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Ultimate Gaming on the Go: Battle of the PC Gaming Handhelds

Ultimate Gaming on the Go: Battle of the PC Gaming Handhelds

Mike A.Mike A.General | PC
Jan 19, 20246 minute read

The past several years have seen an explosion in the handheld gaming market.

Since the Steam Deck splashed onto the scene in 2022, other companies have been throwing their hats into the ring with their own accessible, affordable, portable PC gaming hardware. We obviously love PC gaming at Gameflip - a huge portion of our community is made up of PC gamers!

It's been so exciting to see the developments in this space, and we wanted to take some time to highlight the current options and how they compare to each other. So prepare for the most portable war you've ever seen as we kick off the Battle of the PC Gaming Handhelds!

*Note - if you're itching to get your hands on one of these devices but are concerned about their cost, stick around to the end for some tips on how Gameflip can help you get in on the handheld gaming revolution for less.*

Steam Deck ($349-$649)

Hardware brought to you by the creators of Half Life, Left 4 Dead, and your favorite digital distribution platform. (Image Source: Store.SteamPowered.com)

Hardware brought to you by the creators of Half Life, Left 4 Dead, and your favorite digital distribution platform. (Image Source: Store.SteamPowered.com)

The Steam Deck by Valve is credited with breaking open the floodgates for PC gaming handhelds when it launched in February 2022, but it was far from the first.

We aren't in the business of rewriting history here at Gameflip, so we have to tip our hats to the handhelds that came before, like the devices from GPD, OneXPlayer, and AYANEO.

That being said, these were all Windows-based devices, and were too expensive to be anything other than enthusiast machines. This is where the Steam Deck changed things.

Coming in at just $399 for the base version deck with 64GB of storage at launch, the SteamOS-based Steam Deck was much more affordable for the gaming experience it provided, and it definitely earned its success just based on that. These days, there's an upgraded 7.4-inch OLED Steam Deck on the market with a few notable improvements while fitting into the same pricing structure as the original.

For their first attempt at this kind of hardware, Valve really knocked it out of the park.

Pros

  • SteamOS

  • Great Ergonomics

  • Plenty of input options

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not compatible with Windows apps and services out of the box (Xbox Game Pass)

Asus ROG Ally ($599-$699)

A different take on a successful concept (Image Source: ASUS.com)

A different take on a successful concept (Image Source: ASUS.com)

Asus was the first major company to follow with their own Steam Deck-style hardware when they launched the Asus ROG Ally in June 2023.

The Ally boasts a more powerful engine with the AMD Z1 chip, and there is even an upgraded version that uses a Z1 Extreme for even more performance. However, it is a Windows-based device, which comes with its own set of usability and compatibility issues. The tradeoff for that though is that you can install any program you would use on a normal desktop with minimal hassle - something that isn't possible on the Steam Deck without dual-booting Windows.

Pros

  • More portable than Steam Deck

  • Flexibility of full Windows OS

  • Powerful SOC

Cons

  • Poor battery life

  • Ergonomics not great

  • Windows isn't built for this form factor

Lenovo Legion GO ($699-$749)

The Nintendo Switch of PC handhelds. (Image Source: Lenovo.com)

The Nintendo Switch of PC handhelds. (Image Source: Lenovo.com)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, then Lenovo holds Nintendo in extremely high regard.

All it takes is one look at the company's Legio GO handheld PC to see what I mean. The massive, 8.4-inch screen is flanked by (legally) distinct joy-con-like controllers that separate from the base unit just like a Nintendo Switch.

It works in the device's favor, and Lenovo even included some creative features, like turning one of the controllers into a kind of joystick/mouse controller. It's running the same hardware as the ROG Ally under the hood, but the form factor, much-improved screen, and bigger battery give it a boost over its smaller compatriot.

Pros

  • Fantastic screen

  • Detachable controllers + gimmicks

  • Great performance with acceptable battery life

Cons

  • Runs Windows

  • Bulky and heavy

AYANEO Air 1S ($899-$1,259)

Portability, redefined. (Image Source: AYANEO.com)

Portability, redefined. (Image Source: AYANEO.com)

AYANEO has been making handhelds for a while, but they do offer some affordable options in addition to their expensive, premium devices.

One of those options is the AYANEO Air 1S, a device that resembles a Nintendo Switch Lite in its form factor while offering powerful performance with its AMD Ryzen 7 7840U and a full Windows 11 installation.

It is by far the most expensive handheld on this list (especially if you get it with the maxed-out spec), but it is also extremely compelling if the others are too big and heavy to use comfortably for extended periods.

Pros

  • Super portable

  • Great performance

Cons

  • VERY expensive

  • Runs Windows

MSI Claw ($699-$749)

A contender on the horizon. (Image Source: MSI.com)

A contender on the horizon. (Image Source: MSI.com)

This next PC gaming handheld isn't out yet, but it does seem like it'll be a strong contender when it's out.

Announced at CES 2024, the MSI Claw is the first run on an Intel chip rather than one made by AMD. The jury is out on how that will affect its level of performance, but we'll be watching it closely when it hits stores in February or March.

And the Winner Is...

Only one can take home the gold... (Image Source: Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.com)

Only one can take home the gold... (Image Source: Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.com)

The Valve Steam Deck!

From its operating system to its unwavering support for your favorite games, the Steam Deck really is the ultimate gaming experience. New handheld gaming devices have come along and new ones are on the way, but you can't really beat what the Steam Deck provides at an entry cost of $349. It's just a game-changer.

Now, How Can I Get One Cheaper?

There's only one place that can save you money no matter where you buy... (Image Source: Gameflip.com)

Ok, say you want to nab a Steam Deck at an even lower price than $349, or you want to get an upgraded model at a discount. Is that possible?

With Gameflip, yes it is.

Something people fail to consider is that Steam gift cards can be used to buy a Steam Deck just as easily as any game on the Steam store. That's pretty cool, and guess what Gameflip has a TON of.

Super cheap Steam gift cards.

It's one of our most popular categories, and our community takes advantage of our discounted Steam gift cards all the time to amplify their purchasing power during Steam Sales. Today, we're letting you know that you can use that same power to pick up a Steam Deck of your very own.

If you would prefer an Asus ROG Ally or a Lenovo Legion GO over a Steam Deck, you can also take advantage of our cheap Best Buy gift cards to save some cash on purchases of those devices!

Whatever you decide to do, just know that Gameflip is here to help you make smart purchase decisions that won't empty your wallet. We'll have more news about greater savings and happenings in the Gameflip marketplace right here on the Gameflip blog, and you can also follow us on X, Reddit, Instagram, and Facebook for more fun content from all of us at Gameflip.

See you next time!

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