The best portable gaming consoles 2023

Portable gaming consoles are big business right now. It feels like we’re seeing some of the best portable gaming consoles in recent years. Whether it’s the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch since its launch in 2017 or the hubbub around the ASUS Rog Ally, handheld games consoles let you have all the fun of gaming wherever you are. We’ve got years of handheld gaming experience at our disposal to help you find the best one for your needs.

It’s not just big game companies getting in on the act. GPD, Ayaneo, Playdate, and the OneXPlayer are all vying for market share and gaining lots of popularity in recent years. And there’s also a bunch of the best gaming phones ever available along with the best mobile keyboards and best phone cases to help you kit them out, though we’re focused on larger, controller-having counterparts here. But how many get to be ranked among the best handheld gaming consoles you can buy today? And which console is the best for you?

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At Pocket Tactics, our experts spend days testing games, phones, tech, and services. We always share honest opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

Here are the best handheld gaming consoles right now:

  1. Nintendo Switch OLED – best handheld gaming console
  2. Nintendo Switch – best-value Nintendo Switch console
  3. Ayaneo 2 – best premium handheld gaming PC
  4. Steam Deck – best handheld gaming PC
  5. iPad Pro – best handheld gaming tablet
  6. Playdate – best handheld for unique indie games
  7. Ayaneo Air – small handheld gaming PC
  8. Analogue Pocket – best handheld for retro games
  9. Super Pocket – best arcade retro handheld
  10. GPD Win Max 2 – versatile handheld gaming PC
  11. Nintendo Switch Lite – best handheld under $200
  12. Asus ROG Ally – Steam Deck alternative

1. Nintendo Switch OLED

The best handheld console with a beautiful screen.

                    Nintendo Switch OLED specs
Price $350 (£310)
CPU/GPU NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Display 1280 x 720px,  7-inch OLED touchscreen
Battery 4310mAh lithium-ion battery
Memory 4 GB RAM
Storage 64 GB flash storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD/SDHC/SDXC cards)


  • Excellent variety of first-party and indie games
  • Big, colorful screen
  • Works on the go and on the TV


  • Walled-garden OS
  • Limited power and customization compared handheld PCs

It’ll probably come as no surprise that we’ve picked the Nintendo Switch OLED as the best portable gaming console you can pick up in the year 2023. It’s got a library of fantastic games, a surprisingly long-lasting battery life, and a screen that makes Mario pop with color like never before.

While the Switch technically has a smaller library than the Steam Deck below, it has an exceptional library of first-party games from one of the best developers in history, Nintendo. Whether it’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bayonetta 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, or all manner of exceptional indie titles, the Switch’s success has helped fill its library with plenty of excellent games to play.

The console itself has an excellent, bright, and colorful OLED screen, good ergonomics, and the built-in ability to play on your TV at no extra cost. It’s excellently versatile, packed with great games, and easily the best out there. The only downside, really, is Joy-Con drift, but there are plenty of alternative Switch controllers to solve that issue.

The Switch OLED is versatile, and easily the best handheld gaming console out there, as well as being the best Nintendo Switch console if money is no object. You can take it on the go and keep it personal with one of the many great Switch headsets, or put it up on the big screen for a game night with friends. If you can afford it, we’d recommend buying this OLED model over the original Nintendo Switch, simply because the screen makes portable gaming beautiful.

Read our Nintendo Switch OLED review.

Nintendo Switch console being held in front of a blurry background

2. Nintendo Switch

The original Nintendo Switch is the best console for most.

                    Nintendo Switch specs
CPU/GPU NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Display 1280×720 6.2-inch LCD Screen
Battery 4310mAh lithium-ion battery
Memory 32GB RAM
Storage 32GB internal storage


  • Good value for performance
  • Works on the go and on the TV
  • Excellent library of games


  • Screen smaller and less bright than Switch OLED
  • Design feels a bit plasticky

While the OLED version might outperform the original, there’s still no denying that the original Nintendo Switch is a fantastic console. Sure, you might need to pick up a Micro SD card to install more than a couple of good games, but there’s little difference between this device and the OLED when it comes to performance.

While the Switch Lite is dedicated to handheld play only, the original Switch is more versatile, offering co-op play without even needing to pick up a second controller. However, we still recommend picking up the Switch Pro Controller if you’re looking for pinpoint precise inputs while playing in docked mode.

The Switch has a fun design, too. The Joy-Cons slot into either side of the screen and you’re left with a simple piece of kit. The screen is smaller than the OLED version, but if you’re someone who wants to take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s ability to be played both on your TV and on the go without breaking the $300 mark, then this is probably the best option for you.

The standard Nintendo Switch comes with 32GB of internal storage capacity, and while this is a little on the lower side, not all gamers are going to have this problem. If you plan on downloading all of the biggest new Switch games, you might find it filling up quite quickly.

Six years into its life, the Switch is still a brilliant hybrid gaming console, that can be used at home or out and about. Its huge library of games continues to grow, and it’s well worth the money (even if some older models struggled with Joy-Con drift).

Read our Nintendo Switch review.

Ayaneo 2 review; the Ayaneo 2, a handheld Windows PC designed for gaming, with a screen in the middle, buttons and a joystick on the right, d-pad and joystick on the left, and triggers on the back.

3. Ayaneo 2

A premium handheld gaming PC to rival the Steam Deck

                    Ayaneo 2 specs
Price $949 (£900)
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 6800U
GPU AMD Radeon 680M
Display 8.4-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS touchscreen, 60Hz
Memory 16 / 32 GB LPDDR5 6400Mhz
SSD 512GB / 1TB / 2TB PCIE 4.0M.22280


  • Gorgeous, bezel-less screen
  • Premium design with great ergonomics
  • Best-in-class performance


  • Much more expensive than Nintendo Switch
  • Triggers could be more sturdy

If you’re not working on a budget, the Ayaneo 2 is the best handheld gaming PC on the market you might never have heard of. The high price is a lot to handle, but for that, you get incredible performance, sleek ergonomics, and a design that lends itself to hours of play.

With performance enough to play any recent AAA videogames – from Cyberpunk 2077 to Red Dead Redemption 2 – on medium settings for the most part, it’s a true powerhouse. Combine that with its hall effect joysticks (so no drift!) and excellent d-pad, this is a truly well-rounded bit of kit.

Still, for such a high price, there are a handful of bugbears. The triggers are a little flimsy, the battery life is only just good enough, and various bugs plagued our own testing time. Still, once we’d ironed all that out, we found little to complain about. It really is as good as it looks.

Read our Ayaneo 2 review for more.

Steam Deck review - a powered down Steam Deck sitting in the middle of a desk

4. Valve Steam Deck

The best handheld gaming PC with surprising value

                Valve Steam Deck specs
CPU AMD Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
GPU AMD RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
Display 7-inch 1280×800 60Hz IPS LCD (400 nits typical brightness)
Battery 40Whr battery (2-8 hours of gameplay)
Memory 16 GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM
Storage 64 GB eMMC / 256 GB NVMe SSD / 512 GB high-speed NVMe SSD


  • Massive library of games
  • Huge amounts of processing power
  • Good control scheme


  • Not the best battery life
  • Not all games work (yet)

The Valve Steam Deck is right up there with the best of the best when it comes to portable gaming consoles, falling slightly short of the Ayaneo 2 in our opinion. Still, with Steam OS, a comfortable design for long play sessions, and plenty of ways to customize your UI, there are plenty of features here to make the Steam Deck a real contender.

With this device, there’s a huge amount of Steam games to choose from, and the 16 GB of onboard RAM is more than enough power for the majority of games out there. Downsides? Some games won’t work straight out of the box, and either require a little bit of tweaking on your end or the developer’s end.

In terms of design and handling, the Steam Deck has two thumb-sized analog sticks on either side of the 7-inch LCD touchscreen. In your hands, the console does feel pretty huge in comparison to the Nintendo Switch Lite, yet it’s still very comfortable to reach all of the controls – including A B X Y buttons and two trackpads with haptic feedback.

The Steam Deck will be the best handheld games console for you if you want a device with diverse, responsive controls, lots of games, expandable memory, and the option to play handheld as well as docked on a TV with the Steam Deck Docking Station.

Read our Steam Deck review for more.

One of the best portable gaming consoles -- an iPad Pro. It is a large square screen with thin black bezels, a time in the middle at the top showing 10:30 and a red and black background. A hand is holding it in the bottom left corner. Behind is a white wall.

5. iPad Pro (2022, M2)

The best handheld gaming tablet for Apple fans

                  iPad Pro (12.9-inch) specs
Processor Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU
Connectivity USB Type C, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Display 12.9 inch LED retina display
Battery 28.65-/40.88-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery
Memory 8GB (with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB)/16GB (with 1TB or 2TB)
Storage 128GB-2TB


  • Powerhouse chip
  • Customizable specs
  • Massive variety of App Store games


  • Very expensive
  • Not great for emulation
  • Not as flexible as Android

As well as being just a great all-rounder tabled, the 2022 iPad Pro makes our list of the best portable gaming consoles for its surprising gaming proficiency. You might not think it, but with 2TB of storage, 16GB of RAM, and Apple’s monster M2 chip, this device is worthy of its place on this list despite what any naysayers may have you think.

With the mini-LED display, the bigger iPad Pro has deeper blacks, better local dimming, and a far better experience overall. And of course, the iPad Pro does so much more than just run games, offering web browsing, apps for work and creation, and even photo and video editing capabilities.

Combine this functionality with ProMotion – Apple’s variable refresh rate technology – and you can get 120Hz gaming as well as slick scrolling through anything you’re reading. Better yet, if you like other things beyond gaming, the iPad Pro is excellent for video and photo editing, plus illustrations and the like.

What also sets the iPad Pro apart from other Android tablets is Apple Arcade, the mobile App Store with dozens of excellent Apple Arcade games to play. If you’re looking for a couple of great ones to start you off, check out our Cypher 007 review and Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! review.

However, the iPad Pro is pricey. If you want more storage than the base model and a better screen, you’re pushing $1,399 (£1,599). You can get a MacBook Air with the same specs for $1,499 (£1,549), so keep that in mind. Either way, the Apple iPad Pro is still a powerhouse and a brilliant portable gaming console.

Check out our guide to the best iPads for a comparison.

Playdate review: the playdate is shown on a desk with a clock as the screensaver

6. Playdate

The best for unique indie games for unique indie games

                                        Playdate specs
Price  $179 (£130)
CPU 68MHz Cortex M7
Display 400×240 1-bit display
Battery 8 hours of active use
Memory 16MB
Storage 4 GB flash storage


  • Original, exclusive games
  • Inventive form factor


  • Very limited games library
  • Almost as expensive as a Switch Lite

This one is a little more niche, and it’s certainly not for those who are looking for high-end performance. Still, if you’re open to old-school style handheld gaming with a touch of inventive innovation, the Playdate is worth looking at. That is if you can get your hands on one, with the device notoriously difficult to find through online retailers.

This crank has led to many inventive gaming experiences, and the console makers drew in many great indie devs to contribute, like the minds behind Cursed to Golf, Chuhai Labs, Bennet Foddy of Getting Over It fame, or Return of the Obra Dinn creator Lucas Pope.

Sure, it’s an incredibly limited console, but with a roster of devs that good, it’s definitely worth a try. And look how cute and creative it is! To us, it’s one of the best handheld game consoles just for its inventiveness.

Read our Playdate review.

A photo of one of the best portable gaming consoles, the Super Pocket, in both the Capcom and Taito editions, with an Evercade cartridge in front of them

7. Super Pocket

The best arcade retro handheld
Capcom Edition: 

Taito Edition: 

Screen 2.8-inch IPS
Resolution 320 x 240
Size 5″ long x 3″ wide x 1″ deep
Battery 4+ hours
Charging USB-C (cable included)


  • Compact and attractive design
  • Easy to pick up and play
  • Very affordable


  • Small screen that struggles with some games
  • Some issues with buttons
  • Only compatible with Evercade cartridges, which can be pricey

Available in both the Taito Edition and the Capcom Edition, the Super Pocket is an officially licensed retro handheld that primarily emulates arcade versions of iconic games. Both editions come with a wide selection of games pre-installed (12 on the Capcom Edition, and 17 on the Taito Edition). They’re also compatible with Evercade cartridges, allowing you to expand your library even further.

The emulation on these little beauties is actually pretty stellar, and the added bonus of being able to tweak difficulty settings, display, and more make for a pretty user-friendly experience. However, the screen is very small, and not all games look their best as a result. Additionally, the tightly packed buttons can be a bit uncomfortable during long play sessions, and both the D-pad and trigger buttons are not to everyone’s taste.

However, they are still very compact and attractive handheld consoles, available for a very reasonable price, and they make for a great entrypoint into retro gaming, or a fun collector’s item for any retro game enthusiast. They’re cheap, cheerful, and above all, fun, allowing you to carry a whole world of games in your pocket. So, if you can overlook the minor drawbacks, I can wholeheartedly recommend them as an affordable yet niche portable powerhouse. If you want to find out more, check out our Super Pocket review.

One of the best portable gaming consoles, the Ayaneo Air, a black, handheld device with a screen in the middle and controls either side.

8. Ayaneo Air

The best compact handheld gaming console

                     Ayaneo Air specs
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 5560U / 7 5825U
GPU AMD Radeon RX Vega 6 / Vega 8
Display 5.5-inch 1920×1080 AMOLED touchscreen
Battery 28 Wh (7,350 mAh) / 38 Wh (10,050 mAh)
Memory 8 GB LPDDR4x-3200, 16 GB / 32 GB LPDDR4x-4266
Storage 128 GB-2 TB SSD


  • Small form factor
  • Attractive design


If you like the design of the Switch Lite but find Nintendo software a little restricting, the Ayaneo Air might be the one for you. With hall effect joysticks, there are no concerns of that dreaded stick drift here, and there’s an OLED screen and expandable storage to boot. For those with smaller hands, it’s hands-down one of the better options on our list of the best handheld gaming consoles.

The Ayaneo Air does offer less power than other portable consoles on this list, which might occasionally limit the games you can play. The Aya Space operating system could also do with a bit of polish, while if you turn the TDP up this little thing can get hot.

However, if you want a tiny and powerful portable gaming console, we’d still recommend the Ayaneo 2. And, if you can stomach the price, this device doesn’t have any competition in the ultra-small handheld PC market.

Check out our Ayaneo 2 release date guide.

Analogue Pocket review: An analogue Pocket is visible beside a pile of Game Boy games

9. Analogue Pocket

The best retro gaming console

                             Analogue Pocket specs
Circuit Field-programmable gate array
Display 3.5″ 1600×1440 LCD (615ppi)
Battery 4300mAh lithium-ion
Storage microSD card slot


  • Top-tier retro gaming
  • Gorgeous form factor
  • No emulation


  • Retro only
  • No ROM compatibility

The Analogue Pocket is a dream for retro-heads, capable of playing old Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games with a cartridge input. However, it doesn’t work support roms, so it might only be worth picking this one up if you’ve got an expansive old-school collection.

It doesn’t stop there, though. If you have an adapter you can play Sega Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket/Color, Atari Lynx, and TurboGrafx-16 games too. All of this is without any emulation, which is exceptional. For the Analogue Pocket, you can expect to pay around $219 (around £190), though there are long waits for delivery. It’s pretty expensive, but I bet you it’s worth it to any diehard retro game player.

Read our Analogue Pocket review for more.

One of the best portable gaming consoles, the GPD Winmax 2, a laptop shaped device with controls above the keyboard for gaming.

10. GPD Win Max 2

The most versatile handheld gaming PC.

                GPD Win Max 2 specs
CPU Intel Core i7-1260P / AMD Ryzen 7 6800U
GPU Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics / AMD Radeon 680M (integrated)
Display 10.1-inch 1920×1200 IPS touchscreen
Battery 67Wh lithium-polymer
Memory 16GB LPDDR5 5200 MT/s / 16GB/32GB LPDDR5-6400 MT/s
Storage  1TB/2TB NVMe SSD


  • Huge screen
  • Full keyboard


The GPD Win Max 2 isn’t the best-known console, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a spot on this list. This is one of the best handheld gaming consoles, I promise, but it also doubles as a tiny little laptop. With a full keyboard below your standard gaming controller setup, the GPD Win Max 2 is a little odd at first, but looks can be deceiving – this thing is an excellent gaming machine.

The obvious benefit to the GPD Win Max 2 is that it’s got it’s own keyboard, so you can make notes on the go in-between playing sessions. Sure, you can do that on your smartphone, but who doesn’t love the clack of keys as you’re typing up your latest build ideas for something like Honkai Star Rail or Genshin Impact.

The built-in controller is a little clunky due to positioning, though you may be surprised – it’s still comfier than it has any right to be. It’s also one of the most expensive consoles on this list, and you can expect to pay $999 (£1,000) – $1,299 (​​£1,200) depending on the configuration. 

One of the best portable gaming consoles, the Nintendo Switch Lite, a grey, handheld device with a screen in the middle and controls either side.

11. Nintendo Switch Lite

The best handheld gaming console under $200

                Nintendo Switch Lite specs
Chip NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor
Display 5.5-inch 1,280×720 LCD touchscreen
Battery 3570mAh lithium-ion battery
Memory 4 GB RAM
Storage  32 GB flash storage (expandable up to 2TB with microSD/SDHC/SDXC cards)


  • Super portable
  • Great value
  • Large library of games


  • Small, low-res screen
  • Not playable on TV

If you’re on a tight budget or looking for something for the little gamer in your life, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a great access point to portable gaming. It’s got all the games from the Nintendo Switch library, and there isn’t any messing around of installing games like you might get with the Steam Deck or Ayaneo Air.

It also comes in a great range of colors (blue, pink, yellow, grey, plus a bunch of special editions) and has decent buttons for such a little thing, making it one of the best handheld gaming consoles on a budget.

The screen is smaller and less sharp than the Switch OLED and others on this list, and you can’t connect the Nintendo Switch Lite to the television. But still, for portable gaming on a budget, this is the way to go. It’s probably the best portable gaming console for kids, too.

Check out our Nintendo Switch Lite review.

One of the best handheld gaming consoles, the Asus ROG Ally header showing the console, screen in the middle, sticks and d0pad and buttons either side, white grips, on its back in a blue lit scene.

12. Asus ROG Ally

The best Steam Deck alternative.

Asus ROG Ally specs
CPU AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor
GPU AMD Radeon Graphics
Display 7-inch 120Hz LCD IPS (1920 x 1080)
Battery 40WHrs, 4S1P, 4-cell Li-ion
Memory 16GB LPDDR5 on board
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe™ M.2 SSD


  • Excellent design
  • Great display
  • Xbox Game Pass compatibility


  • More expensive than Steam Deck
  • OS not as slick as Steam Deck

If there’s just something putting you off the Steam Deck, but you still want that portable PC gaming power, the Asus ROG Ally is a great alternative. It is a little more expensive, but it’s just as capable of running AAA games and even features Xbox Game Pass compatibility.

The screen is 120Hz, too, which gives it another bump over much of the competition. This means you can play indie games at a silky smooth frame rate wherever you go. Add that to the wider range of compatible PC game stores, and you’re going to be having a lovely time.

For example, Xbox Game Pass games don’t work on Steam Deck without a lot of fiddling, whereas the subscription service is compatible with the ROG Ally. If you’ve already got an Xbox, this means you can get a bunch of games at no extra cost on your PC handheld (assuming you’re an Ultimate subscriber). It really is an ace little package.

The downsides obviously start with the price – the cheapest Steam Deck is $400, the cheapest ROG Ally is $600. But the specs are quite different between the two, so the price difference isn’t for identical machines. Still, it’s something to keep in mind if you want to dive in.

How we chose the best portable game console

Are you thinking of buying one of these consoles, but want to know how we narrowed it down to the options on this list? and what you can do to make informed decisions in the future. Here are the criteria we used to make these selections:

  • Price: Most of us have a budget in mind when looking for a new console, so we always look to include a range of products at different price points from across the portable gaming console market.
  • Games libraries: It’s no use having a great console if there aren’t any games to play on it. We try and include devices on our list that have plenty of options when it comes to games, though devices like the Playdate and Analogue Pocket earn a place through their ingenuity.
  • Battery life: Battery capacity is a big factor when looking for a portable gaming console, as it’s not much use to you if you’re using it for travel and it runs out of juice within just an hour or two. Still, if you’re just planning on playing on the couch, it may not be such a big deal if the battery doesn’t last for a particularly long time.
  • Internal storage: Since you don’t want to be lugging external hard drives around with you, you’ll need to be conscious of the console’s internal storage and the capacity for expanding it with micro SD cards.
  • Screen size/resolution: Display quality is incredibly important to some, so we look for handheld consoles that can deliver HQ visuals where possible. Of course, some of the retro-orientated picks on this list aren’t exactly 1080p, but that’s usually part of their individual charm.

While there are other important factors, like ergonomics and controls, these five bullet points are likely the most important when thinking about a purchase.

We’ll update this list as we get our hands on new consoles, so be sure to check back. Why not check out the best free mobile games if you want more ideas for gaming on the go? Find out how we test hardware at Pocket Tactics to make sure you can trust our advice.