Lenovo Enters The Handheld Gaming Sector, Adds New High-End Gaming PCs At IFA 2023

By Anshel Sag, Patrick Moorhead - October 4, 2023

IFA Berlin is usually the show where you see tons of new consumer electronics—mostly smartphones, smartwatches, other wearables, appliances and the occasional PC. IFA is also usually the last chance for PC OEMs to announce new products before the holiday shopping cycle, which begins in the next couple of months. For the most part, this year’s show was no different than in previous years.

One key exception was that Lenovo had a much bigger showing at IFA 2023 than usual. Many industry watchers anticipated that it would come to market with a new gaming handheld based on the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme platform, and Lenovo did not disappoint. In this post, I’ll give details on that, plus go through all the interesting developments for Lenovo’s new PCs and accompanying accessories, too.

Lenovo Legion Go and the AMD Ryzen Z1 series

Lenovo’s Legion Go is the company’s first foray into handheld gaming, which many of its competitors have already explored previously. Only a few months ago, ASUS officially launched its ROG Ally device, powered by AMD’s Ryzen Z1 processor. The Ryzen Z1 was announced earlier this year, featuring the latest and greatest CPU and GPU technology from AMD. The ASUS ROG Ally was the flagship launch product for the Ryzen Z1 and Z1 Extreme processors—one that was greatly anticipated by gamers. I have personally been using the ROG Ally since it launched in June.

Ryzen Z1 processors are simply the best-in-class for handheld gaming on Windows, to the point that there’s almost no comparison with competing devices like the Valve Steam Deck that are powered by other chips. This is especially true for the Ryzen Z1 Extreme model, which has an eight-core CPU and 12 RDNA 3 GPU compute units—considerably better than the six-core CPU and four RDNA 3 GPU compute units of the base-model Z1. Lenovo states that the Legion Go goes “up to” a Z1 Extreme, meaning that we could possibly seen differently priced models with the base-spec Z1 and the higher-end Z1 Extreme AMD SoC.

Lenovo Legion Go specs

The Lenovo Legion Go has an 8.8-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. This is by far the largest of the gaming handhelds, which have mostly standardized around 7-inch 1080P displays. Lenovo has decided to go above and beyond with the Legion Go, offering it standard with a 2560 x 1600 IPS 144-hertz display. The unit has 97% DCI-P3 color accuracy and 500-nit brightness, which makes it good for indoor usage and acceptable for outdoors. Note that Lenovo opted not only for a higher-resolution display, but also a higher refresh rate at 144 hertz—versus ASUS’s 120 hertz.

The Lenovo Legion Go gaming handheld with controllers attached C

Like the ROG Ally, the Legion Go will come with 16GB of RAM. However, it appears that Lenovo has gone for faster LPDDR5x RAM, which is clocked at 7,500 megatransfers per second (MT/s) compared to the ASUS device’s 6,400 MT/s. Lenovo opted for a lower entry point on storage, with a 256 GB model, while ASUS starts at 512 GB of storage. That said, Lenovo’s system is configurable up to 1TB of storage, and some third-party SSD manufacturers such as Sabrent are offering 2TB M2 2242 drives as aftermarket upgrades for less than $200.

One of the most notable features of the Legion Go is its detachable controllers, which many people liken to the Nintendo Switch’s control scheme. One nice thing about the Legion Go is that it also has a kickstand, which enables the device to remain on a table while the gamer detaches the controllers and uses them at a distance. These controllers are connected to the Legion Go with Bluetooth 5.2 and have their own 900 mAh batteries. The Legion Go also has its own two-cell 49.2-watt-hour battery, which is substantially larger than the 40-watt-hour battery in the ROG Ally.

For connectivity, the Lenovo Legion Go has two USB Type-C connectors, which is welcome when you consider that so many gaming handhelds have only a single Type-C port. For those devices, if you use that port for charging, you can no longer use any accessories unless you have some sort of dongle or dock. Lenovo solved this simple problem by adding a second Type-C port on the bottom of the device, which makes docking way more natural. It also allows for a user-facing port, which—shockingly—other handhelds simply don’t have. Lenovo also announced a pair of USB-C headphones to go along with the Legion Go, which it claims have RGB lighting and 7.1 surround sound.

Lenovo’s Legion Go feels like the most well-thought-out handheld that I’ve seen to date—one that truly exudes a premium aura for gaming. That said, I do think the headphone jack would make way more sense at the bottom of the device rather than the top, but the nice thing is that both Type-C ports are capable of USB 4.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and USB PD 3.0, so there’s no need to compromise on which port you use. The capability of these ports also comes in handy when you consider that the Legion can pair with companion AR glasses, called Lenovo Legion Glasses.

Lenovo Legion Glasses

The Lenovo Legion Glasses are an interesting accessory to the Legion Go for a multitude of reasons. They enable a gaming experience that I have only recently been exposed to thanks to the XReal glasses that go along with the ROG Ally. The idea is that these headworn displays offer an AR-like experience that transforms the gaming handheld’s visuals into an 80-inch display for playing games or watching movies.

The Lenovo Legion Glasses attached to the Lenovo Legion Go

Lenovo already has experience with this technology thanks to the ThinkReality A3 AR glasses offered by its enterprise division. The company has learned a lot from making those glasses that it is now bringing to this consumer device. The Lenovo Legion Glasses use improved Micro OLED displays, which bring 1080P per eye resolution and 60-hertz refresh rate. This is good for most gaming, though it might be limiting for some competitive shooter titles. I could see these glasses working well for racing and flight simulator games. These glasses are also designed to work on Windows, Android and MacOS devices with “full function USB-C,” which likely means ports that support DisplayPort 1.4, USB 4.0 and probably USB PD 3.0.

Lenovo Legion 9i — “The King of Cool”

At IFA 2023, Lenovo also announced the flagship Legion 9i gaming laptop, which takes advantage of the latest in technology from Intel and Nvidia, including the Core i9-13980HX CPU and RTX 4090 Mobile GPU. The 16-inch notebook has a maximum thermal design power (TDP) of 230 watts while weighing only 5.64 pounds. It is cooled by a system co-engineered with liquid cooling experts Cooler Master that uses a triple-fan array. To save weight, Lenovo has used a forged carbon fiber cover for the laptop, which adds a unique look.

The Lenovo Legion 9i with forged carbon top

The display on the Legion 9i is an impressive 3.2K mini-LED display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 165-hertz refresh rate as well as HDR 1000 certification (at 1200 nits). As part of the 9i’s capabilities, it uses Lenovo’s own LA-2 AI chip to deliver a Smart FPS feature that tracks frames per second (FPS) and dynamically adjusts power between the CPU and GPU. The same AI smart chip also syncs the RGB on the laptop (including on the keyboard) with the visuals on the screen. The laptop also has built-in Tobii Horizon software for head tracking, which adds another level of in-game immersion.

The Legion 9i is powered by a 100-watt-hour battery that can be charged by the included 330-watt slim adapter. In terms of connectivity, the Legion 9i has all the latest ports, including multiple USB-A and -C, Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.1 and RJ 45 for wired Ethernet. I also love it that Lenovo includes a full-size SD card reader even though this is a gaming machine, which is great because lots of professionals like to use gaming laptops for work applications as well. For wireless connectivity, Lenovo has leaned on MediaTek’s Filogic 380 router, which enables Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3, with a maximum throughput of 6.5 Gbps over Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 7 will soon become the standard for gaming laptops and other gaming devices, especially because of the improved latency and throughput that it will deliver. All of these features are fitting for what is arguably one of the highest-end gaming laptops on the market today.

The Lenovo Legion 9i ports and connectivity

Wrapping up

Lenovo has always been a company to take risks and try things that other companies are unwilling to do. This spirit has found its way into Lenovo’s Legion gaming business, and we’re seeing clear examples of it in the Legion Go, Legion Glasses and Legion 9i gaming laptop. Lenovo clearly wants to compete with the likes of Alienware, ASUS, MSI and HP in the gaming market, and with products like these announced at IFA 2023, it’s quite clear that Lenovo has the products it needs to compete.

The Lenovo Legion gaming ecosystem

The Legion 9i will start at an astonishing €4,500, with the Legion Go starting at €800 and the Legion Glasses starting at €500—all available in October. Lenovo is clearly working hard to build the Legion brand around the Legion 9i gaming PC and the much more accessible and versatile Legion Go with Legion Glasses. All in all, Lenovo’s Legion lineup has suddenly become a lot more exciting.

Anshel Sag
VP & Principal Analyst| Website| + posts

Anshel Sag is Moor Insights & Strategy’s in-house millennial with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. Anshel has had extensive experience working with consumers and enterprises while interfacing with both B2B and B2C relationships, gaining empathy and understanding of what users really want. Some of his earliest experience goes back as far as his childhood when he started PC gaming at the ripe of old age of 5 while building his first PC at 11 and learning his first programming languages at 13.

Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.