Best handhelds – top portable gaming systems ranked
In this article, we will delve into the best handhelds of 2023, offering a comprehensive guide to the top devices for gaming on the go. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer or a casual player, there’s a handheld out there that’s perfect for your needs.
From impeccable graphics and processing power to extended battery life and cloud connectivity, the latest handhelds are designed to provide a seamless gaming experience, irrespective of your location.
Products at a Glance
How we picked the best handhelds
Our selection process for the best handhelds involves a thorough examination of several key factors. We don’t rely on our own benchmarks; instead, we analyze publicly available data, user reviews, and expert opinions to gauge performance, durability, and overall user experience.
In addition to technical specifications, we evaluate the practical aspects of each device. This includes assessing battery life under various usage scenarios, screen quality under different lighting conditions, and the comfort and ergonomics of the device during extended play sessions.
Best handhelds – top portable gaming systems ranked
- Stunning 7-inch OLED screen.
- Versatile gaming modes.
- Expansive game library.
- Limited internal storage.
- Relatively expensive compared to the base model.
- No major hardware performance upgrade.
Topping our list of the best handheld gaming consoles, the Nintendo Switch OLED model elevates handheld gaming with its vibrant 7-inch OLED screen. It boasts a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, ensuring crisp and vivid visuals. The console includes 32GB of internal storage, expandable via microSDHC or microSDXC cards, and supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. With its versatile design, it can be used in handheld, tabletop, and TV modes.
The Switch OLED‘s standout feature is its stunning display, providing more vivid colors and higher contrast compared to its predecessor. This enhances the gaming experience, especially in visually rich titles. Its improved audio and versatile play modes cater to various gaming preferences, whether you’re on the go or playing at home. As the successor of the Nintendo DS, it maintains the same feel but with tons of new features which bring it into the next generation.
The Nintendo Switch OLED is perfect for gamers who value portability without compromising on visual quality. It’s also great for families and individuals who enjoy a diverse range of games, from casual to hardcore titles. Its ease of use and adaptability make it a top pick for gaming enthusiasts who are often on the move.
- High-quality OLED display.
- Customizable gaming experience.
- Access to extensive Steam library.
- Heavier than typical handheld consoles.
- Requires a Steam account for full functionality.
- Limited storage on base model.
The Steam Deck OLED features a custom APU developed for handheld gaming and a 7-inch OLED touchscreen with a 1280 x 800 resolution. It comes in three storage options: 64GB eMMC, 256GB NVMe SSD, and 512GB NVMe SSD. The device supports expandable storage via microSD and boasts a custom SteamOS that allows access to a vast Steam library.
With its high-fidelity OLED display, Valve’s Steam Deck OLED offers an immersive gaming experience with striking visuals and deeper blacks. The device’s powerful APU ensures smooth gameplay across a wide range of PC titles. Its ergonomic design, combined with a long battery life, makes for comfortable and prolonged gaming sessions.
The Steam Deck OLED is ideal for PC gamers seeking a portable solution to play their Steam library on the go. It is one of the best handheld gaming PC, which appeals to tech enthusiasts who appreciate the blend of high-performance hardware with the flexibility of a handheld device.
- Sharp 1080p resolution
- 120 Hz refresh rate
- Powerful processor
- May be overkill for casual gamers
- Short battery life
The Asus ROG Ally is one of the latest handheld gaming consoles, and runs on Windows 11.
The Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme boasts 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. In terms of visual specifications, this portable gaming device features a 7-inch FHD LCD touchscreen with a 120Hz refresh rate. The $599 base model includes a 6-core AMD Zen 4 paired with an AMD RDNA 3 with 6 compute units. For an additional $100, users can opt for the Z1 Extreme edition. The Z1 Extreme processor comes equipped with an 8-core AMD Zen 4 and AMD RDNA 3 featuring 12 compute units. To boost security, the handheld is equipped with a fingerprint scanner integrated into the power button.
This is a great choice for PC gamers who want a portable device – it’s also a great, faster alternative to the Steam Deck. Both blend the high performance of desktop gaming with a lightweight and on-the-move format. However, the Ally’s battery life is seriously lacking.
- Stream games from PS5.
- Large, attractive screen.
- Comfortable controller design.
- Requires PS5 and strong Wi-Fi.
- No Bluetooth audio support.
- Limited to streaming only.
The Playstation Portal is a unique handheld gaming device that primarily functions as a streaming tool for PlayStation 5 games. It features a large 8-inch screen and mirrors the comfortable design of the typical DualSense controller. The Portal relies on a strong Wi-Fi connection to stream games directly from your PS5 console.
This device offers an innovative solution for PS5 owners, allowing them to play their console games on a portable screen within a Wi-Fi range. The high-quality streaming and solid battery life make for an enjoyable gaming experience.
The Playstation Portal is ideal for PS5 owners who desire the convenience of handheld gaming without the need for separate game installations. It’s perfect for those who frequently find themselves wanting to play their console games in different rooms or locations within their Wi-Fi network.
- Superior gaming performance.
- High-quality display and controls.
- Runs on Windows OS.
- Higher price point.
- Subpar software experience.
- Limited battery life.
The AyaNeo Air Plus is a high-end handheld gaming PC featuring an AMD Ryzen 7 6800U processor, 32GB LPDDR5 RAM, and a 512GB SSD. It sports a 6-inch 1920×1080 IPS touch-enabled display, hall sensor joysticks, triggers, and a fingerprint scanner for security. Its compact size and light weight (525g) make it highly portable.
The AyaNeo Air Plus offers superior performance, capable of running recent PC games at high settings. Its ergonomic controls and stunning IPS display enhance the gaming experience, providing both comfort and visual clarity. Running on Windows, it offers broader game compatibility compared to Linux-based handhelds, making it a versatile choice for serious gamers or fans of indie games.
This device targets the premium segment of the handheld gaming market, particularly PC gamers who want no compromise on performance while on the go. It’s suitable for those who prefer Windows for gaming due to its extensive game library and compatibility.
Features and Considerations
When it comes to selecting one of the the best handhelds, there are several key features to consider. Performance is paramount, with processing power and graphics capabilities at the forefront. A device that lags or cannot keep up with the demands of modern games quickly loses its appeal.
Screen quality also plays a crucial role, as a high-resolution, bright display can significantly enhance the gaming experience. Additionally, battery life is a critical factor, as it determines how long you can play without needing a recharge.
If you’re a pro PC gamer, choosing a handheld device optimized for PC gaming might be the best option, like the Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally. But for more casual gamers, go for the Switch.
Why are handheld consoles better?
The best handhelds offer a unique blend of convenience and accessibility that traditional gaming setups can’t match. They allow gamers to enjoy their favorite titles anywhere, anytime, without being tied to a TV or monitor. This mobility makes gaming more flexible and integrates seamlessly into a busy lifestyle.
Leading the pack is the Nintendo Switch OLED, our editor’s choice, revered for its vibrant display, versatile hybrid design, and an extensive library of exclusive titles. It stands out as the ideal choice for gamers seeking both quality and variety in their handheld gaming experience.
For those looking for sheer versatility, the Steam Deck OLED offers a robust platform, blending PC gaming’s flexibility with the convenience of a handheld. On the other hand, the Asus ROG Ally proves a powerful alternative. The Playstation Portal, though reliant on a PS5 console, provides a unique streaming experience for dedicated PlayStation fans, while the AyaNeo Air Plus targets the high-end segment with its superior performance and Windows compatibility.