There's been a welcome revival of portable game systems over the past few years. Even though phones and tablets already do a fine job of playing tons of great portable games, dedicated devices can provide unique features, exclusive games or extra power to do things your phone can't. As fall approaches, maybe it's time to look into one of CNET's favorite handhelds to get you through the colder months.
WHAT Nintendo Switch
THE COST $199.99-$349.99
AVAILABLE FROM nintendo.com
The Nintendo Switch came out five years ago, but the company indicated that no true successor is coming right now. A Pro model has been rumored for a while, but in the meantime the existing Switch remains extremely capable, full of great games and pretty affordable considering its handheld/TV-connected dual function.
The OLED-screened Switch, released last fall, is the best Switch and our recommended pick. The more vivid and larger display looks fantastic, its rear kickstand works better for tabletop gaming, and both of these upgrades are worth the extra $50. The original Switch (or the V2 version), at $299.99, works similarly and is also still fine. The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite is a great value pick at $199.99 for anyone who just wants a basic portable game system, but it lacks any ability to connect to a TV, and its controllers don't detach.
WHAT Steam Deck
THE COST $399-$699
AVAILABLE FROM store.steampowered.com
Valve's big and powerful Steam Deck is a marvel. It can play a wide variety of PC games surprisingly well, and is the dream portable for any hard-core Steam fan, or anyone who has a big library of PC games. The Steam Deck can get expensive for the larger storage tiers. Wait times on preorders are still pushed out by some months, but more people seem to be getting theirs.
The ability to play PC or stream cloud-based games, and to connect to a monitor, keyboard or other accessories, puts the Steam Deck in a class of its own.
WHAT Analogue Pocket
THE COST $219.99
AVAILABLE FROM analogue.co/pocket
The Analogue Pocket looks like a totally remade Game Boy, and it is, in a sense. Analogue's gorgeous handheld can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges perfectly, and can even play Sega Game Gear games using an adapter (Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket and Turbografx-16 adapters are coming soon). It has a high-res color screen and USB-C charging, and there's a separately sold dock for TV play.
The Pocket doesn't play emulations or ROMs, and there's no store for buying games. It's strictly a system to enjoy real physical cartridges in amazing quality, although there's a growing library of Pocket-compatible software in indie gaming channels like itch.io that can be sideloaded to a MicroSD card, too.
The following CNET staff contributed to this story: editorial director Dan Ackerman, CNET staff member Sean Buckley, editor at large Scott Stein, copy editor Jim Hoffman and CNET staff member Sean Buckley. For more reviews of personal technology products, visit cnet.com.