5 Things You Should Consider Before Purchasing A Handheld

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Here's everything you need to pay attention to before purchasing a gaming handheld.

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  • Before anything, you’ll have to settle on the amount you are willing to spend on a handheld gaming console
  • You’ll have to make sure that the games you intend on playing are actually playable with the handheld’s OS and system requirements.
  • Prioritizing comfort, controls, and storage is also a must when deciding on a handheld.

The recent growth in popularity of handheld gaming devices did come as a surprise to me. However, that also means that you’ll have a lot of options to choose from when selecting the ideal handheld for you. This is why, I decided to list every factor you should consider before finalizing your decision.

1. Settle On A Budget

Steam Deck OLED
Steam Deck OLED (Image By Valve)

Of course, the biggest thing you’ll have to consider before purchasing a handheld is your budget. After all, the range of handhelds available at each price category can vary to a significant degree. To put that into perspective, if you are looking for a handheld under the $400 price range, you’ll most likely be limited to the Switch or the cheapest Steam Deck variant.

That said, taking things up to the $600 mark adds several other consoles such as the Legion Go, the ASUS ROG Ally, or even the highest-end variant of the Steam Deck. Thankfully, handheld prices have remained fairly competitive over the years, which means the chances of you overspending on one are limited.

2. Decide On Your Workload

RPG Ally Performance Figures
RPG Ally Performance Figures (Image Via Linus Tech Tips)

The type of games or software you are going to be running on your handheld can change a lot about which one you should opt for. Not only that, but the selection of games you intend on playing can also.

For instance, someone who simply wants to run emulators can go for cheaper consoles such as the Retroid Pocket 4 or Ayaneo Pocket Air. On the other hand, full-blown PC games will need something beefier.

Another great example of this is the Steam Deck, which most likely is not a suitable choice for anyone interested in playing anything apart from Steam Deck. In fact, accessing any launcher apart from Steam can require a lot more steps, which means going for Windows handhelds such as the ROG Ally will provide more flexibility.

3. Factor In Portability Concerns

Finding out how much portability a handheld offers will allow you to narrow down your options by quite a lot. In my opinion, a Handheld’s on-the-go experience can easily be judged by three factors: battery life, comfort, and software experience.

Most handhelds fail to run demanding titles for an extended period of time, which is why an efficient handheld is going to be a must for anyone who intends on spending a lot of time away from an outlet.

Battery-Life Of Handhelds
Battery-Life Of Handhelds (Image Via Gamers Nexus)

Taking a look at Gamers Nexus’ battery life test, we can see the Lenovo Legion Go at the top; however, that is with a power-saving configuration, which will result in significantly reduced performance.

Additionally, you’ll have to make sure the software experience is designed for on-the-go gaming. A good user interface should allow you to access all of your applications without having to plug in external peripherals. 

4. Find The Optimum Controls

The button configuration that you might like is up to personal preference; however, it is important to opt for a handheld that has a layout built for versatility. 

Personally, I think that the Nintendo Switch and Lenovo Legion Go handle this aspect really well, providing removable joysticks, which can be put together to provide a controller-like experience. The Legion Go even also allows you to use your right joystick as a mouse, which is an added plus.

Nintendo Switch's Controller
Nintendo Switch’s Controller (Image Via Gamers Nexus)

In the case of the Steam Deck, you get a dedicated trackpad, which can certainly be a game-changer in some games. However, something like the GPD Win 4, which comes with a built-in keyboard, might also make sense if you are worried about software navigation.

5. Right Amount Of Storage

Essentially, the amount of storage you are going to need depends on the types of games you intend on playing. Modern triple-A games will undoubtedly require the high-storage options; whereas, a 512GB variant might be enough if you intend on sticking to smaller indie titles.

If you have a higher budget, I would still recommend spending more on the storage, especially considering the sizes of modern titles.

Getting The Best Possible Experience

In the end, you are going to want the best possible experience when purchasing a handheld, and achieving that has only gotten harder with the release of newer options. That said, I’m glad most handhelds in the market right now are fairly capable, which means you are most likely to get a solid experience out of most of them.

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