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Lenovo Legion Go Review

Manufacturer:
Lenovo
Model:
Legion Go 8APU1
APU:
AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
RAM:
16GB LPDDR5X 7500Mhz
Storage:
1TB
Display:
8.8″ QHD (2560 x 1600)
Battery Life:
1.5 hours in Balanced mode
Release Date:
November 1st, 2023
Price:
$749.99 1TB (reviewed)


The Goods
Amazing screen, reasonably powerful APU, FPS mode, lightweight, sturdy design, 120hz response rate.

The Bads

Not powerful enough to render many modern games at native resolution, buggy custom UI (Legion Space), multiple OS-level quirks and issues, driver issues, controllers are moderately uncomfortable to hold.

The Finals
The Lenovo Legion Go (LeGo) is a solid device, offering up more than enough power to handle the latest games, albeit at lower graphical settings than a comparatively priced PC. The fact that it runs a full copy of Windows 11 is both its greatest feature, as well as its greatest downfall.

Score:
8.8



note: rating is based on what we have today, and may not reflect Legion Go’s  future changes and enhancements. 

The Legion Go is the newest kid on the block of handheld gaming computers, but simply being newer, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is also better.

Let’s Talk About Power

With great power, comes great gaming experiences. Just ask anyone that owns a PS5, or a high end gaming PC. Whether it’s about pushing out more frames, or engaging in ultra immersive graphical experiences. Power helps. Power matters. And the Legion Go? It’s got power.

At least, as far as handhelds go, it’s a very powerful device. It’s roughly twice as strong as the Valve Steam Deck, and comparing it with the Nintendo Switch would be like trying to compare a Ferrari with a tiny Hot Wheels toy. It’s just not fair.

Great Power Also Means Less Battery

While on the surface, its got enough juice to keep you going for hours. Unfortunately, that’s just a surface level thing. In actual use, the amount of power that the Legion Go has, will basically drain your battery in a matter of hours. In my testing, I went from 100% down to 8% in less than an hour when running in Performance mode, and in about 1.5 hours when using the Balanced mode.

Understandably, this is not a good experience, at least not if your main intention is to use the Legion Go while you’re away from a power outlet. It’s best to treat this thing like a typical gaming laptop, albeit one that doesn’t lose its performance simply by unplugging it from the wall.

It’s A Computer

This may be obvious to some of you, but perhaps not as obvious to others. The Legion Go isn’t a typical handheld gaming console, like the Switch or Vita. While there is technically a custom user interface, Legion Space, the entire custom UI of the LeGo is pretty much just a standard application. It’s truly nothing special, nor is it complete. There are quite a few missing features and functions here and there, as well as a number of bugs and glitches, at least as of this writing.

Unfortunately, the fact that the Legion Go is a fully fledged computer, is both its strongest feature, and its biggest downside. On the one hand, it’s a full Windows 11 computer, through and through. You can hook up a keyboard and mouse, plug in an external monitor, and be on your way. This thing could legitimately replace a lower-end laptop (say, $400-600 range), and is far more versatile than a laptop, too. It’s powerful enough to handle pretty much every single task you can throw at it, whether it’s something a little more basic like watching 4K YouTube videos, or something a bit more complex like playing Cyberpunk 2077 at medium settings. This thing is remarkably capable, and that is primarily due to the fact that it is a full PC.

But, being a full PC also has its downsides. For starters, OS navigation is very inconvenient. Doing something as basic as opening up a web browser and typing in your favourite website (like PSXExtreme.com for example) is not as seamless as it should be. This is thanks primarily to the Legion Go’s use of a touch screen, and a very basic, and highly inaccurate touchpad. Now, I don’t entirely blame Lenovo for this, as touch navigations is mostly a Windows issue, and thus, it falls on Microsoft to improve or enhance its touch support within Windows 11. However, the Legion Go uses Windows, so while its poor navigation may not be Lenovo’s fault, it is still something that directly affects and hinders the Legion Go’s overall usability.

Display

The display on the Legion Go is perhaps one of the best I have ever seen on a handheld device, and despite not utilizing an OLED display, I actually prefer the vibrance of the LeGo screen to that of my Nintendo Switch.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Do I wish that this thing had an OLED display? Yeah, absolutely. But the fact that it doesn’t actually isn’t as big of a downside as you may initially believe. Sure, stuff like perfect blacks will never be a thing on the Legion Go, and I definitely wish it had support for HDR. That said, everything sort of just pops on this thing.  It’s vibrant, crystal clear, and more than large enough to do pretty much anything and everything on. Not to mention the fact that you’re getting a 1200p display, not simply an 800p, or 1080p like you’d find on the Valve Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally. (or 720p on the Switch)

The screen of the Legion Go is arguably one of its biggest selling points.

Speakers & Microphone

The speakers on the Legion Go aren’t the best I’ve ever heard, nor are they the worst. While they most certainly get quite loud, and I’ve definitely heard laptops with significantly worse speakers, I was honestly expecting more from these things. They lack depth, and precision. There’s also a significant lack of bass, especially at the higher volumes. Then again, if all you want to do is be able to hear your game, and if you don’t really care about having a high fidelity audio experience? Yeah, these are totally fine. Really, there’s nothing overly wrong with them. They’re just… fine.

The microphone, on the other hand? Well, it’s actually far better than I expected, but far better still does not mean that it’s great. It’s certainly passable, and more than usable for a typical Discord call, or intense gaming session. It also does a decent job of removing fan noise, as well as game / speaker sounds and background noise.

Comfort & Portability

Now, this is where things begin to falter a bit. Sure, the Legion Go is uber powerful, to a point where it could legitimately replace a lower end laptop. You can game on it, you can work on it, and you can watch movies on it. And yet, its main and really only purpose is to function as a portable gaming console, akin to something like the Steam Deck, or Nintendo Switch. So then, why is it so uncomfortable to hold?

Don’t get me wrong, the Legion Go isn’t unusable. You can still play games on this thing portably, potentially even for hours on end. And no, my hands don’t cramp up, and I don’t experience any kind of major pain while using it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s actually comfortable to hold, especially not in comparison with the Steam Deck.

To make matters worse, the controllers themselves, when detached, feel bulky in your hands. There’s not really much in the way of ergonomics, and while my hands do not personally cramp up, I can easily see how people with smaller hands may struggle to use the Legion Go with its controllers detached.

Now, as a quick little aside, the Legion Go comes with a really stellar carrying case. I know this may sound weird, but the case for the Legion Go has by far the nicest zippers of any officially branded carrying case I have ever used, to a point where it is actually a joy to zip or unzip. Perhaps that’s just me, but I legitimately like that.

Controllers & Inputs

The Legion Go has three primary methods of input, with those being the controller itself, the touch screen, and the trackpad. Now, the controllers also support things such as gyro / motion, but to get this to actually function, as of this review, is an absolute pain, and required third party software to actually use. This is again one of the LeGo’s biggest limitations, in that the hardware itself is pretty great, but the software and driver experience is severely lacking. I’d even argue that the software is holding the LeGo back quite a bit.

The controller is functional, especially after one of the more recent driver updates, which all but eliminated the deadzone issues. In fact, the deadzone was, back at launch, so unbelievably bad, it made the Legion Go pretty much unusable for the vast majority of games on the market.  I’m thankful that these issues are gone, but do question why they existed in the first place.

The touch screen is easily the main method of OS navigation, and is the most convenient to use, despite Windows 11 not being all that well optimized for it. It works well enough, and the accuracy of the touchscreen is pretty much what you’d expect.

The touchpad on the right controller, on the other hand? It’s verging on being absolutely useless. It is too small to be of any real use, and is also very inaccurate, to the point where I find myself avoiding it whenever possible, opting to use the touchscreen itself 90% of the time instead. Unfortunately, for some games that aren’t compatible with controllers, the touchpad is your only real option here. Civilization 6, for example, is pretty much unplayable on the Legion Go. It’s just not an ideal experience, despite the game running quite well on the Steam Deck.

And then there’s the FPS Mode, which basically converts the right controller, when detached from the console, into a dedicated mouse. As in, it is literally a mouse, with the left controller functioning as WASD instead of a traditional analogue stick. This feature actually works far better than I had originally expected, and makes games like Civilization 6 a bit more playable. However, don’t confuse playability for convenience, or ease of use. When you’re in FPS Mode, you’re basically being forced to sit at a table of some kind, tethered down to using a mouse and keyboard. It more or less converts the Legion Go into a tiny all-in-one workstation, with the screen acting as your typical computer monitor.

Is it ideal? No. The mouse isn’t the most accurate thing in the world, nor is it the least accurate. It’s fine. Just fine. You wouldn’t want to compete with this thing in something like Counter-Strike 2, but you could still technically play CS2 with it.

It’s a nice feature to have, but I just question why it has to exist at all. Are people actually using their Legion Go’s in FPS Mode as a primary method of control? I know I’m not.

 

The Final Rundown

By the end of the day, the Legion Go by Lenovo is a powerful handheld gaming computer, capable of running the latest and greatest games, without being bogged down by a Linux operating system. It’s got enough versatility to not only become your next great gaming handheld, but also to function as a full fledged Windows 11 computer, with all of the features and functions a modern computer has to offer. While it’s not perfect, it is easily the best handheld hybrid we’ve got right now, both in terms of OS navigation, and sheer gaming power. You really can’t go wrong here, but do yourself a favour and spend a bit more for the 1TB model. The extra space really does come in handy.

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