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Logitech's take on the burgeoning genre is an Android-powered handheld that attempts to draw on services like Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming to let you play AAA PC titles alongside Google Play store games.
It sounds amazing on paper.
In reality, a never-ending string of minor annoyances, unpredictable interface behaviors, and Android's drawbacks create a gaming experience that's too frustrating to be consistently enjoyable.
7-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD touchscreen with a 60Hz refresh rate
64GB of storage (microSD card supported for additional storage)
A/B/X/Y buttons, D-pad; L&R analog sticks, bumpers, triggers, and option buttons; G button, Home button, volume control buttons, power switch
23.1 Wh Li-Po battery providing "12+ hours" of usage
Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1
As a company that thrives on PC and gaming peripherals, you'd expect Logitech to nail the hardware. It did. The analog sticks feel smooth, consistent, and devoid of drift (at least during my testing period). All buttons were crisp and responsive, and the included 7-inch touchscreen felt perfectly sensitive when interacting with UI elements that were designed for it (more on that later).
The only control element I'd change was the triggers. There were too shallow, making it hard to comfortably place a finger, like you can with a home console controller, or even the Switch Joy-Cons. Increased height might make the device thicker, but it would've been a worthy trade-off. Still, the triggers had a great, gradual springiness to them, helping with analog feedback for things like acceleration and braking.
The built-in stereo speakers get surprisingly loud, but never sounded distorted. I had no problem recognizing directional audio cues, and was pleasantly surprised by the audio fidelity of such a small device.
If you prefer private sound, the 3.5mm combo jack also worked perfectly with every gaming headset or headphones I tried, as did the Bluetooth connection.
Just be aware of the ever-present issue of Bluetooth latency, if you're playing a game where perfectly synced audio is vital.
The aforementioned 7-inch display looked great in almost every title I tried. Sure, its size made it harder to see distant enemies, but that's the ever-present rub of balancing portability with usability that all gaming handhelds struggle with.
All in all, the G Cloud is built exceptionally well and performs at a level I'd feel confident applying to just about any competitive gaming situation, assuming the software cooperates. And with that ominous foreshadowing, let's move on to...
When the G Cloud worked well, it was a joy to use. I'd somehow never played Genshin Impact until now, so I used it to test GeForce Now. Once I finally got it working correctly -- a trial I'll explain in a moment -- I didn't lift my head up again for hours until I finally, blearily looked at the clock, wondering when it had gotten so late.
Through it all, the relatively small screen was no hindrance, and the built-in controls felt snappy and responsive, even when running the game via a cloud-based service.
Unfortunately, moments like that were far rarer than they should have been. However, the fault for this fact doesn't lie with Logitech, at least not entirely.
Above, you'll see an error message that prevented me from playing Apex Legends via GeForce Now. I never did get past it. But, just getting to this screen took almost 15 minutes. First, I needed to sign into GeForce Now, then into Steam (I wasn't given the option of using the Origin version of Apex, if you're wondering), then into my EA account. Once I'd done this, I was asked to input a 2FA code. I did, and I received the above error, every time.
What's important here isn't the fact that Apex on GeForce Now never worked for me, it's the convoluted process required to play this game and the absurd number of platforms and accounts tied to many cloud-based titles. Four total logins (including the Google sign-in for the G Cloud itself) is enough of a trial on a PC with a keyboard and password manager. Now, imagine that same process while using strong passwords (as you should) and inputting everything via small touchscreen keyboards that constantly change layout depending on which app you're using.
The process was maddening to the point that I'd have given up long before I did if I'd been doing this purely for my own enjoyment.
Even simpler tasks sometimes proved annoying. For example, Genshin Impact was relatively easy to access, requiring only a GeForce Now and miHoYo login. I was in the game quickly... but then there was an issue. For the first 15 minutes, Genshin Impact forced me to use onscreen touch controls. It wouldn't recognize the built-in controller. Even when the settings menu was finally available, once I'd passed the tutorial section, touchscreen remained the only option.
I downloaded the Android version of Genshin out of curiosity, but the same issue occurred with it. So, I returned to the GeForce now version and... it was fixed. For no apparent reason, the hardware controls were now recognized and working perfectly.
My fondness for the device's hardware died from a thousand cuts inflicted by its software. Major annoyances like these two exemplary headaches were exacerbated further by issues like UI elements and login fields that took several tries to select with touchscreen-based controls they were never designed for.
Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming experience was devoid of many of these annoyances, but it suffered from the same stuttering, artifacting, or just flat-out refusals to load games that I mentioned in my Acer Chromebook 516 GE review.
The dream of cloud gaming is that you can instantly play your game, from anywhere, whenever you want. That just wasn't the case here. While much of the cause for my frustrations lies with Nvidia, Microsoft, and game studios, Logitech is still ultimately responsible for the end user experience of its device.
If you're a phone geek, you know the struggles Android has had over the years in adapting to wildly different setups from hundreds of hardware makers. Because of this, Logitech's decision to use it as a basis for its handheld was risky bet to begin with. Enflame Android's weaknesses with the webwork of disparate platforms and accounts you run into with cloud-based gaming services, and you have a recipe for aggravation.
So many times during my testing I'd think, "Just let me play the game!" Consoles should make gaming easy and cloud gaming services should make it portable and cheap. When that was the case, it was truly enjoyable and fulfilling. But too often I found myself waiting for sign-in screens to load, giving my other consoles, PCs, and handhelds the side-eye, knowing they'd have had me playing already.
Ideally, Logitech will work with Nvidia, Microsoft, and others to streamline everything, squash bugs, reduce user friction, and smooth out UI issues. It is early days for the G Cloud, so I'm hopeful its excellent hardware will gain the software experience it deserves. Until then, expect to put in a little work for every title you plan to launch. Whether or not that initial difficulty is worth the portability, capability, and fun you experience when everything is finally up and running is up to you.
The Nintendo Switch family doesn't have access to the AAA PC titles, but it works, every time, and its MSRP is $150 lower for the Switch Lite or $50 lower for the full-sized Switch, which can double as a home console on your big-screen TV too.
Like the G Cloud, Valve's Steam Deck can run cloud gaming services like GeForce Now, and it can play locally installed games. But, instead of relying on Android, it uses a customized version of Arch Linux that allows Deck Verified titles to be installed with excellent reliability.
Razer's forthcoming gaming handheld has one thing these others don't: 5G. This could mean access to AAA gaming titles from anywhere with 5G coverage, if it lives up to the hype. You can reserve one right now for $5. It's a cheap bet if you think you'll be interested when it's available early next year.