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Best Handheld Game Console (2023): Which Gaming Handheld Is Right For You?

In recent years, handheld gaming has seen a significant rise in popularity, with numerous companies releasing handheld consoles and PCs that offer immersive gaming experiences on-the-go. If you’re in the market for a new handheld gaming device, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best fit for your needs. To help you out, in this article, we’ll be listing the best handheld game consoles and PCs in various categories, including the best handheld console, best handheld PC, best handheld for retro gaming, and more.

Best Handheld Game Console Comparison Chart

Nintendo SwitchCheck PriceBest handheld console
Steam DeckCheck PriceBest handheld PC
AYN OdinCheck PriceBest handheld for retro gaming
Ayaneo 2Check PriceMost powerful handheld console/PC
Nintendo Switch LiteCheck PriceBest portable handheld game console

Nintendo Switch

Best handheld console

best handheld game console nintendo switch
Out of the box, the Nintendo Switch and Switch OLED can be played in docked or handheld mode.

The Nintendo Switch and its OLED variant are the best handheld gaming consoles if you’re looking for a seamless console experience. One of the major strengths of the Nintendo Switch is its library of first-party titles, including iconic franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, that are exclusive to the platform. These games have been critically acclaimed for their pure fun factor, making the Switch a must-have for any Nintendo fan.

The price of the Nintendo Switch and its OLED variant is also affordable compared to other high-end gaming consoles. The price point offers great value for the quality of the console and the games it offers.

Furthermore, the Nintendo Switch is a versatile console, allowing players to take their gaming on the go or enjoy it on the big screen. Unlike other handhelds, you don’t have to purchase a dock or hub separately, and switching between the two modes is effortless

However, the Switch is not perfect and it has some weaknesses, including outdated hardware and ergonomics. While the Switch is capable of running modern games, it lacks the processing power of other gaming consoles, resulting in slightly inferior performance. The ergonomics is just ok since it lacks grips on either side. Additionally, some players may find the Joy-Con controllers uncomfortable to use for extended periods, specifically, the d-pad.

Steam Deck

Best handheld PC

best handheld game console steam deck
With the Steam Deck, you can play all your Steam games on the go.

The Steam Deck is the best handheld PC on the market even though it’s not the most powerful. Its affordability makes it accessible to a wide range of gamers, and its easily upgradable storage means that the 64GB version provides excellent value. The handheld’s customizable controller features two trackpads and four back buttons, allowing for a highly personalized gaming experience. Plus, the Steam Deck’s comfortable ergonomics make it easy to play for extended periods.

That said, the Steam Deck’s biggest strength is its vast library of game. This library includes popular AAA titles, indie gems, and even retro games through emulation. Frequent updates from Valve ensure that the handheld’s operating system is always up to date, with the latest features and security patches. Additionally, the Steam Deck’s open platform means that there’s a huge community of users who provide helpful plugins and mods to improve performance and the overall gaming experience.

However, the Steam Deck is not perfect. Its battery life could be better, and its size and weight make it a bit cumbersome to carry around. Nevertheless, the Steam Deck’s many strengths make it an excellent choice for gamers who want to take their PC gaming on the go.

AYN Odin

Best handheld console for retro gaming

best handheld game console ayn odin
If you are looking for a handheld strictly for emulation and streaming, the AYN Odin is hard to beat.

The AYN Odin is our pick for the best handheld for retro gaming. It has good hardware, responsive controls, good battery life, and excellent emulation capabilities. It comes in three variants – base, pro, and lite – all of which can handle emulation up to some PS2 games.

The AYN Odin runs on Android, making it easy to install emulators and play retro games from a variety of consoles. Its Snapdragon 845 (base and pro) and Dimensity 900 chips (lite) allow for smooth gameplay, and its responsive controls make it easy to play games from a variety of eras.

In addition to its excellent emulation capabilities, the AYN Odin also excels at game streaming. This makes it a great option for gamers who want to enjoy their games on a smaller screen while lounging.

While there are many smartphones that can outperform the AYN Odin, it’s still a great option for those who want a dedicated retro gaming handheld. Its excellent emulation capabilities and responsive controls make it a must-have for retro gaming enthusiasts.

Ayaneo 2

Most powerful handheld console/PC

best handheld game console ayaneo 2
If budget is not a concern, the Ayaneo 2 will satisfy your handheld gaming needs.

The Ayaneo 2 is the most powerful handheld to date, thanks to its cutting-edge hardware. It is the most capable handheld PC on the market, able to handle demanding games up to medium settings with ease.

The Ayaneo 2 is equipped with a Ryzen 6800U processor, up to 32GB LPDDR5 RAM, up to 2TB of storage, an 8.4-inch IPS screen, and hall effect joysticks. Its premium design and excellent ergonomics make it a pleasure to use, even for extended gaming sessions.

However, the Ayaneo 2’s power comes at a steep price, making it one of the most expensive handhelds on the market. Its battery life is just average, which can be a drawback for gamers who need to use it on the go. Additionally, while Windows on a handheld is an impressive feat, it still has a long way to go in terms of optimization for the smaller screen size and touch controls.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Best portable handheld game console

best handheld game console nintendo switch lite
A smaller version of the regular Switch, the Nintendo Switch Lite excels in portability.

The Nintendo Switch Lite is the best portable handheld game console available now. While all handhelds are portable in nature, the Switch Lite’s form factor makes it the best option for gamers on the go. It is smaller than the regular Switch, making it more compact and easier to carry around, while still retaining the same internals, so performance is similar.

In addition to its compact design, the Switch Lite still offers access to Nintendo’s entire library of games. This includes popular titles such as Animal Crossing, Zelda, Mario and more. Also, the d-pad is better on the Switch Lite than on the regular Switch and Switch OLED.

However, there are some downsides to the Switch Lite. Its battery life is slightly shorter than the regular Switch, making it less ideal for extended gaming sessions. Additionally, the Joy-Cons on the Switch Lite are non-detachable. This can be a problem if you ever encounter the infamous issue with drifting. You won’t have access to your handheld while it’s being repaired.


The Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck are standouts in the handheld gaming space.

Nintendo Switch

Best handheld for console gaming

Steam Deck

Best handheld for PC gaming

The Nintendo Switch is the best handheld console due to its seamless combination of portable and home console gaming, excellent lineup of exclusive titles, and affordable price point. Its versatility in being able to switch between handheld and docked mode make it a unique and enjoyable gaming experience.

Meanwhile, Steam Deck is the best handheld PC due to its excellent value, customizable controller, huge library of games and frequent system updates. It has a large community of users providing useful plugins for improved performance and user experience. Additionally, it has a powerful enough hardware to play most modern and demanding games with acceptable performance.

Rounding out the list are the AYN Odin, Ayaneo 2 and Nintendo Switch Lite. The AYN Odin is excellent for retro gaming and streaming while the Ayaneo 2 is the premium option if you want a handheld with the best specs. The Nintendo Switch Lite is a more portable version of the regular Nintendo Switch.


๐Ÿ“Œ What is the best handheld console?

It depends, but our picks for the best are the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. The Nintendo Switch provides a seamless portable console experience while the Steam Deck provides excellent value with its combination of affordability and fairly powerful hardware.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Nintendo Switch as good as PS5?

In terms of power, the Nintendo Switch is nowhere near the PS5, however, when it comes go lineup of games, the Switch is as good, if not better than the PS5.

๐Ÿ“Œ Can the Steam Deck run high end games?

It can, but you’ll have to make some sacrifices in the graphical settings to achieve playable performance.

๐Ÿ“Œ What can the AYN Odin emulate?

It can emulate up to some PS2 games.

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Carlo Salvador

Senior Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about fitness, gaming and music.