One Netbook’s ONEXPLAYER is a handheld computer designed for gaming. It’s the latest in a line of small computers from One Netbook, but up until now the Chinese company had focused on mini-laptops, tiny clamshell-style computers with built-in keyboards. The ONEXPLAYER swaps the integrated keyboard for built-in game controllers on either side of its 8.4 inch touchscreen display.
Powered by an Intel Tiger Lake processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics, the ONEXPLAYER has the horsepower to handle many modern PC games. By cramming the guts of a decent laptop into a device small enough to hold in your hands, One Netbook managed to make a gaming device that you can carry with you to play just about anywhere.
That doesn’t mean this is a no-compromise portable gaming machine. It doesn’t have a physical keyboard, lacks discrete graphics, and may not be able to handle every game you’d want to play. It’s portable by gaming PC standards, but it’s not exactly a pocket-sized device. But One Netbook has provided interesting workarounds for most of those issues (other than the size, there’s no way to shrink the ONEXPLAYER).
A series of special function keys make this computer easy to use without a keyboard. If you really want one, One Netbook will sell an optional keyboard accessory (for $40 during crowdfunding or $80 at retail).
Or you can connect any third-party wired or wireless keyboard using USB or Bluetooth connections. And thanks to two USB4 ports with support for 40 Gbps data connections, you should even be able to connect an external GPU (something I wasn’t able to test, as I don’t have one).
The ONEXPLAYER also punches a little above its weight class in gaming and other tasks that put stress on a system’s resources. While most laptops with Intel Tiger Lake chips are configured to run at 15 watts, the ONEXPLAYER is set to a 20 watt TDP by default, and there’s a Turbo button that lets you increase that value to 28 watts for an extra power boost at any time.
The ONEXPLAYER is up for pre-order for $819 and up during an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, with the handheld gaming computer scheduled to ship to backers in June. It’ll sell for $1059 and up after the end of the crowdfunding campaign.
So is it worth the money?
One Netbook sent me a pre-release prototype, and I’ve been using it for the past few weeks to find out the answer to that question.
The ONEXPLAYER is the latest in a series of handheld gaming computers to launch this year. It follows the GPD Win 3 (with a 5.5 inch display, Intel Tiger Lake processor, and slide-up display which reveals a capacitive touch keyboard) and the AYA Neo (with a 7 inch display, no keyboard, and an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor).
One Netbook’s entry into this emerging space is one of the most powerful of the bunch, with support for up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of PCIe NVMe storage. It’s also the biggest of the bunch, with its 8.4 inch display.
That’s good news for folks who want a bigger, higher resolution screen – you get a more immersive gaming experience, and more screen space to help make out fine details in games, videos, web pages, or anything else you’d be looking at on a PC screen.
Just how much bigger is the ONEXPLAYER than the competition? You can almost fit the entire body of the GPD Win 3 in just the screen space of the ONEXPLAYER.
The large screen also means there’s room for large controllers – the ONEXPLAYER has excellent, console-like controllers with dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, X, Y, A, and B buttons, and four shoulder buttons including two linear triggers.
But there are some down sides to the ONEXPLAYER’s large body. Weighing about 1.8 pounds, it’s heavier than the Neo (1.5 pounds) or Win 3 (1.2 pounds). And the ONEXPLAYER is about twice as heavy as a Nintendo Switch (0.9 pounds with the Joy-con controllers attached).
That can make it a little heavy to hold single-handed, or even in two hands for an extended period if you’re only using your arms to support the device. But if you’re sitting or lying down, it’s very easy to balance the bottom of the ONEXPLAYER on your lap while gripping the sides with your hands, so there’s little to no strain on your arms.
And if you’re playing near a desk or table, the ONEXPLAYER has a built-in kickstand that you can pop out to make the computer stand up, allowing you to rest your arms while your hands are on the controllers. If you check out the videos on this page, you’ll find that this is pretty much how I “hold” the ONEXPLAYER in all of them.
The kickstand is also adjustable, allowing to fine tune the angle that the screen is tilted at. This can come in handy whether you’re gaming or setting up the little computer for watching videos, surfing the web, or other tasks. Because at its core, the ONEXPLAYER may look like a game console, but it’s a full-fledged computer, and it can do all of those things.
In fact, thanks to the computer’s two USB4 ports, you can connect an external monitor, mouse, and keyboard and use the ONEXPLAYER like a desktop PC.
While some computers are general-purpose PCs that can also be used for gaming, the ONEXPLAYER’s design makes it clear that this is first and foremost a gaming PC that can also be used for other stuff. But it is a fairly powerful little computer.
Let’s take a look at the specs, pricing, and configuration options and then I’ll get into more specifics about the ONEXPLAYER’s design and performance.
2560 x 1600 pixels
100 percent sRGB color gamut
|Ports||2 x USB4 (40 Gbps)|
1 x USB 3.0 Type-A
1 x 3.5mm audio
1 x microSD card reader
|Game controllers||2 x Analog sticks|
1 x D-Pad
X, Y, A, B buttons
4 shoulder buttons (including 2 linear triggers)
|Other buttons||Volume up|
|Charger||65W (20V/3.25A) GaN USB-C charger|
|Audio||Stereo front-facing speakers|
3.5mm audio jack
|Security||Fingerprint reader in power button|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
|Dimensions||280 x 128 x 25mm|
11″ x 5″ x 1″
|Price||$819 – $1499 during crowdfunding|
$1059 and up during retail
|Super Early Bird||Early Bird||IGG price||Retail price|
i5-1135G7 / 16GB / 512GB
i7-1165G7 / 16GB / 1TB
i7-1185G7 / 16GB / 2TB
The ONEXPLAYER has a plastic body that’s mostly black, with some orange highlights for the stereo front-facing speakers, rings around the analog sticks, lettering and labels for some buttons, and orange LEDs that glow when a few special function keys are active.
Measuring about 11″ x 5″ x 1″ and weighing about 1.8 pounds, this device is a bit heavy and a bit chunky for something that’s designed to be held in your hands. But it also feels very sturdy. It’s plastic, but there’s no give when you squeeze.
The game controllers feel like what you’d get if you split an Xbox style controller and put the half with a D-pad and left analog stick on the left side, and the lettered buttons and second analog stick on the right.
There are also four shoulder buttons including two linear triggers that respond to pressure sensitivity.
And on the front of the ONEXPLAYER you’ll find five other keys. Clockwise from bottom left, they are:
- Back or Select
The Start and Select keys are pretty self explanatory, as they’re used in some games. The Home key returns you to the desktop when you’re running a Windows game in full-screen mode. This comes in handy on a device that doesn’t have a physical keyboard, as it allows you to quickly exit without hitting Alt+Tab or some other key combination.
One Netbook also included a dedicated keyboard button which serves several functions:
- Press it once and the Windows on-screen keyboard pops up. Press it again and the keyboard goes away.
- Press and hold and the keyboard button to switch to mouse mode, allowing you to use the left analog stick to move a cursor, and the B and A buttons for left and right click. The keyboard LED light will glow orange when this is active so you can see at a glance which mode you’re using.
- Hold the Home + Keyboard key to emulate a Ctl+Alt+Del command, bringing up a screen that lets you open the task manager, sign out, or lock your device.
- Press and hold the Home button to activate the Windows 10 Xbox Bar
- Hold the Home + Volume up key during boot (when you see the ONEXPLAYER logo on the splash screen) to enter the boot options menu and boot from a USB device, enter the BIOS/UEFI settings, or open a UEFI shell.
The final button is a Turbo key, which lets you boost the TDP of the ONEXPLAYER from 20 watts (with a 35W PL2 power limit) to 28 watts (with a 40 W PL2 power limit). This can give you an extra boost of performance when you need it, but it will also take a toll on battery life.
Like the keyboard/mouse mode button, the Turbo button has an orange LED light that glows when this function is active, helping you see at a glance whether you’re running in Turbo mode or standard.
Flip the ONEXPLAYER around and on the back you’ll find a power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor, allowing you to sign into the computer quickly without pausing to enter a password or PIN.
There are also volume up and down keys and a mute key on the back, as well as two large air intake vents positioned far enough away from the controller grips that you’re unlikely to ever block them accidentally while holding the ONEXPLAYER.
These vents are part of the little computer’s cooling system, which has two copper heat pipes stretched over the CPU area, as well as two fans that bring air in through the back of the device, circulate it over the internal components, and blow it out through two exhaust vents on top of the computer which are, again, positioned so that your hands are unlikely to block them.
Also along the top edge, you’ll find all of the computer’s ports, including a 3.5mm audio jack, a microSD card reader, a USB 3.0 ports, and two USB4 ports that may not be certified as Thunderbolt ports, but which support the same functionality including data transfer speeds up to 40 Gbps.
The confusing thing about USB4 is that not all ports that meet that specification are compatible with Thunderbolt 4, but some are, and One Netbook says that among other things, you can use either of these ports to:
- Connect an external graphics card.
- Connect an external display (either via USB-C input or using a USB to HDMI or DisplayPort dongle).
- Charge the ONEXPLAYER’s battery.
- Use a USB-C dock that allows you to do one or more of the items listed above at the same time.
I also found that while the ONEXPLAYER comes with a compact 65W USB-C charger that looks more like a phone charger than a laptop charger (thanks to GaN technology), I could also use other USB-C laptop chargers to refuel the computer’s 60Wh battery including a 45W charger for an HP laptop and even a portable power bank that supports USB Power Delivery up to 45 watts.
That means that you can recharge the ONEXPLAYER on the go even if you’re not near a wall outlet. And that’s a handy option to have because while the ONEXPLAYER gets the same kind of long battery life as you’d expect from a laptop with similar specs when you’re doing things like watching videos, playing games can drain the battery of any portable computer rather quickly, and the ONEXPLAYER is no exception.
Let’s start this section with a few notes on battery life. When reviewing laptops I always have a hard time giving battery life estimates because use cases can vary so widely, so a laptop that dies after 5 or 6 hours of web work and productivity tasks may run for 10 hours or longer when streaming videos from YouTube or Netflix.
So it’s kind of nice reviewing a purpose-built machine like the ONEXPLAYER. It’s designed for gaming, and I can fairly confidently tell you that you’ll probably get around 2-3 hours of battery life when playing recent 3D games that put a fairly heavy load on the computer’s CPU and GPU.
That number comes from empirical testing – I played close to a dozen different games during my time with the ONEXPLAYER, and most drained the battery fairly quickly. But it also comes from a bit of common sense. The computer has a 60Wh battery and a processor set to run at 20 or 28 watts with bursts of power that can bring that limit up to 35 or 40 watts for short periods.
60 watt-hours divided by 20 watts equals 3 hours. Of course, the processor isn’t the only thing that consumes power, there’s also the memory, storage, and display. But on a gaming PC, the CPU and graphics are two of the most energy-hungry components.
That said, you can certainly get much longer battery life when playing less demanding games. And since the ONEXPLAYER is a full-fledged computer, you can use it for far more than gaming… and it consumes far less power when you’re doing things like web browsing, document editing, or watching videos than it does when you’re playing games.
While streaming YouTube videos, for example, I was able to get around 7 to 10 hours of battery life.
On the flip side of that coin, it is possible to drain the battery in less than two hours. My results from running the Heaven benchmark give us a worst-case scenario, since the utility is designed to max out system resources indefinitely.
Running the benchmark in standard mode (20W), the battery lasted for 1 hour and 50 minutes. When I ran the test in turbo mode (28W), the battery gave out after just 1 hour and 23 minutes. Again, this is a worst-case scenario and real-world battery life was significantly better when I was playing games.
So that’s battery life. But how well can this thing actually handle games? As with any gaming PC, it’s going to depend on the game… and your configuration settings.
Anyone who has ever watched me play video games knows that I’m not a particularly skilled or experienced gamer. If you want to see some gameplay videos from someone who knows what they’re doing, check out the ONEXPLAYER playlist at MVA’s YouTube channel. ETA Prime also has a hands-on video.
But I will say that I have no complaints about the layout, size, or responsiveness of the game controllers. And many of the games I’ve tested run smoothly on the ONEXPLAYER with no adjustments needed.
That includes games like Borderlands 2, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Alien: Isolation, God’s Trigger, and Hand of Fate 2, all of which played smoothly without any adjustments to their default settings (with one exception – Borderlands 2 initially tried to run at a portrait display orientation (they were displayed in tall boxes in the center of the screen with black borders on the left and right sides) until I adjusted the settings and shifted the display from 1600 x 2560 to 2560 x 1600, but after I did that, the game ran smoothly.
Other games required a bit of tweaking. Hitting the turbo button does indeed improve frame rates a little bit in some games, but it doesn’t make as large as difference as you’d expect, possibly because the computer can’t sustain the higher power limit for an extended period. So the increased performance is sometimes temporary.
What really helps, though, is decreasing the display resolution in more demanding games. For example when I reduced the screen resolution from 2560 x 1600 to 1920 x 1200 games like Pine and Steep saw frame rates jump up, and things ran even more smoothly when I switched to a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution.
Sadly, even at that resolution some more demanding games like Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate struggled to consistently stay above 20 frames per second, but games like Steep, which are barely playable at full resolution, become quite enjoyable at lower resolutions.
This is one of the reasons competing devices like the GPD Win 3 and AYA Neo have 1280 x 800 or 1280 x 720 pixel displays. It increases the chances that games will run smoothly while also reducing power consumption.
One Netbook opted for a higher-resolution display which means you may sometimes have to adjust your settings so that games will run at lower settings. But it also means that games which can take advantage of the native resolution will, and that when you’re using the computer for things other than gaming, you get all the advantages that come with the ONEXPLAYER’s pixel-dense display (358 pixels per inch). You’d be hard pressed to pick out individual pixels on this screen even if you pressed your nose against the display.
The high-resolution, pixel-dense display could also come in handy if you’re streaming games from a more powerful PC device, allowing you to leverage discrete graphics and a fast internet connection to turn a device like the ONEXPLAYER into a sort of terminal for viewing and controlling games.
For example, you could use it with Steam’s in-home streaming or a cloud gaming service like Google Stadia, NVIDIA GeForce Now, or Microsoft XBox cloud gaming (xCloud) to play titles that might not otherwise run on a device with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics.
Because of that pixel density, the ONEXPLAYER ships with Windows 10’s display scaling set to 250-percent. That means text, icons, and other graphics are scaled up so that nothing looks too tiny. You can set the scaling to a lower level, but at 100 percent the computer is nearly unusable. I’d suggest sticking with 150 percent or higher unless you have very good eyesight.
A few other interesting things about the display, while we’re on the topic. You know how I said Borderlands 2 defaulted to a portrait orientation rather than landscape? That’s because One Netbook used a tablet screen for this laptop.
You’d probably never know that if you just run Windows. Even the BIOS/UEFI firmware settings menu is displayed in landscape mode. But try running Ubuntu or another GNU/Linux distribution and you’ll most likely boot into portrait mode by default. More on that below.
One Netbook also didn’t bother to add support for automatic screen rotation to the ONEXPLAYER. It may have a tablet screen designed for portrait orientation, but this is a computer that’s only really meant to be used in landscape.
You can manually rotate the screen from the Windows 10 Display settings menu, but if you do that the mouse mode will still think the computer is in landscape, so you’ll need to push left to move the cursor up, right to move it down, and so on.
One last thing about the display before we move on to benchmarks – it’s not just set for landscape orientation. It needs to be set to Landscape (flipped) in the Windows 10 Display settings. If you just opt for Landscape, everything will be displayed upside down.
One thing I haven’t done tried with the ONEXPLAYER is emulation. But YouTuber ETA Prime has us covered on that front, with a video that examines console emulation performance on the ONEXPLAYER.
It’s able to handle PSP, PS2, PS3, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Switch, and Xbox gaming reasonably well but struggles with Xbox 360 emulation.
While the ONEXPLAYER will be available with three different processor options, the pre-release prototype featured in this review is basically a slimmed down version of the mid-tier Pro Edition version which goes for $899 and up during crowdfunding and $1159 and up after the Indiegogo campaign ends.
My demo unit has a Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe NVMe solid state drive, so the scores listed below are all for a model featuring that setup.
I also ran all of these synthetic benchmarks twice – once in standard mode with the processor running at 20 watts, and again in Turbo mode with the processor set to 28 watts.
In some tests, the extra power made a small difference, if any at all. But the differences seemed most noticeable in multi-core CPU tests and in some 3D graphics tests.
Here are some scores from CPU and general-purpose benchmarks including Cinebench, Passmark, and PCMark:
For the sake of comparison, I’ve also included scores for a couple of other devices including the GPD Win 3 handheld gaming PC (note that the review unit I tested featured a Core i5-1135G7 processor), a One Netbook One Mix 4 mini-laptop (with a Core i5-1130G7 processor), and a Dell Vostro 15 laptop (which has a 45-watt, 9th-gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor paired with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics).
Since I did not test the Core i7 version of the GPD Win 3, I cannot provide an apples-to-apples comparison, but unsurprisingly the ONEXPLAYER with a Core i7-1165G7 processor bested a Win 3 with a Core i5 chip in most tests.
Also unsurprisingly, the Dell laptop with a discrete GPU comes out ahead in most graphics tests. Here are some 3DMark scores, for example:
What is a little surprising is that it’s not ahead by as much as you might expect. Intel’s integrated graphics technology has come a long way in recent years, and the ONEXPLAYER with Intel Iris Xe graphics isn’t that far behind the Dell Vostro with a discrete NVIDIA graphics card from a few years ago.
Here are the scores for a couple more 3DMark tests.
Can you upgrade it?
There are 12 screws holding the back of of the ONEXPLAYER in place. You have to remove them all to get a peek inside the computer.
Once you do that, you’ll find a pretty tightly packed computer with the speakers, fans, and battery clearly visible, but some other key components packed further away.
If you remove the fans and the metal plate below them, you’ll be able to access the computer’s single M.2 2280 slot, allowing you to remove and replace the PCIe NVMe SSD. So if you want to upgrade to a higher capacity SSD, you can do that, although since there computer only has one slot, you’ll need to have the tools to clone your drive in order to make sure you don’t lose your files, drivers, settings, or anything else.
That’s… about it for upgrades. The RAM is soldered to the motherboard and there’s no way to remove or upgrade it. Fortunately, every configuration of the ONEXPLAYER includes 16GB of LPDDR4x-4266 memory, so there’s no chance of getting less than that. There’s just also no chance of getting more.
Can it run Linux?
Yep. The out of the box experience seems pretty good, although I didn’t dig very deep.
In order to boot from a USB flash drive, just insert a bootable device into one of the USB ports and start the computer. When you see the One Netbook logo, you can do one of these two things to get to the boot options menu:
- Hit F1 if you have a keyboard connected.
- Hold the Home/Desktop key and the Volume up key if you’re not using a keyboard.
This will bring you to the boot options menu that allows you to boot from a flash drive or enter the UEFI settings if you want to change your device boot priority or a few other settings.
If you’re not using a keyboard, note that you can navigate the boot menu and the UEFI settings by using the D-pad to move up, down, left, or right, and use the Start button as and “OK” or “Enter” key.
I took Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS for a spin on the ONEXPLAYER. While I didn’t install it to the computer’s SSD, it was able to run pretty well from a USB flash drive and easily detected the computer’s display and wireless card.
Pressing and holding the Keyboard key allowed me to use mouse mode to move an on-screen cursor, so that function must be hard-coded into the firmware. But a single-tap did not bring up Ubuntu’s on-screen keyboard.
As I mentioned above, on first boot the operating system was displayed in portrait orientation. But I didn’t even need to jump into the command line to alter the layout. I just opened the Ubuntu display settings and chose a landscape orientation and the screen rotated properly.
While I didn’t install any games or test 3D graphics performance with Ubuntu, I was able to connect to the internet and stream some video from YouTube without any trouble.
Like Windows, Ubuntu defaulted to a high scaling rate, in this case 200 percent. But like Windows, this Linux-based operating system allows you to set the screen scaling to 100-percent if you’d prefer tiny text and graphics on a 1:1 pixel ratio. I’m not sure I’d recommend that, but it’s nice to have options.
Folks with more Linux experience and/or time on their hands may be able to map the keyboard button to bring up an on-screen keyboard for Ubuntu or other operating systems, and perhaps work on other features that may enhance the experience of using the ONEXPLAYER as a Linux PC. But my first impressions were promising.
Can I use it as a desktop computer?
Sure. The ONEXPLAYER has two USB4 ports that support 40Gbps throughput, which means that if you’ve got a compatible USB-C dock, you can easily connect an external monitor, mouse, keyboard, or other accessories.
When I plugged into my a 9-in-1 USB-C dock, I was also able to charge the computer while using it as a desktop by plugging its 65W USB-C power adapter into the dock.
USB passthrough power delivery did not work when I tried the same thing with a PinePhone USB-C dock, so your result may vary depending on the accessories you’re trying to use. But while I couldn’t charge the ONEXPLAYER through that dock, I could still use it to mirror the display to an external monitor.
One Netbook says the external graphics cards should work thanks to the USB4 ports’ support for 40Gbps data transfers. And with support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5, you should also be able to use wireless keyboards, mice, and other accessories.
What about using it as a laptop?
One Netbook offers an optional keyboard accessory for the ONEXPLAYER. The company didn’t send me one, so I haven’t tested it, but the keyboard is designed to magnetically attach to a set of pogo pins on the bottom of the computer and seems to be a soft keyboard that will function sort of like a Microsoft Surface keyboard.
It won’t exactly transform the computer into a full-fledged laptop – you’ll still need to use the kickstand to prop up the notebook on something, so you may not actually find it comfortable to type with this thing on you lap, but it does mean you can take your gaming PC with you and add a keyboard when you need to get some work done (or when you want to do some in-game chatting or play titles that require keyboard input).
The keyboard does have highlighted W, A, S, and D keys, suggesting that One Netbook expects you to use it for gaming. There’s also a small trackpad below the space bar.
The ONEXPLAYER keyboard also works as a screen cover. Flip it upward and it will cover the display when you’re not using the computer. And when you don’t need the keyboard, just detach it from the bottom and set it aside.
One thing you might expect from a laptop in 2021 is missing though – the ONEXPLAYER does not have a webcam. So if you plan to use this little computer for video calls, web conferencing, or live streaming, you’re going to need to connect a USB camera.
It does have a built-in microphone, but it’s not a very good microphone and when I used the Windows voice recorder app to record a short voice memo, it ended up sounding like a noisy, low-quality phone call. So it might be good enough for a quick VoIP call, but if you plan to do a lot of multi-player gaming with voice chat, you might want to connect a headset.
So you tested a pre-release prototype, right?
Uh huh. For the most part, this thing feels like a finished, production-ready device. But I did run into one problem: shortly after filming an unboxing and first look video, the touchscreen on my demo unit stopped working.
At first I attributed this to a Windows Update that I had just installed. I assumed it had somehow overwritten the touchscreen driver, but One Netbook supplied me with the original drivers and installing them didn’t fix the issue. So I did a system restore and re-installed Windows to the state it was in when the computer first arrived. No dice. The touchscreen still didn’t work, and while it’s possible there’s a software fix that we’ve overlooked, I’m starting to think it might be a hardware issue.
That said, I’m not horribly concerned about this for a few reasons:
- This is a pre-release prototype and I’m told that of all the demo units One Netbook has sent out, mine is the only one that’s had a touchscreen failure. I’ll be sending this ONEXPLAYER back to One Netbook soon so they can identify the cause of the issue and hopefully prevent it from happening to anyone else.
- Mouse works really well. So well, in fact, that I barely missed having a touchscreen. Text input using the on-screen keyboard can be a little tedious, but most other things are very easy to use with just the game controller buttons including launching and closing applications, moving, copying, or deleting files and folders, and, of course, playing games.
Once I decided to just continue testing this device as if it had never had a touchscreen, I found that I barely missed it. Honestly, if One Netbook sold a version of the ONEXPLAYER without a touchscreen, I might still recommend it as decent handheld gaming computer, because it works almost as well without a touchscreen as it does with one… assuming you set your expectations properly.
If I wanted to use this device as a general-purpose computer for text-based chat, email, or document editing, I’d obviously want either a keyboard or a working touchscreen, because tapping out letters one at a time with mouse mode would get old fast. But for gaming? I’d say touch is pretty much optional.
How does it stack up against the competition?
2021 has been an interesting year for handheld gaming computers, with three interesting, fairly powerful models hitting the market. The ONEXPLAYER is the biggest and one of the most powerful options of the bunch. And that’s probably a blessing and a curse.
Some folks are going to take one look at this computer and decide it’s too big and heavy to be a portable gaming device. But after spending the last few weeks with it, I can definitely see the appeal of a bigger, larger handheld gaming computer.
Compared to the GPD Win 3, for example, the ONEXPLAYER has not only a larger screen, but also bigger game controller buttons that feel more comfortable in my hands. It has a larger battery, and lacks the slide-up display that keeps the screen of the Win 3 from sitting flush with the game controllers.
On the other hand, some folks might prefer the smaller size of the Win 3, and while I’m really, really, not a fan of the Win 3’s capacitive touch keyboard, it does at least provide a way to enter text without using an on-screen keyboard (even if you sometimes have to type the same thing over and over until it’s registered correctly).
Oddly, I also think the GPD Win 3 speakers sound a little better with fuller sound, and deeper bass notes.
Since I’ve still got a Win 3 handy, here’s a brief video comparing the two portable game consoles:
Prices for the GPD Win 3 and ONEXPLAYER are also comparable, with the Win 3 selling for $799 and up during crowdfunding and $1000 and up now that it’s hit retail channels.
The difference is that crowdfunding for the Win 3 has ended, which means you can currently pick one up for $1000 or more, or pre-order a ONEXPLAYER for lower starting prices… but you may have to wait a little longer to get one.
One other thing to keep in mind is that while the GPD Win 3’s display tops out at 1280 x 720 pixels, it’s a much smaller screen. So it still has a pixel density of 267 pixels per inch. That’s not as high as the 358 ppi for the ONEXPLAYER, but it’s still pretty sharp.
Unfortunately I do not have an AYA Neo around for testing purposes, but that device has a 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel IPS LCD display (216 pixels per inch), an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor with Radeon Vega 6 graphics, 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of NVMe storage.
While the Ryzen processor should deliver strong CPU performance, its Radeon Vega integrated graphics lags behind Intel’s Iris Xe GPU technology. The AYA Neo sold for $789 and up during crowdfunding, but the company isn’t currently taking orders, so comparisons may be moot.
The ONEXPLAYER and other handheld gaming computers fit into an interesting niche. Compared with a $299 Nintendo Switch or $199 Switch Lite, they look incredibly expensive. And if all you want is a handheld device that plays games, maybe you’re better off with one of those less expensive consoles… or even with a smartphone or tablet.
Compared with a gaming laptop from mainstream PC makers, the ONEXPLAYER looks incredibly underpowered. But it’s also far more portable than any gaming laptop from Acer, Asus, Dell/Alienware, Lenovo, HP, Razer, or Samsung.
Really, what the ONEXPLAYER offers is the guts of a high-quality thin and light notebook stuffed into a compact device that trades a keyboard for game controllers. And from that standpoint, the $1000-ish price point makes a lot of sense. Of course that’s how much you’d pay for this hardware, because that’s how much you’d pay for a Dell XPS 13 or HP Spectre laptop, for example.
But by stuffing those guts into a handheld computer meant for gaming, adding a higher-performance cooling system, increasing the TDP, and adding a series of special function keys, One Netbook makes compact notebook parts feel like gaming PC parts… as long as you’re okay with playing games that don’t absolutely require a high-end discrete GPU.
It’s a great gaming handheld that can also be used as a mediocre laptop or a decent (but kind of noisy) desktop. And if that’s something you’re willing to spend $819 to $1500 on, then I think the ONEXPLAYER is totally worth it.
For casual gamers looking for a multi-purpose device that’s a laptop first and a gaming handle second, One Netbook already offers a device called the OneGx1 Pro which fits the bill. Available for $1400 and up, it’s a clamshell-style mini-laptop with a 7 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel display, an Intel Core i7-1160G7 processor with Iris Xe graphics, and support for game controller that are both detachable and optional, making that computer more of a laptop that can also be used for gaming than the other way around.
But when I reviewed the original OneGx1 (with a less powerful processor and inferior graphics), I was underwhelmed by those detachable controllers. I thought the computer made a decent mini-laptop, but a less-than-stellar gaming machine.
The ONEXPLAYER flips that equation and focuses first and foremost on gaming, and I think One Netbook nailed it in delivering a machine that’s really designed for gaming. If the size, weight, and lack of keyboard aren’t off-putting, I’d definitely recommend it to folks looking for a portable gaming PC that can be used around the house or on the go.