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Lenovo Legion Go evaluate: the Swiss Military knife of handhelds

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Need a handheld gaming PC? I wouldn’t advocate the $650 Lenovo Legion Go over a Steam Deck. Home windows 11 isn’t practically as handy and moveable as Valve’s Steam OS for taking part in Home windows video games on the go. Even Microsoft knows that.

However even when it’s not the perfect moveable sport console, it’s a nifty moveable PC that may completely play video games. For the correct of Home windows gadgeteer, the Lenovo Legion Go may narrowly be well worth the money.

Although it’s roughly the identical value as an Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo’s 8.8-inch moveable has every kind of tips up its sleeve. It’s a robust Home windows pill with a pair of removable Nintendo Swap-like wi-fi controllers and a full-width kickstand — the higher to play at a desk, get up vertically for studying, or dock to a TV. Unlike Nintendo’s Joy-Cons, the Go’s controllers have drift-resistant Corridor impact joysticks. Oh, and did I point out one in all them can remodel right into a vertical mouse with the flick of a change? 

You maintain the mouse like this (mousing floor not pictured).

It additionally has two USB-C ports, every with 40Gbps of USB4 bandwidth, so you’ll be able to plug in a keyboard or SSD or perhaps a Thunderbolt 3 exterior GPU with out eradicating your charger lead. The Steam Deck and ROG Ally solely have one USB-C socket every.

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However the Legion Go’s largest benefit is straightforward: it has a considerably greater display screen. 

I wouldn’t say it’s the greatest handheld display screen: there may be completely no beating the Steam Deck OLED with regards to wealthy coloration, deep blacks, explosive HDR, and usefulness in a dim bed room. In the meantime, the ROG Ally’s variable refresh fee makes all the pieces smoother; video games typically really feel sooner on the Ally even when the Legion Go is technically delivering extra frames per second.

However Lenovo’s shiny 8.8-inch, 2560 x 1600, 144Hz, 500-nit, and 97 % DCI-P3 Gorilla Glass 5-covered display screen makes a distinction. It’s the one which’s massive, crisp, and quick sufficient, it could double as an honest Home windows pill for internet shopping, studying, and streaming video. Maybe extra importantly, I don’t really feel I’m squinting as a lot after I play video games. 

A 12 months in the past, I wrote how I didn’t actually mind the Steam Deck’s dearth of aggressive multiplayer shooters like Fortnite, Future 2, and PUBG as a result of I by no means knew what (or who) hit me on the Deck’s seven-inch, 60Hz display screen. Neither the Deck OLED’s 7.3-inch, 90Hz panel nor the ROG Ally’s seven-inch, 120Hz display screen fastened that for me. However I may see some folks enjoying them on the 8.8-inch Legion Go — at the least in the event that they get used to the marginally awkward controls.

I’m not a complete fan of how the Legion Go feels in my palms. As a result of it weighs 1.88 kilos, half a pound greater than the ROG Ally and Steam Deck OLED and a full pound greater than a Nintendo Swap, I typically really feel like I want a tighter grip. However after I grip tightly, the not so rounded edges of Lenovo’s flat-faced handheld dig into my palms — and I discover myself awkwardly squishing all the additional buttons Lenovo crammed onto the perimeters and again. 

It seems like Lenovo made just a few too many compromises to present you a removable mouse, a pair of Pleasure-Cons, a touchpad, and 4 again buttons concurrently. The joysticks are positive, the marginally cramped face buttons are positive, the meaty triggers are even good, however the touchpad is simply too small, the D-pad and top-firing audio system are meh, and the best controller at all times has two further buttons beneath my center finger, two extra buttons beneath my index finger, and a button beneath my pinky that I hadn’t bargained for.  

This small recessed touchpad doesn’t start to match to those on the Deck. I by no means discovered it price utilizing versus joystick or touchscreen.

There’s a technique to Lenovo’s insanity: should you detach that controller and rotate it 90 levels to the left, these buttons line up along with your fingertips and thumb to present you a five-button vertical mouse, full with a 1,800 DPI optical mouse sensor on the Teflon-coated backside and a tiny scroll wheel round again. It’s neat, and I used to be happy to see Lenovo has some fairly first rate FPS presets mapped to every button, together with the keys you’ll generally use to crouch, bounce, and reload. The mouse defaults to 800 DPI, although you’ll be able to decide 500, 1,200, and 1,800 as effectively.

The removable controller rails don’t lengthen to the highest or backside of the hand held.

Flip this change to activate the mouse mode.

That’s the left mouse button beneath my index finger.

Right here’s the large magnetic mouse skate.

Nevertheless it’s not fairly so simple as simply popping off a Pleasure-Con and magically having a mouse. I’ve to yank every controller downward to launch them; pop off the joystick cap so it’s not in the best way; and slot the controller right into a magnetically hooked up Teflon-bottomed base to present the mouse sufficient stability that I don’t lose monitoring mid-game. Even then, I really feel the rest of the joystick’s protruding nub and its 5 copper pogo pins digging into my palms. 

I determine the form of energy person who’ll wish to navigate Home windows on the go may respect this a part of the gadget, however I’d have fortunately given it up for a pair of higher front-firing audio system. 

Talking of energy, my Lenovo Legion Go is a bit sooner than the competitors! Anecdotally, it was the quickest to obtain video games (I noticed 750Mbps peak obtain speeds over Wi-Fi 6), the quickest to cost its 50Wh battery, and the quickest in most of my check mattress video games — so long as you’re keen to present its AMD Ryzen Z1 Excessive chip just a little gasoline, that’s. 

Examined at 720p low, save Dust Rally at 720p extremely. 20W = Legion Go “Efficiency” mode; 25W = ROG Ally “Turbo” mode sans AC energy.

It is best to know that the chip in a Steam Deck is slightly completely different from the chip in most different handheld gaming PCs. The place the Deck’s “Aerith” and “Sephiroth” have been designed for a handheld energy envelope of between 4 and 15 watts, the AMD Z1 Excessive is a shrunken-down laptop computer chip that targets 9 to 30 watts — and as you’ll be able to see in my chart, it didn’t start to beat the Steam Deck till I fed it extra than 15 watts of electrical energy. 

The flip aspect is that, not like the Steam Deck, you’ll be able to optionally sacrifice your battery life to the gods of efficiency, pushing a Legion Go or ROG Ally chip as excessive as 30 watts for a significant increase in pace, and I noticed my Legion Go even outperform the ROG Ally after I started to present it that juice. It constantly pulled forward in Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Returnal, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider — typically by just a few frames, typically by 10 or 20 %. 

The fan doesn’t bug me an excessive amount of, however sure frequencies might be noisy. I do get a teeny little bit of whine at low speeds in fundamental duties.

However even if you’re attempting to preserve the Legion Go’s 49.2Wh battery, you’ll be able to solely go to this point.

I used to be in a position to handle 4 hours and 41 minutes of Slay the Spire, one of many least demanding video games in my library, however even Dave the Diver gave me not more than two hours and 27 minutes at a stretch. I received an hour and a half of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, two hours of Nier: Automata, and two hours and 10 minutes of Armored Core VI, all operating at a mere 800p or decrease decision. After I tried Ori and the Will of the Wisps at 1200p, I solely received an hour and 39 minutes.

For comparability, the Steam Deck OLED lasted a complete further hour of Nier: Automata, went 43 minutes longer than the Legion Go in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and gave me practically double the battery life in Dave the Diver at 4 hours and 42 minutes. It tells me I ought to get 9 hours of Slay the Spire. I ought to notice, my Deck OLED really lasted seven fewer minutes in Armored Core VI, although.

Does the Legion Go at the least supply extra battery life than the Asus ROG Ally on account of its 20 % bigger battery pack? Properly… I did get an additional 41 minutes of Dave the Diver on the Legion Go, however battery life was nearly similar in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Dust Rally and lasted simply 16 minutes longer in Armored Core

The display screen is kind of shiny. It’s positive indoors. It additionally doesn’t go as dim because the competitors: I measured 15 nits at 0 % brightness, in comparison with two nits for the Deck and 6 nits for the Ally.

With the Legion Go, the battery at all times feels prefer it’s visibly ticking down… and like different Home windows handhelds, it ticks even sooner when near empty. You possibly can take a Steam Deck to three % battery earlier than that you must critically think about saving a sport or plugging into the wall. With the Legion Go, even reaching 10 % places me within the hazard zone.

I’m glad to say the Legion Go doesn’t lose plenty of battery whereas it’s fully shut down, however even that’s a little bit of a backhanded praise — as a result of shutting down is the one means I’ve been in a position to reliably put it away. Many occasions, I’ll discover it wakes itself up proper after I put it to sleep.

Talking of platform stability, it is best to know that the Legion Go’s Legion House software program continues to be a piece in progress, just like the Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally earlier than it, and it’s lagging far behind Valve and a methods behind Asus when it comes to options. The flexibility to remap the gamepad is minimal at greatest, and you’ll’t even save mappings for every of your video games with Lenovo’s software program — you’ll must depend on Steam or one other third-party app.

As I write these phrases, Lenovo’s nonetheless attempting to handle some stuttering SD card readers (one thing I haven’t skilled myself) and add correct gyro help. The fan’s not loud, however it may be just a little whiny, even in its lowest energy mode. 

Lenovo’s Legion House is fairly bare-bones, nevertheless it’s additionally comparatively elective.

However I’ve to confess, it’s much less buggy than the Asus was at launch, and Lenovo’s being fairly clear with the group. Lenovo product supervisor Ben Myers drops into the official subreddit and Discord almost every week to speak about which points and enhancements the engineering staff’s engaged on subsequent, and it’s been good to see it enhance! 

At launch, I might need dinged Lenovo for forcing me to succeed in all the way down to the bottom of my thumb to hit Begin and Choose buttons or manually navigate to an internet site to obtain updates. Ditto the way you needed to join an influence provide earlier than switching the display screen’s refresh fee or tape over the facility button’s shiny LED to keep away from mild air pollution whereas charging it in a darkish bed room. However Lenovo has locations to tweak every of those in software program now, plus adjustable fan curves, adjustable sensitivity and deadzones for the joysticks, user-adjustable presets for numerous energy modes, and an FPS limiter. 

The most important factor I need, although, is a method to make all my video games launch full-screen. That’s how they work on Steam Deck however not at all times on Home windows, and I’ve run into awkward windowed video games extra typically with the Legion Go than I did with the ROG Ally. Within the official subreddit, some folks appear to be forcing full-screen of their Steam launch choices for particular person video games.

The Legion Go provides me one other form of sofa gaming, one which’d be awkward with controllers hooked up.

I’m not going to rehash my whole “Windows is holding back gaming handhelds” argument right here, as not a lot has modified since I reviewed the Ally. However the Legion Go’s 8.8-inch display screen and removable controllers do assist. It’s simpler to pull round home windows and faucet on icons with the bigger contact targets that Lenovo’s display screen provides me, and it doesn’t harm that the Gorilla Glass 5-covered panel is clean, straightforward to scrub, and responsive to the touch.

After I pop off the controllers, I may even attain the digital keyboard keys with out stretching my thumbs if I maintain the pill in portrait mode or invoke Microsoft’s cut up keyboard (which provides you left and proper keyboard halves) in panorama. No extra reaching over joysticks! I wouldn’t wish to kind a Verge story on this factor, however I’m discovering it’s a fantastic dimension for shopping from the sofa. 

The Home windows cut up keyboard.

I wouldn’t purchase a Legion Go, as my Steam Deck fits me higher, however I genuinely assume Lenovo’s onto one thing with this type issue. It’s an intriguing cross between a Microsoft Floor and a Nintendo Swap however with gaming chops that surpass each. I wouldn’t be stunned if the subsequent model comes with an elective Floor-like folding keyboard cowl.

Free recommendation: put a red ThinkPad TrackPoint nub in the course of that keyboard should you really need computing nerds to go wild. 

Pictures by Sean Hollister / The Verge

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