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Best handheld gaming PCs in 2023

by Contributor

Ever since Valve’s Steam Deck showed up, there has been a revolution in the world of handheld gaming PCs. Seemingly every company is looking to jump in on portable, high-performance gaming, but only a select few devices are among the best handheld gaming PCs you can buy.

This is definitely an evolving field, with new companies announcing devices left and right. Even this year, we still have devices like the Lenovo Legion Go to look forward to. For now, though, here are the top handheld gaming systems we’ve tested.

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Steam Deck OLED

The best handheld gaming PC

Pros

  • Same great portable PC
  • Significantly improved display
  • Better battery
  • Cooler, quieter fans
  • Faster download speeds

Cons

  • Linux still presents hurdles

Specifications
CPU 4 Zen 2 cores
GPU 8 RDNA 2 cores
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 512GB-1TB

The Steam Deck is the best handheld gaming PC you can buy, regardless of if you pick up the original LCD model or the new OLED model. Between the two, however, the OLED Steam Deck definitely has the edge. It not only provides a nicer screen, better battery life, and higher performance, but it also comes in at the same price as the original model. Oh, and with more storage space in tow.

Valve took the Steam Deck OLED as a chance to refresh every aspect of the device. The OLED screen is gorgeous, of course, but the improvements elsewhere are more significant. Battery life is the best we’ve ever seen out of a handheld gaming PC, and although the performance can’t match devices like the Lenovo Legion Go, the Steam Deck OLED is still faster than the original model.

Combined with improvements like Wi-Fi 6E and the same excellent software experience we’ve come to know on the base Steam Deck, the Steam Deck OLED absolutely trounces the competition. It’s the best handheld gaming PC you can buy, no question.

Steam Deck OLED 256GB

Steam Deck OLED

The best handheld gaming PC

Final Fantasy VII Remake running on the Steam Deck.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Steam Deck

The best cheap handheld gaming PC

Pros

  • Tons of control flexibility
  • Excellent specs
  • Fantastic speakers
  • Clean Steam interface
  • Constantly improving

Cons

  • Awkward design
  • Poor screen
  • Finnicky Linux browser

Specifications
CPU 4 Zen 2 cores
GPU 8 RDNA 2 cores
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 64GB-512GB

Valve’s Steam Deck kicked off a revolution in handheld gaming PCs, and although it’s not the most powerful device you can buy, it’s still the best. We recommend the OLED model more, but the LCD versions till provides similar performance and the best software experience out of any device we’ve tested.

The Steam Deck provides all of the little things you never think about on a device like the Nintendo Switch; full navigation with buttons and joysticks, automatic suspend when you hit the power button, and cloud saves that automatically sync your progress. It’s plenty powerful, too. Although the Steam Deck is beaten by some other devices, Valve’s Proton layer continues to squeeze as much performance as possible out of the hardware.

On top of a seamless handheld experience, the Steam Deck is highly flexible. You can just install Windows on the Steam Deck if you want, but there’s a vibrant community of modders creating software for the platform, as well as third-party hardware to deck your Deck out (if you’ll forgive the pun).

We have the Steam Deck OLED now, and we recommend most people pick that model up. If you’re looking for a deal, however, Valve slashed the prices on the Steam Deck LCD.

Steam Deck

Steam Deck

The best cheap handheld gaming PC

after four months rog ally going back steam deck asus review 15

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Asus ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme)

The best Windows handheld gaming PC

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Acceptable battery life
  • Beautiful, 120Hz screen
  • Flexible control scheme
  • Support for basically any PC game

Cons

  • Turbo mode drains battery quickly
  • Windows has a lot of quirks
  • Armoury Crate is a utility, not an OS

Specifications
CPU AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
GPU AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 512GB

If the Steam Deck just isn’t cutting it for you in the power department, you’ll want the Asus ROG Ally. Specifically, the model that comes with the Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor. It’s leagues faster than the Steam Deck, and it comes with the added benefit of Windows 11.

With Windows 11 pre-installed, you have access to a far greater array of games. There are games like Destiny 2 that aren’t supported on Steam Deck due to anti-cheat, but also titles available through non-Steam storefronts like the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Connect.

The experience isn’t as seamless as the Steam Deck, but Asus includes its Armoury Crate utility for quickly launching games without using the touch screen. It’s a trade-off, but the ROG Ally has some upsides of its own, including a 1,080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate.

For as impressive as the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme is, it has some clear problems, as well. Performance isn’t always stable depending on what game you’re playing, and issues with the device-bricking microSD cards haven’t been solved yet.

Asus ROG Ally

Asus ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme)

The best Windows handheld gaming PC

ayaneo 2s review portable pc 1 2

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Ayaneo 2S

The most powerful handheld gaming PC

Pros

  • High-quality build
  • Excellent screen
  • Best in class performance

Cons

  • Poor speakers
  • Short battery life
  • Sloppy custom tools
  • Uncompetitive pricing

Specifications
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 7840U
GPU AMD Radeon 780M
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage Up to 8TB

There’s no doubt that the Ayaneo 2S is the most powerful handheld gaming PC you can buy. It features AMD’s Ryzen 7 7840U, which is basically the same as the Ryzen Z1 Extreme. Ayaneo just lets the chains off, allowing the APU to blaze through games as fast as possible.

It’s fast, but there are a lot of trade-offs. For starters, the battery doesn’t last very long, especially at the higher power modes. Ayaneo’s utility that sits on top of Windows 11 isn’t great, either. Most importantly, the handheld is way too expensive, with the base model clocking in at $1,000.

For enthusiasts, however, there’s nothing better. You’re not only getting better raw performance, but also more storage space with up to 2TB pre-configured and 8TB if you add your own, along dual USB-C ports and Hall Effect joysticks that won’t drift over time. The Ayaneo 2S is expensive and has plenty of downsides, but for a select crowd, it’ll be the perfect handheld gaming PC.

Ayaneo 2S

Ayaneo 2S

The most powerful handheld gaming PC

Ayn Odin handheld in the Atomic Purple color.

AYN

AYN Odin

The best handheld for emulation

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight and highly portable
  • Full Android 10

Cons

  • Not powerful enough for PC games
  • Navigating Android isn’t perfect

Specifications
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
RAM 4GB LPDDR4x
Storage 64GB

You need the right balance of performance and price if you plan on emulating games. Devices like the Steam Deck can handle emulation excellently, but you’re spending a lot for an experience you can find with a much cheaper device. That cheaper device is the AYN Odin.

It’s a $250 Android handheld the feels purpose-built for emulation. A big reason why is the Android 10 operating system, giving you access to a wide array of emulators through the Google Play Store, as well as untrusted sources if you’re feeling risky. You can play native Android games, as well, though the Odin really earns its stripes with emulation.

On top of great emulation support, the Odin comes with a 6-inch 1080p screen so games look sharp, as well as full access to Android. That means non-gaming apps are up for grabs here. It’s not powerful enough or capable of running PC games like the Steam Deck, but if you want to dive into the deep world of emulation, the Odin offers something few other devices do.

AYN Odin

AYN Odin

The best handheld for emulation

razer edge 5g review plague tale

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Razer Edge 5G

The best handheld for cloud gaming

Pros

  • Powerful specs
  • Truly portable design
  • Beautiful display
  • 5G is ideal for cloud
  • Great emulation potential

Cons

  • Loud fan
  • Cramped design
  • Pricey considering alternatives

Specifications
CPU Snapdragon G3X Gen 1
GPU Snapdragon G3X Gen 1
RAM 8GB LPDDR4x
Storage 128GB

The Razer Edge 5G is definitely a niche product, but there’s nothing like it for cloud gaming. Logitech has its G Cloud handheld, but the Razer Edge stands out with its 5G support through the Verizon network. It solves one of the biggest issues in cloud gaming – consistent access to high-speed internet.

With Android at the helm, you have access to any cloud gaming app you could want, including Xbox Game Pass, Amazon Luna, and GeForce Now. It’s full Android, too, so emulators and native Android games are on the table, as well.

The Razer Edge comes with a few unexpected upsides, as well. For starters, it has a 6.8-inch AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate. In addition, it uses a detachable Razer Kishi V2 Pro controller, which you can take off and strap to your phone if you don’t want to carry around two devices.

Razor Edge 5G

Razer Edge 5G

The best handheld for cloud gaming

asus rog ally z1 review 2

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Asus ROG Ally (Z1)

The best handheld gaming PC for Game Pass

Pros

  • Light and comfortable to use
  • Beautiful 1080p screen

Cons

  • Weak battery life
  • Worse performance than the Steam Deck
  • Windows 11 is a hassle to use

Specifications
CPU AMD Ryzen Z1
GPU AMD Ryzen Z1
RAM 16GB LPDDR5
Storage 512GB

If you’re interested in the ROG Ally, you should buy the Z1 Extreme model. It’s only $100 more than the base Z1 model, and it’s nearly twice as fast in some games. However, the $600 ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1 still has a place for some gamers.

It’s a solid option if you want to access non-Steam Games, especially those available through Xbox Game Pass, and can’t stretch your budget up to the Z1 Extreme model. You’re getting performance that’s slightly slower than the Steam Deck in most games, but also the same 512GB of storage as Valve’s most expensive configuration.

Outside of game support, the upside here is the screen. It’s a drain on the battery, but the 1,080p screen with a 120Hz refresh rate still look gorgeous on the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1, especially if you’re playing less demanding games that can drive the full refresh rate.

Asus ROG Ally (Ryzen Z1)

Asus ROG Ally (Z1)

The best handheld gaming PC for Game Pass

Editors’ Recommendations






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