PC & Tech Authority - - CONTENTS - AN­THONY FORD­HAM

Hand­held PC gam­ing. It’s a real thing and we do it

Ihave a se­cret vice. Hand­held gam­ing. As much as it shames me, I played Ter­raria to endgame not on PC, but on the PS Vita. I mas­tered Bind­ing of Isaac on PS Vita. I fin­ished Cat Quest on the Switch. I’ve only ever played Stardew Val­ley and Ox­en­free on the Switch. These handhelds give me some­thing, the only thing, the PC can’t: the abil­ity to curl up with a game in the same way I curl up with a book.

Yes, I know these handhelds are hope­lessly – even de­lib­er­ately – un­der­pow­ered. But af­ter eight hours of work­ing in front of the ma­chine, the last thing I want to do is flick over to Steam and boot up a game that de­mands 100 hours of my time just to get to the good stuff.

But I still want to play games.

And hand­held sys­tems help me scratch that itch. And yet, as a PC evan­ge­list I know it’s just not the same. The games lack a cer­tain some­thing, a cer­tain... depth isn’t the right word, be­cause es­pe­cially since the 3DS, the PS Vita, and the Switch, hand­held games have be­come plenty deep. But... look, you know the dif­fer­ence right? That’s why you’re a PC gamer.

So what I’ve al­ways wanted is a hand­held sys­tem that lets me curl up on the couch but also play PC games. And now, thanks largely to Intel’s push for ul­tra-com­pact form fac­tors, hand­held gam­ing PCs are at last start­ing to be a thing. To long-time fol­low­ers and fans of the open-source em­u­la­tion scene, the ini­tials “GP” have a cer­tain legacy. The GP32 (which I own, and I’m pretty sure I even know what drawer it’s in) was an ARMpow­ered Linux-based hand­held em­u­la­tor that could more-or-less han­dle most of the games from the 8-bit age. To be hon­est it was a pile of plas­tic junk with a low-res 4:3 dis­play, but it was a proof of con­cept, yeah? Af­ter the GP32, var­i­ous other at first Linux and then An­droid based sys­tems came and went. It was all very niche, very un­der­ground. Not least be­cause all these sys­tems re­lied on il­le­gal ROMs to even work. Even­tu­ally, in 2016, a Hong Kong out­fit crowd­funded a de­vice it called the GPD Win. This was a ma­chine that took Intel’s Atom CPU plat­form, a 5.5inch 720p dis­play from a mo­bile phone, a pair of thumb­sticks, some but­tons and a tiny key­board, and mashed it all into a case the size of a slightly fat­ter 3DS XL.

Make no mis­take: as a hard­core gam­ing ma­chine, the GPD Win does not have the chops to make it. But it’s an in­cred­i­ble ver­sion 1.0 de­vice. It has 4GB of RAM, an Intel Atom x7Z8750 CPU, Intel HD 405 graph­ics, a 5.5-inch 720p dis­play, a whole bunch of ports in­clud­ing USB-C with video, a hard­ware key­board, gamepad but­tons and two thumb­sticks, 64GB of stor­age, and a free ver­sion of Win­dows 10 Home be­cause the screen is less than nine inches.

The GPD Win can’t han­dle the lat­est games. But it can han­dle ev­ery retro ti­tle you throw at it. And even more im­pres­sively, it’s a fan­tas­tic Steam home stream­ing de­vice. Play­ing Hell­blade on this, on the couch, is like witch­craft. Sure, you need a $2,000+ gam­ing PC as well to make it work, but that’s not the point. The point here is po­ten­tial.

Thanks to the suc­cess of the GPD Win, the com­pany be­hind it has of course moved on to the GPD Win 2. This is a far more impressive de­vice, with a Core M3 CPU and beefier in­te­grated graph­ics that can han­dle most AAA games (al­beit at 720p with graph­ics set to low).

My pre-or­der is in, and I will 100 per cent be giv­ing you a de­tailed re­view of this feisty lit­tle ma­chine when it ar­rives in a cou­ple of months. For at least ten years I’ve wanted a true, un­cut, un­re­stricted PC ex­pe­ri­ence in a hand­held for­mat. And thanks to Intel, a bunch of crazy guys with a dream in Hong Kong, and the mir­a­cle of crowd­fund­ing, my dream may at last be com­ing true.

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