Over the last year or so I’ve had the opportunity to review the current crop of name brand handheld gaming PCs, including the Steam Deck and the Asus ROG Ally. Recently, I spent some time with the newest entrant in this space, the Lenovo Legion Go. It is the subject of my latest review.
The Legion Go starts at $699 for the 512GB version (compensated affiliate link). All configurations at the moment are powered by an AMD Ryzen Z1 processor that can run at a 30 watt TDP, 16GB of LPDDR5X-7500 RAM, and a replaceable NVME SSD.
Its larger size, compared to competitors like the Steam Deck, is thanks to its 8.8-inch IPS display, offering a 2560×1600 resolution, 500 nits of brightness, and up to 144Hz refresh rate. Just remember that most AAA titles won’t fully utilize this display’s capabilities, often running at 60 frames per second or less. The good news is that the display does support variable refresh rates.
What sets the Legion Go apart are its hardware features that are lacking on its competitors. The detachable controllers, which work wirelessly when detached, are most noticeable. The built-in kickstand adds convenience for multiplayer and tabletop gaming, and the inclusion of two USB-C 4.0 ports, compatible with Thunderbolt devices, allows for easy docking and connection options for external GPUs.
Running on Windows 11, the Legion Go supports a wide range of gaming platforms, including Microsoft’s Game Pass, Steam, GOG, Epic and just about anything else that runs on Windows. However, navigating Windows through a touch display can be clunky at times. The device’s performance can be customized, with options to adjust the TDP (Thermal Design Power) and fan speed, catering to different gaming needs.
In terms of controls, the Legion Go features hall effect thumbsticks, which are more durable and less prone to drifting than traditional potentiometer-based sticks. However, they suffer from a large dead zone currently, which negates many of the advantages the Hall Effect technology provides. A software update should address that hopefully in the future.
Another stand out feature is the ability to turn the right-hand controller into a mouse when it’s switched into “FPS mode.” The controller docks to a small stand that turns it into a mouse that feels like a joystick. It works – especially for gamers that want the convenience of a mouse without having to bring an extra device on the road.
The directional pad, unfortunately, it not great. While it’s an improvement over the ROG Ally’s d-pad, the Lenovo version is slippery doesn’t have much travel to it. I’d recommend extending the kickstand and using an 8bitdo controller for retro gameplay.
Battery life is a consideration, with the device offering around 90 minutes at 30 watts and may aboue two hours at 20 watts. This is typical for many handheld gaming PCs, where power source proximity is essential. Note that some games are more demanding than others – so longevity will be determined by how much load the game places on the system.
In benchmark tests, the Legion Go performs admirably, comparable to some laptops with discrete GPUs. It’s a testament to the advancements in portable gaming technology. However, when it comes to real-world gaming, adjustments are often needed to balance performance and visual quality. Unlike the Steam Deck that will automatically optimize games for the best performance, the Windows-based Legion Go will require a bit more tweaking.
Comparing the Legion Go with its competitors, it stands out in terms of build quality, control options, and docking capabilities. However, it’s bulkier and heavier than the Steam Deck and far less comfortable than Valve’s offering. The Steam Deck, with its more integrated feel and lighter build, might still be the better choice for casual, on-the-go gaming. In contrast, the Legion Go shines as a more versatile device, suitable for docking to a TV or even functioning as a desktop PC when not on the road.
The Legion Go is a significant addition to the handheld gaming PC market, offering unique features and powerful performance. Its versatility makes it an attractive option for gamers who want a device that can transition from handheld to a docked gaming experience. As the market for these devices grows, it’s exciting to see how each brand brings its strengths to the table, offering gamers more choices than ever before.
Disclosure: Lenovo provided the Legion Go free to charge to the channel for this review. They did not review or approve the review before it was uploaded.