Devices like the Lenovo Legion Go fill a specific niche in the gaming community. I’ve always loved the idea of being able to take PC games with me whenever I travel. The Nintendo Switch is a wonderful device, but sometimes (all the time) I just want to play Forza Horizon 5, or something else I only own on PC or Xbox. And yes, sure, a gaming laptop is technically portable, but I’m not going to whip one out on the train or plane, because they’re big, heavy, unwieldy, and have the battery life of a potato.
This recent rise of portable PC gaming devices has been welcome. It started with the Steam Deck, a small, capable device for playing Steam games, but it’s a bit limited because it can only play Steam games (unless you’re willing to use, ahem, workarounds). The Asus ROG Ally is a great device that I enjoy a lot, but is a long way from perfect and is quite clearly a first iteration.
The Lenovo Legion Go is the latest entrant to the category, and it’s got a lot of features that set it out from the pack, but also some significant design choices that will severely limit its audience.
The first thing I noticed taking it out of the box is that it is the largest portable handheld gaming device I have ever seen. This thing is a beast. At 40.7mm x 298.83mm x 131mm (H x W x D) it’s a bit difficult to fit in a bag, and the 854g weight means you might want to stretch before a long gaming session, but we’ll get into that later.
Aside from that, I really like that it has a protective case included in the box, that’s super handy, and an essential that should come with all the other portables. Though, it would have been more handy had it also not been truly massive.
I was also really struck by how large and clear the screen is. It just looks excellent and premium. At $1,299.00 for the base model, it would want to, but it’s an absolute pleasure to play on that screen.
The things that set the Lenovo Legion Go apart from the rest of the category are its size, screen, power, and controls. It’s huge, the screen is super clear, it has the power to play just about anything you’ll throw at it, and the controls are detachable like the Nintendo Switch, which makes it more versatile.
At the time of writing (December 2023), the battery life is tolerable, but nothing to write home about. You’ll definitely need to bring an external battery pack or similar for long journeys.
Lenovo Legion Go performance
There are a lot of ways to look at the performance of a device like this. How well it plays games is obviously key, but almost equally important is how well-suited it is to be used portably in the places you want to play.
As you can see, the ROG Ally has a bit of an edge over the Lenovo Go, which surprised me. The design language of the Legion Go is “overpowered beast that’s the fastest thing you’ve ever seen” whereas the actual power is “almost the same as the others at this level”.
I have played a shockingly large amount of Fortnite on the Lenovo Legion Go, alongside some Xbox Game Pass titles, and I was extremely impressed every time. Until it got too warm.
At regular temperatures, the motion is buttery smooth, the graphics exceed my expectations for a device like this, and the Wi-Fi connection is relatively stable.
But, the longer I played, the hotter it got, and the louder the fans became, particularly on hotter summer days. Frames started dropping. The connection becomes less stable (at the start of the session, the speed test said my download speed was over 400Mbps, yet after around an hour each time I would start getting Wi-Fi stability warnings in Fortnite, despite the connection remaining stable on other devices).
This has always been a problem for portable PC gaming devices, including laptops. The solution is mostly just to turn down the graphics settings to something that doesn’t make the device have a heart attack. But I do find that the Legion Go gets hotter, faster than the ROG Ally (which also gets very hot).
I also liked that I, so far, haven’t come across any of the BIOS issues that I’ve had with the ROG Ally. That’s a major plus. And having that little trackpad is also a great step up over the ROG Ally for certain types of PC games.
Comfort and portability
Comfort is the key thing for me with these kinds of devices, and this is where I don’t think any of the handheld PC options have really shone yet. The Lenovo Legion Go has a more ergonomic shape than the ROG Ally, which I think was secretly made by some kind of anti-thumb activist. The Go fits much better in the palm and is a bit more rounded to be more comfortable in the hand.
The only problem is that the Go is heavy and huge. So, it gets uncomfortable to hold more quickly than I would like for a proper gaming session. It’s that constant trade-off between performance and portability that’s as old as laptops.
That heaviness means you also can’t easily put it in your work bag to play on the train, or put in your carry-on to play on a long-haul flight the way that I go with my ROG Ally.
It’s that difficulty of lugging it around that makes me wonder who this device is for. Most of these portable solutions are for people who want to play in transit in some way. The Nintendo Switch is perfect for kids with divorced parents, while the ROG Ally and Steam Deck are for nerds who commute on public transport.
The Lenovo Legion Go is a great device, but I have difficulty conjuring up the ideal user for it. Perhaps someone who just wants to play at home in bed or on the couch, or maybe in the backyard? but then why not just use a proper gaming laptop if full-on portability isn’t the goal? Perhaps it’s for people who have large bags but don’t actually have to take much with them to work, with a commute of 30-40mins.
It’s best played with the controllers detached and the screen on a table, like you might play a multiplayer Switch game. So perhaps it might work in a hotel? But at $1,300 there are other options if you’re not looking for a fully handheld device.
Being an extremely specific device isn’t a bad thing if it’s made for your niche, but it does make it harder for me to recommend it to people, despite being excellent.
Who is the Lenovo Legion Go for?
I don’t really know. It’s extremely good at what it does given the current technological constraints. But it does what it does with such a size and weight that I don’t think it’s really going to work as a handheld PC gaming solution for most people who are in the market for one.
The screen is big and beautiful, the controls are the most ergonomic I’ve seen in this category, and it’s a powerful beast.
But it’s also unwieldy and it takes up a lot of bag real estate. Especially when combined with its massive carrying case. Its weight also contributes to extra hand and arm fatigue after a long gaming session.
PC makers are still working out what people want from these kinds of devices, and this is obviously a first-generation device. I want it to do well because the Lenovo Legion Go has excellent bones, the ideas are all there. I just don’t know who it’s for.
If you’ve read all this, and then go into a store and discover that you like the way it feels and the size and weight aren’t a problem for your uses, then I guess the Lenovo Legion Go is for you. If it was a bit smaller and lighter it would absolutely be for me.
Lenovo Legion Go
The Lenovo Legion Go is an excellent device, I just don’t know who it’s for.