Best Linux based handheld console in 2024

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Gaming isn’t something that many associate with Linux. If you’re a PC gamer, you’re probably using Windows, and if you’re playing on consoles, they have their own operating systems completely separate from the Linux / Windows debacle. With that said, you definitely shouldn’t count out the best Linux based handheld consoles on the market. The OS is open source and fairly straightforward to develop for, which has given it a new lease of life for the portable scene.

There’s plenty of great Linux based handheld consoles out there now, with the Steam Deck OLED being perhaps the most notable. Others include the Evercade family, the Super Pockets, and the older GP2X. For a more general list, we’re also rounding up the best handheld games consoles which goes over a bit of everything.

Our picks for the best Linux based handheld games console

  • Steam Deck OLED
  • GPD WIN 4 (supports SteamOS)
  • ODROID-GO Advance

The Steam Deck OLED is by far the best Linux based handheld console we’ve tried and tested. Our review of the Steam Deck OLED has praised “the best screen on a handheld device” with the experience often eclipsing that of a gaming PC in some visual aspects.

Other notable mentions for Linux based handhelds include devices in the Evercade ecosystem, though it’s slightly different as they run proprietary software which is far from modular.

Steam Deck OLED

Steam Deck OLED

The Steam Deck, a sleek black gaming device featuring an OLED screen.

Screen size

7.4-inch

Resolution

1280 x 800 HDR OLED

Storage

512GB / 1TB NVMe SSD

Graphics Processor

6nm Custom AMD APU

Pros
  • Stunning OLED display
  • Powerful
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Can get warm

The Steam Deck OLED is for sure one of the best handheld consoles we’ve had a chance to review. It was a slightly surprising release, though having tested it against the original Steam Deck there’s really little competition between the two. The main improvement over the previous flagship Valve handheld is the OLED display which offers up deep blacks and colours that pop vibrantly. One of the minor issues we’ve experienced with the original Steam Deck is that its display falls flat against its opposition (Lenovo Legion Go, ASUS ROG Ally).

The Steam Deck OLED, and the original for that matter, both rely on SteamOS. This is a Linux based operating that Valve have developed specifically for the handheld gaming PC. SteamOS and the ease of having handheld software is one of the main reasons people pick the device over its competitors. Running Windows on a portable gaming PC is pretty janky without a dedicated display mode, so running a Linux based OS gives users a much better experience.

Aside from Linux, the Steam Deck OLED has plenty of other features that paint it as one of the best handhelds out there. For one, it features an APU designed by AMD that offers up a brilliant balance of performance optimization and efficient energy handling. While it’s true that the original has had issues with fans being quite loud and the console running warm, the second eases much of this load with another internal fan and a better heatsink. You’ll rarely hear it in action, or feel anything hot to the touch.

GPD WIN 4

GPD WIN 4

Screen Size

6-inch

Resolution

1920×1080

Processor

AMD Ryzen 5 7640U

Graphics

AMD Radeon 760M

RAM

16GB LPDDR5

Storage

512GB / 2TB / 4TB

The GPD WIN 4 is a handheld gaming PC that offers a bit more of a punch than the Steam Deck and ASUS ROG Ally. This does come with a trade-off (it’s quite a bit more expensive), though the added features are really worth a punt.

The GPD WIN 4 originates from Shenzhen based company – GPD – who have a wealth of other handheld gaming PCs. This includes the GPD WIN Mini and GPD Pocket 3. Their handhelds have an incredibly nostalgic form factor. Often tapping into the design of older phones with slide-out keyboards, the GPD WIN 4 sports a classic landscape design with the possibility to slide the screen up to reveal a tidy little keyboard.

The GPD WIN 4, despite sounding like a Windows based device, actually can runs a version of Linux very well optimised for gaming – SteamOS. That’s right, the same operating system that the Steam Deck runs.

Handheld operating softwares are the only thing holding back most consoles at the moment. Trying to run Windows on a device without a designated keyboard and mouse is pretty tough, though this shouldn’t matter too much with the GPD Win 4’s keyboard, but a designated UI that optimised and improves on the user experience is extremely welcome.

The GPD WIN 4 is available in two different variations, though you should try and pick up the latest one for sure. Featuring an AMD Ryzen 5 7640U and a Radeon 760M, the console runs using RDNA 3 architecture. There’s also 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, alongside storage options running up to 4TB.

This is a seriously beefy gaming PC packed into a tiny form factor – the fact it’s also running Linux if you choose is just impressive.

ODROID-GO Advance

The ODROID-GO Advance, though not a handheld gaming PC like the products previously mentioned here, runs on an extremely lightweight version of Linux. Meet Retropie, an incredibly well designed operating software originally intended for use on the Raspberry Pi. It’s based on Raspbian, a lightweight Linux OS designed for Raspberry Pis, with other contributing influences being EmulationStation and RetroArch.

The Odroid-Go Advance has a 320 x 480 pixel display, which when compared to others on this list seems incredibly inadequate. Luckily, on the ODROID-GO Advance you’re going to be playing retro games. While the ODROID-GO Advance has now been discontinued, it continues to be a popularly sought after handheld. Though the product isn’t in production any more, the ODROID-GO Advance SUPER Edition is currently available for pre-order, which looks to be an incredibly exciting evolution of the handheld.


We’re going to be keeping an eye out for emerging Linux based handhelds. The market for them isn’t huge at the moment, though when SteamOS more readily available it’s likely we’ll see more pop-up. Devices such as the ASUS ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go are sorely missing the benefits of a dedicated OS that’s optimised for a handheld experience, though it looks like we will be waiting a little longer to see them with official Linux softwares. We’ve also recently covered the best Android handhelds, though these are more targeted remote streaming and emulation, rather than as handheld gaming PCs.

Is Linux good for handheld gaming?

Linux is actually the optimal operating system for handheld gaming. As Linux is open-source, development for it is much easier. When there’s a specific need or user requirement, developers can simply create a Linux-based distro that suits it. SteamOS is a shining example of how this compliments handheld gaming.

Can you dual-boot Linux and Windows on handheld gaming PCs?

It’s possible to dual-boot Windows and Linux on handheld gaming PCs if you’re a little crafty with your tech. The Steam Deck, for example, lets you do this.

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.