PC gaming on the go - GPD Win 3 first impressions

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GPD are really a company that need no introduction. Making their name in handheld PC gaming where few have successfully tread, the Win 3 is the latest and greatest to grace the hands of their customers. Having ordered my system back in January and it arriving just a few weeks ago, I'm here to give you my initial thoughts on this PC gaming marvel.

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Unboxing the system was a joy. Everything felt premium and it was packaged magnificently. Taking the system from its box, I finally got an idea for its scale and weight. I'd seen comparisons made to the Switch Lite, and while that's not too far off, the Win 3 has a thickness and heft I couldn't really anticipate. It feels well-put together and the weight isn't uncomfortable, but it does take a bit of getting used to.

Before I could dive in and enjoy myself, I did have a few things to do first. At the top of the list: formatting the device. As I had been keeping up to date with shipping and developments in the GPD Discord, I had noticed talk of a virus being shipped with devices, likely finding its way in during the QA process. Not wanting to take any chances, I went ahead with a fresh install of Windows 10 Home and installed the drivers GPD provide on their website. It was a simple enough process, which is good to know should any users want to upgrade from the 1tb NVMe SSD GPD provide.

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win2.jpg win3.jpg

Windows freshly in place, I got to work downloading my games. Leaving the system in the included dock overnight while Steam was grabbing a few hundred gigabytes of content, I was pleasantly surprised to feel how cool the system was in the morning. Committing much of my life over the past months to watching every Win 3 video I could find online, I had heard how good the cooling was, but seeing this translate to the finished retail product was really quite nice. Featuring a large grill at the top akin to a Switch, as well as vents on the back, the system does a great job at staying cool even during intense sessions. The fan is relatively strong too, leading me to use it as a hand fan of sorts due to how my setup has it pointing towards me.

We've talked about how the system feels enough for now anyway, I can go into more detail in the full review. The hot topic of the day is gaming, and exactly how far we can push this handheld when it comes to modern titles and high end emulation. To save me describing each game in excruciating detail, I've put together a few videos to give you a clearer idea of how things run. Note this footage was recorded using an AverMedia Portable 2 Plus so as not to impact system performance.

For this first look, I'll be showing off my handheld configuration. Here, the games are running at 720p with a TDP of 15W, which should give around two hours of play time as a worst case scenario. You can find time stamps for the games tested below. First up is PC games!

  • 00:00 - Final Fantasy XV
  • 19:37 - Dark Souls 3
  • 21:38 - Ace Combat 7
  • 29:46 - Monster Hunter World
It's somewhat incredible to me just how well some of these games run. Dark Souls 3 on the go is something I've wanted since playing the Switch port of Dark Souls Remastered. It isn't all good though. Because my OpenGL version is apparently 1.1, any game that solely runs on this just refuses to work. It's a huge shame because it rules out even simpler titles such as Luck be a Landlord, which I had genuinely been looking forward to playing on the go. I have seen videos of people playing OpenGL games on the Win 3 online, and I think this may have something to do with me formatting my system. Since reinstalling Windows, GPD have uploaded a new firmware file, so I'll likely be resetting my system again using that before I get to the full review. With some luck, things will be improved.

Next is emulation using the same setup:

  • 0:00:00 - Zelda Breath of the Wild (Cemu)
  • 0:39:32 - Zelda Wind Waker HD (Cemu)
  • 0:54:03 - Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Cemu)
  • 1:03:02 - Persona 5 (RPCS3)
  • 1:06:06 - Project Diva F 2nd (RPCS3)
  • 1:10:29 - Monster Hunter (PCSX2)
  • 1:19:46 - Shadow of the Colossus (PCSX2)
  • 1:30:23 - Ape Escape 2 (PCSX2)
  • 1:34:27 - New Super Mario Bros Wii (Dolphin)
  • 1:39:09 - Fortune Street (Dolphin)
  • 1:44:05 - Xenoblade Chronicles (Dolphin)
  • 1:51:10 - Zelda Wind Waker Randomizer (Dolphin)
  • 1:57:12 - Super Monkey Ball 2 (Dolphin)
Emulation, Cemu in particular, really impressed me. A part of me wants to cheer at the ability to play Breath of the Wild on the go, but it's not as though this is something new with it being on the Switch. What I was genuinely happy to see however was Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate running flawlessly. It's a game I love, and having the non-240p version easily accessible on the go is absolutely amazing to me. It is worth reiterating that all the footage in the above videos are running on 15W as a reasonable balance between performance and power consumption. You can get more out of the system if you're willing to compromise on battery life, which is ideal for some kind of docked setup, you can get more out of it. I'll be showing this off along with eGPU performance in the full review to see just how far the device can be pushed.

win5.jpg

Outside of the hassle of reinstalling Windows as soon as I received the device and my OpenGL woes, the Win 3 has been a dream come true. With solid performance on the go and great potential as a PC Switch using different settings while plugged in, it's a fantastic system that has since become my main PC.

I'm still in the process of writing up the full review, which will likely feature further emulation and PC game tests in one of a 15W, 35W, and 35W with an eGPU setup. If there are any games you want to see tested from my Steam library, please let me know and I'll try my best to tailor the review. You can see all the games I have available to my via my Steam profile below.

:arrow: My Steam Library
 
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Goku1992A

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We have too many options like remote play and also xcloud. That's why the PS Vita didn't do well because it was $249.99 or $299.99 and the memory cards were super expensive.... the only reason why the Switch have alot of success because the switch is now a console/hand-held. If Nintendo had a home console the switch would have flopped at $299.99 price tag.
 

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I'll be honest. I see absolutely no reason to exist for such a device. x86 devices are very power hungry per design. Rip battery life.

I find it difficult to justify such a system for emulation if you have many more, much cheaper option available (portable consoles, smartphones).

So the only reason IMO left is to play PC games with it. While pc has a vast library of games to choose from have fun in getting them running. Intel iGPUs are not only weak, they have also very shit drivers. I bet you'll have problems getting older games even to start because of Intel shitty implementation of instructions. The reviewer mentions opengl problems. How about Vulkan or backwards compatible dx9 instructions (pixel/vertex shader). Are they working properly? I bet not. This will lead at least to graphical glitches and app crashes. Since pc hardware is so fast outdated the next AAA titles will be barely playable on this device.

So ok. I'll try again. It is possible to use eGPU with it to countermeasure the lack of upgradeable hardware.
Don't ever go the eGPU route. It just works so shit.
I got a eGPU setup myself because of how FUN and EASY this technology is.
No it is not. You have software problems everywhere. Starting from your BIOS/UEFI bugs (S3/Shutdown problems), driver issues (BSODs with Intel/Nvidia/AMD interfering), up to software issues (Unreal Engine stuttering with eGPU when iGPU is enabled).
This is not fun. I have 3 years experience with Thunderbolt3 and my next setup won't be mobile anymore. Also don't expect any fix for this. Intel, Nvidia and AMD (+Manufacturer) are pointing at each other when it comes to issues with eGPU.

Let alone performance problems:
You have shit minFPS (down to single digits) which means your games will stutter a lot when they stream. And all openworld games today use streaming. Look at RDR2 it runs on medium settings with ~30fps on average with high end video cards on eGPU.

(Side note: TB4 does not improve anything at all compared to TB3 except MAYBE more bandwidth [involves DP bandwidth which is reserved on TB3 and TB4 could give it away]. There is ATM no TB4 eGPU dock available so no testing is done to prove this)

Nope. Sorry I don't see any use for this.
Yeah this kinda thing definitely isn't for everybody lol. Just to address a few things though:

Battery life: I have the power config set to give two hours of battery life as a worst case. If playing less demanding games, it'll be more. I get two hours isn't the most, but it's a baseline for me as to what I would consider acceptable to call something portable.

The iGPU is impressive honestly, even if it's not perfect. Iris Xe seems a fairly big leap from the Intel HD stuff I'm used to. Being able to play FF15 at a relatively stable 30fps is wild. But like you said, it ain't perfect. Dark Souls 3 suffers from random crashes. It's nice that it's a known issue and should be dealt with eventually, but it's still an issue you likely wouldn't face with a discrete GPU. The OpenGL issues appear to just be me, and I think they'll be solved by installing the firmware GPD provide. I've seen videos of the Win 3 running stuff I've not been able to, so I'm fairly confident in this. I'll be sure to write up the results of that in the review.

Moving onto eGPUs...... Yeah all fair comments lol. I had no end of random errors when using one with my Razer Blade Stealth, but it's more stable on the Win 3 for whatever reason. Apparently the Razer Blade is notorious for poorly supporting the Razer Core, which is stupid with Razer making both. On the note of performance, you do definitely take a hit, but I've never encountered eGPU-exclusive bugs. It's always just been that it's a bit less powerful than it should be? If you can find a game on my Steam list that has some of these bugs, I'd be happy to test.

But yeah. As I said, definitely not a thing for everybody. I just like the idea of playing some PC games on the go. Final Fantasy 15, Zanki Zero, and every other game that doesn't make it to the Switch, it's great to have them at my disposal. But the value of that will vary significantly from person to person.
 
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Definitely got that Xperia/Sidekick vibe going

These have always, always seemed quite interesting to me, because I loved the heck out of my Vita for portable gaming. This is just that, but better. Yet, if I could just get my wifi to not suck, I wouldn't even have a need for it, because I'd just have remote play to suit all the needs I've got. That, and my phone can do Dolphin...which is almost everything I need.

Still, it just seems so cool that I still want one, even if I can't justify it.
 

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Definitely got that Xperia/Sidekick vibe going

These have always, always seemed quite interesting to me, because I loved the heck out of my Vita for portable gaming. This is just that, but better. Yet, if I could just get my wifi to not suck, I wouldn't even have a need for it, because I'd just have remote play to suit all the needs I've got. That, and my phone can do Dolphin...which is almost everything I need.

Still, it just seems so cool that I still want one, even if I can't justify it.

Wi-fi for me has been fine with streaming...mind you, I'm in the same room as my router and modem, but even when I've played Street Fighter and ESPECIALLY Guilty Gear, you still will get lag. Not that I'd be playing a game at EVO Top 8 like that to begin with (and I'm not even anything approaching pro material myself), but even with good wi-fi, if it goes out for some reason, something like this is cool.

For me though, I just feel safer going with a laptop with a dedicated video card because while the battery WILL die in two hours if even that, I don't need a wi-fi connection for portability like with streaming, and there's portable batteries that can charge laptops if I really wanted to extend how long they last on the go that much.
 

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If Apple make a handheld with their M1 processor, it will become a strong competitor to Nintendo Switch. M1 is faster than a PS4, don't even need a fan and provide long battery life. Apple already got Apple Arcade with PS5 controller support, the games are already there - just need proper hardware support.
 

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If Apple make a handheld with their M1 processor, it will become a strong competitor to Nintendo Switch. M1 is faster than a PS4, don't even need a fan and provide long battery life. Apple already got Apple Arcade with PS5 controller support, the games are already there - just need proper hardware support.

Even if the M1 processor is the CPU that will make even the most elite watercooled, RGB-laden, high class PC gaming aristocrat's PC shit its pants because I have a life and don't spend it all researching every trend and how it works in the real world vs. how the company promoting it sells it as, I think the last thing we need is Apple deciding how all technology should work, right down to the type of cable one uses!
 

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ooh jealous. Mine's still waiting to be picked up by DHL from Hong Kong still wish it were actually pocketable like the Win 2. Annoyingly, the Win 2 had a bigger and better screen.
 
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While I like the idea of device swapping for a feature, I paid too much for this for it to be lost in the mail lol.

As for the build quality, it seems good from what I've seen so far. The part that'll likely fail first is the slider though, given the difficult nature of getting it right first time. Triggers and buttons feel really good, and the joy sticks are much nicer than they look.
My question actually ties into this comment. I don't know if you have a switch or not, but looking at it I'm just kind of wondering if the joysticks feel like the hori split pad pro or if it's like the steel series stratus duo joysticks?
 

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Holy crap how does this thing run persona 5 so well and my computer can't run Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 at decent speeds?
I don-t understand this ps3 emulator..
 

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I dont care. I am fine with my powerful Pc at home. Dont want to bring it on a go. For what? Enjoy the nature more. And it is ridiculously expensive just for a go? Waste your life on the go. My gosh. No thanks.
 

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It's usable in a pinch. It reminds me of the Yoga Book's halo keyboard in that respect. If I ever need to be doing any heavyweight typering, I have it hooked up to a monitor and real keyboard anyway.
Not sure if you can answer, but... Is it similar to a first generation gdp win?

(I absolutely hate that keyboard, even in a pinch. My later gpd xd+ is much easier with its integrated touchscreen)

If I'm honest, I don't understand this design at all. It looks cool, absolutely. But I fear this is a novelty that wears down fast while still driving up the price of purchase.
 
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