The future of handheld PC gaming: OneXPlayer VP reveals future plans, the impact of Steam Deck & more
It’s been a whirlwind few months for the Handheld PC market. What once was a niche product segment served by only a few competitors had its doors blown wide open when gaming giant Valve announced that they were going to release a Handheld PC of their own, the Steam Deck. But, one of the companies that have been quietly honing their craft in this space for years is OneXPlayer, which recently released the OneXPlayer Mini, one of the smallest PC Handhelds on the market. We had the opportunity to interview the VP of OneXPlayer, Jason Zeng in an exclusive interview about the industry, the burgeoning PC handheld market, and more.
The origins of OneXPlayer
Our strong R&D team has enabled us to put laptop-level components into handhelds one step ahead of the others, and designed the device for better performance.
The origins of OneXPlayer as a company were with its parent company, a separate brand named One-Netbook, as Zeng describes. ‘We have years of R&D and manufacturing experience in the field of mini-notebooks, and we have successfully launched our mini business PC for multiple generations.’ One Netbook is now in its fourth generation, with collaborations with brands like Mobile Suit Gundam.
These devices cram a laptop’s worth of specs, into an impossibly small portable package, and Zeng notes that this might have given them a headstart when looking at building a dedicated gaming brand. ‘Our strong R&D team has enabled us to put laptop-level components into handhelds one step ahead of others, and designed the device for better performance.’
Zeng further claims that OneXPlayer was the pioneer of several technologies in this form-factor, including ‘LPDDR4X high-frequency memory, 2.5K Ultra-HD IPS screens, PCIe SSD, WiFi6’ and more. This owes to the talent of their R&D team, who are able to effectively cram these high-end components into an incredibly small size.
The feel of the device is one of the most important factors at play when holding a fully-fledged PC in your hands, and the team at OneXPlayer pay special attention to it, too. ‘We boast OneXPlayer for its well-designed ergonomics’, Zeng commented, before continuing, ‘We did various testing, comparison, and optimization on the details from this point, such as the weight of the product, the touch of the material, the layout of the controls…’
A song of silicon and steel
OneXPlayer has worked with both Intel and AMD for their lineup of products, but one key thing is changing in the market, ‘integrated’ graphics are about to get much better. AMD’s Rembrandt APUs offer excellent performance, and Intel has just launched their own discrete Arc Alchemist offering, which promises additional portable performance.
Zeng is quick to address the lack of available SKUs with Rembrandt processors: ‘We have been in an innovative partnership with AMD for a long time. AMD-Ryzen 6000 is a CPU with outstanding performance and we have plans to do more R&D work around this CPU in the future.’ Given that these Rembrandt CPUs are still extremely new, you can expect a healthy spec-bump in time, and hopefully, even better performance in PC games, to boot.
But, for those looking to integrate a discrete graphics card in a small form factor, you might have to look elsewhere in the short term. When we asked about the possibility of dedicated graphics cards, Zeng was quick to say that a dedicated card might not fit into a small console, but their ‘R&D team is working on the exploration of some featured devices’. So, you might potentially see a device that will attempt to pack in a dedicated graphics card in OneXPlayer’s future, but the challenge of dealing with the thermal impact of using a dedicated graphics card in that form factor may be a huge challenge.
There’s a spectre looming over OneXPlayer, and its name is heated competition, from the likes of mature brands like GPD, the ever-sleeker-looking AYANEO, Valve, and newcomers Anbernic. But, they don’t seem phased by the incoming market saturation, as Jason Zeng comments, ‘Every product on the market has its own positioning, for us, we boast OneXPlayer for its well-designed ergonomics.’ This statement rings particularly true if you compare how OneXplayer has contoured its control pads to ensure comfort for long gaming sessions.
But, even with a saturated market, Valve has swooped in and has disrupted the market with its knowledge of software, hardware, and an enormous bag of money to offset the relatively high entry fee that many would balk at. A competitor offering a product with similar specs, and a dramatically cheaper price point, undercutting every competitor has led to orders only becoming fulfilled towards the end of 2022. But, for Zeng, Valve has presented the industry with an opportunity.
I would prefer to use the word “promote” instead of “undercut” for the competition of the market, as every player in the field of [PC] handheld consoles is trying to play to their strengths.
The OneXPlayer isn’t a cheap machine by any means, with its cheapest SKU coming in at $999 USD, and the OneXPlayer Mini coming in at $1249. Rival Ayaneo is priced in a similar segment of the market and offers much of the same functionality. But, Zeng comments that ‘OneXPlayer is priced at a reasonable point with its specs’, and that holds water, especially when taking into consideration the form-factor in which their devices are in, and how making a device smaller can often also make it more expensive
However, the story never really begins and ends with hardware, pricing also has to factor in other additional operational costs such as after-sales support, which OneXPlayer is actively wanting to improve as the company matures.
Zeng continued to share his opinions on Valve’s market-disrupting machine by giving his stance on how Valve managed to achieve success with the device. ‘Steam Deck is a very influential product that has managed to leverage its accumulated assets and bring [the] public’s attention to the field of portable gaming. We sincerely congratulate Steam Deck for its achievements, and will keep working on our competitive edges.’
But, that’s not the only influence that the Steam Deck will have on pricing and market placement for handheld devices. Valve’s SteamOS has also shown that Windows might not be the default OS for many of these devices for too much longer, thanks to thorough Proton support gaining momentum.
The future of handheld PC gaming
We want to keep to our existing strengths and we don’t have the plan for lower-end handheld gaming devices now.
But, the high-end handheld market isn’t the only one that’s ripe for growth. Over the past two years, we’ve seen an uptick in the proliferation of lower-end emulation focussed handhelds, like the Miyoo Mini, which we reviewed recently. Companies prolific in the space such as Anbernic are scaling their operations up to compete with the likes of OneXPlayer, so we posed the question over to Jason Zeng, who commented, ‘We want to keep to our existing strengths and we don’t have the plan for lower-end handheld gaming devices now.’
This seems to be a wise decision, as the technology many of these devices are based on is a mile away from what OneXPlayer is great at doing, and moving over from X86 optimization to ARM-based processor procurement may pose an additional challenge for a business that is already seeped in traditional ‘PC’ development.
Right now, the future looks bright for OneXPlayer, which continues to actively develop innovative products in the handheld PC industry. With more eyes than ever on the product space thanks to the mainstream penetration of the Steam Deck, OneXPlayer might enjoy reaping some of the benefits now that Valve’s device is long out of stock, with punters looking for alternatives, and OneXPlayer being one of the chief competitors among them.
Handheld PC gaming has a long history of pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from silicon in a small form-factor, and Zeng envisions a bright future for OneXPlayer, and the industry in general, where he sees a more ‘diversified style and aesthetic design’ for the industry, in addition to improving the ease-of-use with operating systems, and heightened performance as chips get more advanced.