This year could have been a very forgettable one where gaming hardware is concerned. The PS5 and Xbox Series X are starting to really get going, but we’re some way off any console revisions, while Switch sales haven’t (until very recently) showed any sign of slowing down, so why would Nintendo interrupt the momentum with a new machine before it needs to? The PlayStation VR2 is just around the corner, but those who can afford one are going to have to wait another few months.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the handheld gaming space, though, then you’ll know that 2022 has been a hugely significant year. It was far from the first one to hit the market, but Valve’s Steam Deck has officially made portable PC gaming a mainstream concern, while the Panic Playdate said “what if Game Boy-like games, but you control them with a crank?” A question we had great fun investigating.
New eye-poppingly high-spec retro handhelds are popping up all the time, and while it hasn’t arrived on our shores yet, Logitech’s G Cloud is currently the closest thing we have to a handheld Xbox. If you’re big on streaming PS5 games to your phone when the sofa is occupied, then the PS-themed Backbone One would like your attention, but we’ve gone for another mobile controller as our favourite accessory of the year. On-the-go gaming is booming, then, and it’s about time we handed out some awards.
Gaming gadget of the year: Valve Steam Deck
Want to know a secret? Most Stuff awards categories are highly contested in the pub, and it’s not unusual for things to get nasty. But deciding on our gaming gadget of the year was a unanimous decision made in just a few seconds. Now, that might suggest that the Steam Deck is a flawless five-star device. Nothing could be further from the truth. Valve’s answer to the Nintendo Switch is comically large, too loud, and the battery life is abysmal. And despite being just a few months shy of a year into its life, the promise of your entire Steam library made portable is simply not yet a reality.
And yet, we’ve been in love with the Steam Deck since day one, and have spent more time playing games on it than anything else this year. Running AAA titles that would mercilessly buckle the Nintendo Switch in a matter of seconds, and in the region of 60fps to boot, is nothing short of mind-blowing, and provided you’re willing to tinker with settings it can often be achieved. Sacrifice some frames and be realistic about fidelity and you can comfortably play games like Elden Ring and God of War on this thing. We’ve come a long way from the Game Boy Colour, that’s for sure.
But as good as the Steam Deck is for big games, we’ve probably spent more time exploring Steam’s vast indie library, which we can now do anywhere we like. Two words: Vampire Survivors.
While it’s true that sensible people will probably wait for an improved Steam Deck 2 – now all but a certainty given how well the first model has done – we’d have no hesitation in recommending this one to PC gamers who want to free themselves from their desks.
Highly commended: Panic Playdate
If the Steam Deck is about bleeding edge handheld tech, the Playdate is about taking you back to a simpler time, when you’d spend hours sitting on the windowsill desperately trying to feed your non-backlit Game Boy sunlight. We really enjoyed our time with Panic’s weird little handheld, playing games with a crank and eagerly anticipating the next batch of eclectic bespoke indies that would be digitally delivered each day during the review period. This beautiful piece of gadgetry is more suited to collectors than casual players, and we would prefer a device released in 2022 to have a backlit display, but in a year defined by handheld gaming, the Playdate didn’t struggle to leave its mark.
Also shortlisted: Pico 4, Taito Egret II Mini
We were impressed by Pico’s Meta Quest 2 challenger, even if the superior hardware can’t match the Quest’s game library, while the teeny Taito Egret II Mini is a fun reimagining of a classic arcade cabinet that retro collectors will find hard to resist.
Gaming accessory of the year: Razer Kishi v2
We don’t need to tell you that today’s smartphones are powerful enough to play full fat console games, either natively or streamed from the cloud, but that doesn’t tend to be much fun when you’re having to play them using a touch screen. Luckily, there are loads of mobile controllers out there now, and the second generation of Razer’s Kishi is a great pick for Android and iOS gamers alike. Simply slot your phone into it and it transforms into a comfortable handheld console, with the USB-C connection ensuring you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged.
We really dig the controls, thanks to buttons that pass the all-important clickiness test, and triggers that demand you actually press them. Razer’s Nexus app handily points you towards supported games, and you should pay attention, as not all of them will work without a hitch. Still, now the controller is available for the two most popular mobile platforms (at launch it was an Android-only deal), we’re happy to recommend it to everyone.
Highly commended: Turtle Beach Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max
While marketed as (and decorated like) an Xbox headset, the brilliance of the ever-reliable Turtle Beach’s Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max lies in its multiplatform…,er, ness. This wireless headset fully supports Xbox’s proprietary wireless standard, but all you have to do is plug the included USB dongle into one one of your other machines (PS5, PS4, Switch and PC are all covered) and flick a switch, and you’re good to go. The headset is Bluetooth too, so you don’t always need the dongle. At 40 hours, battery life beats a lot of the competition, making the Stealth 700 Gen 2 Max a bit of a no-brainer for gamers who like to hop about.
Also shortlisted: Sony InZone M9 monitor, Steelseries Apex Pro keyboard
It might have the styling of the PS5, but the first monitor from Sony’s new gaming sub-brand, Inzone, is really for PC gamers looking for excellent HDR on top of the performance-related features desktop dwellers demand. We certainly didn’t want to give our review unit back. Sticking with PC gaming, the SteelSeries Apex Pro keyboard’s killer feature is its adjustable mechanical key switches, which can be tweaked according to game genre or your mood. We also liked the OLED display that acts as a handy command centre in various games and apps.
About The Stuff Gadget Awards
The Stuff Gadget Awards are where we reward the best tech we’ve seen during the year with gongs that celebrate their status as the cream of the gadgety crop. Read more about The Stuff Gadget awards.