Hands On: Lenovo Legion Go Is An XL-Sized Handheld Gunning For The Steam Deck

Hands On: Lenovo Legion Go Is An XL-Sized Handheld Gunning For The Steam Deck

The Lenovo Legion Go surprised me. I expected a bastard of a handheld – huge, unwieldy, and heavy, with a cheaply produced chassis to offset the unit’s giant screen and hardware. Turns out, though certainly large, it is much more polite than its brutish facade might suggest.

First things first: it’s definitely huge. This is a Steam Deck competitor with a monstrous 8.8” QHD+ screen. That puts its total wingspan just shy of a full 30cm wide, which I think we can comfortably call an albatross. Though this is a footlong handheld, that isn’t entirely to its detriment. Switch owners with larger hands are keenly aware of how its handheld form makes the extremities cramp and ache. No contorting the hands with this thing, thankfully. Of course, your wrists may begin to complain after a while.

The Lenovo Legion Go was considerably lighter in the hand than I expected. Though it does still have some heft to it, I would like to take it on a plane (perhaps the flight home from the Singapore trip I took to meet the device) and see exactly how long it takes for its weight to become a problem.

The other thing that that long plane ride would allow me to ascertain is how long a device like the Lenovo Legion Go can hold a charge. I don’t think a single Lenovo representative volunteered information about battery life in any presentation during the entire trip. What I do know is that the Go contains a two-cell 49.2Whr battery. That’s bigger than the Steam Deck’s 40Whr battery, but it may not count for much, depending on the individual use case. Valve has also worked to optimise the Steam Deck’s battery life such that even intense games like Red Dead Redemption 2 can pull up to three hours out of the device. Though Lenovo offers a range of power-saving options, its real-world longevity will come down to what you’re demanding from the handheld in terms of game and graphical fidelity.

Considering this, I suspect the Go does not hold a charge for long. Annoying as this would be, it wouldn’t make the Legion Go terribly different from its competition – the ASUS ROG Ally famously holds just a couple of hours’ charge before conking out. The problem with introducing higher-capacity batteries is that they only get heavier from here, which is not what you want in a handheld. Thinking of it here as a power-to-weight ratio, battery life is a problem hardware makers will need to solve in future generations of their handhelds, and Lenovo is no exception.

Setting that issue aside, there’s plenty to like as well. The decision to make Windows 11 the Go’s base OS is a good one, automatically making it a more versatile handheld than some of its competitors. Lenovo has its own storefront app preloaded, of course, but there’s nothing to stop you installing Steam or the Xbox App for Game Pass and getting stuck in. Indeed, it’s encouraged – Lenovo has been upfront about its partnership with Microsoft and Xbox on the device. In a very real sense, Lenovo wants this to be a handheld for Game Pass. The LegionSpace app that functions as the device’s ad-hoc desktop recommends a number of other third-party store apps, too. In addition to Steam and Xbox, its Epic, Ubisoft Connect, GOG.com, Rockstar Social Club and Giants Software that make the cut.

Something else the Legion Go can do is detach its controllers for remote use, just like the Switch. This has been the one thing other manufacturers have shied away from. For a start, it requires a lot of complex and expensive R&D to get it to work smoothly. For another, it introduces two entirely new points of failure that few want to deal with under warranty. Lenovo says it’s confident in its version of the rail system used to dock the controllers to the handheld. At first blush, it’s somewhat less tactile than Nintendo’s take: they trade the Switch’s elegant slide-and-lock rails for a version that simply locks the controller in with a push and a snap. Your mileage may vary – I had to fiddle with it a bit before I worked out how the locking mechanism worked.

While the controllers are removed, the Legion Go’s massive screen can be used as a Windows 11 tablet (this will be part that’s very important to anyone hoping to argue that it’s a work purchase for tax purposes). Prevention being better than cure, Lenovo has also moved to eliminate stick drift by implementing Hall Effect control sticks on both controllers.

It’s also no slouch on specs. The Lenovo Legion Go’s 8.8” QHD+ screen is capable of 1600p or 800p resolutions at 144Hz or 60Hz. Under the hood lies an AMD Ryzen Z1 series chip in one of two flavours. For those that want a device to travel with, there’s the standard AMD Ryzen Z1 (6 cores, 12 threads, up to 2.8 tflops). If you want more grunt, there’s the Ryzen Z1 Extreme (8 cores, 16 threads, up to 8.6 tflops). Both models feature RDNA 3 graphics. In terms of memory, both models are packing 16GB 7500Mhz LPDDR5X RAM. Storage options are a standard 512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD, with an option to upgrade it to 1TB for a bit of extra space. A microSD card slot on the rear allows expanded storage up to another 2TB.

To reduce heating and excess power consumption (and again, no estimates for total uptime are given), the device uses what Lenovo calls its Coldfront cooling system. A series of four vents along the handheld’s upper edge evacuate warm air out of the console, though the device can be tuned to run in less fan-intensive Quiet Mode, should you be willing to trade noise for a bit of extra heat.

There were only a few games installed on the device, but some were illuminating. Starfield ran chunkily, frequently dropping frames as I moved around its universe. Mortal Kombat 11, on the other hand, ran extremely smoothly and was entirely playable. Like the Steam Deck before it, some games may require more tinkering in the graphics menus than others if you want to maximise handheld performance.

The face buttons and general moulding of the handset felt quite good at first blush. The triggers were comfortable, and nothing about it felt cheap or overly plasticky. My one immediate wish was for a better D-Pad – unfortunately, the D-Pad used here is of the flat and mushy variety. Something slightly more tactile (or even ridged) would have been nice.

Again, these are all preliminary gut checks from only a short window of time spent with the device. I came home from Singapore with a Legion Go of my own to test and experiment with, and I’m already installing a great many games with which to push it around.

In summary, the Lenovo Legion Go makes a surprisingly strong first impression. Despite its size and its rather angular appearance, it feels like a device with manners. It subverted much of my initial read on it the moment I held it in my hands, and, in truth, that’s already more than I had expected of it.

I look forward to living with the device for a while and seeing just how far I can push its hardware. I want to install Baldur’s Gate 3 on it and see how it fares. I want to put Forza Motorsport on here and see what happens. How hard can I go before it starts to chunk or blow smoke? Keep an eye out for my findings when I post my full review in the coming weeks.

The author travelled to Singapore as a guest of Lenovo.

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