star, and the BBC before eventually ending up with a job covering graphics card shenanigans at PCGamesN. Now, I’m your friendly neighbourhood Hardware Editor at GamesRadar, and it’s my job to make sure you can kick butt in all your favourite games using the best gaming hardware, whether you’re a sucker for handhelds like the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch or a hardcore gaming PC enthusiast.