The world of portable, handheld gaming is better than ever. We have consoles like the Switch, which provides PS3 or Xbox 360 level games in a tiny form factor for play anywhere. Phones and tablets are also now powerful enough to provide amazing gaming experiences on the go.

However, there’s no real way to liberate current-generation games from the living room. Sure, you could simply buy a gaming laptop. However, that won’t help you with console exclusives and, besides, gaming laptops are pretty darn expensive compared to consoles! The good news is that there are several products out there that will allow you to easily grab your PS4, Xbox One, or other home console and take it on the road with you. Cool, right? But why would you want that?

Unpacking the Portable Use Cases

The traditional place for a home console is hooked up to a big TV in a lounge or bedroom. However, not everyone lives like that anymore, or at least they don’t all the time. Space might be constrained, which is why plenty of people now have their consoles hooked up to the same monitor their gaming PC uses. An easy fix given that most gaming monitors now have multiple inputs just like a TV.

Students who live in dorms or people who go on holiday might want to take their console without having to worry about a TV to use at their destination. There is also a whole population of gamers who go to events like the old PC-centric LAN parties, but with a console! Having a compact, portable solution sure does help make it less of a pain.

These kits allow you to set up your console anywhere you can plug into power. Unfortunately, running the console off battery power isn’t all that practical, because the console hardware wasn’t designed to have that extreme level of power efficiency. Although, it’s not impossible by any means – just wasteful.

What’s In the Box?

So what do these portable console kits consist of? While the exact list varies, the main star of these kits is the portable display. This is an LCD panel that’s designed to be attached to the console body or into some sort of case. The monitor usually has speakers built in, but of course you can get away with simply using headphones, which the major new consoles already natively support.

While you can simply buy a portable monitor, attach it to your console, and call it a day, most of these kits are held together by some sort of custom bag or case. They are specially designed for specific consoles so that the machine’s ventilation needs are still being properly looked after when running. This usually means you have to unzip or open certain panels to let the console breathe, while still having it securely strapped into the case. The cases themselves can be soft padded bags or hard cases. They’ll have room for accessories like gamepads and headphones, ensuring that everything you need is neatly kept together in one unit.

Sound good? It’s a pretty neat solution. So let’s look at some actual examples you can buy to liberate your console gaming experience.

GAEMS Vanguard Personal Gaming Environment

The Vanguard from Gaems is perhaps the most versatile portable game station I’ve seen. It’s compatible with the current console generation as well as with the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles.

It includes storage space for all your accessories and comes with a 19”, 13766×768 monitor installed in the lid of the bag. When you want to play, you simply unzip all the right bits and get on with business. When you are done it all closes up into a compact package. The bag has a shoulder strap, making it easy to port around.

There is no explicit support for the Pro variants of the two main consoles. Some users have found that it will work with the PS4 Pro, but only if you install the console sideways. If you want to take a Pro console on the go, it’s better to look elsewhere. If you have any of the compatible consoles for this kit, then it’s one of the nicest ones on the market.

GAEMS Sentinel Pro

The Sentinel Pro from Gaems is a little more expensive than the Vanguard and lacks support for older consoles. However, it does officially support every variant of the PS4 and Xbox One, including their Pro versions. For my money it’s also a much neater and attractive product.

It has a rigid shell rather than a foam exterior. The console straps to the bottom tray and the screen and speakers are neatly integrated into the upper shell. You open it up like a briefcase and are ready to go. It also has a proper 1080p IPS panel, making it a much better choice for the Pro consoles, since many titles actually output at Full HD now. The screen is, however, a little smaller than the Vanguard. But at 17.3”, that’s as big as most top-end gaming laptops and I’d rather have the higher resolution.

Just keep in mind that this is NOT compatible with the original Xbox One – just the S and X models.

Case Club Waterproof Xbox One Portable Game Station

This is a pretty interesting take on the whole concept of a portable gaming kit. Basically, it’s a waterproof suitcase that has been outfitted with the internals to host a console, screen, and all your accessories.

It’s very basic in appearance, but seems pretty effective. At first I was a little worried about cooling, but it seems they have left enough buffer space for the system to cycle air. This kit is compatible ONLY with Xbox One S and X models – no PS4 or fat Xbox One support here. There’s a molded foam tray on the right hand side where you can buy game boxes and two controllers, although most people are going to have their games in digital form. Still, it’s a nice touch.

It comes with a 19-inch 1600×900 LCD monitor. That’s actually fine for Xbox One S, which often tops out at 900p anyway, but a bad match for the X, which can hit native 1080p almost all the time. The kit is a little expensive in my opinion, and I would prefer the Sentinel over this in most cases. However, if the waterproof aspect is important to you, as it might be for deployed personnel, then it’s not a bad choice.

GAEMS M155 Portable Gaming Monitor

If you don’t want the whole-shebang kit with a case and all, it might make more sense just to buy a portable gaming monitor. This would be something you can set up anywhere and bring along when you go on holiday, or for if you simply want to set the console up someplace where there’s no dedicated TV for you.

Gaems has you covered with this portable gaming monitor, the M155. It’s a 1080p panel measuring 15.5”, which does make it a little small compared to the monitors you usually get as part of these kits. It comes with a Neoprene sleeve, a remote control, and USB power splitter cable. That’s right, this little sucker is powered by USB power, making it pretty damn versatile.

It comes with integrated speakers, but there’s also a headphone jack. The monitor can stand by itself or be mounted on a standard camera mount. It’s a little too expensive, in my opinion, but a great product overall. Because the price of a Sentinel or Vanguard kit is not much more than just this monitor, it might be worth stretching your budget a bit. But if this is really all you need, there aren’t that many competing products. Well, except for this next one.

HORI Universal Portable Gaming Monitor

Hori is an absolute legend in the gaming peripheral world, known in particular for its excellent aftermarket controllers. This monitor is, therefore, not an example of their primary expertise, but it would be a mistake to take the company lightly.

This is another 15.6” panel, which is a standard laptop size; I expect this is surplus from panels originally destined for laptop computers. It’s a 720p panel, which is, sadly, par for the course these days, as we’ve seen. For the price I wish it was 1080p, as the M155 is. Both monitors cost about the same, so that’s a real differentiator. If you are going to use this with a system that outputs only at 720p, however, it doesn’t actually matter all that much.

The Hori comes with a folding case that works a lot like the folding smart cases you’d use with an iPad. When unfolded, it works as a stand. When folded, it’s a protective cover for the screen. You can basically chuck it into the same bag as your console or wherever else you’d feel comfortable putting a tablet.

In terms of features, Hori has put some real thought into it. First of all, it has two HDMI inputs, which is pretty luxurious for a product like this. It uses proprietary power rather than USB, which is a bummer. The controls are pretty good, though, and you also get headphone output. I feel this is a better-quality product than the M155, but with specs that aren’t quite there. Since the prices are so similar, you’ll have to decide what’s more important.