Handheld gaming consoles have come a long way since the days of the Game Boy and the PSP. Nowadays, you can enjoy a wide range of games on the go, from Nintendo’s exclusive titles to PC classics and mobile hits. But with so many options available, how do you decide which one is the best for you? In this article, we will compare some of the best handheld gaming consoles in 2023, based on their features, performance, design, and price.
The Nintendo Switch OLED is the latest and greatest version of Nintendo’s hybrid handheld console. It features a beautiful 7-inch OLED display that offers vibrant colors and deep blacks, as well as improved audio and a wider kickstand. The Switch OLED also has a longer battery life than the original Switch, lasting up to 9 hours on a single charge. The Switch OLED can play all the games that the Switch and the Switch Lite can, as well as some exclusive titles that take advantage of its enhanced screen. The Switch OLED also supports TV mode, allowing you to connect it to a dock and play on a bigger screen with a wireless controller.
The Switch OLED is the best handheld console for anyone who wants to enjoy Nintendo’s rich library of games, as well as some third-party titles, on a stunning display. The Switch OLED costs $349.99 and comes in two color options: white and neon red/neon blue.
Steam Deck: The best handheld gaming console for PC users
The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC that lets you play your Steam library on the go. It has a custom operating system that allows you to access your games, friends, and community features with ease. The Steam Deck has a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, as well as dual analog sticks, a D-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, four back buttons, and two touchpads. The Steam Deck also has a gyroscope and an accelerometer for motion controls. The Steam Deck can run a variety of games, from indie titles to AAA blockbusters, thanks to its powerful AMD processor and graphics card. The Steam Deck also has a microSD card slot for extra storage, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, a headphone jack, and a built-in microphone. The Steam Deck can also be connected to a dock (sold separately) and used as a desktop PC, with support for external monitors, keyboards, mice, and other peripherals. The Steam Deck is the best handheld gaming console for PC users who want to play their Steam games anywhere, anytime. The Steam Deck comes in three models, with different storage capacities and prices: 64GB for $399, 256GB for $529, and 512GB for $649.
iPad Air: The best handheld console for iOS gaming
The iPad Air is a sleek and powerful tablet that can also double as a handheld gaming console. It has a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that supports True Tone and P3 wide color gamut, as well as a Touch ID sensor for security and convenience. The iPad Air is powered by the Apple M1 chip, which delivers fast performance and smooth graphics. The iPad Air also has a 12MP rear camera and a 7MP front camera, as well as stereo speakers and a USB-C port. The iPad Air can play a variety of games, from casual to hardcore, thanks to its access to the App Store and Apple Arcade. The App Store has millions of games to choose from, while Apple Arcade is a subscription service that offers over 200 exclusive and ad-free games. The iPad Air can also be paired with a wireless controller, such as the Xbox Wireless Controller or the PlayStation DualSense Controller, for a more immersive gaming experience. The iPad Air is the best handheld console for iOS gaming, as it offers a large and vibrant screen, a powerful chip, and a huge selection of games. The iPad Air costs $599 for the 64GB model and $749 for the 256GB model, and comes in five colors: silver, space gray, rose gold, green, and sky blue.
Lenovo Legion Go: The best handheld for Windows gaming
The Lenovo Legion Go is a handheld gaming PC that runs on Windows 11. It has a large 8.8-inch 144Hz display that supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, as well as detachable controllers that can be used in various modes. The Lenovo Legion Go has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 processor and an Adreno 690 GPU, which can handle most Windows games at medium to high settings. The Lenovo Legion Go also has 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, as well as a 10,000mAh battery that can last up to 8 hours of gaming. The Lenovo Legion Go also has a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera, as well as dual speakers, a headphone jack, a microSD card slot, and a USB-C port. The Lenovo Legion Go also has an intuitive launcher that lets you access your games, settings, and streaming services with ease. The Lenovo Legion Go is the best handheld for Windows gaming, as it offers a large and smooth screen, a versatile design, and a familiar operating system. The Lenovo Legion Go costs $999 and comes in black.
Nintendo Switch Lite: The best value handheld
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a cheaper and more portable version of the Nintendo Switch. It has a 5.5-inch LCD touchscreen, as well as a D-pad, four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, and a gyroscope. The Switch Lite can play most of the games that the Switch can, except for those that require TV mode or detachable controllers. The Switch Lite also has a longer battery life than the original Switch, lasting up to 7 hours on a single charge. The Switch Lite is the best value handheld for anyone who wants to enjoy Nintendo’s exclusive games and some third-party titles on a budget. The Switch Lite costs $199.99 and comes in four colors: gray, turquoise, yellow, and coral.
How to choose the best handheld gaming console for you
When choosing the best handheld gaming console for you, there are several factors to consider, such as:
- The type of games you want to play: Different handheld consoles have different game libraries, so you should pick one that has the games you like or want to try. For example, if you are a fan of Nintendo’s franchises, such as Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, you should go for the Switch OLED or the Switch Lite. If you prefer PC games, such as Half-Life, Doom, and Portal, you should opt for the Steam Deck or the Lenovo Legion Go. If you enjoy mobile games, such as Candy Crush, Among Us, and Fortnite, you should choose the iPad Air.
- The size and weight of the device: Handheld consoles vary in size and weight, so you should pick one that is comfortable to hold and carry around. For example, if you have small hands or want a more compact device, you should go for the Switch Lite or the iPad Air. If you don’t mind a larger and heavier device, you should opt for the Switch OLED, the Steam Deck, or the Lenovo Legion Go.
- The battery life and charging options: Handheld consoles have different battery capacities and charging methods, so you should pick one that suits your gaming habits and preferences. For example, if you play for long hours or travel frequently, you should go for the Switch OLED, the Switch Lite, or the Lenovo Legion Go, which have longer battery lives and can be charged with a USB-C cable. If you play for shorter sessions or have access to a power outlet, you should opt for the Steam Deck or the iPad Air, which have shorter battery lives and can be charged with a dock or a charger.
How we test the best handheld gaming consoles
To test the best handheld gaming consoles, we use a variety of methods and criteria, such as:
- Performance: We measure the performance of the handheld consoles by running various games and benchmarks, and checking the frame rates, resolution, graphics quality, and loading times. We also test the stability, compatibility, and optimization of the games and the operating systems.
- Display: We evaluate the display of the handheld consoles by looking at the size, resolution, refresh rate, brightness, contrast, color accuracy, and viewing angles. We also test the touch responsiveness, glare, and reflection of the screens.
- Design: We assess the design of the handheld consoles by looking at the dimensions, weight, ergonomics, durability, and aesthetics. We also test the buttons, sticks, triggers, touchpads, speakers, cameras, ports, and other features of the devices.
- Battery life: We measure the battery life of the handheld consoles by playing games and using other apps until the battery runs out. We also check the charging time, the battery indicator, and the power saving modes of the devices.