There is a sense of excitement for handheld gaming devices capable of running Linux or Windows. The Steam Deck has rekindled this ever-burning fire, although there are other gaming devices to acquire. The big question is whether you should buy one of these or save up for a gaming laptop/desktop.
Handheld Gaming Devices Make Sense
It is not hard to see why the average consumer might take an interest in handheld gaming devices. The Gameboy, PSP/PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, and even Tamagotchis all brought an immersive experience to oneś peripheral vision without too many compromises. Especially with current-gen technology, it is pretty straightforward to immerse oneself in a new game and play it on the couch, in bed, or while on public transport.
Thankfully, several manufacturers are looking to build handheld gaming devices for a more mainstream audience. More specifically, several units run either Linux or Windows, giving users access to their games on Steam, Epic Games, GOG, Origin, Battle.net, and other launchers. The Stea Deck, perhaps the flagship device in this industry vertical, continues to trigger excitement. Unfortunately, it can take months – if not longer – until users will have their unit shipped. By then, a second iteration may already be in the works.
Beyond the Steam Deck, the landscape has become rather competitive for handheld gaming devices. Several manufacturers have put together some compelling devices, although their hardware specs – and pricing – can vary greatly. Moreover, the Steam Deck was released after the devices below hit the market, yet it seems manufacturers like AYA, GPD, and others will have a tough time maintaining their first-mover advantage.
GPD Win 3
There are many good reasons to like the GPD Win 3, as it is a powerful and compact device offering a viable Windows experience. More importantly, it runs most games pretty well, and the 5.5-inch touchscreen is more than enough to get a decent experience, even in 720p. That is one compromise one must consider when looking into handheld gaming devices. They often operate far better at 720p over 1080p. Units like the GPD Win 3 showcase that resolution isn’t everything.
A freshly purchased GPD Win 3 will come with Windows 10 and supports all major game launchers, including Steam, Epic, Origin, and GOG. Depending on the model, storing your games might be slightly tricky, although you can equip the unit with a 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD. Other notable specs include:
Picking up a GPD Win 3 is possible through AliExpress, and will currently cost at least $1,300 + shipping. That price is rather steep and may warrant looking into a dedicated gaming desktop or laptop.
AYA Neo (Various Models)
The AYA Neo team has taken the handheld gaming devices industry by storm. The team has put together several models, including the AYA NEO 2021 and AYA NEO 2021 Pro. There is also the AYA NEO Next and the Next Pro. It is also one of the more expensive manufacturers, with units ranging from $1,015 to $1,665 + shipping. Enthusiasts will often pay a premium for this handheld form factor, although the AYA NEO devices are equipped with pretty powerful hardware for the size.
The AYA Neo Next Pro unit is the latest product in this line of handheld gaming devices. It has an SSD capable of holding up to 2 terabytes of data and runs Windows out of the box. Moreover, it is smaller than the Steam Deck and can be purchased from the manufacturer today. Other crucial specs include:
One may think the specs are more powerful than the Steam Deck. Several benchmarks will confirm that, but the unit still feels less powerful than Valve’s hardware unit. It is also incredibly expensive, even if one can buy it today. That price tag may be less of an issue for those with money to burn, although one could easily pick up a more powerful desktop PC or laptop for the price.
Additionally, AYA Neo has confirmed their new model – The AYA Neo Air – will be available soon. It will pack a more recent AMD CPU and better APU, with a “more affordable price tag”. Not much is known about the device, but it may be worth holding off on purchasing the other models until then.
OneGX 1 Pro
Many people were surprised by the launch of the OneGx 1 Pro in early 2021. Its unique model makes it look and feel like a pocket-sized laptop – including a physical keyboard – and provides a gaming experience on the go. Despite the keyboard, the unit was under 650 grams, which is an impressive feat. More importantly, it supports 4G and 5G connectivity, ensuring users can game over mobile data if they require an internet connection.
Technical specifications for the OneGX 1 Pro include:
While it is fun to hold a mini laptop for gaming purposes, the gaming experience is hit-or-miss. Users need to connect the external game controllers to the sides of the unit, which makes the whole unit feel less sturdy. Moreover, the price tag of over $1,300 might make consumers think twice about picking this up over a dedicated gaming laptop. Then again, a regular gaming laptop is far less portable.
There is a solid market for handheld gaming devices, and it is easy to see their appeal. Being able to game on the go in any location with internet connectivity is a powerful feeling. Although users can access cloud gaming on mobile devices, it remains different from playing games on Windows or Linux directly. GPD, Aya Neo, and One Netbook (the creators of the OneGX 1 Pro) are definitely on the right track, despite these units remaining pretty expensive.
That said, the next line of units – starting with the AYA Neo Air – may shake up the landscape even further. It all comes down to the hardware used, power limitations, cooling, and the price tag. Finding the middle ground between all four will be tricky for companies that aren’t Valve, as they can sell hardware at a loss. Other manufacturers do not have that luxury, although they need to bring prices down to remain competitive in the coming years.
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