The gaming industry has long been fascinated with the idea of bringing as many games as possible into a handheld form factor. Since the release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017, this pursuit has intensified, with several companies attempting to create portable gaming devices. While the Steam Deck has come close to achieving this goal, many other attempts have been marred by significant problems. However, in the highly competitive landscape of handheld gaming, Lenovo’s Legion Go has emerged as a promising contender.
The Legion Go bears some similarities to the Asus Rog Ally, but it surpasses its predecessor in several key areas. One of the greatest challenges faced by handheld gaming devices is the use of Windows as the operating system. Unlike the Switch (which runs a proprietary OS) and the Steam Deck (which runs the Linux-based SteamOS), most gaming handhelds in this space run Windows. However, Windows is not optimized for handheld, touchscreen devices that use controller-style inputs, rather than a keyboard and mouse.
Lenovo has made attempts to address some of the software issues associated with using Windows on a handheld gaming device. The Legion Go is equipped with two attached controllers, each with a button that serves as a shortcut to the Legion Space app. This app allows users to launch games, open third-party game stores, and adjust quick settings. While this is an improvement over other handheld devices, Lenovo’s implementation is not without its quirks. The right button alternates between opening a launcher and settings overlay located on different sides of the screen, a design choice that can be confusing and frustrating to users.
Fortunately, the Legion Go features a trackpad on the right controller, providing users with the ability to control a cursor using their thumb. This is a significant advantage, as it enables users to navigate the Windows interface more effectively and address some of the challenges associated with using controller inputs on certain menus and interfaces.
However, despite these efforts, running Windows on the Legion Go still presents challenges. Steam frequently launched in desktop mode rather than the controller-friendly Big Picture Mode, and games would occasionally kick users out to the Windows desktop. While some basic settings can be adjusted through the settings overlay, utilizing Windows on the device still results in a less than seamless gaming experience.
In terms of hardware, the Legion Go stands out from its competitors. The controllers are detachable, similar to the Nintendo Switch, and charge wirelessly while attached. The left controller features a control stick, a D-pad, menu buttons, and a few bumpers and triggers. The right controller includes a touchpad, in addition to the standard buttons and triggers. However, the button layout may be confusing at first, particularly with the extra buttons and features on the right controller, but it starts to make sense once users familiarize themselves with the device.
The Legion Go is equipped with an impressive 8.8-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels and up to a 144-Hz refresh rate, providing users with a luxurious gaming experience. The console is also designed with a wide kickstand, similar to the one on the Switch OLED, allowing users to prop up the screen and play with detached controllers from a comfortable distance.
Another unique feature of the Legion Go is its FPS mode, which offers a new way to control games. In this mode, the right controller is placed in a small plastic disk, positioned like an upright joystick but behaving like a mouse. This “best-of-both-worlds” option provides users with a control stick in their left hand and the precision of a mouse in the right hand, making it a particularly innovative addition to the device.
Ultimately, the Lenovo Legion Go presents a compelling alternative in the handheld gaming market, addressing some of the most significant challenges associated with running Windows on a handheld gaming device. With its impressive hardware and innovative features, the Legion Go is well-positioned to compete with other handheld gaming devices and establish itself as a leading contender in this rapidly evolving market.