I really wanted to love the Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld.
The business of game streaming is fraught, but the convenience, paired with a great service like Xbox Game Pass and a strong internet connection, is very compelling. It’s by no means my ideal replacement for actually owning games, but a pretty fantastic companion nonetheless.
So, when a company that generally makes great hardware accessories like Logitech decided it could make a handheld device dedicated to game streaming, I had to be at least a little bit curious.
But having used the (shockingly expensive) $350 G Cloud Gaming Handheld, I have to say, I probably should have kept my curiosity to myself. And the most tragic thing is, it’s not entirely Logitech’s fault. Despite the dramatic improvements to game streaming since the days of OnLive, the technology is not ready for mainstream use. The state of American broadband is not ready for it either. Using traditional Android games as a backup when your internet is down isn’t as simple a solution as you might think.
But it’s not all bad news. Here’s what works about the Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld, and the things Logitech should fix if it ever gets around to a sequel.
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Design that’s better than the Switch
If you’re making a handheld in 2022, there’s a good chance you consider making one with the same form factor as the Nintendo Switch. It’s clear the thought crossed Logitech’s mind. The G Cloud Gaming Handheld has a 7-inch touchscreen sandwiched between joysticks, a D-pad, and X/Y/B/A buttons in the same arrangement as you’d find on an Xbox controller. There are L and R shoulder buttons above matching triggers too, with the only really “new” buttons being a yellow “G” button on the left side and a home button on the right.
Along the top of G Cloud, there’s a volume button and power switch on the left and the microSD card slot on the right. The bottom of the device is devoted to tinny speakers on the left and right, and a headphone jack and USB-C port in the very center. For a more detailed look at the Logitech G Cloud’s components, here are the specs:
Logitech G Cloud Tech Specs
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G Octo-core CPU
- Display: 1,920 x 1,080, 16:9, 7-inch LCD touchscreen
- Audio: Stereo speakers, dual microphones, 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
- Battery life: 23.1Wh, 6,00mAh
- Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 5.1
- Storage: 64GB, microSD card expansion slot
- OS: Android 11
Holding the G Cloud is far more comfortable than the Switch, thanks to the ergonomic design Logitech used along the backs and sides of the device. The G Cloud is rounder where it matters, particularly the curved back bumps your fingers wrap around when you’re holding it. The handheld just feels more solid as a whole (having controllers that are attached to the device helps) without feeling heavy. Seriously, Nintendo should consider copying it.
The only thing holding back the G Cloud from a hardware perspective is audio. The speakers just aren’t very good. The handheld never feels like it gets loud enough, and there’s not a lot of dynamic range in what you do hear. Sound just comes out flat. The speakers serve in a pinch, and obviously, if you’ve got headphones this is a non-issue, but when you consider the price of the G Cloud, it’s a disappointing showing in my book.
Competent game streaming
But we’re really here for game streaming, right? An alternative to just slapping your phone into a Backbone controller and calling it a day? Well, the G Cloud Gaming Handheld, in many cases, worked far better than I ever expected, but you need to have a strong internet connection.
The device ships with apps like Xbox Cloud Gaming, Xbox, GeForce Now, Steam Link, and Moonlight pre-installed. I don’t own a gaming PC, so services that focused exclusively on streaming games from a desktop computer were out of the picture for me, but everything else performed well. I was able to convincingly recreate the experience of playing a console at home a majority of the time.
Xbox Cloud Gaming was the most flexible and accessible of the bunch. If you’re paying for a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you have access to a wide library of games that are just a log-in away. I had no issue using the G Cloud’s controllers in anything I loaded up, be it Scorn or Fortnite, and on the whole, I was surprised how willing Microsoft was to just try and stream a game, even if my connection was poor.
GeForce Now was a different story. Its setup is different; you’re streaming games you’ve bought from one of GeForce’s decked-out PCs, so you’ll have to log in to your Steam account to actually prove you own them. It was also far pickier about what internet connections it would stream over. If you paid for the tier of GeForce now that lets you stream in 4K, you need at least 40 Mbps speeds. All that being said, when I was able to satisfy GeForce Now’s demands, games like Jedi: Fallen Order looked better than anything I saw playing on a console.
Besides finicky internet, the only other issue is trying to stream PlayStation games. The PS Now app doesn’t recognize the G Cloud’s built-in controllers, which means you’re either connecting a Bluetooth controller or using touch controls. Truly not ideal, and also something I don’t suspect Sony will fix anytime soon. This is not an official Xbox device, but in some ways, it really is.
You don’t want a $350 Android tablet
So, if the hardware’s solid, and game streaming works more times than not, what about when there’s no internet at all? Well, you’re going to have issues. The G Cloud Gaming Handheld runs Android 11 and has access to the Play Store, so the world should technically be your oyster in terms of games, but the reality is trickier.
The Snapdragon 720G chip has supported plenty of mid-range Android phones, but it’s not exactly a gaming powerhouse. Graphically intense games like Diablo Immortal will stutter on higher settings, and look terrible on lower ones. Controller support is another issue. Even if you get those more demanding mobile games running, they might not recognize the G Cloud’s dedicated controllers, even if they technically support them.
I never figured out how to get Genshin Impact, a game that works fine with the Backbone, to recognize the built-in buttons and joysticks of Logitech’s device. Add the larger issue of curation on the Play Store — there isn’t a super easy way of seeing which games support controllers — and things get frustrating fast.
Logitech’s skin on top of Android 11 is simple, with a scrolling, Switch-like app launcher, a spot for the apps you want to pin and use frequently along the bottom, and menus you can navigate with a controller along the top. It’s not too hard to find yourself dumped into normal Android if you go digging through settings, and when you first set up the G Cloud you can actually forgo Logitech’s launcher entirely if you prefer vanilla Android. It’s not a terrible experience on the whole, but when you run into apps clearly meant to run on a phone or tablet, reaching around the controllers can get pretty awkward.
Should you buy it?
Logitech’s G Cloud Gaming Handheld promises a lot for $350: the ability to take PC and console games on the go, play Android games with nice controllers, and bundle both in a great hardware package. It technically is capable of all of them, but only does all three well if you can meet a lot of requirements first.
You can buy a very good (albeit visibly aging) Nintendo Switch for $349, or pay a little bit more and get a Steam Deck for $399. Both can play high-quality games without an internet connection. With the uncertainty and extra cost of the G Cloud, why wouldn’t you buy a Switch or Steam Deck first?
Logitech is gambling on the future, and it’s made a nice first draft of what a cloud gaming handheld should be. But, until fast internet access is the norm or the cost of the device comes down, the Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld is the most niche of niche products; an early adopter device in the purest sense and one that after trying, I’m at least open to becoming mainstream.