So there’s good news and bad news for folks who’ve been following the development of the Smach Z handheld gaming PC for the past four years. The good news is that, as promised, Smach is showing off an alpha prototype at Embedded World this week.

The bad news is that it’s a non-working prototype.

The company has finalized the specs, updated the processor to a Ryzen V1605B with Radeon Vega 8 graphics, designed a motherboard and daughter board, and created a case prototype. But the whole thing is tucked away behind glass at Embeded World, where the folks at Computer Base got to look (but not touch).

That said, we now have the most accurate idea to date of what the finished product will look like if and when it ships.

Smach has also confirmed that the Smach Z will have a retail price of $699, while the Smach Z Pro (with a 5MP camera and twice the memory and storage) will sell for $899.

Both models will have a 6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen display with touchpads and gaming buttons on the sides. The Smach Z should support Windows 10 or Linux and it’s designed first and foremost as a gaming machine: there’s no physical keyboard.

Other features include USB Type-A, Type-C and micro USB ports, an SD card reader, a headset jack, and WiFi. It even has a full-sized DisplayPort output.

The Smach Z project got its start as a concept device called the SteamBoy in 2014, and after a few false starts, Smach launched a crowdfunding campaign for the device in 2016.

The many delays and setbacks that have affected the project have led some to wonder whether it’s some sort of scam. With Smach finally showing off something closer to the final design, it certainly looks like the company is trying to bring the Smach Z to market. And with AMD’s Ryzen 1605B processor, it could offer 2-3 times the gaming performance of the upcoming GPD Win 2, which is probably its closest rival.

But it remains to be seen how big a market there is for $699 handheld gaming systems when you can buy a Nintendo Switch for half the price.



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51 replies on “Smach Z alpha handheld gaming PC makes its debut (but it’s not playable yet)”

  1. Awesome! either this or gpd win 2! With a market price of $699 it seem right from a performance standpoint! Much better than GPD Win 2

    1. The GPD Win 2 is not perfect, but at least it is a known value. The Smach Z is still vaporware and with its thermals will need a huge fan and an enormous battery in order to have any kind of run time.

      1. GPD win 2 definitely isnt great at $649. Nintendo Switch is so good and it priced well. These PC handheld devices look ridiculous at those market prices!

        1. You may be forgetting you need to shell out around 60 bucks per Switch game. With these PC handhelds you have a massive list of great games readily available to play even when you’ve never bought a PC game before.

          Plus you can use them for so much more than the Switch. Use it as a full PC and connect a keyboard and mouse as well as an external display, bring it to lans, browse the web – why is there not even a web browser on the switch is what I can’t wrap my head around.

        2. This absolutely. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all tend to sell their consoles below margin or with a very smal margin since the main income comes from the (overpriced) games afterwards. GPD doesn’t have that advantage, they literally make 0$ on game sales so they need to ensure a justified margin for their console. Comparing normal consoles with the GPD win in terms of pricing is unfair.

        3. Agreed, except for that point on Nintendo. Unlike the others, Nintendo tends to make a killing on each console sold since their stuff tends to be overpriced. Nintendo’s probably the only console manufacturer these days who make plenty of profit from both consoles and games (and accessories).

  2. It’s unfortunate that they don’t have a functional prototype. Well, I’m still keeping an eye on this since Ryzen in a handheld would be pretty amazing.

  3. If this actually comes out and doesn’t melt, I’d get it. The price is a bit on the high side though.

      1. The Smach Z has been in development for 4 YEARS now.
        And they could NOT even in that time develop a SINGLE working unit.

        They’ve been deceptive and blatantly lied about the product and the progress many times, that they’ve lost the tiny amount of trust and excitement of the initial. Remember the PGS Handheld?

        I’m not saying its a scam, but if I had to make a wager it would be borderline between a scam and lazy development. I feel sorry for the backers who weren’t knowledgeable enough to spend their money on something better like the Nintendo Switch, Nvidia Shield, GPD XD, GPD Win… or the phenomenal GPD Win 2.

        1. Very much agreed. Smach Z finally updated their FB after many months with a picture of the boards at Embedded World 2018. Funny thing is Smach Z did not post the picture of their casing from the same venue. Quite a number of people have already caught on to the casing’s oddities such as the recessed buttons, surface striations, rough edges and vent imperfections as if it was still made with 3D printing. Location for the camera is also in question. Back to the boards, there does not seem to be any WiFi+BT module nor any slot for the WiFi+BT module. And I have not even talked about the LTE part yet.

      2. They don’t see the Smach Z as competition or even any kind of threat, I think according to wade. By the time Smach Z releases, GPD could already be working on a Win 3 or they would have sold enough Win 2s to start working on Win 3 soon after. Also, the Win still has other use cases, so even if the Smach Z is more powerful the Win 2 has more utitlity.

  4. Is that “non-working prototype” or more appropriately a mock-up? Notice the same recessed buttons as in the earlier photos. Probably there is nothing inside the casing. Far from being finished. Can expect more missed deadlines.

      1. Look closely at the case especially the defects in the vents and the rough edges. This still looks like its 3D printed. Can you find the location for the camera? This is not the final production case.

  5. If the Coleco Chameleon taught us anything, it’s that having a shell ready to go is like 75% of the whole thing. Disappointing to hear there is no working prototype yet, though they’ve been waiting for this processor for a while. I wonder if this case and the two PCBs are really indicative of any progress as they may have to be reworked. As it is, without a working prototype, they’ll still have a lot of work to do on their thermal management and how it works in the case. A lot of unexpected issues can arise. It may or may not be common, but even the Nintendo Switch has been reported to warp slightly and I suspect it was tested quite a bit.

  6. I probably won’t get either because the prices are so high, but I think I’d honestly still rather have a Win 2 over this. If that Ryzen gets decent battery life and doesn’t run insanely hot, it’s almost perfect spec-wise, but I’d rather have a traditional d-pad somewhere on the device than the Steam-style touchpads. Plus, the keyboard makes the Win 2 more useful for things other than gaming, and the clamshell makes it slightly more portable than this thing, which looks to be the size of a small skateboard. Probably going to stick with my Vita either way, though I’m probably the only person who’s saying that specifically.

  7. “”it certainly looks like the company is trying to bring the Smach Z to market””
    AHAHAHAHA
    You forgot that they make this in the past? Why you don’t call this scam a scam?

  8. That is silly sized, way too big for a handheld.

    Something like a portable DVD player size with a separate controller would make more sense.

  9. Took forever to devolop. Just recently lost the manufacturer of the board. Have prototype. This is the same as several months ago (empty shell)
    Have new motherboard and since no eorking prototype it has not been tested. People expecting this in may will be disapointed again.

  10. Another point. This chip will have to be locked at 15w. That means… No turbo. While the chip itself may be 3x better, without turbo it will be a wash compared to gpd. Sure, much better than previous amd chip they were going to use

  11. Too bad about no working prototype still. Does anyone know how they plan on selling retail units? For example, sell themselves directly, sell through Amazon Prime (preferred) or something else?

  12. Too bad. I wouldn’t pay $600+ for the Win 2’s Core M SoC (non-starter) but I would for a Ryzen one. I’m not in a hurry but it seems it’s going to be a while until this is released (if at all).

    1. What i like about the smach is that its a game console instead of a mini pc with gaming controls.
      Core M isnt bad. My surface old gen M3 works great. It uses less power and thus battery last longer.
      Id want real benchmark from both systems. I think smach will be slightly better than gpd but battery life will be much lower (unless they make case thicker than planned) looks like the prototype is still the older thicker one not the thinner they said it would be.

      But i was waiting for today to see a working prototyped. Without it i wont buy it. Id rather pay more later and wait for benchmarks

  13. Since 2014 and no working prototype. In the time where the Switch is already in the market and the GP Win 2nd Gen. More options is always good for the consumers. But am not too optimistic with this one, I do hope they deliver for the sake of their backers.

  14. Besides being vaporware, I don’t know why anyone would purchase this thing. Who would want a Windows PC without a physical keyboard that has such a tiny display? It’s totally useless, even for games.

    GPD Win 2 is much more practical as is their Pocket device. Planet Gemini is better, too.

    I feel sorry for anyone who backed this before the Nintendo Switch came out.

    1. Nintendo switch is pretty good but has flaws: dont play windows games or even android.
      Its hard to become indie developer so not many indie games neither.

      Anyways. Its just hard to believe that in few months with new manufacturer they can deliver something they havent in years. Plus… Its yet to be tested. Thermal has not been tested. End of year delivery at best

  15. Prototype looks a bit beat up. Its the same of when they had the previous manufacturer.
    Im walking away from this one

  16. That sucks. I wonder if they even applied power to the boards yet.

    Anyway, good luck to the team. It’d be pretty amazing if they succeed in making an adequately cooled Ryzen handheld.

  17. If that’s what they have now, then I really doubt they’ll release it this year unless they skimp on testing (ie. higher potential in having hardware issues crop up post-release).

    I hope these folks are successful. I’d buy a retail unit if it only has minor (yeah it’s subjective) issues.

  18. Taking a closer look it seems to be another fake prototype. The AMD board is a COM board. the other board (the carrier board) would have to have a Type 6 connector. I don’t see it anywhere in there. with those 2 boards it would be think. Don’t even think that prototype case would be able to hold it. the Prototype case is the same as used when planning to use the previous board manufacturer. they are still alive and featured on AMD. I am guessing they want to release it, but at this rate I doubt it would release any time soon. Maybe in the end of the year. 15W processor on a tiny case is not just plug a board and play …

  19. Other thing that doesn’t match is .. they have an offer to deliver a console in May and another to get a discount when they release in the market … in November. Do you think it would take 6 months to make more units to sell on the open market? Carrying Case, extra battery in September. Nothing makes any sense

  20. The two boards look like they’re from different vendors. It would have been nice to see photos of how the two boards connect to each other. The photographer could have taken a side photo.

  21. 699? fuhgetaboutit it looks more bulky than those bluetooth controllers that hold your phone/tablet

  22. There seems to be an insane amount of unnecessary negativity towards this product.

    1. The negativity is warranted and Smach Z earned the bad reputation from the start by showcasing a fake prototype, lied about prototype using ClickARM, undeliverable deadlines, lack of updates, hiding updates behind a paywall, trying to cover up their deceptions and hiring an already shady company like ImasD a.k.a Rhomb.io. After almost 2 years, Smach Z still could not show a real working prototype. During that time, companies like GPD have already released GPD Win, GPD Pocket, GPD XD+ and GPD Win 2. There is also Planet Computers’ Gemini PDA which is now on its way to mass production and shipping soon. Both GPD and Planet Computers showcased real prototypes. Meanwhile, from what I’ve heard, Smach Z will not be testing or powering up their “alpha prototype” until April. That is not even beta stage yet. So how are they going to start mass production and deliver to backers in May? Furthermore the case shown here is not final production version. Many oddities noticeable. For example, where is the camera’s location? The case still looks like it was 3D printed.

      1. I’ll quote myself: “unnecessary negativity”. I’m fully aware of the history of smach z, and if you had backed it, I can understand the anger. But many posts here are those who clearly are not backers but claiming “scam” or “heat problems”. My point is… chill. At least a company is trying despite the various set backs, and people should be glad they didn’t stick with the original specs after the delay. It moves technology forward, if not Smach Z, another company will attempt and improve this.

        And then there are the kickstarter / indiegogo backers. Is it really their first time backing a project? These things happen more usual than not. So many backers think kickstarter is a store platform. If they can do May delivery… great, if not. So what. geez it’s not the end of the world if there’s another delay. If the timeline doesnt’ work out, I’d be happier if they spend an extra couple of month to testing it and refining it. Be glad they didn’t just ghost the backers like many other scams.

        1. Smach Z lost most of their credibility by continuously covering up and lying about their progress, as well as boasting delivery deadlines they themselves very well knew cannot be fulfilled. Yeah, those highly “optimistic” delivery/shipping deadlines looks more like a marketing ploy to entice and get more early money from unsuspecting backers. Furthermore recently Smach Z hired a marketing director instead of hiring more engineers to speed up and finish the development. So it seems Smach Z revolves mostly around marketing this project for more funding rather than the actual development itself. Maybe this is why progress is at such a sedate pace. Another big question is does Smach Z even have enough money left to pay for components and manufacturing cost considering that they said actual costs are “now” significantly higher. That is just another indication that Smach Z does not even know much about production. Despite being as shady as Smach Z, Rhomb.io’s statement “Smach Z has not been able to understand or value the complexity of development and fabrication that this kind of product implies, regarding to the technical and economic matters” looks quite true to the letter.

  23. That thing looks ginormous. I guess the case has to be that big to fit internals and whatnot, but is there any way to slim down the grip/touchpads without compromising functionality? I wish they’d gone clamshell like the GPD handhrld PCs.

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