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 on the train of 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.
The best handheld gaming PC
- Tons of control flexibility
- Excellent specs
- Fantastic speakers
- Clean Steam interface
- Low price
- Awkward design
- Weak battery life
- Inconsistent game compatibility
- Finnicky Linux browser
|CPU||4 Zen 2 cores|
|GPU||8 RDNA 2 cores|
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 by far the best. A big reason why is Valve’s software, which continues to be refined with frequent updates. It provides a holistic handheld experience so you can truly pick up and play.
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).
Asus ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme)
The best Windows handheld gaming PC
- Solid performance
- Acceptable battery life
- Beautiful, 120Hz screen
- Flexible control scheme
- Support for basically any PC game
- Turbo mode drains battery quickly
- Windows has a lot of quirks
- Armoury Crate is a utility, not an OS
|CPU||AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme|
|GPU||AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme|
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.
The most powerful handheld gaming PC
- High-quality build
- Excellent screen
- Best in class performance
- Poor speakers
- Short battery life
- Sloppy custom tools
- Uncompetitive pricing
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 7840U|
|GPU||AMD Radeon 780M|
|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.
The best handheld for emulation
- Lightweight and highly portable
- Full Android 10
- Not powerful enough for PC games
- Navigating Android isn’t perfect
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
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.
Razer Edge 5G
The best handheld for cloud gaming
- Powerful specs
- Truly portable design
- Beautiful display
- 5G is ideal for cloud
- Great emulation potential
- Loud fan
- Cramped design
- Pricey considering alternatives
|CPU||Snapdragon G3X Gen 1|
|GPU||Snapdragon G3X Gen 1|
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.
Asus ROG Ally (Z1)
The best handheld gaming PC for Game Pass
- Light and comfortable to use
- Beautiful 1080p screen
- Weak battery life
- Worse performance than the Steam Deck
- Windows 11 is a hassle to use
|CPU||AMD Ryzen Z1|
|GPU||AMD Ryzen Z1|
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.