gpd win max review

Jaime Carrillo/The Daily Dot

GPD Win Max Review: A Portable Gaming Powerhouse

What if a gaming PC and Nintendo Switch had a baby?

 

Jaime Carrillo

Dot Recs

Published Jan 14, 2021   Updated Sep 24, 2021, 10:05 am CDT

Living in a post-Switch era has ruined me. Nintendo’s latest console isn’t groundbreaking in the graphics department when compared to the competition. But being able to pick up and play makes it the go-to console for quick fixes and marathon sessions alike. But what if you blended the power of a modern gaming PC with the portability of a Nintendo Switch? Learn everything and more in this GPD Win Max review.

What is the GPD Win Max?

GPD Win Max is one of the latest consoles made by Hong Kong manufacturer GamePad Digital. It has quite a few powerful consoles under its belt including the GPD Win, GPD Win 2. After an incredibly successful crowdfunding campaign last year, the GPD Win Max hit the market in Q4 2020. 

In short, it’s a powerful Windows 10 PC with a built in 16 button controller complete with D-Pad, four triggers and two clickable control sticks. While the computer is powerful enough to be a media production machine like a Macbook Pro, gaming underlines everything it does. 

GPD Win Max Specs

People are much like gaming PCs. Sure, the outside might be flashy and downright sexy, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Here are a few of the GPD Win Max technical specs.

  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Controller: X-Input, D-Pad, four face buttons, four shoulder buttons, two click-able analog sticks
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G7
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • Storage: 512 GB SSD 
  • Display: 8″ 1280×800 resolution, 16:10 10-point touch screen
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 940
  • Power: 3×5000 mAh Lithium Ion Batteries in Series, USB Power Delivery 3.0 65W charging
  • Dimensions: 8.15 x 5.71 x 1.81 inches
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz), Bluetooth 5, 2 USB 3.1 Type A ports, 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports, USB-C, HDMI, 3.5mm Headphone/Microphone
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs/860g

GPD Win Price

Because this console is sold out of Hong Kong, the price isn’t as fixed as one would expect. If you hit up a popular Chinese online retailer like AliExpress or Wish, the price will vary from $879 to $1,019. I purchased mine on the cheap from Banggood in mid November and didn’t receive it until late December. Had I known I would be waiting a near eternity for this console, I would have paid the premium on Amazon Prime and gotten my console in days, not months.

GPD Win Max Review: Is it Worth it?

I’ve owned gaming laptops in the past, but even the more affordable laptops are pretty bulky. Bulky is mostly good, considering it usually means powerful processors, fancy graphics cards, and a big shiny screen. But as stated above, many gamers, including myself, would happily toss most of those features out of the window in exchange for portability and ease of use. 

GPD Win Max Controller and Ease of Use

The GPD Win Max Feels very similar to holding a Nintendo 3DS XL (granted, the Win Max is a little more than twice as heavy). Playing for hours on end didn’t cause any cramping or discomfort. The built-in controller is so good that I never even bothered with hooking up one of my many Bluetooth enabled controllers. 

The control sticks are as smooth as their Nintendo Switch Pro and Xbox One controller counterparts. The D-Pad, face buttons, and triggers are responsive and smooth as well. My only gripe is the position of the start and select buttons, which are a little off center, not to mention pretty small and awkward to press. It’s certainly not a deal breaker though.

While there is a trackpad, a slider on the left side of the laptop turns your right control stick into a makeshift mouse cursor. Mouse clicks happen with left and right triggers. It takes some getting used to, but it’s far more intuitive than a trackpad, especially if this becomes your go-to gaming PC. 

And despite having a scaled-down keyboard, there are dedicated F keys for sound, screen, and keyboard brightness. Between the start and select buttons, there’s a dedicated menu button that allows you to control sound, gauge CPU performance, and even take a screencap and record. 

The laptop comes with 512 GB of space, but there’s a handy microSD slot on the side should you need it. 

GPD Win Max Performance

Being a dedicated Nintendo gamer, most of the games I play usually aren’t terribly demanding on my CPU. I don’t know too many platformers or Metroidvanias that require clocking out a PC. As of early January 2021, my most played game by far is Stardew Valley. However, the GPD Win Max does have the specs to run some serious hardcore triple A titles such as Fortnite, GTA V, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Apex Legends, World War Z, Devil May Cry 5 and many more. A few of those titles require you to scale down the graphics to run at the full 60 FPS. Other titles may require some finagling in the Intel bios before booting up. 

It’s a lot of work for a system that’s main selling point is being able to pick up and play at any second. However, if you’ve got an eGPU handy, the possibilities are literally endless. Plugging a laptop with the portability of the GPD Win Max to a massive eGPU sort of ruins its portability. However, I like plugging my GPD Win Max into my office workstation, where it tucks nicely under my massive 40 inch screen. Let’s see any other gaming laptop do that. 

Battery Life

Like any portable system, the question of battery life is always at the forefront. How long does the GPD Win Max run before it needs to charge again? The answer isn’t so simple. If you’re playing more demanding games it can be as little as two hours before you need to plug in again. Less demanding games allow you to play for up to seven hours before the battery runs low. 

This was never an issue for me, considering charging happens through an out of the way USB-C cord. I’m never too far away from a USB-C cord, and I even have one behind my couch to charge cell phones, tablets, and now, gaming systems. If I had to give a definitive average play time for this GPD Win Max Review before charging was necessary, I’d say it probably floats around 4-5 hours.

Emulation 

The conversation may be verboten, but it can’t be glossed over: the GPD Win Max is an emulation powerhouse. Sure, it emulates classic legacy consoles from the Atari to the PSX. But most cell phones and perhaps even some watches can pull that off these days. The GPD Win Max does all that and more.

Gamecube, PS2, Wii, and even Wii U emulation has never been smoother. Many games can even be upscaled and look crisper than they ever did on their own console. Even PS3 and Xbox 360 emulation is within reach, though higher end games would benefit from an eGPU boost. Using an emulator backend like Launchbox/Big Box turns the GPD Win Max into a retro gaming arcade. Considering its Bluetooth capabilities and the handy HDMI port, the GPD Win Max is only moments away from being the life of any party.

The Final Verdict

After nearly a month with the GPD Win Max, the early comparisons to the Nintendo Switch ring even more true. If this GPD Win Max review can relay anything it’s this: It’s a powerful little beast. Especially when you consider its size. If you’re strictly after a machine that can run all the most demanding titles, you may want to consider a stronger gaming laptop. 

The portability, however, cannot be understated. I’m not just gaming on the couch anymore. I’m taking in a few rounds of Fortnite before bed, in bed. I game in the kitchen to the glow of my countertop oven baking pizza. I played Stardew Valley in the front seat of a Honda on a New Year’s drive to the beach. I even did something I’m sure nobody else on the planet has done: played Ape Escape 3 during a relaxing bath. Even smaller laptops don’t have that kind of portability, let alone full-blown gaming PCs. No, it’s not pocket sized, but it can go just about any place a Nintendo Switch can go. 

If you’re into portable gaming and are looking for a high-end solution, The GPD Win Max isn’t just a fantastic solution, it’s a godsend. 


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*First Published: Jan 14, 2021, 2:03 pm CST