The best portable gaming device in 2023

The past few years have seen a revival of handheld game consoles, thanks to the convenience of on-the-go gaming and streaming technology, no doubt in part due to the success of Nintendo Switch In 2017. There are a lot of options now: Switch and steam surfacestandalone consoles eg Play date panic and analog pocket and portable broadcast devices such as Razer Edge And Logitech G Cloud. Here are the best portable game console options, and why they’re worth considering.

Phones and tablets already do a good job of playing lots of great games, or streaming games from consoles or the cloud. Dedicated hardware can provide unique features, exclusive games, or extra power to do things your phone can’t. It almost feels like a throwback to the mid 2010’s Nintendo 3DS And PlayStation Vita.

the Nintendo Switch It’s been the best affordable portable gaming system for years, and it’s still CNET’s top pick. At $300 (or $350 for our preferred model), it can play a huge variety of Nintendo and indie games, can stick into a TV and can even play some fitness games. But valve steam surface It makes a unique proposition for those with deeper pockets: It’s big, and it can double as a full gaming PC. After one yearStill great (and arguably even better than before).

For those who miss old games like Game Boyyou may consider putting yourself on a waiting list to order Analog pocket or Play date panictoo, but both systems are more specialized — and more aimed at the retro/indie — than the Switch and Steam Deck.

We will explain below.

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The Nintendo Switch is now more than five years old, but Nintendo has indicated that there is no real successor coming at the moment. The Pro model has been rumored for a while, but in the meantime, the current Switch remains very capable, packed with great games (including plenty of indie offerings), and very affordable considering its portable/TV-connected dual function. The Switch has also become a great source for older games (Game Boy, NES, SNES, Genesis, N64, and more) via its subscription-based Switch Online service.

The Switch with an OLED display, released in October 2021, is the top Switch and our recommended pick. The sharper, larger screen looks great, its kickstand works better for board games, and both upgrades are worth the extra $50. The original Switch (or the V2), at $300, works similarly and is still just as good, sometimes coming in special editions and holiday game bundles. The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite is a great value pick at $200 for anyone who just wants a basic handheld gaming system, but it lacks any ability to connect to a TV, and its controllers don’t disconnect. This makes it less versatile for families, and means you can’t replace controllers if they break.

Read our Nintendo Switch review.

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Valve’s large and powerful Steam Deck is a marvel. It can play a variety of PC games surprisingly well, and is the portable dream for any hardcore Steam fan, or anyone with a large library of PC games. The Steam Deck can be expensive for larger storage tiers, but for what it’s capable of, it’s not a bad deal. The ability to play PC or cloud-based games, and connect to a monitor, keyboard, or other accessory, puts Steam Deck in a class of its own. A year later, it’s still great and worth getting right now (we don’t know when the second-generation Steam Deck will be announced).

Read our Steam Deck review.

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The Pocket looks like a completely remastered Game Boy, and in a sense it is. Analogue’s great handhelds can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges perfectly, and can even play Sega Game Gear games with an adapter (the Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, and Turbografx-16 adapters are due soon ). It has an HD color display and USB-C charging, and there’s a dock, sold separately, for powering your TV. One of the most exciting updates for the Pocket PC is its support forPGA cores that can copy classic gaming hardware and run ROMs. NO GAME STORE TO BUY GAMES: Pocket is a system to play classic cartridges or other games with amazing quality, if you want to tinker withPGA. There is also a growing library of Pocket-compatible software on indie game channels such as Itch which can be loaded onto a microSD card as well.

Read our Analogue Pocket review.

The yellow, black, and white Panic Playdate looks like an oddly shaped Game Boy with a mechanical crank sprouting out of its side. But the system, made by the indie game company that developed Untitled Goose Game, plays its own mini-season of 24 independently developed games, which come with purchase and appear over time like weekly gifts. Playdate has Wi-Fi and can download games or load other independently developed titles from sites like, but you’ll have to learn to love the experiences you discover. We’ve loved playing on it so far, but unfortunately the Playdate doesn’t have any backlighting – you’ll have to find a lamp instead. The latest update added a new app catalog to the device where games can be purchased separately, but the Playdate price also goes up to $199: for the same price, you can also get a Switch Lite.

Read our Panic Playdate review.

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Should I use my phone or iPad instead?

Tablets and phones are very valid game consoles: the iPad has tons of games on the App Store, and hundreds more on the subscription-based Apple Arcade. The iPad can pair with Bluetooth game controllers, too. iPhones and Android phones also have a lot of games in them, obviously, and there are a number of great game controller cases available, including the Backbone and Razer Kishi.

Phones and tablets also offer other benefits, including the ability to stream games via the cloud on a growing number of services including Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate and PlayStation Plus.

The aforementioned handhelds have other benefits: unique game libraries, the ability to connect to a TV and play with others, and the ability to play high-end PC games or classic game cartridges.

Should I wait for something else?

The Nintendo Switch Pro, a long-rumored upgrade to the Switch, could eventually offer 4K gaming and possibly upgraded consoles, though whether such a device exists is entirely speculative. Odds are that Nintendo will instead continue to improve the Switch a bit with new models every two years, similar to how it has continued to upgrade the Nintendo DS and 3DS line over time.

The Steam Deck has been on the market for just over a year, but it’s unclear when and if Valve will ever choose to upgrade it with better processors or newer features. And for now, Microsoft and Sony have stayed out of the mobile gaming picture.

Razer’s Razer Edge Android gaming tablet shows where a wave of new gaming tablets can become Steam Decks in the mobile world. However, the Edge is an Android device with a controller attached to it, which isn’t much better at the moment than a controller you can buy just for your phone.

Logitech’s G Cloud handheld device is a similar proposition, but with the controls attached to the device. These handheld devices could point to how more console/PC accessories are emerging as home portable devices for streaming games away from your TV, but now it’s best to use your phone or tablet and game console to do pretty much the same thing.

My kids alternate between iPad and Nintendo Switch games. The Switch is undoubtedly the best console for kids, with the most family-friendly game library and the best parental control settings. However, be prepared to be upset about buying multiple copies of games and going through the process of creating multiple family accounts on Switch.