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The Steam Deck is probably the best known handheld gaming PC with a Linux-based operating system, but a number of cheap handhelds from companies like Anbernic and Powkiddy also run Linux-based software… but they tend to use custom kernels.

But when Phoronix reported this week that developer Chris Morgan submitted some code to bring support for a mainline Linux kernel to the Powkiddy X55 handheld, Morgan responded that the X55 is just the latest in a line of similar devices with mainline Linux support.

Powkiddy X55

Others include the Anbernic RG503, RG353 series. What those devices all have in common is a Rockchip RK3566 processor, which is a quad-core ARM Cortex-A55 processor with Mali-52 EE graphics. Morgan notes he also recently added support for the Anbernic RG Nano, which is a tiny console with an Allwinner V3L processor.

So what’s the advantage of mainline Linux support? Basically it will make it easier for developers to port other operating systems to run on those handhelds, as well as to keep them up to date with the latest performance, security, and feature updates.

One such operating system is JELOS (Just Enough Linux Operating System), an open-source GNU/Linux distro designed for handhelds with x86 or ARM chips. While JELOS works on handhelds with custom kernels, there are already builds with Mainline Linux kernels available for a number of Anbernic and ODROID handhelds with the following chips:

  • Rockchip RK 3326 (4 x Cortex-A35 CPU cores & Mali-G31 GPU)
  • Rockchip RK3399 (2 x Cortex-A72, 4 x Cortex-A53 CPU cores & Mali-G860MP4 GPU)
  • Amlogic S922X (4 x Cortex-A73, 2 x Cortex-A53 CPU cores & Mali-G52MP6 GPU)
  • Amlogic A311D (4 x Cortex-A73, 2 x Cortex-A53 CPU cores & Mali-G52MP4 GPU)

The Powkiddy X55 is available from Powkiddy for $90 and up (or less from AliExpress), while you can find Anbernic handhelds from the Anbernic website, Amazon, or AliExpress.

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  1. Thank you for the kind words. It’s quite a shock to read Liliputing every day and one day see your name pop up… A big shout out to the JelOS team for being there to help, along with the Rockchip engineers and folks on IRC; and to Anbernic and Powkiddy as well.

    Just an FYI – The RG Nano is an Allwinner V3L (an Allwinner V3S for all intents and purposes). I have another Allwinner device on my desk in the form of the RG35XX plus. This thing should get mainline support one day, but it’s looking like it might be a marathon rather than a sprint.

    1. Whoops, thanks for letting me know. I’ve updated the article with a little more info about the RG Nano.

      Thanks for all your work on this. It’s exciting stuff!

  2. rtl-sdr, many routers openwrt etc. chinese firm growing when using open source but still 99% make closed source

    meybe this powkiddy will be my next emergency computer?

  3. I have the Powkiddy X55, and I’m running Jelos. It’s a really good OS, but unfortunately it suffers from a lack of support for Vulkan in Linux (which is Rockchip’s fault, for choosing to only license it for Android).

    As a result, systems like N64 don’t run very well. Some of the other handhelds with the same chip running Android get really decent N64 performance.

    Some developers have been working on PanVK, which is an open source Vulkan driver for Mali GPUs, and hopefully this solves the issue in the near future.

    The X55 is a terrific handheld for the price.