The best handheld gaming consoles in 2020

The best handheld gaming consoles can keep you entertained anywhere. While gaming PCs, PS4s and Xbox Ones are excellent companions at home, they’re inconvenient to bring on a trip, and impossible to actually play while in transit. This is where handheld consoles come in: Moderately powerful, lightweight machines that are easy to stash in a backpack, or even a pocket.

While the best handheld gaming consoles in the past made you choose between limited specs (like a Nintendo Game Boy) and excessive power consumption (like a Sega Game Gear), modern handheld consoles don’t suffer from such restrictions. The gadgets on this list support deep games with gorgeous graphics. You can also play for hours at a time, thanks to strong battery lives.

Whether you need to pass the time on your commute or keep yourself occupied once you reach your destination, here are the best handheld gaming consoles you can buy.

What are the best handheld gaming consoles?

A few years ago, the handheld gaming market was split between Nintendo and Sony, as devices like the Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PlayStation Vita competed for supremacy. Now, Nintendo pretty much has the traditional handheld market cornered with the Switch.

There are two varieties of Switch available: the Nintendo Switch, and the Nintendo Switch Lite. The former is an inventive game console that you can connect to a TV or play as a handheld; the latter is handheld-only. The game selection on the two systems is identical, which is good news for fans of Nintendo franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing. Just be aware that transferring save data between the two systems is not nearly as seamless as it could be, so you’ll probably want to pick one and stick with it.

The Apple iPad Air has always been a pretty decent gaming device, in addition to a full-fledged tablet for multimedia and productivity purposes. A lot of good games are available à la carte in the Apple App Store. However, with the introduction of Apple Arcade last year, iOS devices have gained a selection of high-profile fare from both indie developers and major studios. If you haven’t tried Apple Arcade, some of the games are comparable in quality to what you’d find on a homebound console, and are well worth a look.

We also recommend the Google Pixel 3a, which has some pretty decent games available through the Google Play Store. However, it’s also a platform for Google Stadia games, which means you can play traditional big-budget titles on a tiny screen. Just be sure to bring a controller as well.

The best handheld gaming consoles you can buy today

The best handheld gaming consoles: Nintendo Switch

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

1. Nintendo Switch

Size: 9.4 x 4.0 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 14.1 ounces | Battery Life: 9 hours | Game Store: Nintendo eShop

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