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You Already Own a Cloud Gaming Handheld

The Razer Kishi gamepad paired with a smartphone for cloud gaming.

Dedicated cloud gaming handhelds from Logitech and Razer promise to deliver a AAA console-like experience in your pocket. But instead of spending hundreds on a cloud gaming handheld, maybe you should use the one you already own—your smartphone.

Cloud Gaming Handhelds Are Basically Smartphones

The Logitech G Cloud handheld on a white background.

Your smartphone can’t play DVDs, but it can stream movies from Netflix. The same idea applies to cloud gaming—instead of loading Red Dead Redemption or The Last of Us on an expensive console or PC, you can stream it to your underpowered phone, Chromebook, or smart TV through a service like Xbox Cloud Gaming.

As cloud gaming becomes more popular, AAA titles will grow more accessible. A subscription fee is a lot cheaper than a new Xbox or PlayStation! Still, Logitech and Razer hope that you’ll buy their dedicated cloud gaming handhelds, which cost hundreds of dollars.

These cloud gaming handhelds are basically smartphones. Logitech’s G Cloud handheld runs an outdated version of Android and uses a years-old Snapdragon chipset. It can even install apps and games from the Google Play store! (Though it doesn’t support mobile networking, which is a bit odd.)

That said, the Logitech G Cloud may offer a better cloud gaming experience than a smartphone. Not only does it have an integrated controller, but it uses a custom Android launcher (basically a custom home screen) and has a 16:9 display (the same aspect ratio as a TV, so it won’t add a letterbox to console games). Oh, and Razer’s Edge 5G handheld leverages Verizon’s network for mobile cloud gaming!

Are these perks worth a few hundred dollars? For most people, the answer is probably “no.” Your phone is perfectly equipped for cloud gaming, and chances are, you already own a smartphone-compatible gamepad. Until you’ve tried cloud gaming on your phone, I don’t suggest buying a product like the Logitech G Cloud or Razer Edge 5G.

Logitech G Cloud

The Logitech G Cloud is specially designed for cloud gaming, though it also works with Android games. And unlike a smartphone, it has an integrated controller and a 16:9 display.

All You Need Is a Gamepad

The Razer Kishi gamepad on a black background.

Unless you’re really good at using a touchscreen, you need a controller for cloud gaming on your phone. Nearly any controller will work, though I suggest using one that’s popular and compatible with services like Xbox Cloud Gaming or NVIDIA GeForce NOW.

Here are some cloud gaming controllers for your smartphone:

I strongly suggest using a controller that attaches to the sides of your phone, such as the Razer Kishi or Backbone One. These devices make your smartphone feel like a Nintendo Switch, they’re incredibly portable, and they often use a wired connection to eliminate lag.

But an Xbox or PlayStation controller will also get the job done. And you can always buy a small, affordable adapter to clip your smartphone to the top of an Xbox or PlayStation gamepad.

Once you’ve tested cloud gaming on your smartphone, you may decide that a dedicated handheld isn’t worth the money. Of course, if you aren’t already using a cloud gaming service, you need to find one that’s worth trying.

Which Cloud Gaming Service Should You Use?

A gamer playing NVIDIA GeForce Now on their smartphone.
nikkimeel /

Now that Google Stadia is in the grave, there are just three major cloud gaming services to choose from. And thankfully, they’re all pretty unique. You’ll quickly know which service is right for you, especially if you’re already an Amazon Prime or Xbox Game Pass subscriber.

Here are the three big cloud gaming services:

For most people, Xbox Cloud Gaming is the way to go—it has a wide selection of games, it only charges you a dollar for your first month, and since it’s tied to Game Pass Ultimate, it unlocks a ton of free games for your Xbox or PC.

The second most popular cloud gaming service, NVIDIA GeForce NOW, is the best option for hardcore PC gamers. GeForce NOW lets you stream titles you already own in your Steam or Epic library, and it offers the highest-quality graphics of any cloud gaming platform. (Also, GeForce NOW offers a free tier!)

And, of course, Amazon Luna offers several free games to Prime subscribers. But Luna doesn’t always match the performance of Xbox Cloud Gaming or NVIDIA GeForce NOW, and its best games hide behind an extra monthly fee.

Unfortunately, cloud gaming requires a decent internet connection. Before you sign up for a cloud gaming service, try checking your internet speed—Microsoft suggests a 10Mbps download speed for cloud gaming on a smartphone, though 40Mbps or faster is ideal.