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Ctrl+Alt+Del: 2023 was a big year for gaming handhelds, and 2024 will be even bigger

OPINION: In 2023, we saw the launch of countless gaming handhelds, and they came in plenty of shapes and sizes too. But, with Qualcomm’s new chips coming to the fore in 2024, as well as the expected launch of a Nintendo Switch 2, it’s only going to get more hectic.

Gaming PC handhelds didn’t burst on the scene in 2023, with the Steam Deck launching in 2022 and brands like Aya Neo having had these devices floating around the market for a couple of years now. But, 2023 was a big year because the big brands got on board.

The main releases I’m talking about are the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go on the PC gaming handheld side of things, the Logitech G Cloud and Razer Edge in the Android game streaming area and PlayStation Portal remote play device.

These are all huge manufacturers and, in 2023, they decided it was time to get all aboard the handheld train. We also got the cherry on top which is the new Steam Deck OLED towards the end of the year.

Steam Deck (Top), Asus ROG Ally (Bottom)
Steam Deck (Top), Asus ROG Ally (Bottom) – Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

But, the results have been mixed. A big year doesn’t necessarily mean a great year. It’s both interesting and exciting to see brands work out in front of our very eyes what is going to work in the gaming handheld market.

Steam has nailed a streamlined experience for those with an ample Steam library, while Asus and Lenovo – as Windows handhelds – offer easier access to various gaming platforms. 

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Then, we’ve got the Android streaming devices like the G Cloud and Edge. These were perhaps the least successful, charging a rather hefty price for something you can do rather well on your phone – especially when equipped with something like a Backbone One controller. However, a variation on this formula could be what fills up the 2024 gaming handheld market, and that’s thanks to Qualcomm.

In August, I got to try Qualcomm’s reference design for a new gaming handheld and this hands-on came alongside news of new gaming-focused Snapdragon chips from the company. It was reorientating its range to focus on three segments, the Snapdragon G1 for game streaming, G2 for intensive mobile gaming and G3 for high-end experiences.

Qualcomm Snapdragon G3x Gen 2 Reference Design
Playing an Android game on the Qualcomm Snapdragon G3x Gen 2 Reference Design – Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

If you’re at all familiar with the mobile phone market, you’ll know that brands like Samsung, Honor, Xiaomi, Motorola and more all launch phones each year with a heavy focus on featuring the latest and greatest Qualcomm chips. With Qualcomm’s renewed gaming push in 2024, I’d expect it to have plenty of partners onboard and ready to go with new mobile gaming devices. 

The hope would be that the growth of this market would defeat the key issues of Logitech and Razer’s Android handhelds, providing a cheaper experience on the low end and broadening support on the high end. If you want AAA gaming on an Android handheld, we aren’t quite there yet but, with Qualcomm also all in on its new Snapdragon X Elite PC chip and what it can achieve in the gaming realm, we’d expect support for gaming on these Arm-based chips to only increase. And, we’ve also seen Apple continue to make progress in this area too.

But, it isn’t all about Qualcomm. Even if it may be able to single-handedly fill the market with handhelds next year. AMD recently revealed its 8040 series mobile chips. These chips are the successors to the 7040 range that we saw power several PC gaming handhelds this year and hold the underlying technology behind the Ryzen Z1 series inside the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go. So, in 2024, successors to the AMD-powered handhelds could also be on the cards.

Nintendo Switch OLED
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

That’s the PC and Android realms covered but what of the gaming handheld that reinvigorated this whole market in the first place, and which many of these devices take design cues? I’m talking about the Nintendo Switch. It may not offer access to your PC gaming library, whether that’s native or streaming, but the Switch offers the only way to play excellent titles from the famed Japanese game creator, alongside a broader library of exciting third-party titles. Rumours are thin on the ground beyond suggestions of a launch later in 2024, but the new console could potentially feature Nvidia’s DLSS technology and a 4K performance.

So, if you’re someone who loves a good game on your commute or just really wants to be able to take your precious gaming library on the go, then 2024 looks like it could be a plush year for you. 

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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