What is Gaming UMPC, How far has it come?

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UMPC stands for ‘Ultra Mobile Personal Computer’. Most IT devices are in the process of miniaturization at one time, and sometimes they are caught as a trend. One of the last steps in this process is miniaturization. Of course, devices that started with miniaturization from the beginning go in the opposite direction, but most IT devices have improved performance and the trend of miniaturization does not go away as the generations pass. So, there are often representative statements. “Something in my hand”

UMPC is literally a ‘PC in my hand’. In the portable PC market represented by laptops, portable PCs have appeared steadily, and in the meantime, miniaturized models have been developed and consumed in their own way. But strictly speaking, UMPC was not a major market. Although there is a clear fan base and demand base, it is not a ‘major level’.

To make matters worse, UMPC’s competitors are very numerous. Representatively, ‘tablet’ can be said to be a competitor, and in the past, it competed with low-priced laptops called ‘netbooks’. In the case of the gaming UMPCs that I would like to introduce today, they were in a position to compete with portable consoles, and in reality their performance was delayed, and even smartphones eventually became competitors. As a result, it is not a major market, but a market with strong competitors and substitutes.

Due to these limitations, UMPC attracted attention for a short time, and although it felt like a symbol of ‘high-tech’, the market did not grow. This is in contrast to the fact that portable console devices took up a significant share of the market. For decades, the UMPC market hasn’t received much attention, and it’s just been someone’s dream and an expensive toy. And it’s me who has that romance.

However, in recent years, the UMPC market has been lit up again. It is surprising that ‘gaming’ UMPCs are starting to get attention. To be honest, I never dreamed that this market would be illuminated again.

Gaming UMPC, a revived option?

UMPC
▲ It is speculated that the great success of the Nintendo Switch also had some effect on the UMPC market.

As a handheld game console called the Nintendo Switch became a worldwide hit, interest in UMPCs gradually increased, and gaming UMPCs with their own achievements began to appear. And the explosive response of ‘Steam Deck’ distributed directly by Steem also means that the demand base in this market has increased. There are several reasons why the gaming UMPC, andHeld PC market is attracting attention.

First of all, as technology advances, the graphics performance that the CPU can handle on its own has greatly improved, and miniaturized laptop/mobile processors have appeared. At the same time, storage devices have also changed, and as smartphones are equipped with tens of GB of RAM, technology for miniaturization has gradually developed. In addition, the display panel gradually improved the picture quality.

In other words, do you think that the environment that could only be seen on high-end PCs in the past has become the basis for cramming into very small devices? Well, the performance of high-end PCs and consoles has increased overwhelmingly compared to the past. Here, with the development of smartphone and tablet technology, it is correct to say that the specifications of devices that can be miniaturized with the specification of overall devices have also risen. These raised specs have risen to the tolerance level that can handle games to some extent.

In this context, ironically, the period during which the demand for GPUs exploded due to a number of factors and prices skyrocketed cannot be ignored. So, rather than buying prefabricated PCs, people looked back at branded PCs, and there was an explosion of interest in gaming laptops as well. In this situation, it can be seen that the gaming UMPC has attracted attention as it has become an option worth considering on its own. In a complex situation where trend changes, technological advances, and market conditions all overlap, gaming UMPCs have become an option to look back on, “Oh?”

GTA in UMPC

However, gaming UMPCs are also devices with clear advantages and disadvantages. First of all, of course, as it is a UMPC, it is a small and light PC, so it is very easy to carry. The advantage is that you can play the game anytime, anywhere, as it can be played while holding it in your hand.

This portability advantage is an advantage that a smartphone or tablet can have enough. Here, there is one more advantage of gaming UMPCs that differentiate them from smartphones/tablets. It’s just the presence of control buttons. In touch screen-based devices, when using a virtual pad, of course, the operation UI is covered by the finger, but the design of gaming UMPCs does not have this part. The feedback of button and stick operation is also more reliable than the virtual pad. It’s a little bit more flavorful.

And most UMPCs are based on Windows OS. There is no big problem in actually enjoying games that can be enjoyed on a PC, and it also has the advantage of being able to play the role of a laptop-laptop- in its own way, as it can be expanded and used like a real PC depending on the device.

UMPC with PC
▲ No matter how good it is, it is an unavoidable limitation that the experience is lower than that of a PC or console.

The downsides are also clear. First of all, it is not free from the problem of overheating, which is considered an eternal homework in all small devices. In particular, when running high-end games, performance adjustment due to device temperature rise and CPU throttling is absolutely unavoidable. It is important to do

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In addition, the performance of the device itself is highly dependent on the CPU, and it is not an OS of its own in this regard, and there is no specialized optimization option related to it. One of the reasons why the Steam deck is highly rated is that it has optimized itself to create an environment where the game can be enjoyed comfortably. However, there is a limit to even optimizing the Steam deck, so there is a clear gaming environment where it is difficult to enjoy the latest games that require high specs at 60 frames while defending them smoothly.

The last thing to consider is the price. Basically, gaming UMPCs, especially those based on Windows OS, are priced comparable to existing console devices or ultrabooks. In order to overcome some of these shortcomings, various forms have emerged.

In the end, a small device is something that needs to be compromised, so it gets bigger or heavier, and sometimes it doesn’t give satisfactory performance. It feels similar to a laptop, but the restrictions are a bit more severe. Another eternal task here, the performance of the battery is also sensitive. Because there are so many things to consider, it is sometimes called an ‘expensive toy’ in a funny way.

Series of Gaming UMPC

Of course, as the pros and cons are clear, it is a new gaming environment that you can use satisfactorily if it suits you. As mentioned earlier, there are gaming UMPCs that are consistently releasing series with good results, so I think it has become a choice for gamers to think about. So, I would like to introduce some of the gaming UMPCs that have been released or are about to be released this time.

※ There may be some changes in specifications after funding/launch.

GPD series

GPD WIN 3
GPD WIN 3

Product Main Specifications (GPD WIN 3)
Screen: 5.5 inches, touch panel, 1280 × 720
CPU: Intel Gen11 Tiger Lake U i7-1165G7 / i5-1135G7 / i7-1195G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB LPDDR4x 4266
Storage : 1 TB M.2 SSD Pcie Gen3
Battery: 45.62Wh, 11.55V, 3950mAh × 3
Dimensions: 198 × 92 × 27mm
Weight: 550g

GPD (Game Pad Digital) is arguably the most well-known in this field. Manufactured in Hong Kong and China, it is also a company that has consistently produced UMPC before the rise of the UMPC market in earnest. Although it is not a product that has received an official radio wave certification in Korea, there are quite a few gamers who use it in their own country. In addition to UMPCs for gaming, GPD typically makes ultra-compact laptops. The installed OS is also Windows and Android OS.

For general gaming models, the GPD Win series is selected. The most recent model is GPD WIN 3 equipped with Windows OS. If the previous models can be classified as ultra-small gaming laptops with additional controls on the laptop, the GPD WIN3 has the form of a portable game console similar to the 2006 Sony VAIO UX model. Swipe up on the screen to reveal the keyboard, and to the left and right of the device sit analog sticks and buttons and have dual vibration motors.

The feature is that it is a model that pays a lot of attention to cooling. In a gaming stress test, the vents get hot at close to 40 degrees under load, but it’s not usually an area you’re forced to touch. The Time Spy benchmark score is about 1760 points (based on the i7 model), and you can easily find records showing an average of about 40 frames in the Forza Horizon 4 built-in benchmark. ‘Sekiro’ can play quite smoothly if you adjust the amount of power, but it is difficult to maintain full 60 frames.

30 fps, which can be said to be the limit of portable devices, seems to be adequately digested in most games. Instead, it’s a hefty price tag of close to $1,100. In addition, there is the GPD XP series equipped with Android or the newly improved notebook type game console GPD WIN MAX 2021.

AYANEO series

 AYANEO NEXT
AYANEO NEXT

Product Specifications (AYANEO NEXT)
Screen: 7.0-inch IPS LCD, 1280 x 800
CPU: AMD Ryzen7 5825U
GPU: Radeon Vega 8 2000MHz
RAM: 16GB/32GB LPDDR4x 4266
Storage: 1TB/2TB M.2 SSD Pcie Gen3
Battery: 47Wh , 4100mAh x 3
Dimensions: 267 x 112 x 30mm
Weight: 700g

The AYANEO series is a fairly well-known Windows OS based gaming UMPC along with GPD. Including the current AYANEO, AYANEO 2021 PRO models were released last year, and now AYANEO NEXT has been released, and a light light model called AYANEO AIR has recently been announced. AYANEO doesn’t support its own keyboard, and the CPU is AMD, not Intel.

The latest model, AYANEO NEXT, is unique in that it provides a large screen for a portable game console with a screen of 7 inches. As the screen is large, the size of the device is rather large than expected. This is the size of a switch OLED model. According to the official website introduction, Eldenring defends an average of 43 frames, Cyberpunk 2077 is 35 frames, and Genshin is 60 frames.

Ayaneo, the developer, improved the built-in joystick in this next model and equipped it with a hall effect sensor joystick/trigger to introduce that it is even ahead of the mainstream stick, but it seems that users have to decide. Also, due to its large size, it is also worth paying attention to the fact that it weighs close to 720g. The price is not too high for GPD WIN3. Early Bird pricing is $1,285 for the regular model and $1,485 for the pro model.

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In addition, there is a cheaper form of the AYANEO AIR, but this is a Ryzen 5560U/5825U CPU, with a 5.5-inch FHD resolution and storage capacity of 256GB max. Instead, the price was adopted at $549-629, and as the name of the AIR, it is expected to be released in a lightweight, 400g or less model. If you keep an eye on the recently announced new model release, it seems that more decent cost-effective/high-spec models can come out.

Steam Deck

steam deck
steam deck

Product Key Specifications (Steam Deck)
Screen: 7.0-inch IPS LCD, 1280 x 800
CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448GFlops FP32)
GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6TFlops FP32) )
RAM: 16GB LPDDR5 onboard RAM (5500MT/s quad 32-bit channels)
Storage: 64GB (eMMC PCIe Gen2) to 512GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4)
Battery: 40Wh (about 2-8 hours of gameplay)
Size: 298mm x 117mm x 49mm
Weight: 669g
OS: SteamOS 3.0

It’s a steam game machine, a steam deck that needs no words. It is a gaming UMPC that can be said to be the main character that properly ignited the gaming UMPC market as it is now. It offers an aspect ratio of 1280×800 on a huge 7-inch screen, the CPU is Zen 2 4c/8t, and the GPU is also adopted 8 RDNA 2 CUs. In fact, there’s a reason it’s not even that important.

Steam decks use their own ‘OS’. It’s an Arch-based console running SteamOS 3.0. Unlike other Windows gaming, it has its own OS, which is a big strength and characteristic. Of course, since it uses its own OS, the functions of general PC use may be somewhat lower, but if gaming is the purpose, it is not a big problem. It supports capacities from 64GB up to 512 and includes a microSD card slot on all models.

In fact, on Steam decks, specs can only be ‘understood’. Because you can run it by ‘optimizing the game’ on Steam by itself. If you do this self-optimization and provide full functionality, you will be marked as ‘fully compatible’. Of course, there are cases where frame or options are compromised depending on device performance, but it is meaningful that the developer directly optimizes it.

Of course, it is difficult to use games that are not officially released on Steam, but most PC games are not a big problem as there are not a few users who play through Steam. Of course, if you’re an XBOX Game Pass user, it’s an option you can’t help but hesitate.

In addition, it is difficult to ignore the fact that it is a considerable size, and there are some differences in the operation arrangement, etc. The biggest obstacle is that it is very difficult to obtain because it is not available in the domestic market, but it is also the most attractive option for future sub gaming UMPCs. There are also pretty reasonable options, with prices ranging from $399 to $649.

AYN LOKI series

AYN LOKI
AYN LOKI

Released product specifications as of 5.31
CPU: AMD Ryzen7 5825U
GPU: Radeon Vega 8 2000MHz

This is ‘LOKI’, which was recently released by AYN. AYN has been developing Android-based handheld console machines before, and this time, it introduced a Windows-based gaming UMPC. Rumors have been rife from before, but attention has been focused on whether this LOKI is a console that can compete with the Steam deck.

LOKI was divided into three models divided into portability/normal/high-spec. The mini model is equipped with an Elder Lake U Intel processor, while the regular model is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 6600U/Radeon 660M. This is expected to be a CPU that can come out higher than the benchmark performance of the Steam deck. Here, the top spec model, the MAX, is equipped with an AMD Ryzen 7 6800U/Radeon 680M.

The unfortunate thing is that it is difficult to check the specifications beyond this. The screen resolution is very similar in appearance to Odin, the Android OS that was funded, so you can expect 6 inches, but detailed specifications seem to require additional funding. However, the price point is similar to the Steam deck, which is currently receiving the most attention and is preferred, so it seems to be the key in which point it has merit.

ONEXPLAYER

ONEXPLAYER
ONEXPLAYER

Product Specifications (ONEXPLAYER / i7-1195G7 )
Screen: 8.4-inch IPS LCD, 2560 x 1600
CPU: Intel Tiger Lake i7-1195G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Dual Channel 16GB LPDDR4X 4266MHz
Storage: 1TB M.2 2280 PCIe SSD
Battery: 58.9Wh, 15300mAh 3.85V
Dimensions: 288mm x 130mm x 21mm
Weight: 819g

ONE Netbook is probably the company that those who are interested in the general UMPC market, not gaming, have been watching along with GPD. It’s also the company that made OneMix, which is comparable to the GPD Pocket series. Here, too, we have been making our own gaming UMPC. A representative model is Windows OS-based One-GX, and recently released a model called ONEXPLAYER.

ONEXPLAYER has more options than you think. You can choose from several options with CPU/screen sizes ranging from 7-inch display to 8.4-inch, and the highest specification Intel CPU model is equipped with an 11th generation i7-1195G7 high-end mobile processor. This is the same level as GPD Win3. The previous generation One-GX had a structure in which a joystick was inserted like a switch joycon in the form of a general laptop, but ONEXPLAYER takes the form of a portable game console and sells a separate dedicated magnetic keyboard.

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Above all, the 8.4-inch display is overwhelming and the battery capacity is larger than expected. The resolution is also up to 2560×1600 and it has a vibration motor. The performance itself is comparable to that of GPD Win3, but as the size increases, the weight is not too great. It can be seen as a model with a large screen instead of throwing away some portability.

The 7-inch model uses AMD Ryzen CPU while increasing portability, and has a resolution of 1280×800, and there are also models with slightly lower performance by emphasizing portability compared to Intel and 8.4-inch models overall. In this case, the performance is similar to that of the AYANEO NEXT, and the options are different instead of occupying a weight of about 619g. In the case of the 8.4-inch model, the price of about $1,419 ($1,200 at discount) based on the Intel i7-1195G7 is also a factor that deepens thought.

An attractive option, but careful consideration that cannot be overemphasized no matter how many times

UMPC gaming
UMPC gaming

In fact, UMPC’s fan base may have been puzzled by the high interest it has seen since the end of last year. There are not many fan bases who never dreamed that this market would be revived and illuminated again. It’s a big part that hasn’t been activated for a long time, and it’s especially unfortunate that major game companies or laptop manufacturers aren’t active in this market. However, it is true that it is a really attractive platform, but on the contrary, it is also a market that is risky due to this situation.

UMPCs are quite famous models, and most of them have been through cloud funding projects. Typically, GPD and AYA series were also released through funding, and manufacturers exist in China or Hong Kong. And a lot of UMPCs came out of Indigogo. In fact, there are not a few countries that receive and distribute radio waves.

However, there are times when new devices are introduced through funding and there is an opportunity to purchase them first. So, many purchases are made through cloud funding or overseas direct purchase.

UMPC game play

In any case, UMPC is valuable as a sub-use device, but the satisfaction is inevitably lower when used as a main device. Rather, it should be noted that, depending on the use, a high-end tablet PC or a portable console such as the Nintendo Switch may provide more user satisfaction. As the price is not too high, the ‘purpose’ you want is really important.

In particular, I would like to emphasize once again that UMPCs need to be careful and deliberate before purchasing. No matter how many times I emphasize it, it won’t go too far. Please do not forget that you should be careful about the risks associated with direct purchase and overseas funding such as Indiegogo funding. Unfortunately, most UMPCs have many models that do not have domestic radio certification, and it is very rare for them to be officially released or officially distributed in Korea.

In the end, we tend to think about funding for a new model or direct purchase overseas, but here too, there are no small risks. In Indigogo, the controversy over the funding amount ‘eat up’ continues, and there are a lot of products with disastrous perfection and finish. Personally, I have experienced being robbed of hundreds of thousands of won, so I am very hesitant to purchase. It is difficult to respond appropriately in Korea. Delivery takes a lot of time after funding, so I think it’s not too late to purchase when you are convinced that “the only thing to worry about anymore is to delay delivery”.

After the announcement of the Steam deck, price competition is expected to intensify in the gaming UMPC market. Competing against such reasonably priced Steam decks, it should be able to answer the question whether other gaming UMPCs are worth a few hundred dollars more. In the case of LOKI, it will be a gaming UMPC that has given some answers to this, but it seems to be a little more to see how other manufacturers will respond. In many ways, there’s no denying that the Steam deck is an amazing portable gaming console that made a huge impact.

Personally, I’m hoping that a new wind blows in the gaming UMPC and portable console devices market that has been re-emerged in this way, creating another good competitive landscape. With the spread of Steam decks, I am looking forward to how UMPCs that will fight against them emerge, and how these gaming UMPCs will affect the portable console market including Nintendo Switch.

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