Handheld Consoles have always felt compomised before the Nintendo Switch and it was never because of graphics.
Not that the Nintendo Switch has zero compromises, but that there are few enough that the overall experience feels true to home console gaming.
The Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance, While good for what they were, always felt second rate compared to the SNES, N64, and GC along side them.
New fun games and genres were unfolding in these day with shoulder buttons, Analog stick, and then, Dual Analog Sticks opening things up in game design being the cutting edge of newness.
This took a surprisingly long time to translate to portable systems.
The Gameboy lacked color, backlighting, shoulder buttons, had 2 instead of 4 face buttons, and required new batteries every few days or weeks depening on how much you played, which was not cheap in the early 90s. (Though, this was cheaper than the Gamegear and TurboGrafx battery hogs so Gameboy outshined them)
Gameboy Color really only alleviated the color issue and had a bit shorter battery life, though was a bit more pocketable. GBC also didn't see the innovations of the N64 game design using c-buttons and an analog stick.
Gameboy Advance got 2 shoulder buttons while the GC got a 3rd and GBA still had no analog movement while the GC stepped up to 2 sticks, all while battery life was even shorter than the GBC's.
It wasn't until GBA SP that built in lighting and rechargeable batteries were standard issue. This solved the battery cost issue and janky lighting solutions many people had turned to for portable gaming until then.
GBA did alot right for 2D portable gaming as games were very well tailored to the system's available control inputs. GBA's 3D games were usually janky, but were novel since no other portable system had done 3D games before, but even then, they far paled to the game designed around all the inputs the GC had.
The PSP was a great leap closer to the true home console experience with upgrading to 4 face buttons and finally introducing portable gaming to analog movement input. Unfortunately, by this time many games were being designed around having dual analog sticks and so many games designed for GC, PS2, XB, etc. did not translate closely enough and the experience felt somewhat compromised still. However, games that were designed around not having 2 analog stick tended to translate really well, and so alot of PSP's best recieved games were PS1 games. L2 and R2 translated a bit akward to the PSP's analog nub, but otherwise it did feel much closer to a full home console gaming experience when playing PS1 games on the system. Since many PS2 games were Sequels to PS1 games the gamer could closer abstract the home console relation than they did between GBA and GC since SNES games on GBA had such different design than GC games.
DS is unique in that it took a left turn in the course of portable gaming and whether one would consider it compromised or not, due to introducing touch and dual screen gaming, the DS was acutally novel in game design and in it way on the leading edge of new kinds of games and genres, the DS didn't have an as direct way of being compared to home console game design.
The issue here is that Touch screen gaming and Dual Screen Gaming became devicive for some people. Having to move focus away from one screen to the other mid gameplay or removing the hand from the position of accessing R,B,A,X,Y felt like a bit disjointed experience for some who are more accustomed to a single hand/eye focus position during gameplay.
For other people, it was delightful to experince something different and new. Similar to what was occuring on the home console front with the Wii, some loved motion contols, pointer controls, single-hand, or split-hand gaming.
Some people just wanted what they knew they liked and never gave the DS or Wii a chance.
While other people enjoyed the Novel DS and Wii experiences at first, but after a few years felt complete with these new ways of playing.
Then the 3DS arrived and it was very similar to the DS... except it had a much shorter batter life, the top screen was wider than the bottom, and had finally gained an Analog slider for movement... but only 1...
3DS has had an interesting postion during its life, because while a revision did add a second analog nub and a 3rd and 4th shoulder button (giving it input parody to the Wii U home console, though not utilised often enough, and the second nub is rubbish) It was actually the 3DS leading the industry in many ways, not due to technical prowess or unique input methods persay, but rather because it was much cheaper to make exclusive games for it that no other system got and enough people were buying them to make it worthwhile.
While at the same time, PS4 and XB1 were devalued alot by many of their games going to the PC or each other with almost no design changes from PS3 and 360 games (highlighted by so many crossgen/ slightly prettier/but still the same dang game port/remasters/etc.), while the Wii U had games that were close in design to 3DS (many becoming ported to one another or released at a similar time). This, combined with very few games ever even releasing on the Wii U, made having both Wii U and 3DS redundant for many.
Leaving the 3DS as the leading edge for novel gaming experiences via having way more exclusive games than the other consoles.
3DS still had most of the DS's and PSP's issues, but it was overlooked by many until the Nintendo Switch launched and many people became vocal about how quickly they wanted the 3DS to end, dispite it being where they spent much time gaming prior to the Nintendo Switch.
... the PS Vita... is the most squandered opportunity in gaming history. With a docking solution similar to the PSP Go, Improving the XMB UI, Great marketing, normal SD cards like the 3DS, Dropping the backtouch pad, adding a 3rd and 4th shoulder buttons, and having many more 3DS exclusive quality games, The Vita would have been a true Nintendo Switch back in December 2011 and would have soared to great heights.
Sony has surely had some retrospective mulling on what could have been, after seeing how well Nintendo Switch has done for the past year.
Nintendo Switch feeling uncompromised, is because all of these issues of past portable gaming systems have finally been addressed.
Yes, it could have better battery life.
Yes, it could be more pocktable.
But, playing the games in TV mode, then Handheld, then Tabletop all feel like the same experience with subtle adjustment.
That is why so many people are remarking that they feel Nintendo Switch is unique in its offering of home console gaming on the go.
Because, it truely feels like enough of the compromises have been addressed that the experience crosses a threshold that previous handheld consoles did not, due to their compromises.