The best handheld gaming consoles aren’t just for those who want to play their favorite games without spending a fortune on the most expensive hardware in the market. It’s for people who’ve entered an advanced societal consciousness. If you’re anything like me, you’ve found yourself kneeling at the throne of handheld gaming and your allegiance is unwavering.
Hyperbole aside, handheld gaming is my latest obsession. I’ve been addicted to the Asus ROG Ally ever since I got my hands on it, and I’ve come to realize my one true purpose in this world is to spread gospel of this technology. The ability to play the hundreds of Steam, Xbox Game Pass, and Epic titles in my backlog, alongside emulating childhood classics, all with a little device in my hands, is phenomenal.
But there’s more to this beautiful technology than just all the convenience on Windows on a handheld gaming device. Whether it’s through SteamOS on Steam Deck, or Nintendo Switch‘s very own console ecosystem, or PlayStation Portal allowing you to play your favorite PlayStation titles on the go, there’s so much to love here.
It’s no surprise than the Nintendo Switch would be #1 on our list, and lets be frank, it’s unlikely I need to sell you on its greatest features. If you’re remotely involved in the world of gaming, you already know what makes this thing so special. Solidifying itself as the first of its kind, featuring detachable Joy Cons, a built-in kickstand at the back, and a dock which easily allows you to swap between handheld, tabletop, and docked mode at the snap of a finger.
There have been many iterations on the Nintendo Switch until now, and there’s even promises of a successor on the way. But regardless of whether you choose to buy a Nintendo Switch OLED, a Nintendo Switch Lite, or a base Nintendo Switch, we highly recommend these consoles for anyone looking to play the latest and greatest Nintendo exclusives.
See our full Nintendo Switch OLED review.
Best for Steam users
The Steam Deck is the first PC-adjacent handheld gaming device that allowed users to get lost in their Steam library on the go. While it’s not a Windows PC by any means, SteamOS is built upon Linux, which means users have found ways to do unique things with it.
Regardless, the Steam Deck is ideal for anyone exclusively looking to get lost into their Steam library. This is a device that’s perfect for people who already own tons of games on Steam and want a more convenient way to enjoy that content. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to folks who don’t have a Steam account, unless you’re willing to begin a whole new library from scratch.
Otherwise, the Steam Deck is available starting at $399 for its LCD model and comes with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a 7-inch 1,280 x 800-pixel LCD display. This makes its price only $100 more than the Nintendo Switch, and if you already have an extensive Steam library, that cost will absolutely be saved on games.
See our full Steam Deck review.
Best Windows 11
While the Asus ROG Ally isn’t our first recommendation to the average user looking to get into handheld gaming, it is my personal favorite. Using Windows 11 as its operating system, this is effectively a Nintendo Switch that has all of the advantages of PC. I’ve never been a huge fan of gaming laptops due to their unwieldiness, and it’s no secret that desktop PCs require a massive setup and are expensive.
The Asus ROG Ally lets me play many of the Steam and Xbox Game Pass titles I’ve always wanted to play, but never could quite get into while sitting at a desk. Instead, from the comfort of my bed, I’ve been able to complete Celeste, Signalis, Limbo, Inside, Eastward, Cocoon, Gris, Little Nightmares II and far more ever since I’ve started using it. Frankly, I’m addicted to this thing.
Built with and AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage, and a 7-inch 1,920 x 1,080-pixel panel with 120Hz refresh rate, this device is surprisingly powerful for something so small.
See our full Asus ROG Ally review.
Best 2K resolution
The Lenovo Legion Go is one of the latest additions to the handheld Windows PC lineup, and its specs had us shaking in our boots. With a 8.8-inch, 2,560 x 1,600-pixel IPS panel and detachable controllers, this has a new class of features that even the Asus ROG Ally doesn’t quite have.
Alongside its already mentioned display, it’s built with an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB/1TB SSD for anywhere between $699 to $749. This makes its starting price the most expensive here by far in this list, but its $699 model is identical in cost to the recommended version of the Asus ROG Ally.
You’re probably wondering: What am I losing by purchasing the Lenovo Legion Go over the Ally if they’re the same price? Well, the Ally comes with a completely different controller layout, alongside lacking the beloved Armoury Crate app that makes exploring Windows 11 on handheld so much easier. Beyond just that, Asus is directly backed by Xbox Game Pass, making it the ideal device to use with that. Otherwise, the Lenovo Legion Go is a great pick for someone needing something larger, bigger, and higher resolution.
See our full Lenovo Legion Go first impressions.
WHY TRUST LAPTOP MAG
We put hardware through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.
In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop’s display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 5 and 6 and 3DMark professional graphics tests.
To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution. Gaming laptops go through an entire library of games at high settings to see how their discrete GPUs keep up.
We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers.