Whenever new tech rolls out, we South Africans have to wait—sometimes forever—before we can get a chance to trial the latest and greatest. The same could be said for portable gaming consoles with heavyweights like the Steam Deck taking eons to finally arrive at our shores.
Well, it was worth the wait, and we’re no longer just restricted to picking up a Switch to scratch our on-the-move gaming itch (although it’s a solid option). Here’s the rundown of our favourite portable gaming consoles available in SA right now:
1. Valve Steam Deck
The Steam Deck was on our radar from the moment it was announced, and now—thanks to the wonders of importing—you can somewhat reliably buy into Valve’s masterpiece of a machine. Armed with a powerful AMD CPU, 16GB of RAM and those touchpads that first wowed us during its initial rollout, this is one of the best gaming consoles you can pick up right now.
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But its elite status does come at a steep cost. No worries—it’s Steam OS (which integrates with your full library of Steam games) means that you won’t have to splurge extra Randelas on new titles to get your gaming sessions going. The Switch might be more affordable, but many of its games will set you back by more than a grand. Steam, on the other hand, has regional pricing for most of its titles, so you’ll net some sweet savings—especially if you’re willing to play an Indie game or opt for an older release. The storefront also frequently hosts sales during which you can snag discounts of up to 90%.
2. ASUS Rog Ally
The Steam Deck’s most powerful rival, the Ally gives us Deck-deprived South Africans a chance to put our hands on a truly powerful (and ultra-portable) console. Under the hood you’ll find AMD’s new-aged Z1 Extreme APU and a generous 16GB of RAM. That makes this device a serious powerhouse when it comes to notching a respectable performance in the latest games. Some benchmarks have shown that it’s capable of maintaining at least 40fps in some of the biggest titles—which is more than enough for the gamer on the move.
Where the Ally really shines is its display. You get 11 inches of viewing real estate crammed into a far smaller package than the Deck. And the screen is still capable of achieving rich colours with minimal tearing in even more intense games. ASUS has still managed to squeeze in a competent joystick layout—although not having the access to the Deck’s responsive touchpads is a mark against the device.
Unfortunately, it’s sleek design seems to have come at the cost of battery life. For example, where the Deck might manage a solid 4 hours of play-time good day, the ASUS will often give you just two hours in more demanding games. Still, that’s a large enough window to help you survive most loadshedding schedules.
3. Nintendo Switch
Six years later, and the Switch is still a go-to portable console. Nintendo’s offering can be credited with the renaissance of on-the-move gaming, and its pioneering player is still damn good at what it does. We are still digging the controls which can be detached and slapped onto a variety of accessories to tailor your gaming experience. (It also comes in handy when one of your mates challenges you to a 1v1.)
Even all these years later, the screen is still bright, crisp and displays rich colours. But, obviously, where the console does begin to show its years is under the surface. With a host of new portables taking advantage of leaps in processing power. So you’re still restricted to 1080p where many portables are starting to make strides towards high-fidelity visuals.
It turns out that this inferior performance doesn’t really matter. You still get access to Nintendo’s vast array of Switch-only exclusives which—when you factors in Zelda, Mario, etc.—is worth the price of admission alone. Plus, the Switch is much more affordable than most of its peers. We recommend picking up the more recent OLED model for the better display. It’s worth it—trust us!
4. Nintendo Switch LITE
Yes, another Nintendo entry; but history has shown that the gaming giant has a habit of dominating the portable gaming consoles market. The LITE variant of the Switch is smaller than its kin, but doesn’t feature detachable joycons, so you’ll miss out on the beloved versatility of its forefather. You’ll also lose out on battery life but depending on what you’re playing, you’ll still be able to squeeze up to 7 hours of play time out of this bite-sized console.
Bonus: at a lower price point, you still get access to Nintendo’s full library of games. So, if you’re weary of dropping a solid 10k on your hobby, this is a half-priced alternative with just as much potential to keep you entertained during the next loadshedding window.
5. Razer Kishi V2
So, we’ll level with you: this isn’t a console. However, this accessory will transform your phone into a gaming powerhouse, representing an affordable way to net yourself gaming on the move. This peripheral interfaces with your Android phone in seconds, swapping those clunky touch controls for a tactile experience that’s bound to snag you that first win in PUBG.
It’s designed to be a universal fit, so you won’t have to stress about compatibility issues. Where this option shines, however, is when you start leveraging the power of apps like Steamlink. The aforementioned software will let you stream games directly from your PC to your phone, letting you smash through gloriously detailed AAA titles on the move.
Word of warning: performance can vary, and you’ll be victim to the strength of your signal. We found it tough taking on reaction-based games like the Souls franchise, so you might want to stick to something more forgiving, like the tactical turn-based RPG masterpiece Baldur’s Gate 3.
6. ASUS ROG Phone 6 PRO
Mobile gaming is the biggest sector in this booming industry, and there are tons of titles available on your app store that’ll swallow up more hours than the most binge-worthy TV series. Getting a dedicated gaming phone? That might’ve sounded unbelievable just a few years ago, but these days it’s a worthwhile investment, especially during a blackout.
So, what differentiates the Phone 6 from the one you’ve already got in your pocket? Firstly, this thing is jacked. It’s got a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset (super speedy), 18GB of RAM, a gargantuan 6,000mAh battery and targeted cooling to lower the temps during extended sessions.
Bottom line: it’s the most powerful gaming phone you get. That translates to smooth, uninterrupted gaming—just as things should be.
Looking for more reasons to grab a Phone 6, check out three of our favourite mobile videogames:
A Dark Souls-esque game you can take wherever you go? We’re sold. This one features a dark setting, responsive combat and an intriguing storyline. It looks great, too.
Upgrade your ride, customise its look and head out to cause mayhem and destruction. With detailed physics tracking every crumpled bumper and broken windscreen, this scrappy racer will keep you entertained for hours.
This is one of the best horror games ever made and now you can freak yourself out on the move. Explore a spaceship searching for an escape as you evade a terrifying Xenomorph all too eager to track you down.