Someone's Making A Handheld Gaming PC

Image: Youtube / SMACH Z

Imagine you're sitting on the train, or you're mid-flight, and you get the urge to play Civilization. Or Metro: Last Light. Or Skyrim. Or one of the many indie games in your Steam library.

Now imagine pulling not a laptop or a Windows tablet out of your bag, but a handheld PC. That's what the Smach Z promises to do.

It's basically a miniature gaming PC that uses a Radeon R7, 8GB of DDR 4 RAM and the AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD quad core SoC, compressed into the size of a handheld console. The Merlin Falcon can run at up to 3.4GHz, and while the Radeon R7 won't come close to any of the latest and greatest GPUs on the market it's enough to run the majority of the Steam back catalogue at playable frame rates.

The handheld PC is a Kickstarter project right now, sitting at €155,218 of its €250,000 goal. There's 31 days remaining on the campaign, so it's basically a certainty to get funded at this point, and you can see footage of the SMACH Z — and how some of the games play — below.

The controls are a little akin to what you'd find on the Steam controller: two haptic pads, four face buttons, a single analogue stick and a couple of forward/back buttons. It's quite a wide unit, almost a little reminiscent of the Wii U:

Image; SMACH Z / Kickstarter

If you want to get a better idea of the shape and the layout, here's a 3D render of the casing that you can zoom in and rotate around. Just use the left mouse button or your finger to scroll the image.

Here's the kind of performance the creators say you can expect from the SMACH Z, although I'd be tempted to drop some of the presets down:

Metro: Last Light Redux (720p. High settings) ~ 35 FPS Company of Heroes 2 (720p. Medium settings) ~ 25 FPS Jotun (1080p) ~ 45 FPS Skyrim (720p. High setting) ~ 25 FPS Just Cause 2 (720p. Medium settings) ~ 35 FPS Spiral Knights (1080p) ~ 50 FPS Overwatch (720p. Medium) ~ 30 FPS Torchlight II (1080p. Very high settings) ~ 35 FPS XCOM: Enemy Unknown (720p. High settings) ~30 FPS Civilization 5 (1080p. High settings) ~ 28 FPS Tomb Raider: Survivor (720p. Medium settings) ~ 40 FPS Alien: Isolation (720p. Ultra settings) ~ 35 FPS

For a machine like this you're not going to get buttery smooth 60fps at 1080p, especially on high presets, and I can see that being a dealbreaker for some. But maintaining above 30fps at 720p should be more than achievable on lower settings, and for something that's less hassle than a full tablet or laptop that isn't a bad option.

Keep in mind, this is a unit running Windows 10 — so you can happily turn it into a retro emulator or just stick to your GOG library. The makers are planning to integrate KODI for media centre functionality as well, and while it wouldn't be the most intuitive experience you'll be able to browse online with 5GHz Wi-Fi capability and bluetooth.

If you're interested, you can learn more about the SMASH Z on Kickstarter. It'll set you back just under $400 for the lowest available tier with a SMACH Z, while pledges for the SMACH Z Pro — which has 8GB DDR4 RAM, 4G connectivity, a front camera and "double internal HD" — start from $641. Shipping is an extra $14.30, and the developers are currently targeting April next year for a release.

What do you think: would you play PC games on a handheld device, or would it be better to spend more money on a Surface or a more capable laptop?


    I look forward to upgrading my Nvidia drivers with my fingers

    Would I play PC games on a handheld device?

    No. I'm getting older and now have 2 sets of glasses.

    I have a 1440p / 34 inch 21:9 monitor, a 27 inch 1440p gaming monitor and a 55 inch 4K TV and will not go smaller, especially for games that are meant to run on at least 1080p on a decent size monitor.

    But hey, I could be in the minority? I just don't need a 3rd set of glasses thanks!

      I'm in the same boat. I'm 41. I have a 34 inch 21:9 monitor, a 27 inch second monitor.
      The idea of squinting to game, no thanks :)
      I do like the idea of a mobile PC, I just can't fathom how typing in stuff with a virtual keyboard is going to work on such a small screen.

    How big is the storage on this thing? You'd only be able to put a handful of those AAA titles on there.

      If they were smart they'd rig it so you could swap out SD cards with the games installed on them.

      Looks like they have a 64GB and 128GB pro version with a microSD slot.

      Can't see myself ever backing a kickstarter project, there is just no accountability. In recent time there have been a few failed projects due to misuse of funds. There are absolutely no guarantees on the outcome, and some bad eggs are taking advantage of this.

    Given the history of products like this on Kickstarter and how a lot of them have problems delivering I'd be thinking very hard about whether or not I'd put down $400 or more. As a concept though, a cheaper Razer Edge Pro seems like it might be a good thing, although you might want to research how that and the NVidia Shield are selling first.

    I'll stick with my Vita and 3DS :-)

    I wonder whether this unit has a sleep/wake feature included, as that would be very handy to have on a handheld. I suppose Windows 10 has such a feature so it should be available.

    If you wan't a handheld gaming pc with an Nvidia card and have a spare PS Vita laying around gathering dust, you can jailbreak your vita on v3.60 and install an app called Moonlight which turns your vita into a nvidia streaming device.

    I'm keen but have 0 funds.

    Someone wanna back this for me & I'll shout them a mars bar one time?

      Happy to oblige, but I'm assuming you mean an actual bar on Mars....

      ... and you're Elon Musk.

        Yeah, bro, do it. Im good for it

        -Your pal, Elon


    People have tried this before, long story short - you will never get the same feel.

    Screen too small + gamepad controls! *whoot*

    For me - game pads/console controllers are never as good as a mouse and keyboard (baring perhaps side-scrolling/platformer type games...)

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