It looks like Qualcomm is coming for NVIDIA’s lunch money in the handheld gaming space. The mobile chipmaker announced the Snapdragon G3X Gen 1 chip targeted specifically at handheld gaming devices.
Like its recently announced mobile chip, the Snapdragon G3X Gen 1 SoC is powered by Kryo CPU cores complemented by Andreno GPU. The SoC targets 144fps gaming at the outset, while also incorporating necessary optimisations to the graphics pipeline to support 10-bit HDR displays.
However, Qualcomm isn’t content at just making silicon for handhelds and calling it a day. To give the concept the push it needs, it has also partnered with Razer for the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Development kit. Just don’t get your hopes up because the device is only available for game developers at the moment and isn’t exactly a retail unit meant for consumers.
Snapdragon G3x Gen 1-Powered Razer Handheld Console
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Best described as an uglier cousin of the Steam Deck, the development kit is a full-blown handheld console meant to provide would-be game developers the confidence to create and test games on a real console containing the G3X Gen 1 chip. This is a smart move on Qualcomm’s part, because it effectively eliminates the primary hurdle preventing developers from interacting with a new platform—the lack of hardware.
Snapdragon G3x Handheld Development kit is equipped with an HDR-capable 120Hz OLED display. The graphics subsystem is powered by the new Adreno GPU with a performance target of 1080p at 120fps. The devkit also packs active cooling for consistent performance, which only means Qualcomm isn’t keen on limiting the power consumption of the chip to typical mobile targets. That also explains why the devkit is equipped with a massive 6000 mAh battery.
Since most games use Android’s touchscreen inputs, Qualcomm has partnered with a company specialising in porting touchscreen controls to hardware control schemes, such as gamepads. Not surprisingly, Qualcomm has announced support for stereo haptic technology, which means dedicated game controllers are definitely on the menu.
Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Will Support SteamOS and Set-Top Boxes
Interestingly, Qualcomm doesn’t intend to restrict the Snapdragon G3X Gen 1 chip to Android. This could also include potential support for SteamOS. In addition to playing native Android titles with touchscreen controls, the chip is designed to be integrated into handheld consoles, micro-consoles, set-top boxes, and possibly even smart TV dongles.
The bit about smart TV dongles isn’t that far-fetched given the support for the DisplayPort output over the USB-C connector on the Razer-built devkit. This technically allows anything powered by the G3X Gen 1 chip to deliver display output to 4K TVs. The same port can even be used to power AR/VR accessories.
Then again, Qualcomm already has a bespoke chip in the form of the Snapdragon XR2 to achieve exactly that in the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. It is nevertheless technically possible for G3X-enabled devices to add VR capability this way. As expected, devices featuring the chips will also be capable of streaming games from cloud services, home consoles, and gaming PCs.
Although dedicated handheld gaming consoles had fallen by the wayside after the failure of Sony’s PS Vita, they have seen a resurgence in recent times with the wildly popular Nintendo Switch and the recently delayed Steam Deck. The Snapdragon G3X Gen 1 chip seems to be Qualcomm’s gambit to claim a slice of this burgeoning hand-held gaming pie.