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Gaming Handhelds, Past and Future

Updated on March 7, 2017

Nintendo 3DS


The Nintendo 3DS

One of the most popular handheld items is the Nintendo 3DS. It is capable of running many great Nintendo exclusives. These include Mario, Super Smash Bros, and of course the legendary handheld Pokémon games. This device has the weakest hardware of every other item on this list, and yet it has still stolen many gamer's hearts. The 3DS arguably has the best exclusives. Capable of playing Game Boy and Nintendo DS Games, it’s library is vast indeed. It has two screens one of which supports a 3D effect.

3DS Specs Breakdown

  • Resolution:

    Top Screen : 800×240

    Bottom Screen 320×240

  • Cpu: Dual-Core ARM11 MPCore CPU

  • Memory: 128MB of Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 1GB Flash Memory

  • Storage Type: SD Cards

  • Battery Duration: 3 to 6 Hours

  • Notable Features:

    3D Top Screen Effect

    Small Size

    2 Screens

  • Average Price: $170 to $270

PS Vita


The PS Vita

Made by Sony this handheld has been described as a portable PS3. So much power in such little form factor summarizes the PS Vita quite well. The PS Vita has several amazing exclusives. These include Killzone Mercenary, Borderlands 2, and Resistance Burning Skies. If you're looking for retro games, you can also find many PSP titles that it is capable of emulating. The PS Vita most likely has the fewest exclusives on this list. It tries to focus on quality and not quantity. One should note that unlike the other items on this article it uses proprietary memory cards that cost a pretty penny.

PS Vita Spec Breakdown

  • Resolution: 960x544
  • Cpu: Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore

  • Memory: 512MB of Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 1GB Flash Memory *2000 Model Only

  • Storage Type: Proprietary Storage Cards *Expensive

  • Battery Duration: 3 to 5 Hours

  • Notable Features:

    Large Power to Size Ratio

    Small Size

  • Average Price: $200

The Nvidia Shield


The Nvidia Shield

The Nvidia Shield is a gaming tablet capable of running hundreds of thousands of games. Its library includes several great Android Nvidia exclusive games (Meaning only the Nvidia Shield Tablet and Shield TV are the only devices capable of running these on Android). These include Half-Life 2, Portal, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands the Pre-Sequel. This device is closer to a mini console in that it is best played hooked up to a television. This makes the Nvidia Shield device the least portable option of all these handhelds. Sporting a great 1920x1200 resolution this tablet will have you playing games or reading with an impressive amount of detail. It is a shame there are not more AAA Android games available. It is one of the fastest tablets available on the market. If you're looking for something that's not just a dedicated gaming device the Nvidia Shield might be for you.

Nvidia Shield Spec Breakdown

  • Resolution: 1920x1200

  • Cpu: Tegra K1

  • Memory: 2GB of Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 16GB or 32GB of Flash Storage

  • Storage Type: Micro SD Cards

  • Battery Duration: 2 to 6 Hours

  • Notable Features: It is fully functional and fast tablet.

  • Average Price: $200

Smart Phones


Smart Phones

Almost everyone has one whether it runs Android or IOS, millions of people own smartphones. The smartphone is the default competition in the world of mobile gaming. You have to come up with exclusives or gimmicks to even compete with these. They have the largest market share of any of these devices. You can even have a DIY Nvidia Shield Portable. You can add controllers to them using Bluetooth or an OTG Cable. Some of the controllers for smartphones come with built-in game clips such as the Moga Controllers. You can even get a custom-made game clip for more popular controllers such as the PS3 Controller or Xbox 360 Controller. Note don't buy the Xbox 360 controllers unless you also have a Wireless Xbox 360 Controller PC Adapter, an OTG Cable, and you have checked to make sure your smartphone supports OTG. You can find out if your phone supports OTG by using various on apps on the Google Play Store. Also, you have to get a special paid app to link a PS3 Controller to your phone through Bluetooth called Sixaxis. More than just a gaming device your phone has apps that can boost your productivity. Mobile phone gaming may well signal the death of traditional handheld gaming.

3 Exciting Gaming Handhelds you might have missed!

Love gaming on the go? Looking for a handheld but not interested in the Nvidia Shield, 3DS XL or PS Vita? Well, these handhelds run Linux and Windows 10.


Running Windows 10 this baby can run many of your Steam games. Its form factor is that of a mini computer, and that is pretty much what it is. Ever dreamed of running your Steam games on the go? Then this might be the console for you. Best of all its already out and is working great for many gamers.

GPD Win Video by LinusTechTips

GPD Win Spec Breakdown

  • Resolution: 1280x720

  • Cpu: Atom X7 Z8700

  • Memory: 4GB of Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 64GB

  • Storage Type: SD Cards

  • Battery Duration: 3 to 6 Hours

  • Notable Features:

    Runs Windows 10

    Has keyboard

    Pretty much a mini laptop.

  • Average Price: $330 to $360

PGS Hardcore

Also running Windows 10, this handheld is not out yet but is due in 2017. The size is 5.9" long with two dual screens. The primary display is 1920x1080p the second display resolution is not listed. It is obviously inspired by the 3DS's clamshell design. It's trying to compete with both the 3DS and GPD Win in design and specs. You can preorder them for $320.

PGS Official Preview

PGS Hardcore Spec Breakdown

  • Resolution:

    Top Screen 1920x1080

    Bottom Screen Unlisted

  • Cpu: Atom x7-78750

  • Memory: 8GB of Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 128GB

  • Storage Type: SD Cards

  • Battery Duration: Unknown will have Li-Po 6800mAh battery

  • Notable Features:

    Runs Windows 10

    2 Screens

  • Average Price: $320

Smach Z

This handheld has not been released yet but is due in late 2017. It runs Linux by default but will have support for Windows 10 installations. You can run many Steam games on it when running Linux and even more Steam games if you install Windows. It includes haptic touchpads instead of analog thumb sticks. The design is the most interesting of all these handhelds because it is almost like a Steam controller with a computer integrated into it. It will set you back about $320.

Smach Z Official Preview

Smach Z Spec Breakdown

  • Resolution: 1980x1080

  • Cpu: AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD

  • Memory: 4GB or 8GB or Ram

  • Default Storage Amount: 64GB to128GB

  • Storage Type: SD Cards

  • Battery Duration: 3 to 5 Hours *Estimated

  • Notable Features:

    Runs Linux

    Haptic Touchpads

  • Average Price: $300 to $530

To Summarize

Will the current kings of gaming be dethroned, by these new usurpers that are not restricted to playing exclusives? Will Windows and Linux handheld gaming take hold of the market or will we be using other more traditional handheld consoles? Will traditional handheld consoles die out to the common smartphone? What do you think about handheld gaming? Tell me below in the comments.

The Smach Z, PGS Hardcore, and GPD Win support Bluetooth and 5ghz WiFi. This means the Smach Z, GPD Win, and PGS Hardcore are ideal for external devices and in-home streaming. However, it is unlikely you can run more demanding games in a higher resolution than 720p on them. You also cannot run any of the latest and greatest games on these as it is unlikely they will have the necessary power for the newest games. But there will still be many older games and indie titles you will be capable of running on these devices. The Smach Z, PGS Hardcore, and GPD Win are all capable of running Windows 10. You should be cautious when investing in the PGS Hardcore and Smach Z as they are not released yet. Both items are subject to change. Somehow the GPD Win, PGS Hardcore, and Smach Z have not received much media attention.

Tech Spec Breakdown Table

PS Vita
Nvidia Shield Tablet
PGS Hardcore
Smach Z
Dual-Core ARM11 MPCore CPU
Quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore
Tegra K1
Atom X7 Z8700
Atom x7-78750
AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD
8GB of Ram
4GB or 8GB
Default Storage Amount:
1GB Flash Memory
1GB Flash Memory *2000 Model Only
16GB or 32GB of Flash Storage
64GB to128GB
Storage Type:
SD Cards
Proprietary Storage Cards *Expensive
Micro SD Cards
SD Cards
SD Cards
SD Cards
Battery Duration:
3 to 6 Hours
3 to 5 Hours
2 to 6 Hours
3 to 6 Hours
Unknown will have Li-Po 6800mAh battery
3 to 5 Hours *Estimated
Average Price:
$170 to $270
$330 to $360
$300 to $530
Top Screen : 800×240
Top Screen: 1920x1080
Bottom Screen 320×240
Bottom Screen Unlisted
Notable Features:
3D Top Screen Effect
Large Power to Size Ratio
It is fully functional and fast tablet.
Runs Windows 10
Runs Windows 10
Runs Linux & Capable of running Windows 10
Small Size
Small Size
Pretty much a mini laptop.
2 Screens
Haptic Touchpads
2 Screens

Favorite Handheld Poll

Which of these handhelds is your favorite?

See results

Works Cited For Spec Breakdowns and Spec Table

"Playstation Vita - Wikipedia." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 3/1/2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

"Nintendo 3DS - Wikipedia." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 3/3/2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

"Shield Tablet - Wikipedia." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2/11/2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

"GPD Win - Wikipedia." Wikipedia. n.p., 7/7/2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

PGS LABS. "PGS Hardcore." PGS LAB. PGS LABS, c. 2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

Smach Team. "Smach Z - The Handheld Gaming PC by Smach Team -- Kickstarter." Kickstarter. n.p., c. 2017. Web. 3/7/2017. <>.

© 2017 Patrick Little


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