Nintendo Switch rolled out in the market in March 2017 with an innovative hybrid design that combined the home console features with a handheld console and since then Switch has been dominating the marketing with both first-party and third-party titles that gamers can play on the go or on the TV. However, the hybrid console might be facing some competition in the form of a Steam handheld called SMACH Z.
SMACH Z is a gaming handheld which started off as a Kickstarter project called the Steamboy, and now this Steam handheld might be nearing its release as Daniel Fernandez, CEO at Smach, seems to be ready to bring SMACH Z, a Steam handheld gaming device, in the market.
With this handheld coming out in a market, that is dominated by Nintendo’s hybrid console, Nintendo Switch, a question arises that can a Steam handheld has a place in the market with Switch dominating it.
Before we get to discuss if this handheld be able to hold its own in the handheld market? or how it can make its place in the handheld market with Switch dominating it? Let us discuss what SMACH Z really is.
In terms of specs, SMACH Z features an AMD Ryzen APU. To be specific, the handheld is powered by AMD Ryzen 1605B processor that also features Vega 8 graphics chips.
Using an AMD chip to power a handheld is a good choice since AMD has designed some of the best APUs in the market and Ryzen APUs are already tearing up the market especially the Ryzen 2200G.
Also, SMACH Z will come in two different versions namely SMACH Z and SMACH Z Pro and difference between the two only lies in how much RAM they feature and Camera.
SMACH Z features 4GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM, which is the same amount of RAM Nintendo Switch uses, a 1920×1080 6” Touchscreen display, Wifi connectivity, USB-C, USB-A, Micro USB, Display Port, SD card, Audio minijack, and the users will have the choice of running either Windows 10 or Linux.
As for the SMACH Z Pro, the specs are the same except for 8GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM and a 5 MP camera.
This Steam handheld is basically able to run steam games on the go if the benchmarks from the Kickstart page are to be believed, but we will discuss this later.
Now back to the main question, if this handheld will be able to capture the handheld market? Like how Nintendo has been able to do with Nintendo Switch.
The answer is yes, in our opinion this Steam handheld has the potential to compete with Nintendo Switch and secure a market share for itself.
What is the reason behind this you might ask? Well, the idea of a handheld is to offer the gamers the freedom to play their games on the go wherever they want, whenever they want.
This is the very reason why Switch has been so much successful as it allows gamers to play games like Doom, Zelda: Breath of The Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Skyrim, FIFA 18 and more.
However, Nintendo’s library is limited to its first-party titles and third-party titles which depend on publishers and developers if they want ot port it to Switch or not.
But, with SMACH Z the gamers will have their entire Steam library in a handheld which might or might be able to play them.
According to the benchmarks from the handheld’s Kickstarter page, SMACH Z is able to play games like Skyrim, Jotun, Metro: Last Light Redux, Just Cause 2 and more at a decent FPS. Here are the average FPS for the game on the Steam handheld.
- Metro: Last Light Redux (720p. High settings) ~ 35 FPS
- Company of Heroes 2 (720p. Medium settings) ~ 25 FPS
- Jotun (1080p) ~ 45 FPS
- Skyrim (720p. High setting) ~ 25 FPS
- Just Cause 2 (720p. Medium settings) ~ 35 FPS
- Spiral Knights (1080p) ~ 50 FPS
- Overwatch (720p. Medium) ~ 30 FPS
- Torchlight II (1080p. Very high settings) ~ 35 FPS
- Xcom: Enemy Unknown (720p. High settings) ~30 FPS
- Civilization 5 (1080p. High settings) ~ 28 FPS
- Tomb Raider (720p. Medium settings) ~ 40 FPS
- Alien: Isolation (720p. Ultra settings) ~ 35 FPS
Now given that no third-party benchmarks are available for this handheld we would take these results with a grain of salt and we recommend you do the same.
But, even if we consider that SMACH Z is able to reach the aforementioned FPS for games combined with the huge library of games on Steam, what is there to stop this handheld to become the next innovative sensation on the gaming industry. Just imagine playing all your Steam games on the go.
From the benchmarks, it is clear that the handheld will not be able to touch 60 FPS and gamers will have to play at 30 FPS, a sacrifice that players will have to make.
While we have talked about the things that can make this Steam Handheld a worthy opponent to Nintendo Switch. However, there are some downsides to this handheld that can stop it from being a true game changer.
First up is the performance, as the benchmarks indicate that different games have different levels of performance on the handheld and would require a 30 FPS lock.
Which it basically means is that the handheld requires support from the developers themselves to include a 30 FPS lock and many PC titles don’t include that or support from Steam.
What it means for the handheld is that without the support from either Steam or the game developers the experience on this handheld is not going to be amazing.
Next up are the controls, which again requires support from the developers themselves to properly map the controls to Steam handheld’s control scheme.
Without proper control scheme for the handheld, there isn’t anything that would convince a gamer to purchase this handheld instead of Nintendo Switch since every game that launched for Switch is optimized to its control scheme.
Another problem that would be a hurdle to this handheld’s success is the multiplayer component.
Like there are a lot of multiplayer titles on Steam and Steam being a PC platform, a majority of gamers use mouse and keyboard to play games which would present a problem for the handheld users.
For example, if somehow this handheld manages to run PUBG, chances of that are slim though, and the handheld player is matched with a PC player.
The PC player with mouse and keyboard will clearly have an advantage over the handheld user and again this issue can’t be resolved without developer support.
With that being said, if the SMACH Z creators are able to fix all these issues, this Steam handheld has genuine potential to rival Nintendo Switch.
What do you think of the SMACH Z? Will it be able to compete with Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments.