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Legion Go review: A 'supersize' but versatile Windows-based gaming handheld

By Aaron Yip - 23 Mar 2024

Legion Go review: A 'supersize' but versatile Windows-based gaming handheld

Note: This review was first published on 21 February 2024.

The Legion Go seems to mimic both the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck OLED.

The handheld gaming scene is pulsating with innovation and diversity these days, a far cry from the days when the industry was dominated by a handful of key players – remember the original Razer Edge from way back in 2013? And then there’s the Lenovo Legion Go, with a price tag of $1,151, as a serious contender in the Windows-based handheld gaming space alongside the ROG Ally (read our review here) and the upcoming MSI Claw (check out our feature here).

This transition towards handheld PC gaming platforms has been notably marked by the emergence of the Steam Deck, which has been instrumental in demonstrating the viability of carrying the PC gaming experience in your pocket (I kid, more like a bag). Yet, when the Legion Go was launched, it’s also worth reflecting on how far we've come since the debut of the Nintendo Switch in 2017, a console-grade device that redefined what gamers could expect from portable gaming.

Here's how the Legion Go compares in size to the Steam Deck OLED (left) and the ROG Ally (right).

The Legion Go, with its generous 8.8-inch display housed in a rather bulky 299 x 131 x 41mm housing with detachable controllers reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch, and a suite of features that seem to tick all the boxes for a portable PC gaming device, stands as a testament to the technological strides made in recent years – notably processors and batteries. Its integration of a full Windows 11 operating system offers unfettered access to a broad spectrum of games and applications from platforms like Steam and Microsoft's Game Pass, presenting a seemingly attractive option for those looking to merge the PC gaming experience with the portability of a handheld device.

The handheld features two USB-C charging ports; one each at the top and bottom of the device.

Lenovo has thoughtfully included a backstand to the Legion Go.

However, the reality of using the Legion Go reveals a complex picture. The device, for all its promising specifications, including a made-for-handheld AMD Ryzen Z1 processor and an adjustable kickstand, has divided opinions over its large and hefty (854g) footprint – for a handheld. I personally welcome the larger display that the Legion Go size afford, but at the same time, a couple of our HardwareZone colleagues have preferred the lighter and svelte ROG Ally. This is particularly evident in the face of the Steam Deck, which, with its recent upgrades, including enhanced battery life and a slightly larger OLED display, continues to refine the balance between portability and performance. The Legion Go, while ambitious, often feels like a project in its infancy, grappling with the inherent challenges of Windows gaming on a small screen. The idiosyncrasies of Windows 11, from intrusive security alerts to compatibility issues with certain games, underscore the gap between the potential of such handhelds and the current reality of their implementation. To be fair though, this is an issue faced by any gaming handheld using Windows 11 as an operating system.

That said, the Legion Go shines in certain areas, notably its display quality and the innovative design of its Legion TrueStrike controllers, which add a unique (or Switch-like, if you will) experience to gameplay. The ability to detach the controllers and use the device in a tabletop mode is a nod to the versatility seen in the Nintendo Switch. Yet, my main grip with the controllers' buttons is that they felt disappointingly cheap, lacking the tactile satisfaction found in the ROG Ally and the Steam Deck. Despite this, the controllers offer a redeeming variety of inputs, including a dual-thumbstick, face buttons, a D-Pad, shoulder buttons, and a unique array of additional buttons on the rear, easily customisable through the Legion Space app.

An intriguing addition to controllers is the FPS Mode, activated by a switch on the underside of the right controller, transforming it into a hybrid of a joystick and mouse. Accompanied by a magnetic stand for stability, this mode allows for swift, mouse-like cursor movements, positioning the buttons in a surprisingly natural position for this grip, which I thought works pretty well for first-person shooter games. 

The TrueStrike controllers are arguably the most versatile controllers compared to the competition.

The right controller can also transform into a hybrid mouse+joystick in FPS Mode.

There's even a scroller on the right controller.

The Lenovo Legion Go's performance is a bit of a mixed story, especially when you compare it with its closest competitor (and similarly specced), the ROG Ally. With Horizon Zero Dawn, for example, the Legion Go scored 25fps, slower than the ROG Ally which scored 29fps, in the 1080p benchmark. Similarly in Cyberpunk 2077, the Legion Go could manage 20fps but trailed behind the ROG Ally, which achieved 25fps.

When stepping away from direct comparisons, it becomes evident that for optimal performance, the Legion Go operates more efficiently at resolutions at 1080p or below, despite its QHD+ (2560x1600) IPS display. A 720p resolution seems the most ideal unless you’re willing to engage the Performance mode. This adjustment, however, comes at the cost of diminishing the device's already limited battery life, which, under normal usage, lasts for between 90 to 120 minutes on average. Pushing the Legion Go at higher resolutions or visual settings can prove challenging, though older games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider or less intensive games like the Wolfenstein series do offer some leeway for enjoyment at higher resolutions and settings. The handheld supports fast recharging with what Lenovo calls Super Rapid Charge, bringing a flat battery to a full charge in less than an hour.

The Legion Go also maintains a manageable temperature, even when pushed to its limits in Performance mode. Furthermore, the controllers' design and detachability from the screen mean you won’t feel the device's warmth. However, it's worth noting that the cooling fans can become noticeably loud under these conditions (with reference to running it in Performance mode).

Lenovo also bundled a pretty good quality hardcase, albeit a pretty bulky one, that offers great protection when transported around.

It's no Nintendo Switch, but the Legion Go is probably my choice of a Windows-based PC gaming handheld right now.

The Lenovo Legion Go certainly tries to stand out by doing things differently. However, this approach has a mixed outcome and is certainly divisive. On the one hand, its large, bright display offers a great gaming experience and offers some practical usage for quick productivity work such as web surfing and emails, but on the other hand, its bulkiness makes the handheld less convenient to carry around and use on the go. It's not the kind of device you'd easily take out for a quick gaming session wherever you are, compared to the ROG Ally. Its software can also be a bit tricky to navigate. It’s a compromise that only you can decide if it’s worth it, so I recommend that you check and size up the Legion Go in person and determine for yourself if the handheld suits you.

Then there’s the TrueStrike controllers, which bring their own set of mixed feelings. Their ability to detach offers flexibility and a great way to enjoy the large screen from a distance. The added buttons and the FPS mode are clever features. Not having to hold the entire handheld is a bonus, too. But, attaching and detaching them can be a hassle, and I have played games on the Legion Go with the controllers attached most of the time. The buttons also don’t feel as good to use compared to those on the ROG Ally or the Steam Deck OLED, which is a shame.

All in all, Lenovo deserves praise for trying to differentiate the Legion Go in the Windows-based gaming handheld space, but I think there are a couple of fundamental areas it needs to improve on to outdo its main rivals – such as its gaming performance. I won’t go as far as to say it’s the PC gaming handheld for everyone, but I like that its larger display and versatile, detachable controllers offer a different experience to whatever else is available right now – and that’s a good thing in a soon-to-be crowded space.

Note: The Legion Go is available for purchase for S$1,151 at Lenovo's e-store here.

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8.5
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Great IPS display
TrueStrike controllers are well-designed and innovative
Controllers are also detachable
Backstands are so underrated
The Bad
Buttons and D-pad on controllers feels a little 'cheap'
Gaming performance can be improved
Bulk size means it's not suitable for smaller hands
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