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Snapdragon G3x Gen 1: Qualcomm unveils first gaming chip and new Razer handheld

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips already power many of the best gaming phones. But the chip maker believes it has more to offer gamers, in the form of a dedicated platform of chipsets built for handheld gaming devices.

That's the idea behind the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, a new system-on-chip unveiled by Qualcomm today (Dec. 1). Qualcomm sees the G3x as a chip that's built to power the next-generation of gaming devices.

To that end, Qualcomm is showing off more than just a new chipset. It's also teamed up with Razer to whip up a handheld gaming device of its own powered by the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1. 

Sadly, the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Gaming Developer Kit won't be released to the general public. Instead, it's aimed squarely at game makers so that they can create apps specifically for the kinds of devices that Qualcomm sees as the future of gaming.

However, one report says that Microsoft has been dabbling with a possible Xbox handheld, and the Snapdragon G3x has been mentioned as a chip that could power it. 

Qualcomm executives bill the Snapdragon G3x platform as a natural extension of what the chip maker already does with smartphones, PCs, cars, wearables and mixed reality devices. In those cases, Qualcomm identified a need and developed chipsets built around performance and connectivity, and it plans to do the same with gaming.

Here's more detail on the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1, and the handheld device it's going to power.

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 specs and features

The Snapdragon G3x will feature Qualcomm's Adreno GPU, which is also featured in its mobile phone chipsets. In the case of the G3x, the Adreno GPU will be able to support games running at 144 frames per second with 10-bit HDR. The chipset will integrate both a cooling systems and gaming controller support.

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Because this is a Qualcomm chip, connectivity is a particular highlight with the Snapdragon G3x supporting both sub-6Hz and mmWave-based 5G connectivity. There's support for Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, too, via Qualcomm's FastConnect 6900 Mobile Connectivity feature. The bottom line is to expect fast connectivity speeds with minimal latency for online gaming.

On the audio front, Snapdragon Sound features should provide an immersive experience, while the chipset will include video out for connecting to a 4K display. The Snapdragon G3x will also allow for tethering with mixed reality headsets, so the chipset will be able to drive multi-screen experiences.

The Snapdragon G3x will also support Snapdragon Elite Gaming features, which have been rolled out into Qualcomm silicon in recent years as part of the chip maker's effort to bring desktop-style gaming to mobile devices. 

Past Snapdragon Elite Gaming additions have included desktop forward rendering for improved lighting and updatable GPU drivers. With this year's Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 release, Qualcomm is adding an Adreno Motion Engine that boosts frame rates without drawing more power and volumetric rendering for displaying effects like fog and smoke more accurately in games. You'd imagine the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 to support similar capabilities.

Snapdragon G3x Handheld Gaming Developer Kit: Qualcomm's handheld device

You'll find the Snapdragon G3x silicon powering the Handheld Gaming Developer that Qualcomm and Razer have produced. The handheld device looks vaguely like an elongated Game Gear. The fact that there's a 6.65-inch OLED panel surrounded on either side by controllers also makes the handheld device look like a Nintendo Switch mashed in between an Xbox Duke Controller.

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm didn't build its handheld gaming device to make a splash in the gaming field. Instead, the idea is that game makers will use the developer kit to get a sense of what the Snapdragon G3x is capable of and retool their games accordingly to be optimized for future devices that are sure to run on Qualcomm's newly unveiled silicon.

In addition to that 120Hz display, the Handheld Gaming Developer Kit includes a 5MP webcam with two mics capable of capturing 1080p video — all the better for live-streaming gaming sessions. There's a USB-C port to plug in accessories like headsets as well as a DisplayPort over USB for connecting to external monitors. You also get 4-way speakers as well as the ability to pair the device with wireless earbuds. A 6,000 mAh battery keeps the device powered up.

Qualcomm sees its prototype device as a place to play all your games, whether they're on the cloud, stored on your PC or part of a gaming console. We'll see if game makers agree and are inspired by the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Gaming Developer Kit to optimize their games for that kind of handheld device.

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.