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GPD Win review: A pint-sized gaming PC that touts the power of Windows

The GPD Win is a crowd-funded, handheld gaming PC, with a gamepad built into its base.

With the Nintendo Switch dominating the airwaves during the last couple of weeks, you have to wonder why Microsoft has gotten into the action a bit more in this space. Powerful x86 hardware is extremely hard to cram into such a small device, but that's irrelevant when Windows has hundreds, maybe thousands, of lightweight titles that will run extremely well on low-end hardware. This is where the GPD Win truly shines.

What is GPD Win?

The $499 GPD Win is a handheld full Windows 10 PC, complete with a touchscreen, Intel Atom processor, and active cooling. The manufacturer says active cooling provides better performance than the passive cooling found in other Intel Atom devices, such as the Surface 3.

A unique aspect of the GPD Win is the fact that it comes with an Xbox 360 gamepad embedded in its base. It has a full QWERTY keyboard, mini HDMI-out port, a full-size USB 3.0 port and a USB type-C port for rapid charging. It comes with a modest 64GB storage, but it also has a microSD card slot for up to 128GB of additional drive space.

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GPD Win tech specs

CategorySpecification
Dimensions2.35 cm x 15.5 cm x 9.7 cm
OSMicrosoft Windows 10 64bit OS
ProcessorAtom X5 Z8700 64bit Quad Core 1.44GHz, Up to 2.24GHz CPU
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 405
Display5.5-inch In-Cell OGS IPS Multi-Touch Screen 267ppi
Resolution1,280 x 720 Resolution
RAM4GB LPDDR3 RAM
Storage64GB eMMC
PortsUSB Type-C, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi
Power6,900mAh battery (listed six to eight hours of gaming)

Hardware design

I was skeptical when I initially saw this device in pictures. I didn't check out any of the reviews before getting my hands on it, so I had no idea what the build quality would be like. But the GPD Win feels wonderfully solid.

Sporting a typical clamshell configuration, the GPD Win has rounded edges underneath, which ensure it feels pleasant in hand over long periods of time. The screen is surprisingly sharp and vibrant, albeit with slightly poor viewing angles and an aggressively-reflective glossy screen.

The screen itself is 5.5 inches, making it smaller than my Lumia 950 XL. It would have been ideal to see the company fill the display's wide bezels with more screen, because full Windows is pretty painful to stare at on such a tiny display. The manual comes with instructions on how to tweak Windows fonts and icon sizes to suit its screen better, but there are plenty of Windows aspects that aren't configurable, which will lead to eyestrain for some users.

Thanks to HDMI-out, the GPD Win has what is essentially Continuum on steroids.

But the GPD Win isn't designed to replace your word processing solution, nor is it intended even to be used as a tablet or laptop — despite having the option to do so. Light web browsing with zoomed web pages is pretty easy, however, and UWP apps tend to scale a lot better on smaller screens, making the GPD Win a viable device for quick website sessions, social media, or other Windows Store apps. Win32 programs suffer the most from the GPD Win's screen size, so don't expect to run Visual Studio on this thing.

The Windows 10 PC shell simply isn't intuitive on screens this small, even with the optimizations. The additional scaling of tablet mode helps to some degree, at the cost of losing easy desktop access.

That said, the GPD Win has a mini HDMI-out port, allowing you to utilize an external display. This vastly improves the device's usefulness outside of gaming scenarios. Thanks to HDMI-out, the GPD Win has what is essentially Continuum on steroids. Lots of steroids.

This is full blown Windows we're talking about here. You can install any program you like, as long as you understand the limitations. The Intel HD graphics aren't going to allow you to edit a 4K video in Adobe Premier with any efficiency, but with HDMI-out, an external Bluetooth keyboard and a mouse, you could easily process Word documents, send email like a boss, and even export Netflix to a TV or projector. The downside is that there are no rubberized feet, and when coupled with the GPD Win's light weight, extra cables can cause it to slide all over the place. You have to be quite careful with your positioning if you plan to use it on a desk, but that's not what the GPD Win is really about.

Going mobile

The GPD Win feels incredibly comfortable in hand, and its smooth plastics and rounded edges feel nice. The construction feels incredibly reliable. There's no creaking on the base or on the screen, which is a credit to its materials and manufacturing process.

The GPD Win is a little on the heavy side, though, clocking in at around 600 grams. The Nintendo 3DS is around 325 grams by comparison, and a Lumia 950 XL weighs 165 grams. If you have weak, nerdy arms (like me) you might find yourself a little strained holding it up for long periods.

When it comes to navigation, the joysticks function as mouse cursors, with the left and right triggers acting as left and right mouse clicks. It's a decent enough solution, given the fact there's no room for a trackpad, but it can be rather sluggish compared to simply using a real mouse.

The touchpad is often far quicker than using the joystick cursor, and it's surprisingly accurate, even on Windows 10's sub-optimized shell. There are some other strange design quirks, however.

The GPD Win's speakers are on the sides of the device, right where you rest your palm while gaming. The speakers pack a punch, though, giving my Surface Book a run for its money in terms of volume, though they aren't as clear. If you plan to use the device on a plane or while traveling, you will probably use its 3.5mm headphone jack and some headphones anyway.

The GPD Win also features a full QWERTY keyboard with additional buttons for certain functions, such as the Xbox 360 controller's left and right joystick buttons, volume controls, and the Xbox home button. It does a decent enough job as a keyboard substitute, but you won't want to use it to play any games using WASD controls, except maybe turn-based titles. The keys are quite hard to press, although the topside of the base holds firm, even when you press down quite hard on the keys. The keys are slightly textured and have grooves to help orient touch typists, so with practice, you could probably type fairly quickly on it. It isn't backlit, though, so no typing in the dark for you.

When you close the clamshell, it goes into sleep mode instantaneously, and the fans turn off. I've tried it quite a few times and found it to be reliable, which is a far cry from the notoriously-iffy sleep reliability on the Surface line. Play some games, browse Facebook, close the lid, put in your pocket — job done.

Gaming on the go

Windows has decades worth of Win32 games, and there are an impossible number of titles that run extremely well on the GPD Win. You're not going to be playing Battlefield 1 or the Witcher 3 on this device, though. You need to think of it as a vehicle for playing optimized Xbox 360-era titles, and even emulating classic console games if it's legal to do so in your territory.

The GPD Win supports both DInput and XInput. DInput is the legacy Windows gamepad API, with XInput replacing it for Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. You activate it by flipping a switch above the keyboard, allowing you to control both modern and older games that don't support XInput.

GPD Win is like a Nintendo DS with Steam!

GPD Win is like a Nintendo DS with Steam!

Some games seem to freak out when you use the switch, however. So sometimes it's better to flip the switch from mouse to XInput while the game is loading so it loads thinking you have a controller plugged in. It's not ideal, but it works, and that's really the whole story of the GPD Win.

The buttons, triggers, bumpers, and joysticks are all high quality and a pleasure to use. Usually, I can't stand third-party Xbox controllers, but the GPD Win does the configuration justice.

The most annoying thing about the gamepad is that the L3 and R3 joystick buttons are found on the keyboard, rather than the joysticks. This makes playing many modern first-person shooter (FPS) titles a cumbersome endeavor, reducing the number of viable games. Using the latest Vulkan API, DOOM 2015 runs fairly well on the GPD Win. But without the joystick click for executions and health regeneration, I can't imagine it would be terribly fun to play.

Still, there are potentially hundreds of games that function well on the GPD Win. I was able to run less intensive games, such as Minecraft, Rivals of Aether flawlessly, accompanied by more intensive X360-era games, including Bioshock and XCOM: Enemy Within.

GPD lists the battery life in the six-to-eight hour range, but I found it to be around the five-to-six hour mark while playing XCOM: Enemy Within. I also hadn't completed the performance tweaks GPD recommends in the device's manual, nor did I adjust the screen brightness or enable battery saving mode for extra juice. So six to eight hours is probably fairly accurate.

It's a bit pointless to run full-blown graphics benchmarks on this device, but for an idea of what sorts of games you can expect to run on the GPD Win, here are a few frames-per-second (FPS) test clips. Note: The "Video FPS" is the one to watch because the "Recording FPS" was occasionally bottlenecked by the eMMC storage getting filled up.

GPD Win test vs. XCOM Enemy Within, cutscenes are a bit laggy but in-game is totally playable. #GPDWin pic.twitter.com/XhQCvFgCwI— Jez (@JezCorden) March 14, 2017

XCOM Enemy Within on GPD Win: 15 to 20 FPS at 720p, low settings

#GPDWin vs. Bioshock, 720p, 30-60 FPS, super impressed. pic.twitter.com/lPTEUxS8cO— Jez 🎮🦂 (@JezCorden) 15 March 2017

Bioshock on GPD Win: 25 to 55 FPS at 720p, low settings

Here's Rivals of Aether running at 55-60 FPS on the #GPDWin handheld PC! Crushed it. @danfornace pic.twitter.com/0vr6nvtV4w— Jez 🎮🦂 (@JezCorden) 15 March 2017

Rivals of Aether on GPD Win: 55 to 60 FPS at 720p, max settings

Overall, the gaming experience on the GPD Win is top notch. Having a device that can store and play dozens of Steam titles is wonderful for traveling and other scenarios where your full PC or console might be out of reach.

Windows is a blessing and a curse

The GPD Win has the popular Nintendo Switch thoroughly defeated in terms of the volume of games, but does that make the Switch any less compelling? Unlike with the Nintendo 3DS, Switch, or even mobile phone platforms, you will often find yourself battling against Windows itself to make decent use of the GPD Win.

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The GPD Win instruction manual comes with reams of suggestions for tweaking Windows to promote performance, including things like disabling the firewall, modifying Cortana via the registry, and so on. I did quite a few of these things, but it exemplifies the fact that Windows itself is simultaneously the GPD Win's biggest strength and biggest weakness. Sure, you get loads of games, but for quick-access gaming on the go, Windows 10 is nowhere near what I'd consider intuitive.

Microsoft should look towards devices like the GPD Win as an example of what Windows can accomplish on a mobile device.

Yet, I'm still drawn to the device. You have to be a certain type of gamer to want the GPD Win. If you're willing to go through the optimization processes per game, tweaking settings and circumnavigating the foibles with XInput and other drives, you could cram it with dozens of powerful Win32 games to play on the move. If you're the type of person who wants everything to just work, a Nintendo 3DS might be a better option.

The most compelling aspect of the GPD Win is the fact that full Windows is increasingly approaching a point where it can run on mobile devices. CShell will hopefully solve the issues with Windows 10's poor scaling on smaller screens. The GPD Win is literally a sim card tray and a hands-free headset away from being a great Windows 10 cellular PC, complete with phone capabilities and ultra mobility.

If Windows is to survive the onslaught of mobile, Microsoft should be looking towards devices like the GPD Win as an example of what Windows can accomplish on a mobile device, leveraging the decades of rich software capabilities the OS has accumulated. Even with the scaling issues, Win32 adds so much value to the prospect of Windows mobility and Continuum that it would be a complete folly to overlook it.

Beyond gaming, full Windows on the GPD Win also exposes the weakness of the Windows Store, particularly on devices designed for mobility.

GPD Win review: Conclusion

The GPD Win is an amazing handheld PC that fits nicely in an era of Windows hardware innovation. It feels pleasant in hand over long sessions. And even when you run intensive games, the active cooling prevents the GPD Win from getting prohibitively warm. In comparison, a gaming Surface Pro 3 could double up as a frying pan.

The GPD Win is what you make of it.

The GPD Win isn't perfect, with speakers that rest against your palms, less-than-modest weight, and unfortunate L3 and R3 joystick positions. But my general experience has been nothing but positive.

Like any gaming PC, the GPD Win is what you make of it. The vast majority of users on Steam don't have PCs capable of matching the Xbox One in terms of power. Most dedicated PC gamers know their computers' limitations, and therein lies the GPD Win's greatest strength and greatest weakness.

Pros:

  • Powerful hardware for its size.
  • Great build quality.
  • Awesome features and ports.

Cons:

  • Odd positioning of speakers.
  • No joystick buttons.
  • Screen could be bigger.

Full Windows ensures the GPD Win has hundreds of viable games in its library, across Steam, GOG, and other PC game retailers. The full OS also ensures that sometimes games won't run, you might hit compatibility issues, and you might find yourself tweaking settings and configuration files just to get some games to load. But that's a small price to pay for hundreds of games. After you set up your library, you're pretty much good to go.

For $499, you're going to have to really want to PC game on the go. If you fit that description, I think it's thoroughly worth the price. This sort of device will benefit massively from CShell, but it truly offers a glimpse at the future of full Windows on smaller screens.

The GPD Win is concentrated awesome in a pocketable package.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

57 Comments
  • "The GPD Win is literally a sim card tray and a hands-free headset away from being a great Windows 10 cellular PC, complete with phone capabilities and ultra mobility." For me, this is the most exciting part of the whole article. I really think we are on the road to something great.    
  • Exactly my thought. If I was to judge it for what it is now it would probably not get anywhere near the staff score of 4/5. But as a look at the future it looks really promising. A gaming device that is something like a small Xbox that is also able to make calls and is a full Win PC and it could also benefit from some custom modes that would perform the performance tweaks (or just turn on game mode when creator's update comes) and this really could be what the Surface "Phone" could be in the future.
  • i dont like this. You could use a tablet with a bigger screen with W10 and the final experience would be MUCH better. If you wanted to use only a small device with snapchat / games you could buy a smartphone like S7 which is elegant, thin and well optimized = much better option for non tech fans
  • Yep. I think us techie people sometimes inadvertently take for granted the levels we will go to in order to get something working vs your average smartphone user. Plus an Android emulator won't get someone Pokémon Go because without a valid Android device ID the game will not load. Emulators don't have that valid Android device ID. What is to stop other companies jumping on that to stop their Android apps working on emulators should something like this take effect. Plus I think spoofing a legit device ID is grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Well, Android games don't save-sync with Xbox Cloud don't they? (where can you get Ori from PlayStore?) And most of'em support no gamepad (unless you root and "force" it).
    ​Also, can you mount a 10" tablet on your gamepad and play it like... on the train / plane?  
  • Five hundred dollars. You crazy, Jez.
  • More games per dollar than the Switch. 😁
  • This is as much an assault on the Switch as the 90's Motorola Razer is a threat to the iPhone today.  Such a dumb headline. I love my PC games but c'mon.  This has nothing on the Switch as a gaming platform.  And Intel Atom?  Really?  Gimme a break.
  • This isn't ment to be a Switch killer, it's a device of it's own, a unlocked x86-64 system with endless possibilities for emulation and native gaming.   What's wrong with the Atom? What would you have put in it? There is nothing faster for it's size and power, it even outperforms a Core 2 Duo. 
  • Clearly it's not meant as a Switch competitor or anything along those lines.  But perahps someone should inform whoever came up with the title of the article.  Or perhaps the person I replied to.  Oh, same person. And no, I'm not saying there's a better alternative to Atom but as a gaming platform it's still inadaquate for games designed for PC.  I mean, I'm sure it runs emulators fine but I find it questionable that Windows Central would advocate piracy.
  • 350 US dollars
  • Saw a picture of this in a previous article, but assumed it was a mock up or fake device, or something you couldn't buy. Good god, what a funny device. Shame about those bezels, and cheaper than most flagship phones... Gotta echo the SIM comment.
  • Even though I love my 3DS, I want this so much.  Windows on a handheld with proper controller support?  The dream is here. XD  Microsoft, please take note and let us play games on a device that we can put in our pocket, has a built in internet connection, supports screen-out, and lets us chat with our friends.
  • not a pocket friendly one though, but have you seen http://www.linxvision.co.uk/
  • Much as I love putting things in my pocket, there is no way this will offer good graphics and good battery life.  Recalling the review from LTT on either this device, or similiar device... cool, but it's not going to do much beyond older games. 
  • I'm surprised you didn't discuss the possibility of using this device for Xbox One game streaming. Does it work with the integrated controller? That's ultimately what I'd be trying to use it for, instead of playing games natively running on it. Does it have dual-band Wi-Fi with 802.11ac for optimal bandwidth required for smooth streaming I've tried a few Windows 10 tablets and with some not having 5GHz or 802.11ac, it fails the streaming test.  
  • Mainly because 500usd just to stream seems a little unlikely, but it's full Windows and it does work!
  • If you're going to use it for that the nVidia Shield is a better solution.  Which, interestingly enough, is the core of the Switch.  I wouldn't be surprised to see PC streaming come to the Switch by year's end.  THAT would be worth being excited about.
  • http://www.linxvision.co.uk/
  • I want this as a phone!!!!
  • Me too.  This can make phone call then it better than surface phone. 
  • I love the device and want one soo badly but then I see the price and feel pathetic.
  • i bought one on ebay a few weeks back and it's an amazing device.  it streams PC, xbox, ps4 perfectly. Worth buying if you can find one in the US
  • Ambitious little Atom. Perfect for playing all the Harry Potter games, lol.
  • Green dick
  • Go see a doctor
  • Make Kermit take an enema before you get frisky.
  • But general consumers won't want this. All they care about is things like Snapchat etc, and if you force them to install an Android emulator to do that they'll be like "Urgh, I'll just get an iPhone/Android phone." They don't care about legacy app support. So I don't believe this is the way for Microsoft to survive the mobile onslaught. Because even on full blown Windows 10 I need to install an Android emulator to install Snapchat. Do you think the general consumer will do that? I'm not sure how Microsoft can survive the mobile onslaught but this I don't see working out.
  • Nokia N-Gage QD 2.0.
  • Anybody think about a future version of this using a Snapdragon 835 and 8 GB of RAM? Mmmm!
  • The future of mobile Windows gaming really does need to be on ARM.
  • I carry SP4, Nexus5x and BT enabled Xbox One Controller with me all the time.
    Would love a 5" or 6" GPD mini tablet to mount on my controller so I can continue my XPA / steam games on the go. (I don't need the gamepad or keyboard part.) * Heard the new GPD Pocket last 12 hours after fully charged... add a SIM slot and I think I can throw away my Nexus...
  • Did you review the original Indiegogo version with Atom X5 or new updated version with X7?
    I had the original on release but sold it as I didn't use it as much as I expected.
  • Why piddle around with the fonts when you can just use the superior DPI system built into Windows? Visit Display in the Settings app and turn it from 100% to 125% and there you go. None of that janky looking crap. Plus, tablet mode would be better for the touch screen, and also because it simplifies the UX for smaller, lower-visually-dense displays. Super simple. Who cares about desktop access when you have the Taskbar and Start to pin items to? Stop using it like it's 1997 :p Also, the idea of monkeying around with things like the firewall seem a bit over-the-top. Just get 1703 on there and use Game Mode. As for the machine, it seems like a Core m-series would be an obvious upgrade, since the performance is much better, while still keeping the heat low.
  • You can also do Office documents, email like a boss, and export Netflix to a TV with any Continuum capable phone.
  • I would like to have a second touch screen on bottom, just like 3DS, to replace the keyboard when necessary, and bring some other experience in-game, or whatever gadget. Therefore, the buttons and circle pads can have better placement. Of course this means to have some special apps run on the system. I believe second screen could be much useful than a tiny physical keyboard, considering my personal experience on 3DS vs old WM6 phone / some remote controller with keyboard.
  • Yes, but can it play World of Warcraft decently well?
  • I use my Surface 3, my wireless xbox one controller, and that's a Nintendo Switch (without Zelda haha) Much better screen, much better controller and STEAM!    
  • I agree, but I kinda fell in love with http://www.linxvision.co.uk/​
  • Looks nice and it is cheap. And the Surface 3 isn't easy to find now.
  • Performance and portability cost.  It might be half the price, but its also half the performance and twice the size.
  • Xbox could use a keyboard like this device's.
  • Very half assed review if you ask me.   Lot of old or wrong information. Like the price or some of the specs.  Author has not done their research.    Also comparing it to a Switch? Missing the whole point of the device. Can't compare apples to oranges. 
  • At 500 dollars, I'll stick to the Switch.  Frankly with those specs, I'd just skip it outright.  
  • There is no such device like the one in the review, the rewiev is bullshit and you would get a better overview of the device by browsing its wikipedia page.
  • We will see all kinds of mini devices like this based on the W10 On ARM and CShell showing up beforre long.  That will include mobile devices.  I would like to see MS to release a Xbox keyboard similar to this device.
  • Actually it costs like $350 on gearbest :P
  • I just went on GearBest to purchase this. DO NOT BUY THIS FROM GEARBEST! After you purchase it, they will email you and tell you that they will not ship out your item until you provide photocopied proof of your identity, including your driver's license, utility bill with your name and address on it, and a front and back photocopy of your credit card. If that doesn't scream IDENTITY THEFT I don't know what does.
  • The resolution is a bit too low, otherwise sounds like a great idea even though it's pricey. I'm glad things like this exist.
     
  • I think it's a weird device, I won't pay $500 for a device like this one, I think maybe a windows Tablet for that price adding a keyboard and maybe a brandless XBOX controller will provide a little bit more, but the fact of how it was concived makes me think the V2 of this will be really great.
  • A compact yet full-featured device, thank you for sharing. We can play games or do anything we like You can vote for me
  •   i bought one on ebay a few weeks back and it's an amazing device.  it streams PC, xbox, ps4 perfectly. Worth buying if you can find one in the US  
  • I will share this article about my site  http://tienamphu.com  
  • More games per dollar than the Switch visit my site: http://chuyengianuoc.com/top-3-thuong-hieu-may-loc-nuoc-nano-nen-mua.html
  • I use my Surface 3, my wireless xbox one controller, and that's a Nintendo Switch (without Zelda haha) Much better screen, much better controller and STEAM! . I will share this article about my site
  • I will share this article about my site   http://cachtriho.net/
  • GPD is a good concept.  Make it bigger screen, 6 or 7 inches but thinner with a Snapdragon, phone features and Windows on ARM (hopefully with full Win32 capability) and it is the device I always wanted. Ideally, It would be able to fold so the screen is outside to use it as a phone or have a second screen on the outside.