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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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
 
Last edited by Scarlet,

Luz Noceda

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@Scarlet I Know you will hate me for the cuz this community HATES!! this game...
But Ms. Scarlet can you please test Fortnite for me.... Its not for me but one of my friends wants to know that...
 
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GothicIII

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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.

For the basics with eGPU. You loose anything from 15% up to 30% of the real performance if you use eGPU. You loose more if you don't use an external monitor which is attached to the eGPU since data has to move both ways over the TB3 cable effectively cutting the sparse bandwidth you have in half. (internal screen <-iGPU<-CPU->TB3 chipset->TB3 cable->GPU and the same way back to the internal screen)

To verify minfps: You use a benchmark like heaven valley on somewhat high settings. It will run smooth but the transitions to other areas will let the fps dip into very low areas like 12fps. This is due to large chunks of data that need to traverse through the TB3 cable.
Even if it is a 40Gbit connection due to TB3 protocol overhead (and the aforementioned reserved bandwidth for DP) you have maximum Host2device speed of 2500Mbyte/s which translate to roughly 20Gbit. (my speed caps at 2100MByte/s).
In actual gaming this translates to stuttering and/or less fps more or less how the developer handles VRAM. If he does not use caching for things outside of the camera the game will stutter as soon as you move the camera.

For stuttering in general with iGPU (integrated GPU):
This is not really easy to replicate. It heavily depends on system configuration and games.
I have a nvidia optimus setup with an Intel iGPU, a Nvidia dGPU and a Nvidia eGPU. If I launch e.g. Genshin Impact while the dGPU is enabled, I get stuttering at every ~10 seconds. The game runs smooth but it skips frames. So you e.g. run over the world, and the game stops for half a second and runs smooth afterwards. Rinse and repeat. The same happens with all Unity games in general I tried.
It seems that Unity has problems in general with multi gpu setups. I had RTX demos crash on me because the Unity engine gets confused which GPU to use for which task.
I read frequently that people have such stuttering issues in very different environments. Since it is a driver problem it could be addressed but eGPU is such a niche technology nobody cares.

There is many more issues to this topic (e.g. global stuttering when using a laptop with closed lid and the external monitor has a refreshrate above 60hz and BSODs and so on) but this doesn't really apply to this thread so I stop here.
I can't recommend any game to test since it can be a whole different story for your case. I have e.g. 2 laptops - same specs, same model, same drivers and same uefi version. Guess what, 1 laptop has BSODs the other one does not when using eGPU. Both are installed with the same Windows image I provide. Other than that both run exactly the same and do not have problems.
This is the mystery of eGPU. It works for one but not the other.
 
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Pipistrele

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I still feel that for these Win-based handhelds to succeed, gaming industry needs to meet them halfway (as in, optimizing games for integrated hardware and limited battery life), rather than the other way around - so far, projects like GPDWin and Aya Neo seem to compromise a lot to achieve playable experience, which either leads to ridiculous costs (could buy 2 Nintendo Switches + one spare 3DS for the price of this) or a lot of janky drawbacks.
 
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1B51004

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looks nice, but i checked the prices and they're like $800-$999 bucks. and most likely more in shipping and handling
i haven't really touched PC gaming that much, but im pretty sure you can build a good rig for cheaper and then just use a streaming service something on a hacked switch to emulate 'pc gaming on the go'
 

Nincompoopdo

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They should put a Nvidia chip in there so it can run Yuzu to play Nintendo Switch games. It will be funny to play Switch games on this device in the public and see people's reaction.
 

SolidSonicTH

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Is there a place to discuss the GPD Win on GBAtemp? I'm currently suspended from Reddit so I can't get help with mine there.
 

Scarlet

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could you test doom eternal on this? if possible in max settings just to see the absolute limit and also test some fps games aswell to see the overall acuracy and feel of the device.
Unfortunately it's not a game I own. I'm fairly sure there is footage out there on YouTube for Doom though.
 

Veho

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could you test doom eternal on this? if possible in max settings just to see the absolute limit and also test some fps games aswell to see the overall acuracy and feel of the device.
I found a short gameplay video by Taki Udon on his secondary channel:



He has tested a bunch of other games too:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe7YOgx2vmblbEUUo-JgSnQ/search?query=gpd win 3

Another channel with comprehensive gameplay tests is The Phawx:

https://www.youtube.com/c/ThePhawx/search?query=gpd win 3
 
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