The Problem with Portable Gaming Handhelds in 2023


This year has been a huge year for handheld gaming from every corner of the gaming world. There has been something for everyone. Here’s a short list of some of the handhelds that have been released between late 2022 and 2023. 

  • ROG Ally, 
  • Analog pocket,
  • Steam deck OLED,
  • LG Cloud,
  • Legion go, 
  • AYIN Oden
  • Retroid Poket 3+
  • Playstation Portal

The list is endless. When it comes to finding the right handheld for your pocket it comes down to a lot of different factors, whether or not you use Steam as your primary gaming platform or whether or not you use more third-party services like good old games or Amazon Prime Gaming. This overabundance of gaming handhelds in the market means that it’s all fun more and more difficult to work out what works for you.

A world of compromise

This means that for the average consumer, it’s very difficult to make an informed decision because outside of the major players from established brands like LG or Steam, you won’t know what’s out there. and there could be Solutions out there that are cheaper and better for you depending on your gaming needs you may never encounter them or come across them because there is so much out there right now.

There are so many limitations that come with these handhelds that are not actively talked about or considered. For example, the LG Cloud is primarily only for those who have a game pass ultimate subscription and have access to Cloud services. This means that you are fully reliant and dependent on a good internet connection at all times for your streaming. Depending on a lot of things; where you are in the world, your Wi-Fi, whether or not there is Wi-Fi generally out and about in your neighbourhood. There are a lot of limitations that are essential to consider when making an informed decision about what console works for you.

You need to find that sweet spot, you need to find that point of compromise because there is not one single handheld on these lists that does not come with compromise full stop and you need to know before you step into these which compromise you want to have. 

The ROG Ally is a powerhouse and absolute tank when it comes to performance however don’t expect that handheld to have a super long battery life because of the power that it has if you’re only gaming for one to two hours at your know a go then that might be fine but if your expectations are for you to take this on a plane journey and have that battery last you’re going to be disappointed. 

  • Amazing graphics: AMD Radeon RDNA3 graphics (4GB VRAM, 12 compute units)
  • Ample storage: A 512GB NVMe PCIe 4 M.2 SSD gives you room to store your favorite games and keep load times snappy. Easily...

The Steam Deck is one of the most popular handhelds but if you hope to get any games that aren’t steamed you’re going to have to jump through a lot of Hoops to make that happen. so if you’re looking for something that you can just stick down plug in and play and just be content with your gaming experience that might not meet your expectations either. 

Spigen Rugged Armor Protective Case Designed for Steam Deck
  • Flexible TPU cover to protect from shock and drops
  • External wrist strap included to carry on the go.

On the flip side of that, if you’re going for something more traditional like a Nintendo Switch you have to be content with Nintendo’s library of games. There will be no customization options there will be nothing outside of those parameters.

Nintendo Switch – OLED
  • Vivid 7” OLED screen
  • Local co-op, online, and local wireless multiplayer

The same way with the PlayStation Portal if you are hoping to take this out in about or have gains natively that that you expect to have on the console itself you will be disappointed too. For the PS portal to work as intended you need the PlayStation 5. otherwise, it just becomes a screen with a DuelSense controller strapped to it and you won’t be able to use it at all.

PlayStation Portal
  • Put Your PS5 in the Palm of Your Hand - PlayStation Portal Remote Player gives you access to the games on your PS5 over your...
  • Play Your Game Collection - PlayStation Portal Remote Player can play compatible games you have installed on your PS5...

Naturally, none of these are ideal solutions and there is no such thing as an all-in-one system. The game rules need to change depending on how they game, what games they play, as well as a host of other things to consider. whether or not they are keyboard-and-mouse gamers or controller-based gamers. One of the wonderful things about gaming is the fact that there is something for everyone. But right now those lines are not as clear cut as they perhaps could and should be one of the biggest areas that hold this sector back is in its software.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

If you’ve experienced any of the handholds in the last year or so you will notice that there is a striking difference between the software optimizations of each of these platforms.  there is no one handheld operating system, and even though Microsoft has said that there is a handheld version of it in the works, there is no release date for that or if it will be universally applied even if it is released. while that will go some way to making all of the platforms more uniform it doesn’t however fix the fact that there are too many gaming platforms right now.

Have you ever stopped to consider how many games you have on other gaming platforms that aren’t your major ones? I have. and the list is frankly, overwhelming. and I’m a tech nerd. I would be considered a hardcore gamer. I’m an Xbox ambassador, I’m a speedrunner, I’m a streamer on Twitch, and I play a lot of games. I know this sector.  I know what’s good. and even I can’t keep up with the sheer volume of existing stores.

One thing that hasn’t been fully utilized or created yet is a way to condense all of these platforms and all of these stores into one giant hub that hosts everything; Steam, Epic Games, Rockstar, Origin, Xbox, PlayStation, Bungie, Blizzard, Riot. And everything else in between.

Heroic Game Launche

Right now the only thing that comes moderately close is a program for Linux called Heroic Launcher, it puts together your accounts from Epic Games, Good Old Games and Amazon Prime gaming. But there is no all-in-one service, and the sector desperately needs it. It’s not just good for the consumer who will stop paying twice for games that they actually have other platforms of either forgotten about it or don’t realize it but it will help competition overall as there will suddenly be a need for that cooperation to exist between all of these parties.

Not only that but there has to be optimization on the handhold themselves from a pure UI everyday perspective. The Steam Decks UI is good but by no means optimal. you still have to dig around for settings you still have to put in a lot of legwork to get it working the way that you want. Platforms that are a bit more established like the Nintendo Switch have a more seamless layout but they have been doing this for a lot longer in terms of the handheld space.

Then you have some disasters like what’s currently happening with the Legion GO, where nothing seems to be as you expect or you expect. There was a priotity made on reaching a certain price point and innovation that meant that the software became a secondary priority. The problem with that is that if you can’t get people to use the platform in the first place you’re never going to make the sales for a second edition. So that you can keep doing the iteration and you can keep doing the innovation. If people are too frustrated by the process then no one is going to recommend it nobody’s going to want to buy it.

Get It Together

The solution feels glaringly obvious, and yet, it doesn’t seem like anybody has been able to capitalize on it and that’s a shame. There’s a lot to gain by making a process that is seamless across all of these platforms. Because it suddenly makes the decision fatigue on how to play it disappear. You get to have the experience you want the way you want it without jumping through all the hoops to get to where you want to be. At the end of the day, all anybody wants is to select the game they want to play and then just play it.

The person who can work that out, the platform that gets to work that out, they are the ones who are going to win the race. They will be able to reap all of the benefits that craft platforms carry.

Note: this article may contain affiliate links that help support our authors and keep the Phandroid servers running.


Specious Coda-Bishop
Staff Writer @phandroid | Top 5 Kingdom Hearts 3 Speedrunner | Twitch Affiliate | Xbox Ambassador

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