Like many people, we thought smartphones will put an end to handheld consoles. Why purchase a dedicated handheld when your smartphone not only has access to thousands of mobile games, but also select ports from PCs and consoles? However, the Nintendo Switch, pretty much, upturned everything, showing folks how big a market there still is for gaming handhelds.
More recently, Valve shook things up with the Steam Deck, a $399 handheld PC that lets you play AAA Steam games on the go. That’s right, not mobile games and not Nintendo games, but full-fledged PC titles on a relatively affordable portable handheld.
Of course, the Switch and the Steam Deck aren’t the only games in town. There have been several efforts already, as well as new ones on the horizon, that seek to fly the flag for portable button-mashing. Sure, most of them won’t have the Switch’s library of Nintendo exclusives or the Steam Deck’s bafflingly affordable price, but they offer a viable option for those looking to game on the road without having to further drain their smartphone’s batteries.
These are the best gaming handhelds available today.
Just want a handheld to play the old Game Boy cartridges you’ve somehow held onto all this time? Analogue’s handheld console is the way to go, with its Game Boy-like form factor, familiar controls, and high-res full-color 3.5-inch screen (1600 x 1440 resolution) allowing you to play those old titles on a machine that feels adequately contemporary. Out of the box, it’s compatible with the nearly 2,800 Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advanced cartridges out there, all while having optional cartridge adapters for Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Atari Lynx, and more retro handhelds. Like their regular home consoles, it uses FPGA chips to run the original games at a hardware level, with no software emulation, resulting in graphics, sound, and gameplay that mirror the developers’ vision. It comes with mappable buttons, up to 10 hours of runtime, stereo speakers, multiplayer support (up to four players), a built-in DAW, and an optional dock for playing the games on a TV. Do note, it’s still on preorder, with deliveries slated for next year.
While the Switch is getting long in the tooth for a game console in its fifth year, it remains the only way to really enjoy modern Nintendo titles, which keeps it completely relevant until the house that Mario and Zelda built decide to finally release a new machine. The fact that you can play it on the go, then dock it to a TV at home for big screen gaming just makes it even better. Some even argue it’s the best system Nintendo has made.
Having been out for half a decade, there are several Switch models to choose from, with the 7-inch OLED variant being our current favorite. Those who want the most affordable version can also opt for the Switch Lite, which ditches the TV dock for handheld-only gameplay.
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AYN Odin Pro
This handheld console runs Android 10, so it plays, pretty much, whatever games your smartphone plays. It even has a 6-inch IPS display (1920 x 1080 resolution) that’s comparable to bigger smartphones. The big difference is it’s equipped as a game console, so you’ve got a custom interface that makes it feel like a real gaming device, along with a full set of tactile controls that should make gaming much more satisfying compared to tapping and swiping on a screen. As such, it’s definitely an interesting option if you enjoy mobile titles. Plus, it should be a great option for cloud-based game streaming, allowing you to enjoy PC and home console games if you have the connection to handle the bandwidth requirements.
Logitech G Cloud
Currently available for preorder, Logitech’s handheld console is equipped pretty similarly to the Odin Pro above. It has a bigger 7-inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution and a 60Hz frame rate, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It also runs a modified version of Android, complete with Play Store access, so you can download and use any app you want. The main difference between them is this console has been optimized for both Xbox Cloud Gaming and GeForce Now, ensuring the best game streaming experience on either of those platforms. However, its real selling point is battery life, as the outfit claims a whopping 12 hours of playtime between charges, which is a veritable godsend for portable gaming.
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Valve Steam Deck
If you’re interested in portable gaming, you want Valve’s handheld console, with its AMD Zen 2 APU, 1.6-teraflop RDNA 2 GPU, and 16 GB four-channel DDR5 RAM capably playing actual PC games on the go. The 7-inch screen is also pretty big, allowing you to soak in those game visuals in a way a smartphones’ smaller screen just won’t allow. Plus, it can hook up to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse once you get home for a genuine, albeit slightly underpowered, desktop gaming experience. Because it’s also a full-fledged Linux PC, it supports cloud-based game streaming, as well, while getting a ton of homebrew apps and games that’s likely bound to grow significantly over time.
Problem is, the waiting list is long and there’s no telling when that will change. If you’re willing to wait, though, there’s no better game in town, especially at the price points Valve has set.
Aya Neo Air
Aya Neo makes a pretty powerful handheld already, which we also included below. However, with the Steam Deck’s popularity, they needed something that skewed a bit closer to its price point. That’s the whole reason for the Air, which combines an AMD Ryzen 7 5825U APU, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 512GB SSD inside a gaming enclsoure with a 5.5-inch OLED display that boasts 1920 x 1080 resolution, 404 PPI, and wide 175-degree viewing angle. If you want a small, lightweight handheld gaming PC, this just might be the best option out there, which measures just 0.7 inches thick and weighs a mere 14 ounces.
This handheld gaming PC combines a 7-inch IPS display (1280 x 800 resolution) with an AMD 5800U APU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and up to 2TB of SSD storage. It’s slightly more compact and lighter than the Steam Deck, with a standard asymmetrical control layout that should be familiar to console gaming fans. A cooling tube and heat sink should help keep it from overheating, not that you’re in much danger of that while playing on the go, since the 12,600mAh battery is only rated for around two hours of AAA gaming before needing a recharge. It can, however, play video for eight hours, if you want to use it to watch movies and shows. The device comes with Windows 11 preinstalled.
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Aya Neo Next Pro
If you’re willing to shell out premium money, Aya Neo has a handheld gaming PC that you can pick up now, with no need to place a reservation or go on a waiting list. Equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen (1280 x 800 resolution, 60Hz frame rate) and a full set of physical controls (complete with magnetic hall effect joysticks and triggers), it’s a true portable gaming device, albeit with a proper PC hardware inside the enclosure. Specs include an AMD Ryzen 7 5825U with Radeon Vega 8 graphics, up to 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and up to 2TB of SSD storage, so it should achieve the promise of 60 fps gaming in many titles, provided, of course, you’re willing to sacrifice on some of the more demanding graphical settings. It has two USB-C slots (with Thunderbolt), too, so you can plug it to a monitor and other peripherals for use as a desktop PC, which should work great, especially since it runs a full Windows 10 build.