When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Features / Best handheld gaming console 2024: Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck and more reviewed

Best handheld gaming console 2024: Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck and more reviewed

The best handheld games consoles you can buy right now, rated and reviewed

SQUIRREL_ANCHOR_LIST
Best handheld consoles list lead

Handheld gaming is having a moment. If you’re looking for the best way to play your games on the go, you’ve come to the right place. From big hitters like the Switch and Steam Deck, to powerful Windows machines, cloud-based creations and curios like the Playdate, we’ve reviewed the best handheld gaming console you can buy right now.

To test the best handheld gaming console contenders, we used them in every situation we think you will. That meant long sessions on the sofa, dealing with our backlogs in bed, killing time during flights and even booting up a game in the park. We monitor battery life, inspect display tech, crank up settings where possible, use every control option, and obsess over grams.

If you’re interested in the best console, we’ve got another feature that focuses on precisely that. We’ve also rounded up the best retro handhelds for old-school thrills, the best gaming headsets and the best gaming laptops

What’s the best handheld gaming console? 

We think the best handheld gaming console you can buy is the Nintendo Switch OLED (buy now). While the hardware has been showing its age for a while, the fantastic display, excellent design and incredible library of both Nintendo-developed and third-party games make it the ultimate handheld gaming package. 


Other best handheld gaming console recommendations 

Is the Nintendo Switch OLED not the handheld for you? Here are some other handheld consoles we recommend. 

Best handheld gaming PC

The Steam Deck OLED (buy now) improves on almost everything we took issue with on the original model, letting you play your Steam library wherever you are on a fantastic HDR OLED display. Other handheld PCs are more powerful, but Steam OS is a more elegant OS than Windows, and that’s why the Steam Deck reigns supreme. 

Best cheap handheld console

The adorable Nintendo Switch Lite (buy now) gives you everything the bigger Switch models do bar the ability to dock it to a TV for less money, while its handheld-only design means it feels far better in the hands than almost any other device in this list. 

Best handheld console for streaming 

The Logitech G Cloud (buy now) is one of a number of handheld consoles primarily designed to stream games from a PC, console or the cloud, rather than run them natively, with its comfortable design and solid streaming capabilities making it a good choice.

Best handheld console for unique experiences

You definitely can’t play Zelda or Cyberpunk 2077 on the Panic Playdate (buy now), but its curated library of crank-controlled games that were developed specifically for this delightful little Game Boy-like device make it a brilliant buy for handheld enthusiasts. 


The best handheld gaming console you can buy today:

Nintendo Switch OLED model verdict

1. Nintendo Switch OLED

Stuff Verdict

The Switch is starting to show its age, but there are enough improvements here to make the Switch OLED a tempting upgrade for handheld players

Pros

  • OLED displays are simply much nicer to look at
  • Much, much improved stand
  • Decent speakers
  • More storage

Cons

  • Larger display only shows up the limitations of 720p more
  • Pretty heavy for a handheld
  • Unchanged performance and battery life
  • More reflective than before

The hybrid nature of the Nintendo Switch means you don’t even need to use the Switch OLED as a handheld device – but you’re wasting its best feature if you don’t. As with most gadgets, an OLED display is transformative, especially given the vibrant colour palettes of many of Nintendo’s games. Super Mario Bros. Wonder or The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom absolutely pop off the screen. 

Nintendo also fixed the kickstand with its OLED revision, making tabletop mode a far more viable way to play, and we were fairly impressed with the speakers too. 

The Switch OLED isn’t a perfect device. Battery life is merely fine, there are more ergonomically pleasing handhelds, and the ageing hardware often has a difficult time with third-party console ports. But thanks to a truly incredible software library comprising some of the best games ever made, a clean, simple UI, and that gorgeous 7in 720p OLED display, there simply isn’t a better all-round handheld console out there. 


Steam Deck OLED lead

2. Steam Deck OLED 

Stuff Verdict

Not the Steam Deck 2, but the ultimate first-generation Steam Deck, with a display to rival your OLED TV’s…

Pros

  • Fantastic HDR OLED display
  • Slightly easier to hold
  • Better battery life
  • Steam OS is just much nicer to use than Windows

Cons

  • Same resolution as before and no more powerful
  • Still a chonker
  • Struggles with high-end modern titles
  • No VRR

We really liked the original Steam Deck, despite not being overly impressed with its weight, battery life or LCD display. All three were addressed by Valve with the Steam Deck OLED, making the first effort feel a bit like a rough draft in comparison. The new larger 7.4in HDR display, with its 1000-nits maximum brightness, has been blowing us away since we started using the device. It has hugely improved contrast and colours, while OLED’s trademark inky blacks make it hard to go back to LCD. The Deck OLED is also slightly lighter than Valve’s first effort, which you definitely do notice, and it lasts longer between charges too. 

The Steam Deck OLED is a handheld PC, but its custom-built OS makes it feel like a console in all the right ways. If you want to access your Steam library with minimal faff you can; desktop mode then welcomes tinkerers who want to emulate old games and install other launchers. 

Not every game will function as you want it to out of the box, and the Deck struggles to run modern AAA titles with any finesse. It’s also still a big bulky handheld, which might prove too much to handle for smaller hands. But if you want to play PC games portably, the Steam Deck OLED is our top pick. And if you want to save some cash, the equally powerful LCD model is still available at a lower price. 


Nintendo Switch Lite review lead

3. Nintendo Switch Lite 

Stuff Verdict

Not as clever or innovative as its bigger brother, but the cheaper Switch Lite is probably the best handheld gaming console Nintendo has ever made

Pros

  • Brilliant selection of games
  • Sharp, colourful screen
  • Very comfortable to hold, with an actual D-pad

Cons

  • Battery life still isn’t great
  • Primary and non-primary console faff
  • Some games now off-limits

In another arena you might knock the Nintendo Switch Lite for lacking the big screen credentials of its pricier bigger brothers. Here, though, we’re exclusively about handheld consoles, which is exactly where the Switch Lite really sings. Its lighter weight and smaller design not only make it more comfortable to hold than the big Switch, but more portable to boot. You even get a proper D-pad here, which the standard model lacks, arguably making the Lite the retro platformer champ. 

Once you’ve played games on the Switch OLED it’s really hard to look at the Switch Lite’s 5.5in LCD screen, but if you can overlook its inherent inferiority it’s still a great display. And keeping the same 1280×700 resolution on the smaller panel means games look even sharper. 

Battery life is decent enough, and the fantastic Switch library is just as good here as it is on the regular Switch. You just have to ask yourself if you’ll miss the ability to dock it to a TV, or Joy-Con-exclusive features like HD Rumble. If a handheld is all you want and you can live without OLED, the Switch Lite is an excellent and affordable option.


Asus ROG Ally review Game library

4. Asus ROG Ally

Stuff Verdict

Windows has a way to go on this new breed of gaming gadget, and battery life isn’t stellar, but the ROG Ally is otherwise a high-powered handheld with a great screen and excellent ergonomics.

Pros

  • Powerful yet quiet internals great for gaming
  • Crisp, variable refresh screen a delight
  • Ergonomic controls

Cons

  • Software has lots of room for improvement
  • Battery life isn’t all that great
  • Needs more control customisation

The ROG Ally is the first handheld to really give the Steam Deck a run for its money in terms of mainstream appeal. It wins hands down when talking straight specs, being considerably more powerful and with a higher resolution screen. The Ally will run any PC game you like, regardless of launcher – something not so simple on the Deck’s Linux-based OS. 

It doesn’t have an OLED panel, but the Full HD resolution is clearly superior to the Deck’s, and the 120Hz variable refresh rate means you’re rarely bothered by unsightly screen tearing.

The ROG Ally can’t always run games at 1080p without performance taking a noticeable hit. Even when it can, the extra power saps battery life quickly; we struggled to play for longer than three hours. A bigger stumble is the Windows 11 operating system, which just isn’t designed for devices like this. But if you can live with some navigation awkwardness and strange incompatibility issues, the ROG Ally is an exciting handheld to play your PC games on.


Panic Playdate handheld yellow

5. Panic Playdate 

Stuff Verdict

A handheld like none other that manages to feel both old-fashioned and completely new.

Pros

  • Beautifully designed
  • Decent battery life
  • Fun, unique game library

Cons

  • No backlight
  • A bit too small to be comfortable
  • A few pretty forgettable games

The Playdate is very different from every other handheld console on this list. Rather than replicating the big-screen gaming experience on a portable device, its library consists exclusively of bespoke titles, most of them making use of its unique crank controller. 

This is an intentionally low-tech toy. Its black and white display isn’t even backlit and the majority of its games are bite-sized experiences, best played for a few minutes at a time rather than a few hours. 

It is, then, a decidedly more niche proposition than the Switch or Steam Deck. But if you like collecting beautiful objects, of which the cheerful yellow Playdate is undoubtedly one, and enjoy something a bit different from your handheld gaming, you can’t go wrong. 


Lenovo Legion Go review lead

6. Lenovo Legion Go

Stuff Verdict

This gigantic handheld has a lot going for it, including a stunning display and detachable controllers, but too often Windows and the buggy Legion Space app get in the way of a good time.

Pros

  • Great, large display
  • Battery life should be good
  • Powerful specs

Cons

  • High price point
  • More work needed on software
  • Quite heavy

The Lenovo Legion Go makes its case with an enormous and quite stunning 8.8in, 1600p, 144Hz display and Switch-esque detachable controllers. A novel FPS mode then turns one of them into a vertical mouse. It works well and definitely makes you feel more accurate than when playing with analogue sticks. 

Like the ROG Ally you can run pretty much any game you like thanks to Windows. When it works you can have a lot of fun with Lenovo’s handheld, but we didn’t like the clunky Legion Space software. Most games can’t run well at the highest native resolution either. If they do, they’ll zap the battery dead in no time. 

Still, if you’re a Game Pass subscriber you can turn the Legion Go into a portable Xbox with a great screen. That’s a major advantage over the Linux-based Steam Deck, which can only stream Xbox Game Pass via the cloud unless you go through the messy process of installing Windows.


Logitech G Cloud review lead

7. Logitech G Cloud 

Stuff Verdict

A comfortable cloud handheld that also works brilliantly for remote play, Logitech G Cloud impresses with its display, performance and battery, while still good enough to play locally.

Pros

  • Comfortable form factor
  • Bright and sharp 1080p display
  • Hardware handles native games with virtual button mapping

Cons

  • Not all cloud services available out of the box
  • Android-based limitations
  • Quite pricey if only used for cloud gaming

This Android-based handheld comes with most of the major cloud gaming services (including Game Pass) pre-installed. It’s comfortable to hold and has a very decent 7in, 1080p display. But beyond the built-in controls, there isn’t a lot it can do that the phone likely sitting in your pocket right now can’t.

Whether you should buy one, then, depends on how much you already make use of apps like Xbox Cloud Gaming or Nvidia’s GeForce Now. There’s no doubt that playing Starfield is less fiddly on a dedicated gaming device than it is on your phone. If both your internet speeds and Wi-Fi strength are good enough, it can be pretty great. Plus the G Cloud is just an Android tablet at its heart, so you can download mobile games to play offline, too.

With servers in the cloud doing the heavy lifting, battery life is strong – up to 12 hours if you aren’t running many games natively. Some people will always be skeptical about cloud gaming, and there’s no denying that the G Cloud is an odd device –  and not a cheap one either. But if you’re all in on game streaming this handheld ticks a lot of boxes. 


Sony PlayStation Portal review PS5 homescreen

8. PlayStation Portal 

Stuff Verdict

Large display and full suite of DualSense controls make the PlayStation Portal the ultimate remote play device for your PS5 – but consistent performance depends on your Wi-Fi

Pros

  • Immersive 8in display
  • DualSense controls with low latency
  • Mostly solid streaming quality

Cons

  • Dropouts and occasional bugs
  • LCD is clearly inferior to OLED
  • It’s a lot of money for a device that can’t run any games natively
  • No Bluetooth or cloud streaming support

Sony has a long history with handheld consoles, but the PlayStation Portal is not another PSP or Vita. In fact, unless wirelessly connected to your PS5 it’s about as useful as a brick. The Portal streams games from your console, exactly as your phone does when using the PS Remote Play app (which is free). The difference here is that you get proper DualSense controls on either side of the 1080p 60fps display that you play your games on. 

The PlayStation Portal is an unapologetically niche device, primarily aimed at PS5 players who regularly have to give up the TV to someone else in the house. If your home Wi-Fi isn’t fast enough you’re likely going to experience performance issues. That said, we really like playing PS5 games on that large and bright display, without having to give up the DualSense’s haptics and adaptive triggers. Battery life is surprisingly decent too.

As it isn’t really designed to be used outside the house and can’t do cloud streaming of any sort, the PS Portal is a slighter offering than a lot the devices on this list. But if you’re in the target market and your broadband is up to the job, it might just be the handheld you’re looking for. 


How to choose the best handheld gaming console for you

As the above list attests to, the handheld console market is wide-ranging and varied, so Stuff is here to help you make the right choice based on your gaming habits. 

The first thing to consider is what games do you want to play? If Nintendo’s famous lineup of first-party franchises – we’re talking Mario, Zelda and Pokemon – appeal to you, you have to go with a Switch. You can’t play these games anywhere else, and because the Switch has been such an enormous success, the third-party support is far better than it was on the Wii U or even the Wii before it. Nintendo has really gotten behind the indie scene too. 

If you’re more of a PC or Xbox person, and have amassed a huge library of Steam games over the years, you might want to go for a Steam Deck OLED or one of the Windows handhelds instead. These devices are also far more open than the Switch, making them better picks for tinkerers who want to emulate retro games. And perhaps you only look to handheld gaming for quickfire fun on your lunch break, in which case you might get more enjoyment out of the Playdate. 

Once you’ve decided what you want to play, you need to think about how you want to play it. If screen size, resolution and performance are important to you, something like the Asus ROG Ally or Lenovo Legion Go might be your dream device, even if battery life leaves a lot to be desired. And battery life is hugely important for handheld gaming, given that you’re often playing games on the go where a power source may not be available. The Switch doesn’t have incredible battery life, but it lasts longer than the power-hungry PC handhelds. You should also consider the size and weight of the device, especially if your hands are on the smaller side. 

The last thing is price. The Nintendo Switch Lite costs less than £200 and has an endless library of superb games, while a top spec Lenovo Legion Go costs nearly as much as a gaming laptop. If you’re going to be forking out for the latter, you should know in advance that you’re going to make use of all that tech. Similarly, if you want a streaming-first handheld, make sure you’re able to feed it the Wi-Fi speeds it demands. 

And maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need a handheld gaming device at all and actually want a home console to sit under your TV instead, in which case you should head to our rated list of those right now. 

How we test the best handheld gaming console

We have used and reviewed every handheld device on this list, which means they have all been through extensive testing, usually for at least a few weeks and often longer. 

We’ve drained the batteries of each featured handheld in single sittings so we know exactly what you should expect, and we’ve played games in every situation you might want a handheld gaming device for. Which means that, yes, we have used them on the toilet. We think size matters with handhelds too, so if something isn’t comfortable to hold for long periods we’ll make sure we mention that in our review. 

We also focus a lot on performance, and where possible will track frame rates and power consumption while we play. And we look very closely at displays, no matter the size or screen tech powering them. 

For more information on Stuff’s rating and review process, read our page on how we test products.

Profile image of Matt Tate Matt Tate Contributor

About

I'm fascinated by all things tech, but if you were going to leave me on a desert island, I'd probably ask for my Nintendo Switch, a drone, and a pair of noise-cancelling cans to block out the relentless seagull racket. When I'm not on Stuff duty you'll probably find me subscribing to too many podcasts, playing too many video games, or telling anyone who will listen that Spurs are going to win a trophy this season.

Areas of expertise

Video games, VR, smartwatches, headphones, smart speakers, bizarre Kickstarter campaigns