For the time-poor retro gamer, the temptation to convince yourself that a new, possibly portable, machine will allow you the opportunity to play all of those games that you always planned get around to, is significant. It’s the same mindset that makes those with already considerable backlogs buy more games: without the time to play, reading up on a product and making a purchase is one way to remain engaged with your hobby.

By my usually profligate standards, I’ve remained relatively restrained: I own a PSP but never dared to fiddle around with it to use it for emulation, although I have bought one or two retro collections that have remained largely untouched. As I was never a console gamer, what I always wanted was a device to let me play PC games (including those I could review here) without sitting in front of my main desktop machine. One misguided investment was an Android tablet which, even when combined with a paid DOSBox app and Bluetooth keyboard, fell short of expectations. (I did manage to use it for some adventure games, though, either via ScummVM or purchased from the Google Play store).

The solution for someone in that situation seems obvious: a Windows laptop. In truth I’ve historically been a bit anti-laptop: I always preferred a desktop setup, and reasoned that using a laptop for games would always be a compromised experience, plus when batteries and other things went wrong with them, they would be problems you wouldn’t be able to resolve yourself. And they seemed a little bit expensive: as someone whose upgrade budget and schedule normally stretches to around £500 on a new desktop PC every 5 years or so, a second machine seemed a bit extravagant, not to mention the fact I don’t like carrying too much valuable kit around with me (I once met a friend in a pub and he had some expensive Macbook with him: I just couldn’t carry around a grand’s worth of machine around with me – worrying about losing or damaging it, or it getting nicked).

Sexy tech pic nicked from

Somehow, though, a few years ago I ended up with one: a combination of a Black Friday sale and the accidental overconsumption of beer while waiting for an extremely delayed Indian takeaway delivery meant that I awoke the following morning with a confirmation email from Argos telling me my new computer could be collected from our nearest branch (which, it turns out, wasn’t that near). I’d been in a similar position before, ordering a PSP Vita from Amazon Germany under similar circumstances for £100 (a bargain, in retrospect), but cancelling the following day. The same option was open to me this time, but I decided to go through with it. In the cold light of day, a Windows laptop for £125 was still a good deal.

As you might guess, for that price, you don’t get a particularly high quality laptop. It’s a Lenovo s21e which, as a budget model, suffers from slightly shoddy build quality and limited storage space, to name but a couple of drawbacks. The display is also pretty small and it’s not at all powerful. But, I realised that now that I’m a dusty old out-of-date gamer, anything that could run 64-bit Windows would probably be powerful enough for DOSBox, AGS point and click adventures and sundry other GOG purchases from the 90s and early mid-00s. Plus I could get some writing up done if needed too.

Knowing me, and the nature of such optimistic purchases, there was still a chance it would have laid untouched in my computer cave, but in fact it’s revitalised my FFG output over the past few years. I won’t pretend I’m not still intrigued when I hear about some new and exciting options for gaming on the move, and a laptop does have its limits (although I feel comfortable playing old adventures, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to break out the USB joypads on the 7:29 commuter train) but for now I think I’ve found my portable retro machine of choice.