Dec 27, 2023 7 min read

The Lenovo Legion Go is the Game Pass handheld I'd been dreaming of

Is the biggest appeal of the Lenovo Legion Go its ability to natively download and play your Game Pass library?

Xbox on the Lenovo Legion Go

Is the biggest appeal of the Lenovo Legion Go its ability to natively download and play your Game Pass library?

For years and years, people whose gaming opinions I respect told me I needed to get into PC gaming. “Steam’s constantly having sales where games are really cheap”, “Modding gives really fun game flexibility”, “Games often come to PC first”, and “There’s a whole world of games that only release on PC, not console at all”.

Those people weren’t wrong, all of the above are valid reasons someone might rightly argue for the value of PC gaming over other places to play video games. The issue for me was, I simply didn’t want to be sat at a PC when I played games.

I work as a writer, meaning my day job involves sitting in an office, shut away at my PC. The PC is, to me, a work machine. It’s full of email notifications, alerts, distractions, and an obligation to be productive. None of the advantages of PC gaming were enough to generally overcome those disadvantages.

A lot of that has changed for me in the past few years with the increasing availability of portable handheld gaming devices such as the Steam Deck, ASUS ROG Ally, and most recently the Lenovo Legion Go. These handhelds each brought access to PC gaming storefronts and decently beefy graphic power to a form factor I could sit and play in the living room with my wife, in social spaces I more readily associate with relaxation. These devices, which bring PC gaming away from a traditional PC, have been a big part of me properly falling in love with PC gaming over the past two or so years.

When the Steam Deck launched back in early 2022, a lot of those PC gaming advantages were proven true for me. Steam sales offer considerably more value than sales on console digital storefronts, and there’s a lot of weird, niche, creative indie titles I never would have tried if they were locked to my desktop setup. The Steam Deck can play modern 3D games with a bit of work, but I’m pretty sure my most played game on the device since I got it is still Vampire Survivors. It’s a great device for balancing weight and performance for PC games that don’t push graphic boundaries.

Steam Deck Starter Guide: Here’s what to do first
So, you just got your Steam Deck and need a bit of help getting started? This guide has you covered.

A few weeks back, in mid November 2023, I got my hands on a Lenovo Legion Go. The device is a Windows 11 handheld with a large 8.8 inch 144Hz display, and detachable controllers on either side reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch’s JoyCon controllers. The device is big and hefty at more than 800 grams, and is certainly not something I’d throw in my bag when traveling without seriously considering its impact on my airline’s baggage allowance.

On the surface, there is a lot that I love about the Legion Go. The 8.8 inch screen might not sound that much bigger than the 7 inch screen found on the Steam Deck, but that size difference in practice feels very substantial. The right detachable controller can be used as a standing wireless mouse, and as much as I thought the feature was a little silly at first it has made the idea of playing emulated DS games on the TV that require touch inputs with my wife a lot more appealing.

The 144Hz screen refresh rate is nice to have access to, even if the number of games that the device can run at that speed is sometimes a little limited. It’s nice to have a gaming handheld that’s a bit more powerful than something like the Steam Deck, where I have to do a little less fiddling around lowering settings to get modern games to run at a decent speed and finding Proton versions that work for a new title on release. There are things about the Legion Go that, on paper, are improvements compared to its biggest competitor. But, ultimately, those benefits are pretty secondary to why I am gravitating to playing games on the Legion Go over the Steam Deck.

Lenovo Legion Go Starter Guide
If you just got your Lenovo Legion Go, follow this comprehensive starter guide to get your new handheld up and running quickly.

For me, the biggest appeal of the Lenovo Legion Go has been the ability to natively download and play my Game Pass library.

I am a big advocate of Xbox Game Pass being a really wonderful service. As someone with ADHD, who constantly needs to battle the urge to dip my toes into something new and novel on a regular basis, Game Pass on Xbox has been a really good way for me to find new things to play, while not buying titles on an impulsive whim unnecessarily. I recognise that I’m not purchasing and owning games, and that comes with its own issues in a world where digital ownership is already precarious, but it works for me and my need to constantly be dipping my toes into new games.

I love the Steam Deck, but Valve’s handheld device is fundamentally designed for you to play games purchased through Steam. Sure, there’s apps like the Heroic Store that can in theory get your Epic Games Store titles to run, and you can maybe trick a Windows game EXE into launching in the Steam Deck gaming mode if you know what you’re doing, but for the general user, non-Steam storefronts aren't really easily accessible natively on Valve’s hardware.

There is a work around that can be used to access Game Pass titles on a Steam Deck, but it’s not a perfect solution. You can create a web browser that launches into Xbox Cloud Gaming, Xbox’s online streaming games platform, allowing you to stream gameplay footage and your inputs over a wireless connection.

How to use a VPN on Steam Deck in Gaming Mode
Thanks to TunnelDeck, a new Decky plugin, there is now an effortless way to use a VPN service on Steam Deck. We’ll show you how.

For a while this was how I played Game Pass titles when I wanted to have them on a portable. It mostly worked fine enough, but it was always a somewhat compromised experience. If someone was streaming something on the TV, or downloading a file for work, or I was sitting in slightly the wrong place, the experience could get less than reliable.

For me, native access to my Game Pass library has been the nicest thing about my first few weeks with the Lenovo Legion Go. Sure, this isn’t strictly specific to the device, any decently powerful Windows handheld shares this appeal to me, but none I have tried layer quite as many other positives at the periphery.

Being able to natively download modern Game Pass titles and get them running at a decent framerate and resolution, while hanging out on the sofa while watching TV with my wife, is something the Steam Deck can’t reliably offer. Having access to my Game Pass console titles without repurchasing them on Steam, or compromising quality via streaming, is for me a positive that’s worthwhile enough to make using the Legion Go at times more appealing to me than the Steam Deck.

The Lenovo Legion Go, at its best, feels like the Xbox handheld that Microsoft doesn’t seem likely to ever produce, with the detachable controller solution that made the Nintendo Switch so appealing, and the kickstand redesign from the OLED Switch revision. That’s something that, in a vacuum, I find easy to praise.

I love being able to detach the Joy-Con style controllers to play on the TV, something I couldn’t get when gaming with an ASUS ROG Ally. I love the build quality. I love the design of the rear kickstand. I love that my wife and I can play Phantom Hourglass together on the TV, while sat on the Sofa via the standing mouse Joy-Con. I love that online multiplayer games are supported on it, and don’t just flag up errors because anti-cheat isn’t working nicely with Linux.

But, if having a Game Pass handheld isn’t something that you’re specifically looking for, the price makes the Legion Go rather hard to recommend over something like the Steam Deck.

Vampire Survivors on the Lenovo Legion Go

I’ve had my Steam Deck for nearly two years at this point, and it’s a wonderful machine. For its price point, it punches surprisingly above its weight on modern game performance. It’s comparatively lightweight when placed next to the Legion Go, and runs enough games well enough that it got me into playing PC exclusive titles. It’s a decently affordable indie machine that can be brute forced into running more demanding titles, and only really requires Linux knowledge if you want to fuss around beyond running just Steam purchased titles. For most people, it’s pretty solid. Game Pass streaming on the Steam Deck isn’t consistent, but when it works it’s not half bad.

I’m not saying the Legion Go is necessarily worth its $700 price point in a world where the Steam Deck exists. But, as the weeks have progressed, it has been really nice to have a premium Game Pass handheld available to me.

While there are cheaper Windows handhelds with similar performance, those premium touches help push the Legion Go into being where I want to have that higher-end experience. Even if the weight strain on my wrists ensures I’ll be heading back to the Steam Deck for my Vampire Survivors runs.

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