Qualcomm hosted its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii this week, where it made the widely anticipated announcements of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphone chip and the new Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and 7c + Gen 3 laptop chips.
Qualcomm also announced something that almost no one expected: an all-new chipset designed specifically for Android handheld game consoles. It even had hardware ready to go, with a Razer-built development kit in the Switch-esque form factor.
Regular consumers can’t buy a Razer PDA – for now, it’s only for developers – but Qualcomm is convinced that it has just created a whole new ecosystem and market for mobile games. It looks like gamers will want to play mobile games on non-mobile devices. It may sound strange if your mobile game is still Candy Crush, but it is actually the largest portion of the gaming market with a growing range of AAA games and competitive scenes.
This is hardly Qualcomm’s first foray into gaming, as its phone chips already pack a plethora of optimizations and features specifically designed for mobile gaming, making them the default choice for most dedicated gaming phones.
However, this is not a gaming phone. Don’t take my word for it, Qualcomm made sure not to make calls despite its 5G support, and senior director of product marketing Mika Knapp said bluntly, “It’s not a phone.”
Razer’s developer hardware sits between the Switch and the Steam Deck, with curved controller knobs on each side and a full array of analog sticks, triggers, and face buttons. This is a real handheld game console, but it runs on Android.
So it can play any Android mobile game, but it can also take advantage of cloud gaming platforms like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Google Stadia via 5G or Wi-Fi 6E, or use tools from Microsoft, Sony. or Valve to stream games directly from your desktop PC or game console.
There is one big problem: your phone can probably do all of this already.
Your phone can play mobile games. You can run Game Pass on your phone. Your phone can stream games from PlayStation or Xbox. Buy a Bluetooth controller – heck, Razer itself even makes a Kishi gamepad that looks just like its new dev kit – and it looks like you already have a Snapdragon G3x experience without buying any new separate hardware.
Qualcomm is obviously aware of this and has tried to highlight several advantages that this specialized hardware offers. The biggest is strength. Qualcomm doesn’t discuss specific clock speeds or other performance specs, so it’s impossible to truly gauge the performance on offer here, but it certainly sounds like it has more options than your average phone.
“Mobile devices are incredibly difficult to achieve and maintain 60 frames per second,” explained Knapp, “so we took these types of games and made sure they run at 60 frames per second, and that’s flawless.”
This extra power appears to be mainly provided by the chip’s dedicated GPU, which also allows the device to stream to Twitch using its built-in camera and dual microphones. while plays; a workload that most phones are unlikely to handle.
You can also use the USB-C port to connect your PDA directly to your TV or monitor, allowing you to play 4K HDR on the big screen. This same port will also allow you to connect XR devices.
Obviously, there is a little more benefit here. Razer’s hardware feels solid and sturdy, and it has niceties like its own tactile system and fan for cooling. Playing is better than just using a phone tied to a gamepad, but is it enough to convince people to pay?
A lot of this will obviously depend on price, but we don’t know how much the first G3x-based devices will actually cost, whenever they are released. The regular Nintendo Switch costs £ 259 / $ 299, Switch Lite is available even cheaper, and Valve’s delayed Steam Deck starts at £ 349 / $ 399. If Snapdragon devices are going to compete, they should cost about the same, if not less.
With the specs offered here, this can be tricky. Knapp hinted that the G3x devices will be “premium” with plans to introduce G2x and G1x chips to control devices at a lower cost, but this is still strictly hypothetical for now.
Qualcomm doesn’t seem to consider the Switch or Steam Deck to be competitors, and doesn’t think the G3x will impact the existing gaming phone market. Instead, he sees it as something that gamers will buy in addition to their PC, home console, smartphone, and switch.
Presumably the Steam Deck gave Qualcomm the confidence to try it, but there is a big difference here. There is really no other way to play PC games on the go other than buying a bulky and expensive gaming laptop.
This is not the case with phones – there is no need to buy something like the Asus ROG Phone 5 if you want to play on the go, as any Android phone with decent specs can play mobile games well. If you want to play cloud games, you don’t even need decent specs.
That said, Razer’s SDK is just one implementation of Qualcomm’s vision, although, according to Knapp, “we saw the greatest need for it.”
It is not yet known what form factors manufacturers might come up with, but Qualcomm expects to see more than just options on a handheld console.
“We’re building this platform and then empowering OEMs to build all sorts of devices,” Knapp said, predicting we might see “streaming sticks, wall-mounted devices, different types of mobile devices.”
This reveals Qualcomm’s real goal: it’s more about finding new ways and places to play mobile, not trying to compete with the Switch (or powering the next Switch, for that matter).
We’ll find out if that succeeds soon enough: Qualcomm CMO Don McGuire expects consumers to be able to buy G3x devices “for sure by next holiday season,” and then we’ll find out if they really are. to want buy them.