The Windows handheld gaming console scene continues to grow, with more and more companies entering this highly sought-after niche. But with so much on offer, it’s important to get your information from reputable, knowledgeable sources. Especially as some of these things cost four figures. You absolutely do not want to drop that kind of money on a handheld if it’s going to be replaced by something better in a few months’ time.
That’s why I’ve put together this guide. To give you the important details so you can make a decision based on facts rather than corporate buzzwords.
Note to readers: I’ve avoided listing AliExpress as a retailer due to the site’s problems with scam sellers. If you decide to purchase from there, please make sure there’s some sort of coverage to keep you safe. If you’re concerned at all, close the page and go with a recognized seller like Droix, Amazon, or an official storefront.
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In This Article
11. AYANEO Next
Specs to know – CPU: Ryzen 7 5825U. | GPU: AMD Radeon Vega 8 | Screen Size: Seven inches. | RAM: 16GB LPDDR4x. | Storage: 1TB to 2TB SSD.
Price: $899/£660.95 to $1465/£720.95.
The AYANEO Next is fairly old in handheld terms (this scene moves fast!). Not just that, it’s also equipped with the now fairly outdated Ryzen 7 5825U and AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics. The latest AAA games will just about be possible on the AYANEO Next, but as a device that sits around the $700 mark new, picking one up pre-owned or refurbished could be a real steal.
I’d treat the AYANEO Next as a high-end indie device with some modern gaming. You will be able to play a lot of recent AAA games, but there’s a pretty obvious limit this device is going to hit in the next few years. That’s the nature of fixed hardware, sadly.
One thing in the AYANEO Next’s defense is that the 1TB SSD is ideal for gaming. The standard right now is 512GB (anything lower than that is normally a pass from me when it comes to Windows), so having double that means you could create a decent library before needing to think about uninstalling anything. I’d kill for the Ally to come with 1TB! And I say that as someone who is constantly needing to uninstall games to make space for newer ones.
10. AYANEO Geek
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 6600U/6800U. | GPU: RDNA2 | Screen Size: Seven inches. | RAM: 16GB or 32GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSD.
Price: $949/£749.95 to $1369/£1095.95.
The AYANEO Geek currently exists in a weird space. It’s more expensive than the ROG Ally and less powerful, and the larger 50.25-watt-hour battery eclipses the Ally’s meager 40-watt-hour alternative.
In reality that’s not a massive jump, but given the ROG Ally often runs into the one-hour zone, anything extra is welcome.
Compared with the meatier AYANEO 2S, the 2S is the better choice for gaming due to the more powerful CPU and GPU combo.
That’s a lot of negatives so who’s the AYANEO Geek for? If you can grab it in a sale, or grab one that’s pre-owned, it’s still a solid gaming machine. It’s aged now, and that’s the problem with AYANEO releasing new hardware so often, but if the price is right it’s still worth considering.
9. OneXPlayer Mini
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. | GPU: AMD Radeon 680M | Screen Size: Seven inches. | RAM: 16GB or 32GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 1TB or 2TB SSD.
Price: $959/£1149.95 to $1259/£1229.95.
The OneXPlayer Mini is a great little console but boy is there some misleading tech speak surrounding the device. Let’s break it down.
- “Ray tracing!” In some very old games that’s possible, but don’t expect Cyberpunk 2077 to be running well with ray tracing on this device.
- “Extended Battery Life!” This is true, but it’s only eight-watt-hours more than the Steam Deck.
- “HD Linear Resonant Actuator!” This essentially means it’s got Nintendo Switch-like rumble sensors.
Now that’s out the way let’s talk about what this device can do. On paper, it’s a similar setup to the AYANEO and ASUS devices – the Ryzen 7 6800U is once again flanked by the AMD Radeon 680M. AAA gaming is possible, and thanks to the smaller size it’s easier to hold. Although at 599 grams it’s closer in weight to the Steam Deck than the AYANEO Air 1S’ super-light 450 grams.
As with some others in this guide, keep the OneXPlayer Mini in mind if you can find it in a sale. Brand new it’s older tech, so it’s beaten by better alternatives. But if you can get it for cheaper than the asking price, it’s definitely one to consider.
8. New Anbernic Win600
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Athlon Silver 3050e. | GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega 3 | Screen Size: 5.94 inches. | RAM: 8GB or 16GB DDR4. | Storage: 128TB to 1TB SSD.
Price: $299 to $429/£459
Let’s be real here, the original Win600 from Anbernic was one of the most useless handhelds released. Anbernic made its name in the Android handheld scene, and the company’s first Windows outing bombed due to sub-par power and an overly-inflated price.
The New Anbernic Win600 is the company’s attempt to salvage its image by offering a super affordable, entry-level Windows handheld.
Whereas AYANEO and ASUS will shout about how their devices can run the latest AAA games, Anbernic has been pretty clear the new Win600 won’t be able to do that. And for the price, that’s totally fine!
On the power side of things, you’ve got the (old) AMD Athlon Silver 3050e and the (also old) AMD Radeon RX Vega 3. RAM comes in at a much smaller 8GB or 16GB, both of which are DDR4.
So what’s the point exactly? The new Win600 is designed for indie games. Think The Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells and you’ll have a rough idea of what this handheld is capable of.
For emulation, the new Win600 isn’t going to win any awards any time soon, but it should be able to handle up to PS2 with relative ease and some Wii games if you’re willing to individually configure them.
Aside from the lack of power, the ergonomics of the new Win600 aren’t great. It feels more premium than Anbernic’s other retro handhelds, but it’s not got that designer feel found in the ASUS or AYANEO handhelds.
But, price is everything. If you’re after a highly portable Windows device and don’t mind sacrificing AAA gaming, price-wise the new Win600 is a steal.
7. AYANEO Air Pro
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5560U or AMD Ryzen 7 5825U. | GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega 6 | Screen Size: 5.5 inches. | RAM: 16GB to 32GB. | Storage: 512GB to 2TB SSD.
Price: $699 to $1399
Let’s start with the obvious problem. The AYANEO Air Pro doesn’t have enough power to be a true 1080p gaming handheld. Most of the time spent playing games is going to surely be at 720p. That in itself isn’t an issue, of course, but then why use a 1080p screen when you could have included a native 720p equivalent (Eurogamer backs up this line of thought)?
Still, the AYANEO Air Pro improves on the previous model’s rubbish 28-watt-hour battery. Instead, the Air Pro boasts a more voluminous 38-watt-hour battery. That’s still two watt-hours fewer than the Steam Deck and ROG Ally, but a much more appealing over the poor 28 offering.
The main hook of the Air Pro is the form factor. While the Air 1S offers up a very similar size and more power, the Air Pro can still be a solid choice providing the price is right. It’s much more portable than the heavyweights and, even new, it’s around $200 cheaper than other AYANEO handhelds.
Personally, I think the Air Pro has had its day in the sun. I wouldn’t recommend it as a new purchase because the ASUS ROG Ally outpaces its performance. But if you’re okay to spend an extra $200, and want a similar form factor, the AYANEO Air 1S is well worth considering instead.
6. Aokzoe A1 Pro
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840U. | GPU: AMD Radeon 780M | Screen Size: Eight inches. | RAM: 16GB to 64GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 1TB to 2TB SSD.
The latest model of the Aokzoe A1, the Aokzoe A1 Pro, upgrades the internal components to keep things feeling fresh and responsive.
In terms of power, things aren’t going to be vastly different from the AYANEOs and ROG Allys of this world. The Ryzen 7 7840U rocks the CPU side of things while the AMD Radeon 780M takes care of the graphics. You’re going to see that setup a lot. It’s the same as the AYANEO 2S, and their combined popularity is down to how well those two elements work when down-sized to a mobile device.
Want to play AAA games? You’re sorted. They’ll work in some form. That 64GB of RAM option is also something you rarely see in a handheld. It’s sure to speed things up by a lot.
So, what’s the catch? It’s all about ergonomics. The hall effect joysticks are comparable to Switch sticks, which are known to be the worse type of sticks for everything that isn’t racing games due to their more convex nature.
The bumper placement as well won’t be for everyone. Aokzoe has taken a gamble here and rather than place the bumpers along the top of the console like most companies do, you’ll find them in the upper corners of the handheld. The idea here is to make them more accessible to more of our index fingers.
As I say, some people will love the new placement, others will despise it. There’s no middle ground here. I’d also be keen to mention if you have any accessibility concerns like motor issues, this device may not be worth risking due to the high buy-in price.
5. GPD Win Max 2
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840U or AMD Ryzen 5 7640U. | GPU: AMD Radeon 780M or AMD Radeon 760M | Screen Size: 10.1 inches. | RAM: 16GB to 64GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 1TB to 2TB SSD.
Price: $799/£626 to $1842/£1444.
There was always going to be an out-there handheld in this guide, and that’s the GPD Win Max 2.
What happens when you take a laptop and make it so small it counts as a Windows handheld? That’s the hook of the Win Max 2. It’s a clamshell device with a built-in keyboard.
Now, I know it looks somewhat weird, but that’s GPD’s thing – the company is known for constantly taking risks. Some pay off, others not so much.
You’ve got two models to choose from, each with different internals. One uses an Intel and Iris Xe solution, while the better option utilizes an AMD Ryzen 7 7840U paired with the AMD Radeon 780M. The latter option, broadly, offers more power in handheld form.
As a comparison, the Win Max 2 is in the same ballpark as the Aokzoe A1 Pro in terms of power (the Aokzoe A1 Pro beats it overall, though). It won’t be able to handle every AAA game, but it should be able to play enough of them to make it a worthwhile purchase.
Let’s face it, this isn’t a Windows handheld that’s selling power. The catch here is the design. As far as clamshells go, it’s the best out there. But if you’re spending this much money and want the very best tech, the AYANEO 2S is going to be the handheld you’re looking for.
One thing I will say in GPD’s favor is the company’s responsd to problems that crop up. That link in the previous sentence is a GPD representative jumping into a Reddit thread of problems to offer advice and inform on what GPD is doing to fix things. Given how many companies tend to just ignore customer problems, it’s a refreshing change to see.
4. AYANEO Air 1S
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840U. | GPU: AMD Radeon 780M | Screen Size: 5.5 inches. | RAM: 16GB to 32GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 512GB to 4TB SSD.
Price: $799/£626 to $1842/£1444.
The 5.5-inch screen makes a huge difference. To put that in perspective, it’s the same size screen used in the Nintendo Switch Lite. It’s smaller, but bursting with color, and it’s a handheld that actually feels handheld-sized, rather than the larger devices which feel like you’re lugging around a small computer.
It’s also much lighter than the competitors at 450 grams compared with the Steam Deck’s 669 grams and the ROG Ally’s 608 grams. That difference will be instantly noticeable if you’re used to the bulkier handhelds and helps to make play sessions less of a test of strength.
In terms of power, it’s the same as a few devices in this guide. The Ryzen 7840U is the current CPU of choice because of how capable it is when it comes to both emulation and AAA gaming. If you have a AAA game, it’ll work. And thanks to the excellent cooling integration, the AYANEO Air 1S will keep temperatures at sensible levels.
It does, however, have the usual crop of issues. As our friends at TimeExtension notes, the battery life is still pretty dire. That is a problem all Windows handhelds have due to how much juice is needed to run AAA games, but when you’re paying extra for the latest tech, it’s sure to leave a bad taste.
Where to buy: Only on the AYANEO Air 1S IndieGoGo page.
3. OneXPlayer 2
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 6800U. | GPU: RDNA 2 | Screen Size: 8.4 inches. | RAM: 16GB to 32GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 1TB to 4TB SSD.
Price: $959/£919.95 or $1159/£1096.
The main hook of the OneXPlayer 2 is it takes its cues from the Nintendo Switch. It can’t play Switch games (legally), but if you’re after a modular handheld that can be disassembled into a screen and two controllers, the OneXPlayer 2 is a solid choice.
Although the OnexPlayer 2 wins when it comes to the aesthetic – those curved controllers are lush in the hand – the lack of power really holds the handheld back. The Ryzen 6800U has a lower frequency than the popular 7840U (3.30 GHz versus 2.70 GHz respectively) and the use of RDNA 2 puts it behind the many RDNA 3 devices. The RAM and SSD options still rock, though.
In a head-to-head comparison, the cheapest OneXPlayer won’t hold a candle to the ASUS ROG Ally or AYANEO devices in terms of power, which is a shame given the similar price point.
2. ASUS ROG Ally
Specs to know – Chipset: Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor. | CPU: Zen4. | GPU: RDNA 3 | Screen Size: Seven inches. | RAM: 16GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 512GB SSD.
The ASUS ROG Ally remains my personal favorite console. In my review, I was a fan of its slick use of Windows as well as how much power it houses.
If you want to play the latest AAA games, the Z1 Extreme paired with RDNA 3 graphics means all the latest games will work in some format. As with all the Windows handhelds on this list, you will need to tweak settings, but by and large everything will work.
It’s the screen and the XG Mobile potential that really bring the ROG Ally to life. Visually, everything pops thanks to the 1080p IPS screen, and for those looking to play games on the TV with the settings set to the highest they’ll go, the XG Mobile is a true game-changer.
If you’re new to the name, the XG Mobile is a mobile graphics card (known as an ‘eGPU’) that takes the ROG Ally and turns it into a high-end gaming PC. And yes, it’s as powerful as it sounds.
One thing to keep in mind before you make any decisions, the ROG Ally does have some drawbacks.
At the moment, a few owners have had trouble with their SD card slot dying – a problem ASUS themselves have acknowledged. This should be fixed eventually, but right now it’s worth pointing out.
It’s also worth knowing there’s a cheaper version of the ROG Ally on the way that switches out the Z1 Extreme for the slightly slower Z1 chipset (if you’re into emulation, I recommend still going with the Z1 Extreme as emulators need more CPU power to operate).
Aside from those issues and a fairly weak battery life (around one hour for games like Cyberpunk 2077), the ASUS ROG Ally has become my gaming handheld of choice. It’s stylish, powerful, very capable, and the XG Mobile lets owners turn the Ally into a high-end gaming PC without the hassle that comes with buying a new PC.
1. AYANEO 2S
Specs to know – CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840U. | GPU: AMD 780M Radeon | Screen Size: Seven inches. | RAM: 16GB to 32GB LPDDR5. | Storage: 512GB to 4TB SSD.
Price: $949/£746 or $1429/£1123.
The AYANEO 2S has been dubbed the Steam Deck killer due to its frankly staggering tech. The Ryzen 7 7840U and extra RAM not only outright beats the Steam Deck, but it also beats the ASUS ROG Ally.
The extra processing power doesn’t change much in terms of compatibility, but it does alter how well a game can run. Take Cyberpunk 2077 as an example. As USAToday notes, at 800p with AMD FSR turned on (AMD’s resolution upscaling tech), it’s possible to play Cyberpunk at around 51 frames per second. That is absurd for a handheld! Normally with Windows handhelds the goal for Cyberpunk is 45 frames per second. To go six frames above that target shows just how much AYANEO has optimized the 2S to its fullest.
The AYANEO 2S also features the custom AYASpace 2 software, which is AYANEO’s own software for tinkering. Compared with the ROG Ally’s Armoury Crate, it’s a much more robust software that lets owners change settings to help save battery or fiddle with clock speeds to get more out of the handheld.
The priciest option is definitely not going to be for everyone. The 4TB SSD and 32GB of RAM setup is dreamy, but that $1429 price tag is going to make it a niche purchase. You could grab a ROG Ally and an XG Mobile for that cost. Most, I imagine, will be drawn to the much more affordable $949 pricing.
One thing I do need to stress, while AYANEO is the one company that continuously delivers and doesn’t mislead customers, the frequency of releases may be a problem. Once you’ve bought an AYANEO, chances are there will be a newer model with higher specs released in a few months.
I’m also waiting to see how long tech support lasts. With Valve and ASUS, both companies have hinted at long-term support. As AYANEO has multiple Windows handhelds out each year, I have to wonder how long will those older models still receive updates.
Still, it’s a solid purchase if you’re after the best of the best.
Where to buy: Available exclusively (and cheaper) on IndieGoGo.