GPD Win3 Needs Linux Bad. Like, Really Bad.
A little backstory:
I got on board with the Win 3 when it was on IndieGoGo late last year. I supported it because — as I’ve written previously — portable consoles like the Win 3 and the Aya Neo are where I think gaming should be heading. As of writing, I’ve had my Win 3 for about two days, and have play about six to eight hours on it, and while I have enjoyed the gaming experience, the Win 3 has also proved something that a lot of people already know:
Windows 10 is straight up garbage for small and touchscreen devices.
The UI was never meant for touchscreens. Even on Microsoft’s own devices, the Surface series, the experience is middling at best.
My own Surface Go 1, which has a screen nearly twice the size of the Win 3, is a messy touch experience with Windows. Hitting close, or opening the menu, is a guessing game, and gestures like pinch to zoom can take multiple tries to get. On the Win 3 it goes past a guessing game straight into a frustrating Russian roulette.
One would assume the controls built into the Win 3 would automatically be mapped as a mouse to make this easier. You would be wrong. While you can navigate the menu and some windows like Settings while they are open, getting to places through File Explorer, or using a web browser are absolute torture.
[Edit 5/10/21: I discovered a switch on the right side of the Win 3 that allows you to switch between mouse and joy stick mode. Flipping the switch makes the right joystick a mouse. L1 and R1 become your left and right click, and the D-pad can be used to navigate various windows. This does help somewhat in making navigation easier.]
The Game Experience
This is all a shame, because once you get up and running, the experience is nice. I’ve spent most of my time playing Genshin Impact and Person 3 Portable via PPSSPP, and once inside the program window, the experience is as good or better than on a desktop. The controls move through the interface well, and I almost never need to go for the keyboard.
But moving between games, loading games, or trying to access Steam via the minuscule screen — it’s almost bad enough for me to just go back to my PS4 for Genshin, and my Vita for P3P. At least there, I don’t have to fight with Windows.
Win 3 should be a Lin 3
This is why the Win 3 needs Linux.
The Windows experience — even its joke of a tablet mode — are a dumpster fire on this machine. Everything bad about Windows on a large screen is multiplied here. But there are already several versions of Linux out there that would make this experience far more enjoyable.
The lowest hanging fruit would be Ubuntu with the GNOME desktop. I’ve already covered GNOME several times, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. But I will say this: Even without tweaking it, GNOME vanilla would be a better user experience than anything Windows could manage.
Really, just about any of the major DE’s would do. With the ability to tweak icon size, menu size, taskbar, dock, and everything else — a version of KDE Plasma or Cinnamon would do wonders for the Win 3.
Hell, a version of XFCE would be better on this device than anything Microsoft has to offer.
Since Steam on Linux is nearing parity with Windows, there is little to risk when gaming on Ubuntu, Kubuntu, or Mint. Of course, you’d lose Genshin Impact, since it is only on Windows, mobile, and consoles, but that — I think — is a sacrifice I’d be willing to make.
GPD, please open up these drivers to the Linux kernel, and get a version of Linux running for this system. Because, right now, the ONLY thing holding this console quality portable back, is the OS running it.