July 21, 2024

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With the Legion Go mobile games, Lenovo targets ROG Ally

With the Legion Go mobile games, Lenovo targets ROG Ally

It seems like every company and mom is putting out gaming laptops these days, and Lenovo is right next to the board. The company announced the Legion Go, its first portable Windows gaming device, which will be available for purchase in October. It has an 8.8-inch QHD Plus display, an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, and a 49.2Wh battery (which is bigger than the ones found in the ROG Ally and Steam Deck). Oh, and the controllers pop up, which is neat.

While Valve’s Steam Deck tends to be the first product that comes to mind when discussing this category, Legion Go feels more like a cross between Nintendo Switch and Asus’ ROG Ally. First, with models starting at $699, the Ally is clearly what Lenovo is trying to match on price. But it also, like Ally, runs old Windows and has more controls (the touchpad, mainly) specifically designed to run that system.


Here is the case you come in.

With the controllers attached, the Legion Go is about half a pound heavier than the ROG Ally (and slightly heavier than the Steam Deck). It is a noticeable difference when lifting the device; It feels heavier. It didn’t particularly affect my gaming experience as I was pretty much using the device with a kickstand supporting it.

However, I know this is something some potential customers will not be happy with, especially those who purchase a portable device for frequent travel. This case sure feels a bit bulkier than the one I carry around with my Switch.

The supposed upside to this extra size is the battery life. Asus has put a lot of emphasis on keeping the Ally’s size and weight down, and it has a smaller battery than the Go’s as a result. I can imagine a lot of people would find sacrificing some portability for the sake of added longevity to be a very reasonable trade (especially given how unhappy many reviewers are with the Ally’s battery life).

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Unfortunately, Lenovo representatives didn’t give us a battery life estimate at the demo event, claiming they didn’t have enough time to test it, but they assured me they’ll get an estimate before launch in October. I mean sure. OK.

In terms of other specifications, the screen has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a refresh rate of 144 Hz. Inside, you get 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM and up to 1TB of storage. Ports include a 3.5mm audio jack, USB-Type C (USB 4.0, DisplayPort 1.4, Power Delivery 3.0), a microSD reader, plus an additional USB Type-C (same spec as before) on the bottom.

There were some fingerprints on the demo units when I tried them on.

I was only able to try some of the games loaded on it. PowerWash Emulator, Quake II, Wicked WestAnd short walk It was among the selection of titles. They were running at 15W by default, which I was told was “likely” how the device would charge. Lenovo emphasized in the demo area that the Legion game we were playing with wasn’t in its final form and a bunch of things – particularly the Lenovo launcher, which didn’t really work during my demo, and its in-game overlay, which isn’t operational yet – It will be ready before release (which, as a reminder, is supposed to be in less than two months).

The gaming experience I had was mostly good, although I’ve heard other reviewers had trouble getting all the titles to work. Opening the sides was easy once I did it a few times, and the 8.8-inch screen felt much larger than the Switch’s 7-inch screen. The controllers fit into the small stand that came with the model, and it really feels like you’re using a joystick. I’d definitely take it for the Joy-con (and the buttons are more comfortable to press).

All of the controls were responsive in the various games I tried, and the gameplay itself was smooth without stuttering or excessive fan noise. However, I hit a major snag: many of the games I tried didn’t seem to know they were running on a mobile device. At multiple points in multiple games, I’ve been asked to press “Escape”, a key that Legion Go doesn’t have. A Lenovo representative decided, after some adjustments, that what I needed to press was B. A game kept telling me to press B0 – I assume this is some kind of joystick key? – which I eventually discovered was an A in Legion Go. This happened when the controllers were plugged in and when they were in joystick mode.

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This is what it looked like when the console exploded.

Needless to say, this is a huge problem. Games shouldn’t ask people to press the wrong keys to things (or to press keys their devices don’t have). It’s great that such a portable device lets you play mouse and keyboard titles (I mean, that’s the point of the Windows stuff), but I don’t see how this device can be salable if it doesn’t map this functionality to the gamepad buttons correctly . You can, of course, plug in a mouse and keyboard to fix some of these issues, but if you see yourself doing that a lot, it’s probably worth spending the extra few hundred bucks for a powerful gaming laptop (of which Asus has a great selection).

Some of the games I was playing seemed to think they were running on a computer with a mouse and keyboard

This touches on the biggest open question I currently have about Legion Go, the same concern I had about ROG Ally before it launched: Windows. Will it be easy and intuitive to navigate with these controls?

It’s hard to tell from my short hands-on period. But it should be noted that this device does not run a version of Windows with a special gesture system that is optimized for a portable gaming device; It works with the normal old operating system.

There’s no “desktop mode” for controls like Ally either; You’re only expected, I guess, to navigate the old-school Windows interface using the Legion’s touchpad or touchscreen. I had no problem doing this during my demo, but it felt a little wasteful to be navigating on a tiny trackpad when there were fully functional joysticks available (and I have tiny fingers, too).

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Here we are with the controllers attached.

Here is the console with its joystick holder.

This is a hurdle that almost all Windows devices in this category need to overcome. “The biggest problem Steam Deck competitors have is that they use the Windows operating system.” edge Colleague Sean Hollister wrote in a recent article about the Ayaneo Kun, a similar but much more expensive device. “It’s a bit counterintuitive (isn’t Windows where the games are?), but Windows isn’t terribly optimized for gaming laptops, trackpads or not.”

Even if you work side by side with Microsoft, this feat is hard to achieve. Lenovo’s competitor Asus, for example, worked closely with Microsoft throughout the development of the ROG Ally to customize the Windows user interface to fit the smaller form factor and create distinct controls for desktop use. Despite all of this, Ally controls still present some issues with sensitivity, accuracy, and correlations, and we ran into a laundry list of situations in our initial testing process where the buttons didn’t quite do what they were supposed to do.

By contrast, Lenovo told me that Microsoft was not involved in Legion Go’s development in any significant way. So I can only imagine we might also see some bugs at launch here.

I think a lot of the expectations for this device will hinge on whether Lenovo can make its tool work well with Windows (and install its driver, which is still largely unknown). I’m sure this isn’t an easy task, and I don’t envy the engineers who have to make it happen – but as we learned from Ally just a few months ago, this degree of compatibility can make or break a gaming experience.

Photo by Monica Chen/The Verge