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Hands on: The Lenovo Legion Go could be the killer of the Asus ROG Ally and the Steam Deck, if it forms before release

After numerous leaks and rumors about the Lenovo Legion Go, the portable gaming device has finally been officially revealed. For the uninitiated, Legion Go is a portable PC gaming system similar to both the Steam Deck and especially the more recent Asus ROG Ally.

I was able to get my hands on it and take it for a test drive, thoroughly testing its many features and seeing how well it handles some of the best PC games. Similar to the ROG Ally, this system is breaking into a new market with features that set it apart from the competition even as it enters the market for powerful laptops.

And while both Legion Go and ROG Ally owe their existence in this growing market to the Steam Deck, the former two are much closer to each other in terms of their unique specs and design choices, as well as their use of the Windows operating system.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Legion Go evolves as we get closer to its launch in 2023.

Lenovo Legion Go: price and availability

We know so far that the Lenovo Legion Go that I’ve personally tested will arrive in the US in October 2023 for a rather hefty $699 (about £555 / AU$1,090). And while details are still unknown, Lenovo has confirmed to me that there are more models on the way, including a less expensive version equipped with AMD Ryzen Z1 rather than the current model’s AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme.

However, we don’t have any confirmation if it will launch in other regions like the UK or Australia, or what the pricing might be for those regions. Considering that the competition has launched in those regions, we should see the Legion go to other countries as well.

Lenovo Legion Go: design

Lenovo Legion Go specifications
Component Specs
Price $699 (about £555 / AU$1,090)
processor AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
Graphics AMD RNDA graphics
Memory 16GB LPDDR5X (7500Mhz)
Warehousing PCIe Gen4 SSD up to 51TB
Screen 144Hz, 500nits, 97% DCI-P3 color gamut.

Unlike the Asus ROG Ally’s distinctive and elegant white honeycomb chassis, the Lenovo Legion Go is clearly built for practicality. It’s all black, bigger and bulkier, and a little heavier at nearly 1.5 pounds. It packs some serious specs, and the handheld is built to handle them, as well as ventilation.

Its practicality doesn’t stop there, with design choices aimed at solving general console controller problems. The biggest example is Hall effect joysticks which, according to Lenovo, ensure no joystick drift and minimal dead zones. Considering how common these issues are with any other console controller or handheld, this improvement sounds like music to my ears.

My favorite part of the Legion Go is the built-in kickstand on the back. It’s ideal for long gaming sessions where you won’t be able to support a larger laptop. I had Legion Go propped up on the table while I played and ended up complaining that Steam Deck and ROG Ally didn’t have the same functionality to make long gaming sessions much easier.

There’s also an amazing mode called FPS mode, where you can detach controllers from the side of the system and use the included platform to prop one up. This creates a sort of joystick/mouse hybrid that makes FPS and strategy games much easier to play, as you can now simulate the point-and-click ease of a regular mouse.

Lenovo Legion Go: performance

It has some pretty impressive specs with an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor with AMD RNDA graphics, 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM, an up to 1TB PCIe Gen4 SSD, and a micro-SD slot that supports up to 2TB of additional storage. I’ve played both Race to the HiFi AND PowerWash simulator to test the system and see if it holds up well.

Just like the Asus ROG Ally, the Lenovo Legion Go uses a Zen 4-based AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme CPU, which was first developed by the chipmaker specifically for the ROG Ally in order to better optimize it for a mobile device. And thanks to this initiative, other mobile PCs will be able to benefit from the technology. The GPU is AMD RNDA graphics, also featuring AMD’s RDNA3 graphics technology which is a holdover from the ROG Ally.

Ventilation was also impressive – while gaming I didn’t notice any excessive heating during my gaming session, not even from the top where the biggest fan is. This was a major issue with the ROG Ally, as it felt much hotter within minutes of play, so it’s nice to see the Legion Go’s larger size utilized. That’s most likely due to the Coldfront thermal technology featuring a 79-blade liquid crystal polymer fan, which keeps the system comfortably cool.

The display is quite good: 8.8-inch QHD+ 16:10 display, up to 500 nits brightness, with 97% DCI-P3 color gamut, and up to 144Hz refresh rate. Compared to the ROG Ally, the display is quite premium and should theoretically work without problems. However, like the pre-launch ROG Ally, Legion Go had issues with framerate and latency, with visible stuttering that, while not interfering with gameplay, was still noticeable.

It would be a shame if the latter was hampered by its own powerful specs and unable to reach its full potential, just like the former did when the framerate was only improved by lowering the resolution which trivialized the point of the 1080p display .

The single tactile touchpad on the bottom right is great for navigating the Windows 11 screen, which is the same operating system ROG Ally runs. But that single addition of the pad makes moving the cursor much easier. There was a problem I encountered with the tactile touchpad on my test handheld, which was a weird buzzing sound during use. It was only my unit that had the problem, the others worked fine. Hopefully this is a snag that is eliminated from every version of the device at launch.

The touch screen itself makes it a breeze to directly open the main menu and switch between installed games. There are also options to have other storefronts like Xbox Games Pass, Steam, EA Apps, and Epic Games Store libraries.

Much like the ROG Ally, you can turn the Legion Go into a mini desktop replacement by connecting a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse thanks to the same Windows 11 operating system. Unlike the ROG Ally, the Legion doesn’t use Armory Crate CE, and considering how clunky it could be at times, I don’t miss the software in the slightest.

Lenovo Legion Go: early verdict

black gaming handheld

(Image credit: Future)

From my hands-on experience, Lenovo Legion Go is a gaming laptop with tons of potential. It features some big quality-of-life changes and really innovative modes that suit almost any playstyle or game genre. It has great specs, an impressive display and a really excellent ventilation system. In these areas I find it superior to the ROG Ally and the Steam Deck.

However, there have also been glitches, from minor ones that can be easily fixed before launch, while others may cause performance issues that directly affect how the player needs to configure the system to avoid them.

But if these problems are fixed once Legion Go is released, we could be looking at a real ROG Ally and Steam Deck killer. It has potential, and clearly Lenovo has put a lot of love and attention into making it far from a disposable piece of plastic. And while this version is priced quite steeply, the release of cheaper models should help more budget-conscious gamers.


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