Are Handhelds Gaming PCs Here To Stay?

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What does the future hold for handheld PCs?

Story Highlight
  • Both 2022 and 2023 were amazing years for Handheld gaming, with massive releases such as the ROG Ally, Steam Deck OLED, and the MSI Claw.
  • The popularity of first-generation products showed the demand for Handheld gaming in the PC gaming community.
  • The future of handheld gaming seems to be brighter than ever, with more companies investing in the space.

Valve quickly became a trailblazer for the handheld gaming PC sphere with the launch of the Steam Deck. I mean, the hype did make sense to me especially since no mainstream manufacturers were coming out with handheld gaming devices capable of playing modern titles.

The absence of such a device made Steam Deck a major hit right at the start. In fact, its success in the PC gaming sphere was large enough to bring forth a plethora of handheld devices from established manufacturers such as Lenovo and ASUS.

While a lot of companies are rushing onto the scene at this moment, does handheld PC gaming actually have a place in the market? If so, then is it here to stay?

First Gen Products Have Been Great

Sure, the current handhelds might not have the best possible specifications. In fact, I’m almost certain that you will have to stick to a resolution like 720p to get a playable experience in most triple-A titles. Despite all of that, the experience you get with devices such as the Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally is excellent, especially considering they are first gen releases.

Handheld PCs tested
Benchmarks (Image Via Gamers Nexus)

Let’s let the numbers speak for themselves. In Gamer Nexus’ Benchmark, all three of the mentioned handhelds punch way above their weight, managing to run Cyberpunk 2077 at over 40 frames per second. To me, these are fantastic performance figures coming out of devices that aren’t much larger than smartphones.

The Steam Deck Is Here To Stay

Steam Deck
Steam Deck

There’s no denying that the steam deck falls short when it comes to raw performance. Where it does shine, however, is in terms of game optimization. We’ve already seen multiple cases of Valve pushing out Proton updates to fix issues in games such as Elden Ring and Final Fantasy.

Not only that, their verified list of games is a huge benefit, allowing gamers to gauge the performance they would be getting out of a title just before purchasing it. Valve has also released consistent client updates that have improved the overall experience.

What’s more, Valve intends to remain consistent with these updates for a few years given they have no plans on releasing a new Steam deck. With that in mind, I think both variants of the steam deck are going to be enough for most people for a reasonably long time.

Huge Leaps Ahead

Even within just a span of 1 year, we have seen new competition arrive in the form of Legion Go and MSI Claw. Not only that, but the Legion Go seems to perform better than both the Ally and Steamdeck, albeit, to a limited extent.

Lenovo Legion Go Performance
Lenovo Legion Go Performance (Image Via Gamer Nexus)

The minute improvements we have seen within a short amount of time are essentially a great sign for the future of handheld gaming. With consistent handheld releases and advancements in integrated graphics from both AMD and Intel, I expect the performance of newer handhelds to increase rapidly in the next few years.

Should You Wait For A Better Option?

If you are interested in playing the newest titles at 60fps, then the correct choice would be to wait for AMD or Intel to refine their integrated graphics. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of triple-A games that can be enjoyed on current handhelds; however, the current performance threshold means you won’t be getting an impeccable experience. 

When looking at the list of the most played steam deck games, I found a huge amount of indie titles, including Hades, Dead Cells, and Dave The Diver. If easier-to-run titles such as these are your primary focus, then you will most likely be satisfied with the experience current generation PC handhelds offer.

Bottom Line

Put simply, the PC Gaming community has already shown a lot of interest in these devices thanks to the booming popularity of the Steam deck, which is a good sign for handhelds. With both larger and smaller companies now investing in the space, I expect the bar for handheld PC gaming is only going to be raised higher in the upcoming years.

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