3 of the best portable game consoles you can buy right now

New footage and several new video games were shown at the annual D23 Expo. Rick Damigella reports.

Recently there has been a welcome revival of portable gaming systems. While phones and tablets do a good job of playing great portable games, dedicated devices can offer unique features, exclusive games, or extra power to do things your phone can’t.

The Nintendo Switch has been the best and cheapest portable gaming system for years and continues to be CNET’s #1 choice. But new handheld consoles from Valve and Analogue are bridging the gap between PC games and retro game cartridges, respectively.

Here’s a look at three of CNET’s 2022 picks for handheld gaming consoles.

Best Handheld Console

nintendo switch, from $200

Nintendo Switch Lite

The Nintendo Switch is now 5 years old, but Nintendo has indicated that no real successor is coming at the moment. A Pro model has been rumored for a while, but in the meantime the existing Switch remains extremely powerful, packed with great games, and fairly affordable considering its handheld/TV-connected dual function.

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But which one to choose? The $350 Switch with an OLED screen is our recommended pick. The more vibrant and larger display looks amazing, the rear stand is better suited for tabletop gaming, and both upgrades are well worth the extra $50 over the original Switch (or V2 version) price.

At $300, the original Switch works similarly and is still okay.

The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite, at $200, is a solid choice for those who just want a basic portable gaming system but don’t have a way to connect to a TV and its controllers don’t detach.

Best Newcomer

valve steam deck, from $400


Valve’s vapor deck. (Dan Ackerman/CNET/TNS)

Dan Ackerman

Valve’s large and powerful Steam Deck is a marvel: it’s surprisingly good at playing a variety of PC games, and it’s the portable dream machine for any hardcore Steam fan or anyone with a large library of PC games. The Steam Deck can get pricey for the larger storage tiers, but for what it’s capable of, it’s not a bad deal. Pre-order wait times are still being pushed back a few months, but more people seem to be getting theirs. The ability to play PC games or stream cloud-based games and connect to a monitor, keyboard, or other accessory puts the Steam Deck in a class of its own.

Best for old games


The analog bag. (Scott Stein/CNET/TNS)

scott stone

The Analogue Pocket looks like a completely redesigned Game Boy, and in a way it is. Analogue’s beautiful handheld can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges perfectly, and can even play Sega Game Gear games with an adapter (Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket and Turbografx-16 adapters will be available shortly). It has a high-resolution color screen and USB-C charging, and there’s a dock, sold separately, for TV playback. But the Pocket doesn’t play emulations or ROMs, and there’s no game store to buy games. It’s purely a system for enjoying real physical cartridges in amazing quality, although there is a growing library of Pocket-compatible software that can be sideloaded onto a MicroSD.

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