I played with Qualcomm’s Switch-like G3x game console and I wish I could buy it

I assume lots of our readers have been dissatisfied to be taught that the Switch-like gaming {hardware} Qualcomm confirmed off at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit wouldn’t really be out there to buy. It seems to be like a cultured product you’d see on a shelf subsequent to a pile of equipment in a big-box retailer, however it’s not for you or me simply but. It’s a developer-only occasion. While we anticipate one thing to manifest that we will really buy, let me let you know somewhat extra about what that developer {hardware} was like to make use of and what we will count on in each software program and {hardware} when shopper models do really land.

Full disclosure: Qualcomm flew mainly everybody in tech media to its yearly summit for the previous few days, the place we’ve been in a position to harass engineers, VPs, and product managers about its current bulletins. I’m fairly positive they’re getting somewhat uninterested in me and my incessant questions relating to specs by now, and my legs are coated in mosquito bites.


Hands-on with the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1


First, some related context. Like lots of our readers, I grew up with the Game Boy. I had a PC, however not an excellent one till I was older, and a console linked to the TV was caught at residence when I wasn’t. At least 90% of the time, enjoying video video games meant enjoying my Nintendo handheld — 4 superb shades of black and white, at first, and then shade as soon as that was out there. So gaming was at all times a mobile-first expertise for me. But as soon as I switched to carrying big-screen smartphones in all places, enjoying video games on that touchscreen simply by no means felt proper. I wished these {hardware} controls — buttons, joysticks, or triggers, not flat non-tactile glass.

Things just like the Nintendo Switch scratch that itch, however I have that kind of Android ethos at coronary heart: I need full management and possession to do issues like load up emulators or make my machine my very own. I’ve experimented with merchandise like GPD’s tiny computer systems, however the high quality there at all times left me dissatisfied. So I was understandably when plans for Qualcomm’s machine leaked early this year.

As I touched on, the developer {hardware}, co-developed with Razer, is nicer than you’d count on it to be, given it’s most likely solely going for use in improvement studios, the place huge ugly bins are extra the norm. That’s to not say it feels notably premium; it’s mild and kind of flimsy feeling in that too-much-plastic-and-empty-space kind of method, however it’s in any other case effectively put collectively and nice to make use of. It simply seems like it could be just a few ounces heavier.


The buttons on the face are tactile, although not fairly clicky, reminding me of the face buttons on an Xbox controller. The triggers don’t fairly meet the identical comparability, however they’re truthfully fairly good, with a easily ramping (if, for my part, barely too low) resistance. I’m positively workforce Playstation structure slightly than Xbox when it involves joysticks, however I nonetheless preferred the staggered sticks themselves: They’re stiff sufficient with no wiggle or drift when centered, and easy and exact whereas rotating by means of the total vary of movement. I’m hardly a controller connoisseur, however nothing about it jumped out at me as terrible, and I didn’t really feel like I was at an obstacle whereas enjoying.

The 6.65” 120Hz OLED display screen was additionally good. At 1080p I thought the decision is likely to be merely okay, however I discovered myself holding it additional away than I do a telephone, and it’s a complete lot sharper than the 720p display screen on a Nintendo Switch. It was vibrant sufficient within the restricted environments I could use it in — indoors and within the shade of a type of open veranda. I suspect it would have been okay in direct daylight. Understandably, I couldn’t take a look at issues like battery life or mmWave connectivity, and it was robust to check audio within the environments I was ready to make use of it in. What I could hear appeared high quality. I additionally didn’t take a look at issues like name efficiency as a result of, though it will help mobile knowledge connectivity, it’s not really a “telephone” within the sense that it can’t make calls.

It’s a complete lot sharper than the 720p display screen of a Nintendo Switch

The software program was somewhat barebone, and Qualcomm’s launcher barely seems like Android. A side-scrolling record of titles offset with buttons on the underside for issues like Settings was intuitive sufficient, however it did really feel somewhat stripped down. It’s most likely extra handy for informal use, however should you’re that Android-as-Android fanatic that loves nested menus crammed with area of interest and generally superfluous choices and settings, it doesn’t ship that type of expertise. That may not really matter if you get your fingers on a future product, although — extra on that later.


I could solely play a handful of titles, each because of lack of time and being restricted to what was put in on the unit itself, however the high quality was good on mainly every little thing I ran. (Xbox Cloud Gaming seemed terrible till I realized it was working on the resort’s legitimately rubbish Wi-Fi, at which level I was impressed it wasn’t even worse.) Detail, lighting, and ambient results on Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier seemed nice, and Air Derby 2 (an in-house game developed by Qualcomm for the demo) was sharp and clear. These are all cell video games, in fact, however they have been working at good, high-quality settings and seemed a complete lot prettier than the visuals my Switch can spit. Controls have been responsive, too, with out the kind of lag you generally really feel from issues like unhealthy Bluetooth controllers.

The most spectacular factor for me, although, was how effectively it all got here collectively, as if it have been mainly able to promote tomorrow. Often these early tech demos have tough edges we’ve got to work round, imagining the bits in between after we’re mainly simply handed a proof of idea. This wasn’t like that. I thought I’d see one thing just like the controls break and even simply run into some stuttering or software program jank, however (outdoors cloud streaming on the rubbish Wi-Fi connection) it was surprisingly seamless. Most of the titles appeared to work with controllers by design already, however I’m instructed that even titles that don’t help controllers will work due to AKS controller mapping, which Qualcomm has constructed proper in.

So what can we count on if you really buy one?

I was in a position to snag a last-minute interview with Qualcomm’s Micah Knapp (senior director of Product Management and on-stage presenter) to speak in regards to the new machine, Qualcomm’s plans for it, and the platform it represents generally — and that final bit is actually the necessary half, when you consider it. You most likely gained’t be shopping for this unit I played with right now, however you may get another mannequin that shares its guts, and that’s actually what the corporate is making an attempt to do right here.

You may assume (like me) that as a result of Qualcomm went to the hassle of promoting all of the specs of this new machine yesterday and made a bunch of software program particularly for it, that the corporate was making an attempt to determine a platform it could absolutely management. So, I sat right down to ask my questions, and my first felt fairly pure: “What kind of minimal necessities or specs will Qualcomm impose for gadgets utilizing the G3x?” The brief reply is “none,” should you can imagine it.

As defined to me, Qualcomm mainly desires to deal with the G3x like it does a telephone chip for the telephone market. The firm will present the SoC and it can have some software program out there for firms that wish to use it, however producers can select no matter {hardware} they wish to go with it — inside cause, anyway. There are nonetheless issues like Google’s GMS necessities to think about if machine makers need entry to the Play Store. But, if and if you buy a G3x machine, it could have wildly completely different {hardware}.

That could imply the same design with only a completely different display screen or button structure, or it could even imply another totally completely different purposes: Set-top gaming gadgets, dongles, no matter firms really feel like constructing. And, if the mannequin numbers didn’t make it clear, the G3x is likely to be the primary chip within the lineup, however Qualcomm is already planning to make lower-end variations of the chip as effectively. (I ought to level out that some have claimed the G3x is simply an actively cooled and modified Snapdragon 888, which might make sense.)


Nothing concrete could be shared with me proper now, however a hypothetical G2 could be a mid-tier gaming expertise, perhaps with out lively cooling. And one thing like a possible G1 could be an entry-level chip greatest suited to issues like cloud game streaming. If producers bounce on the G3x, we could not solely see completely different riffs on the developer demo we noticed, however wholly completely different fashions concentrating on completely different costs and purposes — an increase of high-end Android-powered transportable game consoles with precise, honest-to-god {hardware} controls.

There’s only one different piece you want for it to work, and that’s video games, however we’re off to an excellent begin there. At its core, that is simply one other Android machine with the Play Store, so it’s received loads of video games, and that controller mapping means even titles that haven’t been constructed to take enter accurately from controllers might be coaxed into working. Qualcomm and Razer weren’t in a position to inform me if any builders or game studios had made particular commitments or bulletins for the brand new platform (meaning “no”), however there’s room for that to occur earlier than shopper gadgets land and the entire present library of Android video games already out there.

I’m hardly game-obsessed (I didn’t even convey my Switch with me on this journey, I knew I’d be too busy working to take pleasure in myself), however I’m tentatively excited to see what sort of {hardware} the G3x leads to as soon as you’ll be able to really buy it. In the long term, I’m notably curious to see how it may find yourself stacking up towards Steam’s effort to do the same thing from the opposite direction, scaling PC {hardware} down for cell.

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