Like it or not, cloud gaming is going to become a bigger and bigger part of gaming as the years roll by. With internet connections improving all of the time and gaming systems rising in price, it makes sense for companies to employ cloud technology to deliver software to players – hence the fact we've seen firms like Microsoft, Sony and Nvidia all get in on the act.
While Sony is rumoured to be working on a portable cloud-based gaming device, we've seen little movement from other manufacturers – which has left a void for third-party firms to fill. Logitech's G Cloud and Razer's Razer Edge are two examples, but the largely unknown Abxylute has also stepped into the same space, albeit via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
That campaign has days left on the clock and has already raised over £255,000 (on a goal of just £5,049), so success is assured – but can this device really deliver on its promise of AAA gaming without the need for expensive hardware?
Abxylute Cloud Gaming Console Review: Design
Like any handheld gaming device these days, the Abxylute looks like a Nintendo Switch, minus the ability to detach its controllers. There's a 7-inch, 1080p LCD screen flanked by the usual gaming controls – so there are no real shocks here.
The big surprise is how light and thin this device is; without the need for any powerful internal tech, Abxylute has been able to keep this handheld as svelte as possible. It's also very comfortable to hold, thanks mainly to the fact it's not a Steam Deck-sized monster.
Back to the screen for a second; it's bright and colourful and boasts excellent viewing angles. It's certainly a step up from the display on the original Switch, but isn't quite as punchy as that seen on the OLED model – and the superior resolution doesn't count for a lot when what you're viewing is being downgraded thanks to the fact that it's being streamed from the cloud.
The analogue sticks and triggers use Hall Effect sensors, which means they shouldn't fall foul of 'drift' over time. In a neat touch, the A, B, X and Y buttons illuminate during use, and you can change the colour of the LEDs in the settings.
Abxylute Cloud Gaming Console Review: Performance
The big selling point of the Abxylute is the fact that it streams gameplay over the internet, so it should come as no great shock to learn that it is very much focused on services like Xbox Game Pass and GeForce Now. You can also stream from your local system using apps like PSPlay (for PlayStation) and Steam Link.
It goes without saying that you'll need a decent wireless connection to get the most out of this device, but we found that on a 200MB broadband link, performance was pretty decent. The latency is far less obnoxious than you might assume – there are genuinely times when you forget you're not playing natively – but the visual quality does take a noticeable hit. You'll also want to make sure you're at least in the same room as your wireless router if not sat right next to it, as performance can nosedive dramatically when you're a few rooms away.
Sadly, the audio is much less impressive, at least on the prototype unit we were sent to review. The speakers are tinny and weak, and there's a lot of skipping, garbled sounds and other odd noises. This may well be something that can be remedied in the final retail release, but it's easily the most disappointing element of the unit as it stands right now.
Outside of streaming, the Abxylute is a pretty capable emulation device. Because it's running Android 12, you can turn this into a pretty robust retro gaming platform – as long as you temper expectations and keep your focus on the 16-bit era or older.
Oh, and because it's running Android, you can install a wide range of non-gaming apps on it – including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube – but we did find a few weren't compatible, which is something the manufacturer will need to work on as time goes by.
While its maker quotes an eight-hour battery life, that's a best-case scenario. We didn't get anywhere near that figure during our time with the review unit, but even so, the Abxylute comfortably outlasts other handheld gaming devices when it comes to stamina – but then again, we should expect that, given that it's streaming rather than playing the game natively.
Abxylute Cloud Gaming Console Review: Conclusion
The Abxylute is a tricky device to review at this juncture because the unit we have in our possession isn't the final thing – the company behind it has already assured us that a raft of improvements and fixes are promised for the final retail version.
Even so, it's hard not to be impressed by how easy it is to fire it up and get into a AAA game; while you can often tell you're not playing natively, the trade-off isn't as extreme as you might expect, and we dare say that, mild latency aside, some of the multiformat games look better on this device than they do on the Nintendo Switch, which is based on quite old technology now. We also love the fact that games boot quickly, without the need to install countless updates – another benefit to cloud gaming that perhaps doesn't get as much attention as it should.
There are things we'd like to see improved for the final version, though; the audio is a significant weak point currently, and we'd hope that compatibility with a broader range of Android apps will be forthcoming as well.
Even so, at just $199 / £150, the Abxylute is an entry-level way of dipping your toe into the world of video game streaming and is a fairly decent retro gaming platform as well, thanks to the abundance of Android-based emulators.
Thanks to Abxylute for supplying the unit used in this review.