Popular Gaming Handheld Consoles Under $500

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In a 2021 report of observation and recorded statistics by the Entertainment Software Association, it was revealed that gaming is not just for kids. According to the report, 67% of American adults (18 years of age and older) play video games, opposing the 76% of kids (under 18 years of age) who also play games every day.

The report also showed that while consoles are vastly used by a large percentage of gamers, some people play games on their phones and with handhelds.

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ALSO READ: Best Gaming Handhelds in 2022

After profound research on all of the best gaming handhelds, it is no surprise that a lot of them are extremely expensive. However, sometimes we want to get our money’s worth without having to spend excessively. Most people believe that the best equals highly-priced, but in contrast, these great gaming handhelds have proven this notion wrong as they’re all budget-friendly, with their prices below $500.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

At the top of the list, selling for $299.00 on Amazon, Nintendo Switch is undoubtedly the best gaming handheld since it was released on the 3rd of March, 2017. It is the fulfillment of everything Nintendo has strived to do with gaming as far back as 1989 when the gaming company began to make chart-topping consoles and handhelds.

It includes a docking station that allows gamers to connect it to their TV, making it a proper home console. A new mid-point between home and handheld, it is a powerful hybrid of both.

Its distinctive features and stunning design contribute to it being a people’s choice. It has wireless Joy-Con controllers, ARM 4 Cortex-A57 core CPU at 1.02 GHz-motion, motion-sensing capacity, ambient light sensor camera, and a large 6.2-inch screen with a 720p display resolution. The new OLED screen provides outstanding graphic quality for the users.

While the handheld screen supports only 720p resolution, the console can give an output of 1080p on TV screens.

Its software allows online gaming when connected to the Internet.

As a handheld, the Nintendo Switch can last for up to nine hours. It weighs about 14.1 ounces.

Michael Perez, a game designer at Iron Galaxy Studios, said, “For me, it is the perfect machine all-around as I can play on the big screen and just as easily kick back in bed without missing a beat.”

This outstanding gaming device competes with Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Within the first month, over three million units were shipped, exceeding Nintendo’s initial prediction of selling two million. In the year of its release, over 14 million units were sold globally.

Valve Steam Deck

Released on February 25, 2022, and going for $399.00 on Steam, the Steam Deck is only available on preorder. It is practically a mini-computer with a controller. Its design is similar to that of the Nintendo switch with its horizontal layout, the position of controls, central screen, and an HDMI docking station for TV connectivity. It is Valve’s latest gaming handheld and operates on Valve’s proton-compatibility Linux-based SteamOS 3.0 with a battery life of up to eight hours.

The device comes with a 4-core Zen-2 CPU that supports over eight threads, SSD storage options, and an RDNA-2 architecture GPU that supports raytracing.

Other features of the Steam Deck are the trackpads— which work similarly to mousepads— and the undetachable Joycons-similar controllers.

The gaming handheld dock supports Ethernet network connectivity and USB connections for the controllers or other input devices. Steam Deck also automatically verifies games when installed by the user.

Compared to Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck is higher in price, has a faster CPU and GPU, and has four times the amount of RAM (16 GB LPDDR5 onboard RAM). It has a refresh rate of 60Hz and a diagonal seven-inch screen.

This durable handheld has a very powerful performance and supports all PC games via the Steam platform.

Analogue Pocket

Analogue Pocket

This $219.99 gaming handheld was released on December 13, 2021, by Analogue Inc. It boasts of an Altera Cyclone V CPU, a fantastic 3.5-inch backlit 1600×1440 LTPS LCD (Gorilla Glass), battery life between six to ten hours, stereo speakers, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a built-in synthesizer and sequencer.

Its design is daringly close to that of the Nintendo Game Boy. It has a cartridge slot at the rear of the console and supports a microSD card and USB-C connectivity.

The HD screen hardly hangs no matter what game you’re playing.

The major issue with this handheld and its accessories is that they are hard to find and Analogue usually holds group preorders.

Nonetheless, it is highly recommended, has exceptional build quality, and is the only device that can play all Game Boy games across the whole of its archive which makes it a favorite of old Game Boy players and enthusiasts.

Analogue Pocket won Fast Company Awards Design Innovations of 2020 and Best Product Design of 2020. It was nominated for Wallpaper’s Design Awards in 2019.

Sony PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita

The pocketable hybrid PS Vita (or PS Vita for short) is Sony’s PSP upgrade. It is sold for $283.99 on Amazon. It was first released on December 17, 2011, by Sony Interactive Entertainment in Japan. It competes with the Nintendo 3DS and is much better than its predecessors with its improved graphics and smooth performance. Its features include a five-inch multi-touch capacitive OLED screen, a rear touch panel, a powerful l Arm Cortex’s A9 quad-core 2-GHz processor, a 2.3MP front and rear camera, 512 MB ram storage, and a six-axis motion sensing control, battery life of up to five hours, quad-core PowerVR display and two analog joysticks.

It is very thin and lightweight, but this doesn’t hinder its strong capacity and great functioning. Users can play nearly all PS4 games on the massive game library of this handheld.

One of the PS Vita’s major selling points for many gamers is that aside from Steam, it is probably the best device to play indie games like Velocity Ultra, Spelunky, Hotline Miami, and Thomas Was Alone. Classics such as the Sly Cooper Collection, Metal Gear Solid Collection, and Final Fantasy X/X-2 are also fan-favorite games on the PS Vita. On top of that, console games like Call of Duty, Need for Speed, and FIFA can be played on the PS Vita.

The Vita also has movie and anime streaming services (Netflix and Crunchyroll respectively).

The cons of this device, however, are the unreliable online functionality, low brightness of the LCD because of the presence of a backlight, tendency of losing the external memory card, and drifting analog sticks.


These are some of the best gaming handhelds presently available on the market. Even though the most current and decent smartphones support playing games, handhelds dedicated to gaming are difficult to replace.

Apart from price, shopping for the handheld gaming device of your choice depends on your understanding of your gaming habits. Accessing and reflecting on how much time you spend playing, the kinds of games you play, the interface that attracts you the most, and the position of the controllers that’ll fit your comfort you would when holding your gaming handheld.

Putting the cost, specifications, controls, functionality, and storage of each of these gaming handhelds, they’ve proven to be just as good as, if not better than, the gaming handhelds that cost more than $500.

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