I’ve grown up playing games on the go. I remember unwrapping the original Gameboy decades ago and being amazed by the Sega Game Gear. Portable computing power has come leaps and bounds since then and we’ve seen companies like AYA NEO, One-Netbook, GPD and more push windows gaming handhelds over the past few years. Valve made waves with the Steam Deck, bringing substantial Linux (via Proton) gaming performance at an affordable price.
Reserving the most popular 512GB of the Steam Deck a little late meant that mine would not be coming for many more months. I wanted to look at other potential devices. The AYA NEO Next, a device featuring Hall-Sense sticks (goodbye stick drift) in a neat formfactor seemed great. But when it comes to gaming performance, RDNA 2 would be essential if I wanted a device that would be on-par or best the Steam Deck. AMD’s 6800U chip was the answer many were waiting for, featuring a Radeon 680M iGPU for performance and efficiency fit for the handheld market.
GPD announced the Win Max2 to feature an AMD 6800U, narrow bezel screen, redesigned keyboard and hall-sense sticks/triggers and massive IO capability. Other competitors launched a slew of SKUs to attract market share, with prices and features stacking through constant announcements through the year. I decided to give the ‘Max’ formfactor a chance as way to take both gaming and productivity everywhere. The GPD Win Max 2 was positioned to be one of the first 6800U Handhelds to release in China, at a moderate price of around $900 USD 1TB or storage and massive 32GB RAM, I put in my order as early as possible. I intended to swap out the stock SSD with my own, lower drive capacities were not a choice for the 32GB SKUs.
Win Max 2 (AMD) Key Specs:
- CPU: AMD R7-6800U
- GPU: AMD Radeon 680M /
- DDR: 16GB / 32GB, LPDDR5-6400 MT/s / LPDDR5 5200 MT/s
- Storage: 1TB / 2TB M.2 NVMe SSD
- Wireless Network: Wi-Fi 6
- Bluetooth: 5.2
- Thunderbolt 4 (USB4): 1 x 40Gbps
- USB Type-C: 1 x 3.2 Gen2
- USB Type-A: 3 x 3.2 Gen2
- microSD Slot: 1 x UHS-Ⅰ A2, U3, V30
- SD Slot: 1 x UHS-Ⅱ V90
- HDMI: 1 x 2.1
- Battery: 67Wh
GPD Win Max 2 Price on Indiegogo
At the time of writing this, both domestic and international crowdfunding has ended, in-demand units are available on GPD’s Indiegogo page:
WIN Max 2(6800U+1TB+16GB) – $1049 USD
WIN Max 2(6800U+1TB+32GB) – $1249 USD
WIN Max 2(6800U+2TB+32GB) – $1348 USD
Active Stylus Pen – $35 USD
4G LTE module is currently unavailable on Indiegogo but this can be purchased from GPD directly for $89.
Unboxing GPD Win Max 2
Fast forward a few months and the device was paid for and delivered within a couple of weeks. It’s time to unbox the GPD Win Max 2.
Packaging this time round is white with gold lettering. Things are kept relatively simple inside, you get:
- GPD Win Max 2 Device
- 100W charger and cable
- Glass screen protector
- User manual/warranty card
- 2x Magnetic gamepad covers
The GPD Win Max 2 weighs in at 1.005KG, a deal heavier than the Steam Deck’s 670g. Holding the device, it feels sturdy with a magnesium alloy chassis and plastic bottom to avoid heat when holding. The gunmetal case looks and feels premium and the easy access to install an additional 2230 NVMe drive is highly appreciated.
Opening the device up reveals a 10.1-inch screen with narrow bezels, giving generous screen real estate at 1600p resolution. The panel is native landscape and can be switched between 60hz and 40hz mode within Windows 11. The display reaches a decent level of brightness (maximum 400-nits) and the sRGB screen is better than I expected. 1600p on such a small display makes text a little small for me but 150% scaling easily fixes this. Touch works as expected but I’ve not tried writing or drawing on it, there are more suitable devices for that.
Is the GPD Win Max 2 really a handheld? I had my reservations before ordering, it gave off super-sized Nintendo DS vibes. But having spent some time on it, the weight balance is wonderful and the ability to adjust the screen makes it clear why some people love the clamshell form-factor.
The 100W charger it comes with is hefty, charging cable included. Will be replacing them with something lighter and less power. Temperatures can get higher when gaming and charging at the same time.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Gamepad
Using this as both a gaming and productivity machine hinges on not only performance but usability and ergonomics. Aside from the specs, I feel that one of the assets of the Win Max 2 is its keyboard. Having owned a couple of laptops with sub-par keyboards, the Win Max 2 needed to perform in this area for me to justify its place as a handheld all-rounder. GPD community member Faust provided a redesigned keyboard layout which works extremely well. I had little trouble transitioning from my 75% keyboard (Keychron K2). Inputs are consistent and the back-light has 2 adjustable brightness levels. Currently Fn+numpad keys register as top-row numbers, hopefully an update will remedy this in the future.
Built-in game-pad controllers are make or break in handhelds, fortunately GPD have used quality components in the Max 2. The hall-sense sticks while on the smaller side, are similar to Nintendo’s Joy-Cons and feel just right. They won’t suffer from stick drift though because of the magnet tech.
The buttons (ABXY) feel clicky and responsive, I wish they were slightly bigger, I’ve had trouble hitting EX-moves in Street Fighter and other fighting games. The Start, Select and Menu Buttons at a slight angle, not sure why.
My unit initially struggled to reach full range of motion when testing at https://gamepad-tester.com/ but GPD have released multiple firmware updates since launch to calibrate and achieve better stick control. Gyro aim is also functional, I tested this in CEMU (Wii-U Emulator) with good results. Not sure how well this will work on longer sessions in FPS game yet.
The analog triggers (L2 and R2) also feature magnetic hall sensors, resistance in the triggers feel much less than Sony’s DualSense and Microsoft’s Xbox controllers but they are sensitive. I’ll have to test some racing games soon.
The D-pad is PS Vita style and works incredibly well in fighting games. There’s a switch to toggle the game-pad from XInput to mouse input mode, a highly useful feature when browsing. Two extra buttons are on the back of the device, all buttons can be mapped using GPD’s configuration software.
Gaming and Performance
I won’t be diving heavily into performance in this overview but I played through some God of War, Forza 5 and a handful of emulators including Xbox 360/PS3. Temperatures generally sat around 70 degrees Celsius when running more demanding games around 28W TDP. I generally used FSR or RSR where possible for better performance and fidelity. Some 2D games are able to run at 1600p 60fps using moderate TDP. More gaming and performance tests to come.
Win Max 2 – Good and Bad
Things I like
- Premium device packed with power and IO capability.
- Big screen and resolution for gaming and productivity.
- Hallsense sticks and triggers (analog).
- PS Vita style D-pad, very responsive and great for fighting games.
- Optimal keyboard design provides a great typing experience.
- Easy to open for maintenance.
- Company allows opening of device without voiding warranty.
Things I Don’t like
- Touch pad heat when under load feels uncomfortable.
- Some quality control issues.
- Web cam acts more as a ‘nose cam’, lacks LED indicator.
- Magnetic covers can be placed into storage slots the wrong way, a little tricky to get back out.
- Lack of versioning on driver/firmware downloads from official site, some housekeeping would help.
GPD Win Max 2 – Latest and Greatest
The GPD Win Max 2 has improved on its predecessors in many ways, building on customer feedback. As someone who wanted a gaming device on par with the steam deck with some extra productivity, the Win Max 2 ticks many boxes. This device isn’t for everyone, candy bar devices still feel much more comfortable to game on. But the Win Max 2 presents a value proposition to those who want a portable device for everything, and weighs in with respectable quality.
Crowdfunding generally carries risk. Aside from possible delayed delivery dates, being an early adopter means a higher probability of issues. My unit came with a dead pixel and white spot visible in lower brightness. There was also another major issue which resulted in me sending the device back with a replacement unit arriving in just days. I’ll get into this in my next post. Overall, I am very happy with my device and I’ll be putting it through its paces for both gaming and productivity over the next few weeks as my daily driver.
What do you think of the Win Max 2? Is it a worthy alternative for those who can’t get a Steam Deck or want a little more utility? Let me know in the comments!
Check Out my GPD Win Max 2 Video: