The Nintendo Switch has spoiled me something awful. My game-loving heart fully embraced the power to play wherever and whenever I want, and it doesn’t want to go back.
And that’s great for all of the games available on the Switch (which is a lot — seriously, more than enough to keep a normal person busy for years). But what about all the other games I want to play?
As much as I love PC games, I rarely want to sit behind a computer to play. Yes, I know technically a screen is a screen, but I want to step away from my work screen at the end of the day and play elsewhere.
Enter the GDP Win 2, a Lilliputian computer that runs Windows 10 and plays games better than it has any right to.
You’d be forgiven for mistaking the machine for a Nintendo 3DS. Roughly the same size and sporting a similar clamshell design, you have to look carefully when it’s closed to see the plethora of ports Nintendo’s player doesn’t offer.
Located on the back of the device, you’ll find a USB type C display port, USB 3.0 port, headphone jack, micro SD slot and micro HDMI output.
Look closer and you’ll see six controller buttons, representing the R 1-3 and L 1-3 located on most game controllers.
Flip open the clamshell case and you’ll see more game controls — twin analog sticks, a digital D-Pad and four controller buttons. Underneath those is a full keyboard containing everything except a dedicated number pad, with tiny keys that, like everything else about the machine, work surprisingly well.
The computer’s insides don’t impress quite as much. It starts with an Amber Lake m3-8100Y processor, a tiny dual-core beast that Microsoft uses in some of their Surface products. With a base frequency of 1.1 GHz and a maximum turbo speed of 3.40 GHz, it’s speedy for a mobile machine but not something you’d usually choose for gaming.
Neither is the integrated Intel HD Graphics 615.
It’s rounded out with 8 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 256 GB M.2 SSD (128 GB in some older models).Needless to say, I was skeptical when I popped the system open and started playing with it. Though I had received some rave reviews from friends, the whole thing is just so … tiny.
Some of its challenges appear quickly. The 6-inch, 1920-by-1200 screen may be true HD, but don’t plan on playing any games higher than 720p, as they just won’t run so well. Additionally, text is remarkably small on the screen, so plan on using some of Window’s accessibility features unless you have fantastic eyesight.
I also found the Wi-Fi radio a bit discouraging. While it claims to have a dual-band radio that includes “802.11 ac” (with a maximum bandwidth of 867 Mbps), I couldn’t get better than 37 Mbps upon testing. During the same test, my phone hit 240 Mbps, leading me to believe that the wireless was defaulting to the older “802.11 n” standard. It is not something I have been able to fix.
This made for slower downloads than I would have cared for.
Once the computer was set up (about an hour of updates and tweaks), I downloaded the popular PC gaming platform Steam and a few of my favorite games. I knew not to expect to play the most recent games on their highest settings, but that isn’t was I was looking for.
I chose three games for my initial test: “Batman: Arkham Origins,” “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” and “Divinity Original Sin 2.” Each of these takes a good amount of power to run but are also known for playing nice with a wide range of PC configurations (unlike the newer “Batman: Arkham Knight” that barely plays on high-end rigs).
Upon booting up “Arkham Origins,” my eyes widened and my jaw hit the floor. There was one of my favorite games running well on a handheld computer.
A switch changes the upper game controls from mouse to gamepad, and I’m pleased to say the gamepad worked perfectly. Having the L3 and R3 buttons in the back took a little getting used to (neither of the analog sticks presses in as with a console), but otherwise, everything felt solid and natural.
I took Batman through his fight with Killer Croc and found myself smiling like the Joker. This thing feels awesome, and the frame rate held steady around 60 fps, never dropping below 55 fps.
Next, I booted up “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus,” my favorite shooter of 2018. I had to play with the graphics settings a bit, turning the textures, shadows, etc., to the game’s low settings.
Once I did this, however, the game played smoothly, staying between 40 and 50 fps most of the time and never producing any annoying stutter, which can kill a shooter.
Then it was time for “Divinity: Original Sin 2.” One of the best RPGs, period, “Original Sin 2” can be a resource hog, frequently making my last gaming laptop complain under its demands.
Some readers may be surprised to hear that an RPG demands more of the computer than a recent shooter or a fast-moving action game, but it does.
Again, I turned down the graphics settings and was able to keep a reasonably steady frame rate of 25 to 30, occasionally dropping into the teens when there was a lot happening on the screen at once.
Dropping the resolution a little helped tremendously, and overall, the game looked and played quite well on this small powerhouse.
I tried a few more games, mostly to good effect, though some things just don’t run well as it is a lower-end system. Overall, however, gaming was a very positive experience.
The biggest negative is the price: The most recent Win 2 model will run between $750 and $800 — a lot of money for a gaming handheld.
Some may also be wary of the fact that the GPD is not from a mainstream company, but rather from a Chinese manufacturer without a major presence in the U.S.
Still, these factors aside, the GPD Win 2 impressed me on nearly every level. The small computer is remarkably well constructed and fun to play. So if you’re looking for something that will allow you to take your “World of Warcraft” game on the road (and this will), this mighty mite may be exactly what you’re looking for.
GPD Win 2
Made by: Shenzhen GPD Technology Co.Who it’s for: Those who really, really want to play some PC games on the goGrade: B+