Portable gaming consoles are big business right now. It feels like we’re seeing some of the best portable gaming consoles in recent years. Whether it’s the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch since its launch in 2017 or the hubbub around the ASUS Rog Ally, handheld games consoles let you have all the fun of gaming wherever you are. We’ve got years of handheld gaming experience at our disposal to help you find the best one for your needs.
It’s not just big game companies getting in on the act. GPD, Ayaneo, Playdate, and the OneXPlayer are all vying for market share and gaining lots of popularity in recent years. And there’s also a bunch of the best gaming phones ever available along with the best mobile keyboards and best phone cases to help you kit them out, though we’re focused on larger, controller-having counterparts here. But how many get to be ranked among the best handheld gaming consoles you can buy today? And which console is the best for you?
Here are the best handheld gaming consoles right now:
- Nintendo Switch OLED – best handheld gaming console
- Nintendo Switch – best-value Nintendo Switch console
- Ayaneo 2 – best premium handheld gaming PC
- Steam Deck – best handheld gaming PC
- iPad Pro – best handheld gaming tablet
- Playdate – best handheld for unique indie games
- Ayaneo Air – small handheld gaming PC
- Analogue Pocket – best handheld for retro games
- GPD Win Max 2 – versatile handheld gaming PC
- Nintendo Switch Lite – best handheld under $200
- Asus ROG Ally – Steam Deck alternative
1. Nintendo Switch OLED
The best handheld console with a beautiful screen.
|Nintendo Switch OLED specs|
|CPU/GPU||NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor|
|Display||1280 x 720px, 7-inch OLED touchscreen|
|Battery||4310mAh lithium-ion battery|
|Memory||4 GB RAM|
|Storage||64 GB flash storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD/SDHC/SDXC cards)|
- Excellent variety of first-party and indie games
- Big, colorful screen
- Works on the go and on the TV
- Walled-garden OS
- Limited power compared to handheld PCs
We’ve chosen the Nintendo Switch OLED as the best portable gaming console on the market today. It took the number one spot in our guide because it supports a huge library of compatible games, has a bright and colorful 7-inch touchscreen, and has long-lasting battery life.
While the Switch technically has a smaller library than the Steam Deck below, it has an exceptional library of first-party games from one of the best developers in history, Nintendo. Whether it’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bayonetta 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, or all manner of exceptional indie titles, the Switch’s success has helped fill its library with plenty of excellent games to play.
The console itself has an excellent, bright, and colorful OLED screen, good ergonomics, and the built-in ability to play on your TV at no extra cost. It’s excellently versatile, packed with great games, and easily the best out there. The only downside, really, is Joy-Con drift, but there are plenty of alternative Switch controllers to solve that issue.
The Switch OLED is versatile, and easily the best handheld gaming console out there, as well as being the best Nintendo Switch console if money is no object. You can take it on the go and keep it personal with one of the many great Switch headsets, or put it up on the big screen for a game night with friends. If you can afford it, we’d recommend buying this OLED model over the original Nintendo Switch, simply because the screen makes portable gaming beautiful.
Read our Nintendo Switch OLED review.
2. Nintendo Switch
The original Nintendo Switch is the best console for most.
|Nintendo Switch specs|
|CPU/GPU||NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor|
|Display||1280×720 6.2-inch LCD Screen|
|Battery||4310mAh lithium-ion battery|
|Storage||32GB internal storage|
- Good value for performance
- Works on the go and on the TV
- Excellent library of games
- Screen smaller and less bright than Switch OLED
- Design feels a bit plasticky
The original Nintendo Switch launched in 2017, and while it’s still a great portable gaming console for the majority of people – balancing specs with price – it no longer takes the top spot in our guide as it’s been superseded by the Switch OLED thanks to its new screen.
While the Switch Lite is dedicated to handheld play only, the original Switch is more versatile and can be transformed from being a play-at-home console to handheld device in seconds.
The Switch has a fun design, too. The Joy-Cons slot into either side of the screen and you’re left with a simple piece of kit. The screen is smaller than the OLED version, but if you’re someone who wants to take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s ability to be played both on your TV and on the go without breaking the $300 mark, then this is probably the best option for you.
The standard Nintendo Switch comes with 32GB of internal storage capacity, and while this is a little on the lower side, not all gamers are going to have this problem. If you plan on downloading all of the biggest new Switch games, you might find it filling up quite quickly.
Six years into its life, the Switch is still a brilliant hybrid gaming console, that can be used at home or out and about. Its huge library of games continues to grow, and it’s well worth the money (even if some older models struggled with Joy-Con drift).
Read our Nintendo Switch review.
3. Ayaneo 2
A premium handheld gaming PC to rival the Steam Deck
|Ayaneo 2 specs|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 6800U|
|GPU||AMD Radeon 680M|
|Display||8.4-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS touchscreen, 60Hz|
|Memory||16 / 32 GB LPDDR5 6400Mhz|
|SSD||512GB / 1TB / 2TB PCIE 4.0M.22280|
- Gorgeous, bezel-less screen
- Premium design with great ergonomics
- Best-in-class performance
- Way pricier than Nintendo Switch
- Triggers could be more sturdy
The Ayaneo 2 is the best handheld gaming PC you can get if money’s no object. While its high price may cause a bit of shock, the premium design, excellent performance, and perfect ergonomics make it a must-have for anyone who wants the best of the best.
With performance enough to play any recent AAA videogames – from Cyberpunk 2077 to Red Dead Redemption 2 – on medium settings for the most part, it’s a true powerhouse. Combine that with its hall effect joysticks (so no drift!) and excellent d-pad, this is a truly well-rounded bit of kit.
Still, for such a high price, there are a handful of bugbears. The triggers are a little flimsy, the battery life is only just good enough, and various bugs plagued our own testing time. Still, once we’d ironed all that out, we found little to complain about. It really is as good as it looks.
Read our Ayaneo 2 review for more.
4. Valve Steam Deck
The best handheld gaming PC with surprising value
|Valve Steam Deck specs|
From $399.00 (64GB)
|CPU||AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)|
|Display||7-inch 1280×800 60Hz IPS LCD (400 nits typical brightness)|
|Battery||40Whr battery (2-8 hours of gameplay)|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM|
|Storage||64 GB eMMC / 256 GB NVMe SSD / 512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD|
- Massive library of games
- Huge amounts of processing power
- Good control scheme
- Not the best battery life
- Not all games work (yet)
Valve’s Steam Deck is very close to the best handheld gaming console in our eyes. Running on Steam OS, gamers will have more freedom for tinkering than the Nintendo Switch console lineup but is also more technical to set up and get running. It’s not the best gaming console for kids.
It is the best portable gaming PC though. There’s a huge amount of Steam games to choose from, and the 16 GB of onboard RAM is more than enough power for the majority of games out there. Downsides? Some games won’t work straight out of the box, and either require a little bit of tweaking on your end or the developer’s end.
In terms of design and handling, the Steam Deck has two thumb-sized analog sticks on either side of the 7-inch LCD touchscreen. In your hands, the console does feel pretty huge in comparison to the Nintendo Switch Lite, yet it’s still very comfortable to reach all of the controls – including A B X Y buttons and two trackpads with haptic feedback.
The Steam Deck will be the best handheld games console for you if you want a device with diverse, responsive controls, lots of games, expandable memory, and the option to play handheld as well as docked on a TV with the Steam Deck Docking Station.
Read our Steam Deck review for more.
5. iPad Pro (2022, M2)
The best handheld gaming tablet for Apple fans
|iPad Pro (12.9-inch) specs|
|Processor||Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU|
|Connectivity||USB Type C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Display||12.9 inch LED retina display|
|Battery||28.65-/40.88-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery|
|Memory||8GB (with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB)/16GB (with 1TB or 2TB)|
- Powerhouse chip
- Customizable specs
- Massive variety of App Store games
- Very expensive
- Not great for emulation
- Not as flexible as Android
The 2022 iPad Pro is one of the best tablets on the market, and it’s also the best handheld tablet for playing games. With either an 11-inch or a massive 12.9-inch screen, you can customize the specs to suit your needs. You can get a 2TB powerhouse with 16GB of RAM, but it’s Apple’s powerful M2 chip that blows away similarly priced competitors.
With the mini-LED display, the bigger iPad Pro has deeper blacks, better local dimming, and a far better experience overall. And of course, the iPad Pro does so much more than just run games, offering web browsing, apps for work and creation, and even photo and video editing capabilities.
Combine this functionality with ProMotion – Apple’s variable refresh rate technology – and you can get 120Hz gaming as well as slick scrolling through anything you’re reading. Better yet, if you like other things beyond gaming, the iPad Pro is excellent for video and photo editing, plus illustrations and the like.
What also sets the iPad Pro apart from other Android tablets is Apple Arcade, the mobile App Store with dozens of excellent Apple Arcade games to play.
However, the iPad Pro is pricey. If you want more storage than the base model and a better screen, you’re pushing $1,399 (£1,599). You can get a MacBook Air with the same specs for $1,499 (£1,549), so keep that in mind. Either way, the Apple iPad Pro is still a powerhouse and a brilliant portable gaming console.
Check out our guide to the best iPads for a comparison.
The best for unique indie games for unique indie games
|CPU||68MHz Cortex M7|
|Display||400×240 1-bit display|
|Battery||8 hours of active use|
|Storage||4 GB flash storage|
- Original, exclusive games
- Inventive form factor
- Very limited games library
- Almost as expensive as a Switch Lite
In our Playdate review, we call it a “bright yellow embodiment of the joy of playing and indie gaming spirit.” There’s little else to sum it up than that, really. The Playdate is a tiny handheld with buttons on the face and a crank handle on the side.
This crank has led to many inventive gaming experiences, and the console makers drew in many great indie devs to contribute, like the minds behind Cursed to Golf, Chuhai Labs, Bennet Foddy of Getting Over It fame, or Return of the Obra Dinn creator Lucas Pope.
Sure, it’s an incredibly limited console, but with a roster of devs that good, it’s definitely worth a try. And look how cute and creative it is! To us, it’s one of the best handheld game consoles just for its inventiveness.
Read our Playdate review.
7. Ayaneo Air
The best compact handheld gaming console
|Ayaneo Air specs|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 5 5560U / 7 5825U|
|GPU||AMD Radeon RX Vega 6 / Vega 8|
|Display||5.5-inch 1920×1080 AMOLED touchscreen|
|Battery||28 Wh (7,350 mAh) / 38 Wh (10,050 mAh)|
|Memory||8 GB LPDDR4x-3200, 16 GB / 32 GB LPDDR4x-4266|
|Storage||128 GB-2 TB SSD|
- Small form factor
- Attractive design
- OS issues
The Ayaneo Air is tiny, but it’s surprisingly powerful given its size. The Ayaneo Air is a console packed with features too, with hall effect joysticks (meaning you don’t experience drift) with RGB light rings under them, an OLED screen, and expandable storage. It’s one of the best handheld gaming consoles if you’re short on space or have small hands.
The Ayaneo Air does offer less power than other portable consoles on this list, which might occasionally limit the games you can play. The Aya Space operating system could also do with a bit of polish, while if you turn the TDP up this little thing can get hot.
However, if you want a tiny and powerful portable gaming console, we’d still recommend the Ayaneo 2. And, if you can stomach the price, this device doesn’t have any competition in the ultra-small handheld PC market.
Check out our Ayaneo 2 release date guide.
8. Analogue Pocket
The best retro gaming console
|Analogue Pocket specs|
|Circuit||Field-programmable gate array|
|Display||3.5″ 1600×1440 LCD (615ppi)|
|Storage||microSD card slot|
- Top-tier retro gaming
- Gorgeous form factor
- No emulation
- Retro only
- No ROM compatibility
The Analogue Pocket was released in 2021 and it was essentially made to play old Game Boy games cartridges – with a better screen, materials, and buttons, and a wider array of games to choose from. Whether you want to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance games, your Nintendo needs are covered.
It doesn’t stop there, though. If you have an adapter you can play Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket/Color, Atari Lynx, and TurboGrafx-16 games too. All of this is without any emulation, which is exceptional. For the Analogue Pocket, you can expect to pay around $219 (around £190), though there are long waits for delivery. It’s pretty expensive, but I bet you it’s worth it to any diehard retro game player.
Read our Analogue Pocket review for more.
9. GPD Win Max 2
The most versatile handheld gaming PC.
|GPD Win Max 2 specs|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-1260P / AMD Ryzen 7 6800U|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics / AMD Radeon 680M (integrated)|
|Display||10.1-inch 1920×1200 IPS touchscreen|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR5 5200 MT/s / 16GB/32GB LPDDR5-6400 MT/s|
|Storage||1TB/2TB NVMe SSD|
- Huge screen
- Full keyboard
- Less portable
The GPD Win Max 2 isn’t the best-known console, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a spot on this list. This is one of the best handheld gaming consoles, I promise, but it also doubles as a tiny little laptop. With a full keyboard below your standard gaming controller setup, the GPD Win Max 2 is a little odd at first, but looks can be deceiving – this thing is an excellent gaming machine.
Once you’re all done playing games though, what if you need to pause and write up a list of the best portable gaming consoles? Well, you can, as, with a lovely keyboard at your disposal, the GPD Win Max 2 is also great for on-the-go work-doing.
The built-in controller is a little clunky due to positioning, though you may be surprised – it’s still comfier than it has any right to be. It’s also one of the most expensive consoles on this list, and you can expect to pay $999 (£1,000) – $1,299 (£1,200) depending on the configuration.
10. Nintendo Switch Lite
The best handheld gaming console under $200
|Nintendo Switch Lite specs|
|Chip||NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor|
|Display||5.5-inch 1,280×720 LCD touchscreen|
|Battery||3570mAh lithium-ion battery|
|Memory||4 GB RAM|
|Storage||32 GB flash storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD/SDHC/SDXC cards)|
- Super portable
- Great value
- Large library of games
- Small, low-res screen
- Not playable on TV
For $200, the Nintendo Switch Lite is incredible value to anybody looking to get into portable gaming but not break the bank. With exactly the same library as its bigger brother, the Lite is great for bedtime games or if there are any kids in the house you don’t want breaking a half-a-grand Steam Deck.
It also comes in a great range of colors (blue, pink, yellow, grey, plus a bunch of special editions) and has decent buttons for such a little thing, making it one of the best handheld gaming consoles on a budget.
The screen is smaller and less sharp than the Switch OLED and others on this list, and you can’t connect the Nintendo Switch Lite to the television. But still, for portable gaming on a budget, this is the way to go. It’s probably the best portable gaming console for kids, too.
Check out our Nintendo Switch Lite review.
11. Asus ROG Ally
The best Steam Deck alternative.
|Asus ROG Ally specs|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor|
|GPU||AMD Radeon Graphics|
|Display||7-inch 120Hz LCD IPS (1920 x 1080)|
|Battery||40WHrs, 4S1P, 4-cell Li-ion|
|Memory||16GB LPDDR5 on board|
|Storage||512GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe™ M.2 SSD|
- Excellent design
- Great display
- Xbox Game Pass compatibility
- More expensive than Steam Deck
- OS not as slick as Steam Deck
The Asus ROG Ally is an excellent Steam Deck alternative, offering more power, a traditional controller layout, and excellent, high-quality design. There’s a slight price bump over the Steam Deck, but it’s worth it for the difference.
The screen is 120Hz, too, which gives it another bump over much of the competition. This means you can play indie games at a silky smooth frame rate wherever you go. Add that to the wider range of compatible PC game stores, and you’re going to be having a lovely time.
For example, Xbox Game Pass games don’t work on Steam Deck without a lot of fiddling, whereas the subscription service is compatible with the ROG Ally. If you’ve already got an Xbox, this means you can get a bunch of games at no extra cost on your PC handheld (assuming you’re an Ultimate subscriber). It really is an ace little package.
The downsides obviously start with the price – the cheapest Steam Deck is $400, the cheapest ROG Ally is $600. But the specs are quite different between the two, so the price difference isn’t for identical machines. Still, it’s something to keep in mind if you want to dive in.
How we chose the best portable game console
Are you thinking of buying one of these consoles, but want to know how we narrowed it down to the options on this list? and what you can do to make informed decisions in the future. Here are the criteria we used to make these selections:
- Price: For some buyers, the cost of a portable gaming console will be a major deciding factor, and that’s why we include options available for a range of price points.
- Games libraries: You’d be pretty bummed if you bought a gaming console that didn’t have many games available on it. That’s why it’s always worth checking the selection before the specs, to make sure the games you like are compatible with a particular platform.
- Battery life: Battery capacity is a super important consideration when choosing the best portable gaming console for you. If you plan to use it on the go all day, you need a long-life battery. If you’re playing at home on the sofa and can access a power socket, this might not be quite as important as other factors.
- Internal storage: Since you don’t want to be lugging external hard drives around with you, you’ll need to be conscious of the console’s internal storage and the capacity for expanding it with micro SD cards.
- Screen size/resolution: As portable consoles generally have smaller screens, you’ll want to make sure that the screen is big enough for you to enjoy the game and make out any in-game text.
There are a number of other factors too, but those are probably the five biggest points that you need to keep in mind when buying a portable gaming console, and what we used to choose the entries on this list.
We’ll update this list as we get our hands on new consoles, so be sure to check back. Why not check out the best free mobile games if you want more ideas for gaming on the go? Find out how we test hardware at Pocket Tactics to make sure you can trust our advice.