The Snapdragon G3x is a handheld, Android-based gaming console developed with Razer.

computers & electronics, gaming

Qualcomm goes beyond the gaming phone in one of its more radical announcements at this year’s Snapdragon Summit—a handheld gaming system developed in cooperation with Razer called (for now) the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Developer Kit.

“This platform is designed to be the PC gaming rig of mobile games,” Qualcomm says.

As you may get from the name, this device won’t be sold primarily to consumers. It will be launched at retail as a developer’s kit, with Qualcomm hoping that its new G3x gaming platform gets taken up by other manufacturers. Versions of the platform will be launched under the Razer brand, and potentially others, in 2022, Qualcomm’s Alex Katouzian confirms.

“For now, we’ve built the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform—the chipset—and the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Developer Kit so that developers can explore its capabilities and take full advantage of the controllers, massive thermal headroom, and large, high frame rate screen,” says Qualcomm Senior Director of Product Management Micah Knapp.

The G3x HDK is a black handheld with a 120Hz OLED screen and 6,000mAh battery. It has analog sticks on both sides of the screen, along with a gamepad and action buttons; the controller is set up to specifically be Xbox-compatible. A USB-C port outputs to either 4K TVs or AR glasses, and a 1080p built-in webcam lets you stream while you game.

computers & electronics, gaming

From left: the Snapdragon 8cx for PCs, the G3x for gaming systems, and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 for phones.

The G3x Gen 1 appears to be based on an overclocked Snapdragon 888. While Qualcomm isn’t releasing technical details of the chip’s cores and speeds—a strange choice for a gaming product—I’ve come to understand that the primary cores are ARM Cortex-X1 at a clock speed high enough to potentially require a fan. The number of primary X1 cores could make the difference between whether its speeds fall between the existing 888+ and the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, or whether it’s as fast as the 8 Gen 1 but just hotter.

While the G3x Gen 1 apparently has a Qualcomm Kyro CPU, Adreno GPU, and 5G Modem-RF system, there are no part numbers or speeds on the spec sheet.

Part of the reason it isn’t a straight-up Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 appears to have to do with thermals. The G3x platform allows and maybe even expects a fan, so it’s potentially higher performance than a chip designed to go into a slim, quiet smartphone.

Qualcomm doesn’t have a great track record with hardware, and Android gaming handhelds don’t have a great track record with gamers. Qualcomm has counterarguments to both: the hardware is developed with Razer, which has better gaming credentials than Qualcomm does, and it’s designed in part for game streaming, so you don’t have to play Android games on it.

One of the big things the G3x has going against it, at least from a US perspective, is that it’s running Android. The US gaming community, by and large, disdains Android, even for mobile gaming, where the iPhone is considered the premiere platform.

It’s hard to express how much that’s not true in Asia. In Asian countries, specialized Android-based gaming phones are very popular, and Android phones are often the primary platform even for MMO gaming.

But Qualcomm has a way to sidestep the whole question: streaming. Game streaming plays into Qualcomm’s interest in networking, of course—ultimately, the company really wants you using 5G millimeter-wave networks to do it—but it also sidesteps the availability of games on Android by using Xbox Game Pass, Steam, and Google Stadia.

“You can stream from a PC or game console to your Snapdragon G3x Gaming Platform in another room or stream remotely from another country. You could even stream from a cloud service, without even having to own a PC or game console,” Knapp says in a blog post.

We’ll get a hands on with the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Developer Kit later today.

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