What to look for in a portable gaming PC in 2022
The appeal of having a legitimate gaming rig in the palm of your hand is becoming more and more appealing to consumers. After all, handheld gaming PCs combine the portability of a Nintendo Switch with the impressive performance of a high-end gaming laptop. They have different designs, specifications and price tags.
With the market flooded with products, it can be difficult to narrow down your options. Here are some things to consider.
First you need to set a budget. Handheld gaming PCs range from a few hundred dollars to over $1,000 – and if you don’t set a spending limit up front, it can easily get out of hand when you see what’s available in higher price ranges.
If you’re a PC gamer looking for something reliable with enough power to power some of today’s hottest games, expect to spend at least $600. Of course, the more you increase your budget, the more power you get.
Portability is another important factor to consider. While anything in the “handheld gaming PC” category is technically a handheld device, some teeter on the edge of “portable.”
While many handheld PCs are remarkably thin and can be easily packed into a backpack or briefcase, some are slightly larger than the popular Nintendo Switch.
Keep in mind that portability often comes at the expense of power. It’s not easy to cram an entire gaming PC into such a small space, and the products that do usually come with a hefty price tag.
Before purchasing, you’ll also want to determine what games the handheld PC can play. This means what the specs allow to play and what the operating system allows to play.
It’s one thing to have the power to play a particular game, but another thing if your device supports it. Some handhelds limit you to games listed on specific stores. As a result, running other games requires various workarounds (or they are simply unplayable).
If you have some favorite games you want to play on your handheld PC, spend a few minutes researching whether or not they are accessible on your future device. There’s no point in picking something up if you can’t play your personal favorites.
While there are many great portable gaming PCs on the market, some of them are head and shoulders above the competition. Here are five of the best portable gaming PCs available right now.
Best handheld gaming PC overall: Steam Deck
- ✓ Incredible price
- ✓ Multiple models available
- ✓ Custom SteamOS
- ✗ Requires modding to access a standard Windows interface
Steam Deck is hands down the most popular portable gaming PC available right now. It’s earned that title thanks to impressive specs, a slick design and a shockingly low price tag compared to the competition. You can also purchase a docking station to connect your Steam Deck to your TV.
It’s hard to underestimate just how well priced this handheld PC is. Starting at just $400 for the 64 GB model and up to $649 for the 512 GB model, you get a device that can run Elder ring, Monster Hunter Rise, The quarry, and more popular games with playable frame rates. You also benefit from a custom operating system that makes navigating your library and finding games easy.
That operating system is also a bit of a drawback, as you’re limited to playing games found on Steam. It’s possible to get third-party titles up and running, but you’ll need to do some preliminary work and have reasonable technical skills.
Still, the game library includes most of the best games on the market, and with a price tag this attractive, the Steam Deck stands out among expensive alternatives.
Best budget handheld gaming PC: Ayn Odin
- ✓ Affordable
- ✓ Bluetooth support for peripherals
- ✓ Great for retro gaming
- ✗ Runs on Android, but can be modified for Windows support
The Ayn Odin is a quirky little device that starts at just $279. It’s also an excellent option for retro gaming enthusiasts who want to experience the glory days of gaming without lugging around a laptop or getting bogged down with their smartphone.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preference), the Ayn Odin runs natively on Android. That means you can’t access popular PC games right out of the box. Instead, you have access to various emulators and mobile games. The device can be reformatted to run PC games, or you can stream games using Moonlight or Steam Link.
If you don’t mind Android, the Ayn Odin has a lot going for it. At hundreds less than the other options on this list and complete with an eye-catching design, it’s definitely worth considering if you find yourself playing older titles that don’t require high-end hardware.
Best Handheld Gaming PC with Windows 11: ONEXPLAYER Mini
- ✓ Powerful specifications
- ✓ Windows UI standard
- ✓ Runs games from most storefronts
- ✗ Not all games are supported
- ✗ Expensive
While the ONEXPLAYER Mini is a remarkably powerful handheld that can easily run most games, you pay a higher price for that privilege. Priced at over $1,200, ONE-NETBOOK has spared no expense in creating this premium handheld PC.
The ONEXPLAYER Mini is an excellent option for gaming on the go. Available with different specifications (Ryzen, Intel), this handheld PC can play popular games like Grand Theft Auto V and other demanding games without breaking a sweat. And while its footprint is small, it still packs a vibrant 7-inch screen with a resolution of 1920×1200.
A big selling point of the ONEXPLAYER Mini is Windows, which is pre-installed as the default operating system. This gives you the versatility of playing games across multiple stores including Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG and more.
Not everything is compatible with the device (I was having trouble playing Warframe and Lost Ark), but there’s still a huge library of games to choose from.
Best handheld gaming PC with Windows 11
ONEX PLAYER Mini
Powerful, portable and capable of playing most PC games, the ONEXPLAYER Mini is a premium handheld with a premium price tag.
Best portable gaming PC for portability: Aya Neo AIR
- ✓ Slim design
- ✓ Comfortable operation
- ✓ Good price
- ✗ Lacks power compared to the competition
At just 18mm thick, the Aya Neo AIR is about as thin as portable gaming PCs. To put that into perspective, the AIR is lighter than the Nintendo Switch OLED model (398 grams versus 420 grams).
The Aya Neo AIR is also available in different colors (Polar Black, Aurora White, Sakura Pink), making this streamlined product even more beautiful. Unfortunately, that streamlined profile comes at the cost of less power. The Ryzen 5 5560U isn’t quite as powerful as most of the competition, but anyone looking for a portable device will struggle to find anything smaller than the AIR.
Throw in some comfortable controls, multiple storage options and an impressive OLED screen, and it’s easy to see why the Aya Neo AIR is winning over so many fans. As long as you don’t mind the lack of power, this truly portable PC has a lot going for it.
Best handheld gaming PC with keyboard: GPD Win 3
- ✓ Striking design
- ✓ Keyboard is surprisingly versatile
- ✓ Available in multiple colours
The GPD Win 4 should become widely available in the coming months, but for now its predecessor, the GPD Win 3, is the best choice for a portable gaming PC with a built-in keyboard.
Unlike most handheld PCs, which require you to plug in an external keyboard, the GPD Win 3 has one at your fingertips. Like the stylish smartphones of the past, the GPD Win 3 has a screen that slides out of the way to reveal a keyboard underneath. It may be small for some users, but it beats finding space to support an external keyboard.
Rounding out the GPD Win 3 feature list is a 5.5-inch display, 1280×720 resolution, Iris Xe GPU, and 16 GB of RAM. While it’s a bit pricey at $1,500, it’s one of the most unique portable gaming PCs you can buy in 2022.
Best handheld gaming PC with a keyboard
GPW Win 3
Few handheld PCs come with a built-in keyboard, making the GPD Win 3 the only real option. Thankfully, it’s packed with great features that make it more than a one-trick pony.