Here’s something we bet you didn’t see coming: Qualcomm and Razer have built a games console.
Well, sort of. At its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit the chipset giant Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 gaming chipset, while revealing a Switch-style developer kit built in conjunction with peripheral company Razer to show off the chip’s capabilities, which we got the chance to try out in person.
Let’s start with the chip. So far Qualcomm has been coy about the exact architecture of the G3x Gen 1 chipset, though it includes 5G support and the ability to run games at up to 144 frames per second and in 10-bit HDR.
Presumably it’s based on some of the same architecture as the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone chip, but it’s not clear yet exactly how similar the two chips are. The G3x is seemingly the more powerful of the two though, at least for gaming use cases, with optimisations to handle some tasks that phones generally can’t, like streaming camera video and audio while gaming.
Surprisingly, it’s revealed a little more about the developer kit. Available exclusively to developers from the Razer website starting today, the hardware has a form factor similar to the Nintendo Switch – and to some of Razer’s own smartphone gamepads – with controls situated to either side of a central display.
It’s a pretty big device – wider than a Switch – but the curved gamepads are comfortable in the hand, and it’s heavy enough to feel premium while light enough that you’d probably still be happy to carry it around all day. It has haptics for vibration too.
The spacious 6.65in OLED display is capped at a full HD+ resolution but can run at up to 120Hz. That won’t quite hit the 144fps cap the silicon can supposedly handle, but the display will at least max out the 10-bit HDR.
A 5Mp webcam will allow players to simultaneously record themselves or stream live while playing, with two microphones and four speakers taking care of the audio.
There’s little word on battery life, but a Qualcomm rep hinted that it could outpace current gaming portables like the Switch OLED. There’s a USB-C port for charging, which can also be used to output images to a TV over HDMI or even connect to XR headsets.
The unnamed developer kit runs Android, and I got to try it out playing pre-installed Android games and using cloud services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Google Stadia, though Qualcomm is also pitching it for streaming games directly from other games consoles and PCs.
Surprising as it may seem, Razer’s involvement makes sense when you consider that the company has precedent in building the acclaimed Razer Phone and Razer Phone 2, which helped define the now-burgeoning category of gaming phones.
While Razer has helped Qualcomm to build the developer kit itself, there’s no confirmation as of yet that it actually plans to release consumer hardware using the new tech. The hardware already feels so polished that it’s hard to imagine Razer isn’t planning to launch a version for the public soon though, and the company’s CEO has already hinted that this is the case.
“Razer is extremely excited to partner with Qualcomm Technologies and support them on their way to introduce new cutting-edge technology to the global gaming industry,” said Min-Liang Tan, Razer’s co-founder.
“Together, Qualcomm Technologies and Razer will lead the way with new and innovative solutions that push the boundaries of fidelity and quality available in portable gaming, transforming the way these games are experienced.”
Qualcomm’s announcement sparks more questions beyond that though. One is whether we’ll see other gaming companies – or Android phone manufacturers – joining the push to make dedicated Snapdragon gaming hardware.
Perhaps more outlandish, there’s the fact that Nintendo will be looking for the hardware to power its successor to the Switch. Qualcomm would be a left-field partner for the Japanese company, but the prospect of a 5G-enabled Switch 2 is an appealing one – and even if the G3x Gen 1 proves under-powered compared to PlayStation and Xbox hardware, that’s never stopped Nintendo before.
The next Switch feels like an appealing route for the Snapdragon G3x to take in part because there’s a proven market here – whereas dedicated hardware designed for Android gaming may prove a tough sell. Plenty of gaming phones already exist, and even most regular smartphones are capable of comfortably playing Fortnite and CoD: Mobile – will gamers feel the need to buy a whole new piece of hardware just to play mobile games?
If the G3x feels like a gamble, Qualcomm has at least played it safer elsewhere. The last two days have also seen the company announce the latest generation of its premium phone chipsets, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, along with new connected laptop chips in the 8cx Gen 3 and 7cx+ Gen 3.