How to Choose Between a Tablet & a Handheld Gaming Device

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If you’re considering purchasing your first piece of gaming hardware, you might be facing a few tough questions—especially if you’re new to gaming. Oftentimes, opting to make a big-money purchase like an Xbox, PlayStation, or gaming PC is simply out of the question. Instead, you might be thinking about a handheld device. 

Handhelds like the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck are great choices for gamers who want to be able to take their games with them on the go. They also might not have the choice to share a television (console) or a desk setup (PC). But what about a general tablet, like an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab? 

Let’s compare the gaming experience on handhelds versus tablets. By answering these four questions, you should be able to make a firm decision about which piece of hardware is best for you.

Is This for Casual Gamers or Hardcore Gamers?

First, you should consider what types of gamers will be using this device for gaming. Generally speaking, a tablet will offer different titles to those available on a console. Every game that you download on an Apple or Android device must come from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, respectively.

For example, if you want to try out casino gaming, then you can download a virtual app that offers slots, blackjack, and other classic games. Straight from a tablet, you can access online slots like Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, and more. Though it’s not a traditional video game, casino games and other types of gaming apps are easy to access on tablets. These options are great for casual gamers, especially when there are multiple gamers involved who might have different interests.

In this case, if you’re thinking of casual gamers, a tablet will work well. If you’re thinking of gamers who expect to compete in eSports titles like League of Legends, then a handheld console will fit the bill better.

How Many Gamers Will Use This Device?

Regardless of whether you choose a tablet or a handheld console, only one gamer will be able to use this device at a time. However, it’s still worth considering how many gamers will use your tablet or handheld console overall. Tablets are incredibly advanced and ready to handle hours of work – plus, they also tend to be a bit more durable in terms of handling. This usually makes them a better option when multiple gamers are involved. On the other hand, handhelds are usually better suited toward one or two gamers.

Will Your Tablet Be Multi-Use?

Let’s move on to the next topic: functionality. This is where the difference between a tablet and a handheld console comes into stark contrast. Simply put, an iPad or Samsung tablet will allow you to use a wide range of apps—including those that have nothing to do with gaming, like weather, email, health, news, and more.

The opposite is true for a handheld device. So, if you’re only on the hunt for a gaming device, then it makes more sense to opt for a handheld console. Not only do these offer a great gaming experience, but they’ve also been developed with gaming in mind. Tablets, on the other hand, are usually more general in terms of use cases. In this case, you have to ask yourself whether you need a multi-use device or will simply be looking to play games.

What Types of Games Do You Want Access To?

Above, we touched on the fact that tablets will only offer games that can be downloaded from the Apple and Google stores. Handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, on the other hand, offer games across a diverse range of categories. While you may need boosted internet to load these, the roster includes major hits and indie titles alike.

This makes a handheld console a better fit for a hardcore gamer who might want to sample the latest titles, experimental new hits, and other niche games. However, it’s still worth pointing out that tablets include major hits and indie titles alike, from Garena Free Fire to Stardew Valley. If you’re not sure which types of games you might want access to, then loop back to the question of functionality. 

The Bottom Line: Handhelds Are More Specialized, but Tablets Go the Distance

In terms of hardware, handheld consoles are a bit more specialized in gaming. However, depending on whether this article has offered you clarity, you can always start out with a mid-range tablet, as these are much more affordable. So, if you’re still unsure, opt for a tablet and move on to the Switch or Steam Deck when you’re ready.

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