Neither a Nintendo Switch nor a Steam Deck, Qualcomm's Android handheld leaves us curious.

computers & electronics, gaming

Qualcomm’s most radical announcement at its Snapdragon Summit is its new chip for Android-powered gaming handhelds. The G3x chip, and its G3x Handheld Developer Kit, goes up against the Nintendo Switch on the low end and the Steam Deck on the high end in the world of portable gaming. I tried it out for 15 minutes or so.

The handheld is really wide. It is not pocketable, that’s for sure. In my hands, it felt about a third wider than it probably ought to be, because of the big, ultra-wide 6.65-inch 120Hz display. At the same time, though, it’s surprisingly light. The button and controller arrangement is close to an Xbox controller, and I could easily reach both sticks and all the triggers with my thumbs while holding the handheld in both hands.

But how about the games? The handheld’s default UI is a carousel of loaded games. You can pop into Google Play and download anything you want.

computers & electronics, gaming

You can download games from Google Play.

Pretty much any Android game runs on the handheld; I tried Asphalt 9 and it played smoothly. But controls were a little mixed up. Asphalt didn’t seem to have all of its options mapped to the controller, and while the device has a touch screen, you really don’t want to be jumping between the touch screen and the controller too much.

computers & electronics, gaming

Asphalt 9 ran smoothly.

Qualcomm advertised the machine’s cooling and haptics, but I didn’t get much in the way of haptics from Asphalt. The impression I got was that Qualcomm’s not joking when it says this is a dev kit. Games run fine, but not like they were made for the hardware and button setup.

More than that, though, “Android gaming” is not exactly a compelling argument for a lot of US gamers. I didn’t get to test the promised Xbox Game Pass streaming on the handheld; in Qualcomm’s streaming demo room, it showed cloud streaming on a phone and a laptop, but not on the handheld. That was a little curious.

computers & electronics, gaming

You can see the fan on the back of the device.

In a Q&A here at the Snapdragon Summit, VP of Product Management Judd Heape wanted to make very clear that this is a dev kit, not a retail product. Some of that may just have been him trying to dodge several questions about the G3x’s processor speed and core count, which he steadfastly refused to answer. But the impression he ended up giving is that this is more of a concept device than a retail-ready gadget.

Razer, notably, is not offering the handheld at retail; it’s offering it to game developers through a signup form on its developer site.

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