All the companies and their mothers seem to be releasing gaming laptop PCs these days, and Lenovo is right up there with the plate. The company has announced Legion Go, its first Windows gaming handheld, which will be available for purchase in October. It has an 8.8-inch QHD Plus display, an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, and a 49.2 Wh battery (which is larger than the ROG Ally and Steam Deck). Oh, and the controllers jump, which is great.
While Valve’s Steam Deck tends to be the first product that comes to mind when looking at this category, the Legion Go looks more like a cross between the Nintendo Switch and Asus’ ROG Ally. For one thing, with models starting at $699, the Ally is clearly what Lenovo is trying to match on price. But also, like the Ally, it runs old-school Windows and has more controls (a touchpad, mainly) that are designed to operate that system.
With the controllers attached, the Legion Go is about half a pound heavier than the ROG Ally (and slightly heavier than the Steam Deck). It’s a noticeable difference when you pick up the device; it feels heavier. That didn’t particularly affect my gaming experience as I was mostly using the device with the kickstand supporting it.
However, I know this is something some potential customers won’t be happy with, especially those buying a handheld for frequent travel. The case definitely feels bulkier than the one I carry my Switch in.
The possible benefit of this extra bulk is battery life. Asus was very focused on keeping the size and weight of the Ally down, and as a result, it has a smaller battery than the Go. I imagine many people might find sacrificing some portability for increased longevity a very reasonable trade-off (especially considering how unhappy many reviewers have been with the Ally’s battery life).
Unfortunately, Lenovo representatives wouldn’t give us a battery life estimate at the demo event, claiming they hadn’t had enough time to test it, but they assured me they would have one before the October launch. I mean, sure. Well.
In terms of other specs, the display has a 2560 x 1600 resolution and a 144Hz refresh rate. Inside, you get 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM and up to 1TB of storage. Ports include a 3.5mm audio combo jack, a USB Type-C (USB 4.0, DisplayPort 1.4, Power Delivery 3.0) and microSD reader, as well as an additional USB Type-C (same specs as before) on the bottom.
I was only able to test a few games that were loaded. PowerWash Simulator, Quake II, bad westand a short walk were among the selection of titles. They were running at 15W by default, which I was told is “probably” how the device will ship. Lenovo emphasized in the demo area that the Legion we were playing with was not in its final form and that a bunch of things, particularly Lenovo’s launcher, which didn’t really work during my demo, and its in-game overlay, which is not operational yet, it would be shut down before launch (which, just as a reminder, is supposed to be in less than two months).
The gaming experience I had was good for the most part, although I’ve heard other reviewers had trouble running all the titles. Removing the sides was easy once I’d done it a few times, and the 8.8-inch screen felt substantially larger than the Switch’s 7-inch. The controllers fit perfectly into the little stand that comes with the model and it really feels like you’re using a joystick. I would certainly prefer it to a joy-con (and the buttons are more comfortable to press).
All controls were responsive across the various titles I tried, and gameplay itself was smooth with no stuttering or excessive fan noise. However, I ran into a major snag: many of the games I tried didn’t seem to know they were running on a handheld. At various points in various games, I was told to press “Escape” which is a key Legion Go doesn’t have. A Lenovo representative, after some tinkering, determined that what I needed to press was B. One game told me to press B0. I assume this is some kind of joystick key? – which I finally found out was A in Legion Go. This happened both when the controllers were plugged in and when they were in joystick mode.
Needless to say, this is a big problem. Games shouldn’t tell people to press the wrong keys for things (or to press keys their device doesn’t even have). It’s great that this handheld can let you play games with a mouse and keyboard (I mean, that’s the point of this Windows stuff), but I don’t see how you can possibly sell this device if you don’t map that functionality to the gamepad. buttons correctly. Of course, you could just plug in a mouse and keyboard to fix some of these issues, but if you find yourself doing this too often, it’s probably worth spending a few hundred bucks extra to get yourself a solid gaming laptop (of course). . Asus has a great selection).
Some of the games I was playing seemed to work on a PC with a mouse and keyboard.
This addresses what is currently my biggest open question about Legion Go, which is the same concern I had about ROG Ally prior to its release: Windows. Will these controls be easy and intuitive to navigate?
It’s hard to tell from my short practice period. But it’s worth noting that this device doesn’t run a version of Windows with a special gesture system that’s been optimized for a portable gaming device; you are running the old regular operating system.
There’s also no “desktop mode” for the controls like the Ally had; I guess all you’re expected to do is navigate the old-school Windows interface with the Legion’s trackpad or touchscreen. I had no trouble doing this during my demo, but it seemed wasteful to navigate with a tiny trackpad when perfectly functional joysticks were available (and I have pretty small fingers, too).
This is a hurdle that almost every Windows machine in this category must overcome. “The biggest problem with Steam Deck competitors is that they run Windows,” my Edge His colleague Sean Hollister wrote in a recent article about the Ayaneo Kun, a similar but much more expensive device. “It’s a little counterintuitive (isn’t Windows where the games are?), but Windows is very poorly optimized for a gaming laptop PC, trackpad or no trackpad.”
Even if you work hand-in-hand with Microsoft, that’s a tough feat to pull off. Lenovo’s competitor Asus, for example, worked closely with Microsoft throughout ROG Ally’s development to adapt the Windows user interface to the smaller form factor and create distinct controls for desktop use. Despite all of this, Ally’s controls have still shown some issues with sensitivity, precision, and linkages, and we ran into a long list of situations in our initial testing process where the buttons weren’t doing exactly what they were intended. they were supposed to do.
Lenovo, by contrast, told me that Microsoft was not significantly involved in Legion Go’s development. So I can only imagine that we may see some launch glitches here as well.
I think much of the outlook for this device will depend on whether Lenovo is able to make its device work well with Windows (and refine its launcher, which is still largely an unknown). I’m sure it’s no easy task and I don’t envy engineers who have to do it, but as we learned from Ally just a few months ago, that degree of compatibility can absolutely make or break a gaming experience. .
Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge