Qualcomm unveiled its latest Snapdragon G Series platform last week to power a new generation of dedicated handheld gaming devices.
I briefly played around with one and it feels like the tech for these devices is moving beyond familiar platforms like the Nintendo Switch and the Valve Steam Deck.
Qualcomm’s hope is to expand the biodiversity of gaming hardware with platforms that can be customized to different gamer solutions, said Mithun Chandrasekhar, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, in an interview with GamesBeat. We were able to do a pretty good deep dive on the subject.
Chandrasekhar said much of the industry’s revenues are coming in from mobile, which is where Qualcomm has its stronghold with low-power processors and other chips.
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While console and PC games continue to move up market, mobile gaming continues its expansion as the main source of year-on-year growth. You can always play on your smartphone, Chandrasekhar said.
“But if you want to be able to extract the best performance and the most immersive experience from playing, as these games are getting more and more complex, you need a dedicated platform,” he said.
Chandrasekhar said that data shows that the overwhelming number of gamers are playing on some kind of mobile device.
“More and more people want to play games, but they don’t want to purchase a PC or console to do it,” he said. “They don’t want to be tethered to a desk or the living room TV. So, the ability to take your library of content, whether it’s the Xbox, PlayStation and PC, and play it anywhere in the house, or at a friend’s place, or wherever, is very appealing. The concept of personal screens is something that is growing and devices like a Steam Deck have a market.”
Razor launched its Razor’s Edge handheld gaming device as the lead platform using the Snapdragon G1 earlier this year. Chandrasekhar said that showed there is a market for it. And he noted the new devices need to be powerful, as smartphones often don’t cut it.
“If we look at the recent crop of games as a service, we see they want to encourage mobile gamers to play with their console and PC counterparts,” he said. “All of them are about cross-platform gaming. You need reasonably beefy hardware to be able to play some of this competitively.”
With the introduction of the new Snapdragon G Series, Qualcomm aims to provide gamers with a wider range of options for playing their favorite games, delivering flexibility and versatility regardless of location.
The Snapdragon G Series has three tiers, each tailored to meet different gaming needs.
Snapdragon G1 Gen 1 platform
The Snapdragon G1 was the first generation of chips that supported fanless handheld gaming devices, enabling seamless game streaming, whether through local connections or the cloud.
The Snapdragon G1 Gen 1 Platform, the first member of the Snapdragon G1 family, features a Qualcomm Kryo CPU (8 Core) and the Qualcomm Adreno A11 GPU.
This combination ensures lag-free connectivity and extended battery life, allowing players to stream console and PC games at optimal quality for extended periods.
The G1 is focused on efficiency in terms of cost and power consumption for a streaming platform. If you just want to stream content from a console or the cloud, you don’t need a high-performance centralized processing unit (CPU) or graphics processing unit (GPU), Chandrasekhar said. You need good encoding and decoding of video, good connectivity and battery life. It enables partners to target aggressive price points. The G1 Gen One chip is a new processor within the tier.
Moving up the tier, the Snapdragon G2 is designed to unlock full-featured mobile and cloud gaming experiences.
Equipped with an optimized processor and 5G and Wi-Fi 6/6E capabilities from the Qualcomm FastConnect 6700 Mobile Connectivity System, the Snapdragon G2 Gen 1 Platform sets the stage for premium mobile and cloud gaming titles.
It boasts the latest Kryo CPU (8 Core), a gaming-optimized Adreno A21 GPU, and the Snapdragon X62 5G Modem-RF System, providing gamers with the freedom to explore the vast potential of mobile and cloud gaming.
G2 is more for mobile gaming perfected, Chandrasekhar said, as the device can scale any play anything in the Android ecosystem, whether it’s on the Google Play store, the Amazon App Store, or Netflix.
The company has a G2 Gen One processor as well as a G3 Gen Two.
At the pinnacle of the Snapdragon G Series is the flagship tier, Snapdragon G3, which embodies Qualcomm Technologies’ most innovative gaming capabilities.
Building on the success of the Razer Edge 5G powered by Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, devices utilizing the Snapdragon G3 will offer great gaming experiences across a wide range of gaming ecosystems, Chandrasekhar said. The Snapdragon G3x Gen 2 Platform, the latest addition to the enthusiast-class G3 Series, boasts a Kryo CPU (8 Core) and Adreno A32 GPU, delivering over 30% faster CPU performance and a remarkable 2x faster GPU performance compared to its predecessor.
The G3 is what Qualcomm delivers when it throws the whole kitchen sink at it, including XR gaming via a tether to goggles.
“That’s our very best CPU and very best GPU running this connectivity suite. It will be Android at launch,” Chandrasekhar said.
The platform introduces multi-generational performance improvements and incorporates high-end gaming features such as hardware-accelerated ray tracing, game super resolution, XR glass tethering, low-latency premium Bluetooth audio with Snapdragon Sound Technology Suite, Wi-Fi 7 High-Band Simultaneous (HBS), and 5G sub-6 and mmWave for the most responsive wireless speeds.
To expedite the development of high-end gaming devices and facilitate the introduction of the next generation of handheld gaming products, Qualcomm offers the Snapdragon G3x Gen 2 Handheld Gaming Reference Design, currently available for sampling by select OEMs and ODMs. Further product announcements tailored to specific customers are expected in the near future.
Chandrasekhar said that dedicated handheld gaming devices can provide the ultimate gaming experience — something already proven out by the Steam Deck and the Switch. And now it’s time to make dedicated hardware platforms aimed at this particular niche, where players can access their favorite titles across consoles, PCs, clouds, and Android devices while on the move.
“Dedicated handheld gaming devices are the best way to experience mobile games. But gamers want to be able to play all their favorite games across devices and ecosystems, be it their console, PC or on a cloud service,” said Chandrasekhar. “The new generation of Snapdragon G Series powered devices will be the best place for gamers to play their favorite titles, offering them the ability to choose from the cloud, console, Android, or PC while on-the-go.”
More devices coming
AyaNeo, Huaqin, Inventec, Thundercomm, and other companies are collaborating with Qualcomm on handheld gaming devices powered by Snapdragon G Series Platforms.
I played a racing game dubbed Grid Autosport from Feral Interactive. It ran at 60 frames per second on the prototype. The display resolution was full HD at close to 1,440p and 144 hertz. I also played Cyberpunk 2077 on the device, and it worked fine. I didn’t get to see much action in that game. But it looked pretty beautiful.
Chandrasekhar said the partners will make their own announcements on launches. We can expect devices to be shipping next year. Chandrasekhar said the company also has an all-carbon-fiber case for one of the prototypes. It worked with a company called Carbon Mobile to make that happen.
“We genuinely legitimately believe that this is going to become a pretty large market in the coming years,” Chandrasekhar said. “These ecosystem vendors have seen a lot of feedback that people want to be able to play the next Xbox and PC and PlayStation games, just not tethered to a specific screen. This is going to be a big deal.”
Blurring the platform lines
It can make your head hurt if you think about the future of platforms in a world where everyone wants to play cross-platform games. You can run BlueStacks to get Android apps and games to run on a Windows PC, and so you can bring Android games into the Windows environment if you wish. Microsoft itself is bringing both Android and Linux on top of Windows over time.
Qualcomm hopes that the mobile device market explodes beyond just a couple of companies, and that it also explodes beyond just running content locally, using cloud services.
Game developers often preferred programming on PC processors, using the x86 architecture. That was why it was easier to program games for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console generations. But Qualcomm’s Arm-based devices have now been running Windows. And so perhaps the game developers only care about programming for devices that run Windows. In this way, the chip architectures and operating systems are blending, and barriers are coming down. Apple’s Arm-based chips are also starting to blow past x86 processors when it comes to performance.
The rival Steam Deck uses a semi-custom AMD chip, while the Nintendo Switch uses an Nvidia Tegra processor.
“We are hell bent on blurring that line between what is Arm and what is PC,” Chandrasekhar said. “As you can imagine, there is a lot of background work that needs to be done to make that experience seamless. And so, we don’t want to launch a device until that experience is seamless. Do we have the capabilities today? Yes, it supports it. We’re just not launching it. Our ideal steady would be the game developer doesn’t really need to care about what the underlying hardware is. We will abstract or translate that away.”
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