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4 Best Handheld Gaming Consoles

Nintendo Switch
Best Choice

Nintendo Switch

4.9

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Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi
Premium Pick

Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi

4.7

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New Nintendo 2DS XL
Best Value

New Nintendo 2DS XL

4.5

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In today’s world, finding time for video games can be a tricky business, and as you grow older, it only gets worse. Demanding jobs, families and other important commitments take away the time you could be spending playing the best RPGs of all time.

It’s frustrating, I know, but there’s a simple solution to such a problem: a handheld gaming console. Since most people take public transportation in order to get to work, a handheld console will allow you to play as you commute. But what are the best handheld gaming consoles to buy in 2020?

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Best Choice: Nintendo Switch

Pros & Cons

  • Up to 2TB expandable storage space via microSDHC or microSDXC
  • Large library of Nintendo games available
  • Includes two convenient controllers
  • Fairly expensive handheld console

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Screen Size: 6.2 inches (touch screen)
  • CPU: 4x ARM Cortex A57
  • GPU: 256 Nvidia CUDA
  • Storage: 32 GB internal storage
  • Connectivity: USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio jack
  • Weight: 0.88 lbs (with Joy-Con controllers attached)
  • Dimensions: 4 x 9.4 x 0.55 inches
  • Average Battery Life: 4.5 - 9 hours

Nintendo Switch Review

Even if you aren’t huge into gaming, chances are you’ve heard of the Nintendo Switch. If you haven't, it’s an extraordinary hybrid console that works as a portable game system as well as a home console.

You can wake up, start playing Splatoon 2 on your high-grade curved gaming monitor, grab the Switch, slot in the controllers and continue gaming as you travel. I mean, it truly doesn't get any better than that. This is all made possible thanks to the HDMI/USB-C dock and the removable Joy-Con controllers that slot into the tablet.

One of the best things about the Joy-Con controllers is that you can use them to play multiplayer games with ease. Simply hand one of the controllers to your friend and away you go! Prefer a more traditional controller experience?

No problem at all! Just slot the controllers into the included Joy-Con grip and you have yourself a mini controller. Now, if you have larger hands, you may find the controller far too small. However, like any controller used for gaming, I find that it just takes some getting used to.

When it comes to the design, the tablet itself is fairly thick, just like the bezels. With that said, the thickness doesn't really bother me since the construction feels very solid. Onto the display, the Switch brags a 6.2-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720. Consequently, games on the Nintendo Switch run up to 720p.

Albeit, when you slot the system into the dock, games will run up to 1080p. In regards to the battery life, Nintendo claims you can get six hours of gaming out of the Switch. Giving you plenty of time for some Mario Kart matches with your friends and family. Also, you should definitely check out some of the best indie games on Switch.

Premium Pick: Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi

Pros & Cons

  • Stunning display
  • Comfortable design
  • Powerful graphics
  • Very expensive for a handheld console

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 960 x 544
  • Screen Size: 5 inches (touch screen)
  • CPU: ARM Cortex-A9 core (4 core)
  • GPU: SGX543MP4+
  • Storage: 512 MB
  • VRAM: 128 GB
  • Connectivity/Slots: Micro USB, Headset jack + Memory card slot
  • Weight: 0.482 lbs (219 grams)
  • Dimensions: 8.1 x 7 x 2.5 inches
  • Average Battery Life: 3 - 5 hours

Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi Review

The next handheld gaming console on our list is a very expensive option that may just break the bank. At $388, the Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi is about the same price as a 1 TB PlayStation 4 Pro. Now, you may be wondering: why on earth would I purchase a handheld console for such a ridiculous price?

Well, we’re about to tell you why. Released 2014, this new slim version is aesthetically pleasing and generally very well made. Still not convinced? Let’s take a deeper look at the system.

At first glance, you'll notice that this 2014 PS Vita is a sleek looking handheld gaming console. The thing is, the real star of the show with the original PlayStation Vita was its stunning OLED display.

Instead of keeping it, Sony has used an LCD display for this thinner version of the Vita. When comparing the two side-by-side, you'll definitely notice a difference in color. But if you're new to the system, the change won't matter to you. And compared to some other handheld gaming consoles on the market, the PS Vita looks great.

Onto the games, the PlayStation Vita has something for every type of gamer. We have to specifically mention Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Final Fantasy X/X-2 and Persona 4 Golden as some of the best Vita games on the market.

This premium pick handheld gaming console is also the perfect choice for you indie game lovers thanks to titles like Guacamelee and Spelunky. Alas, Sony discontinued the PS Vita earlier this year. But does that mean you shouldn't buy one? Not at all! The PS Vita has a superb game library and is a fantastic handheld gaming console. Sure, it's expensive, but we say it's totally worth it.

Best Value: New Nintendo 2DS XL

Pros & Cons

  • Backwards compatible with Nintendo DS and 3DS games
  • Brilliant game library
  • Durable design
  • Not the best battery life

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 400 x 240
  • Screen Size: 4.88 inches (upper) + 4.18 inch touchscreen (lower)
  • CPU: 4x VFPv2 Co-Processor
  • GPU: 804 MHz ARM11 MPCore quad-core
  • Storage: 4GB microSD included (replaceable)
  • Connectivity: 3.5 mm jack
  • Weight: 260 g
  • Dimensions: 3.4 x 6.3 x 0.85 inches (closed)
  • Average Battery Life: 4 - 7 hours

New Nintendo 2DS XL Review

The Nintendo DS is a classic handheld console that I had glued to my hands for most of my childhood. I'd be in bed, centimeters away from the screen playing Nintendogs ensuring all of my puppies were happy. Which is probably why I wear glasses and require coffee to compensate for the many sleepless nights.

Back then, I owned the Nintendo DS Lite which may be preferable if you want something a little smaller. Today, we have listed the New Nintendo 2DS XL as our best value handheld console since it's a powerful, modern alternative to the Lite.

At just $150, the New 2DS XL is a great budget-friendly handheld gaming device suitable for the whole family. Just like every other Nintendo DS, this one’s available in multiple color variations, as well as some pricier special editions. I have to specifically mention the white and orange New 2DS XL since it’s extremely appealing if I do say so myself.

One of the best things about handheld consoles is the ability to play games anytime, anywhere. And at 3.4 x 6.3 x 0.85 inches (closed), the Nintendo New 2DS XL is small enough to take on-the-move.

In terms of the games library, the selection is diverse, strong and still growing. Furthermore, the New 2DS XL is fully backwards compatible, so you can play some older generation titles, too. Games will also launch and even download faster thanks the speedy 4x VFPv2 Co-Processor.

Like every other DS, the top screen resolution is 400 X 240p. Nonetheless, everything looks great on this sysyem. Overall, we have to say that this is a superb, great value handheld console for gaming in 2020. Sure, the battery life isn't the best, which is why we suggest taking a charger with you on-the-go.

Best 3D: Nintendo New 3DS XL

Pros & Cons

  • Improved 3D effects
  • Better battery life
  • Enormous game catalog
  • Doesn’t come with a charger

Specifications:

  • Resolution: 800 x 240 pixels (upper) + 400 x 240 (lower)
  • Screen Size: 4.88 inches (upper) + 4.18 inches (lower)
  • CPU: 4x VFPv2 Co-Processor
  • RAM: 256MB FCRAM + 10MB VRAM
  • GPU: 804 MHz ARM11 MPCore quad-core
  • Storage: 4GB microSD included (replaceable)
  • Connectivity: Audio jack
  • Weight: 0.725 lbs
  • Dimensions: 6.4 × 6.3 × 0.8 inches (open)
  • Average Battery Life: 4 - 7 hours

Nintendo New 3DS XL Review

When you take a look at the specifications, you may notice that this Nintendo 3DS XL has the same CPU and GPU as the 2DS XL. So why did we include it to our list? First of all, the 3DS XL fittingly has a 3D top screen, whereas the 2DS has no 3D at all.

This enhanced 3D technology known as Super Stable 3D tracks your eye and head movement to adjust the 3D effects depending on how you're looking at the DS. Crazy, I know!

Compared to its predecessors, this technology is much more effective when on a train or in a car. After a while, gaming in 3D may give you a headache, especially when travelling. Luckily, there's a conveniently placed 3D on/off switch to the right of the top display.

Since the 3DS XL boasts new and improved 3D technology, it's slightly more expensive than the 2DS XL. The thing is, every 3DS game works with the 2DS, it's just that 3D is optional, so choose between the systems wisely.

Even though the 4.88-inch, 800 x 240p touchscreen isn't much compared to today's standards, both displays are very bright, clean and generally vibrant. Our main complaint is that this New Nintendo 3DS XL doesn't come with a charger which is absolutely ridiculous.

You can purchase a separate original Nintendo 3DS XL power adapter for around $12. But for a $200 system, it would have been nice to see it included in the box. Nonetheless, this new and improved 3DS XL is one of the best handheld gaming consoles on the market.


Handheld Gaming Consoles: Buying Guide

Below, we have listed some important things to look out for when buying a handheld gaming console. This way, you'll be able to purchase the right handheld gaming system for you.

Games: What Can You Play?

When looking to purchase a handheld gaming console, you should first ask yourself the following question: does it have the games you wish to play? For this exact reason, we made sure that every handheld gaming system on our list featured an extensive games library.

This way, you won't miss out on the latest and greatest titles. If you're an avid gamer, we highly recommend the Nintendo Switch since the selection of games is diverse and growing.

Nintendo Switch handheld gaming console

Battery Life: Will It Last?

One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a handheld console is how long it will last. If you only wish to play on the console at home or at a friends house, battery life isn’t exactly important. Albeit, if you’re looking for a portable console to play on as you travel, good battery life is necessary.

Most of the handheld gaming consoles on our list last around 4 hours depending on what you intend to do on the console. That’s just enough time for a quick game of Super Mario 3D Land or Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Screen Size: Does Size Really Matter?

Screen size is another important spec to consider when looking to purchase any device, handheld or not. Screen size is particularly important on a handheld console since they tend to be very small. Luckily for you, our list contains handheld devices with a screen size of around 5 inches. If you’re looking for something a little larger, we highly recommend the Nintendo Switch which has a screen size of 6.2 inches.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the top FAQs regarding handheld gaming consoles.

Which Gaming System Is Best for 8 Year Old?

Now, I'm not a parent, but as a former child, I can tell you that the best gaming system for an 8-year-old would have to be the Nintendo DS. Or, more specifically, the New 2DS XL or New 3DS XL. These handheld devices are small enough to take anywhere and durable enough so that they won't break with ease.

Sony PSP Slim and Lite 3000 Series Handheld gaming console

Additionally, there are plenty of age-appropriate games available on both systems. We'd also recommend purchasing the Nintendo Switch, but make sure you look at those PEGI ratings before purchasing games.

Is Nintendo Making a New Handheld?

Yes, Nintendo is making a new Nintendo Switch Lite that will be released in September. Fittingly, this will be a cheaper and more compact version of the beloved Nintendo Switch. This way, you won’t have to spend $275 just to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. As it will be a much smaller console (5.5 inches), the controllers won’t be detachable and therefore gaming on-the-go will be much easier.

The best part about it? Nintendo will keep the same 1280 x 720p resolution as the Nintendo Switch to keep things sharp.

Are PS Vita Games Still Being Made?

Back in March of 2019, Sony officially ended production of the PlayStation Vita and therefore it will no longer be making physical games. Does this mean you shouldn't buy one while you can? Absolutely not! The PS Vita is a fantastic handheld console used to play games on-the-go. What's more, the system is full of some brilliant games including some of the best PlayStation games on the market.

Mitashi Game In Smarty Pro 2.0 Handheld Gaming Console

Is Sony Making a New Portable Gaming System?

After ending the production of the PlayStation Vita, Sony has mentioned that it has no plans to launch a new portable gaming system. As Sony has been so successful in other areas, such as the smartphone market, it's no wonder their focus isn't on handheld consoles. Still, if you're a Sony fan who's looking for a brand new gaming system, at least you have the PS5 to look forward to.


Conclusion

If you lead a busy life and you don't have time for a 50+ hour game, a handheld console might just be for you. By using one of our quality handheld gaming consoles, you'll be able to pick up and put down a game with ease. This way, you won't have to bring your quality gaming laptop with you as you commute. Even if you don't lead a busy life, handheld consoles are great for gaming in the comfort of your home.

Are you looking for something a little more powerful with a large selection of games? We think you'll appreciate our guide to the best gaming tablets in 2020.

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Courtenay Smith
Written by Courtenay Smith

Courtenay’s love for gaming started when she was handed a Game Boy SP as a child. From there her youthful gaming memories consist of hitting some Donkey Kong bongos and cruising around Vice City listening to 'Take Me to the Clouds Above' at an unsuitable age. Since, she has gained a love for both PC and console games, sometimes even jumping on mobile. Don’t judge! When she’s not writing for the site she enjoys travelling, film, and diving down the rabbit hole that is YouTube.

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