The Smach Z is a handheld gaming computer that’s been in development for so long that it was derided as “Scam Z” in a popular YouTube video more than two years ago.

But after many delays, the developers of the Smach Z started showing off working prototypes this year, letting trade show attendees actually play games on the compact gaming PC.

Now the company has sent one of those prototypes to YouTuber The Phawx, who has started posting in-depth videos showing just what the Smach Z can do… so far.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the unit featured in the videos is a prototype. Some hardware and design features may be subject to change. And it’s possible that software could be tweaked to improve performance.

For now, The Phawx notes that he’s testing a Smach Z with an AMD Ryzen V1605B quad-core processor, AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics, 32GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 5MP camera, and Windows 10.

It features a 6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen display surrounded by Steam Controller-style gaming controls including buttons and touchpads. Since most of the functions can be mapped to keyboard and mouse controls, you should theoretically be able to play PC games that normally require a keyboard as well as titles that are designed for game controllers.

That’s one thing that sets the Smach Z apart from existing handheld gaming computers like the GPD Win and GPD Win 2, which both have clasmshell-style designs and QWERTY keyboards.

The other thing that sets the Smach Z apart is its processor (although the upcoming GPD Win Max is also expected to feature an AMD Ryzen Embedded processor).

While the Radeon Vega 8 GPU makes the Smach Z one of the most powerful handheld gaming computers to date, The Phawx notes that the prototype he’s testing has a 15 watt TDP which means the chip may not be living up to its full potential.

He was able to get it to run at 25 watts, but the system got too hot for comfort. But he was also able to improve 15 watt performance by disabling two CPU cores (which aren’t really needed for gaming) in order to allow the remaining CPU cores and the GPU to run at higher speeds without generating more heat.

After doing that, he was able to get about 20 frames per second while playing Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at low graphics settings and with the screen resolution set to 1024 x 576 pixels. But he estimates that performance would be roughly double if Smach Z (or modders) are able to get the processor to run comfortably at 25 watts.

Update: The Phawx says he’s managed to get the heat issues under control, which allows him to run the system at 25 watts, which allows the CPU and GPU to run at higher speeds, bringing the frame rates closer to 30 frames per second. You can see what that looks like in the second video posted below.

In terms of benchmarks, the Smach Z prototype seems to handle itself pretty well. Here are a few scores from The Phawx compared with the scores I got last year when testing a GPD Win 2 handheld gaming PC with an Intel Core m3-7Y30 processor and Intel HD 615 graphics.

Note that these benchmarks are for a Smach Z running with a 15 watt TDP. Increasing the TDP to 25 watts should boost scores a bit.

Smach Z (Ryzen V1605B) GPD Win 2 (Core m3-7Y30)
3DMark Sky Diver 5117 3272
3DMark Fire Strike 1539 825
3DMark Cloud Gate 6319 5279

Overall, while these videos show a pre-production device, they do at least confirm the the Smach Z is a real thing… and it really is capable of handling modern PC games (Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice came out just a few months ago).

A few other interesting things to note from The Phawx’s videos:

  • This thing is small for a gaming PC, but it’s bigger than a Nintendo Switch and not exactly pocket-sized.
  • There’s a DisplayPort output, but no HDMI so it’ll probably be easier to connect to a monitor than a TV.
  • There’s a fan (with speed configurable in the BIOS), but the Phawx says it wasn’t noisy enough to bother people on a bus or at his office.
  • The Smach Z comes with a 60W USB-C charger

If the markings on the box are accurate, the Smach Z may also be available with up to an AMD Ryzen V1807B processor with Radeon Vega 11 graphics.

According to the Smach Z website, the portable gaming PC is on track to ship this year. Prices start at $699 for a model with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, no camera, and the Linux-based Smach OS.

A fully-decked out model with 16GB of dual-channel memory, 256GB of storage, Windows 10, and a 5MP camera will set you back $1198.

While the device isn’t actually available for purchase yet, you can reserve one for a down-payment of $10.

 

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15 Comments

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  1. That battery low reddish light indicator coming on in the middle of the gameplay review is not a good sign. The battery life must be horrendous. The same reddish light was seen at Tom’s article and elsewhere. The fan is really noisy in the video also. Maybe his office is as noisy as in the bus.

    1. Okay, so there’s a little bit more information and videos out there, and here’s what I gathered from them:

      Smach Z (Sekiro 540p/Low Settings):
      TDP-High (25W): 30fps – 45fps, 85’C, 50 mins (?)**
      TDP-Low (15W): 20fps – 30fps, 75’C, 100 mins (?)**

      GPD Win2 (Sekiro 540p/Low Settings):
      TDP-High (12W): 20fps- 25fps, 70’C, 120mins (?)**
      TDP-Low (7W): 10fps – 20fps, 65’C, 190 mins (?)**

      Overall, the Intel solution currently looks to be a better fit. It’s more efficient, but hopefully next year we will get some slightly better Intel Iris iGPU and 10nm Mobile SoC’s, and also some AMD Navi-8 iGPU and Zen2 7nm Mobile SoC’s as well.

      **We don’t know exactly about battery life, but my somewhat educated guesstimate pegs the Smach Z with TDP-High (25W) scenario at somewhere below 1 hour. And the TDP-Low (15W) scenario at upto 2 hours of gameplay. So not very promising. From what we have seen, it looks like the GPD Win2 under High-TDP should provide slightly longer gameplay time of slightly above 2 hours. In addition to this, when compared to the Smach-Z under Low-TDP profile, it should have roughly equal performance, but benefit from having a lower temperature and fan noise.

      1. I think he mentioned 70 minutes in the video. A few comments there says that was at 15W. Just imagine how long the battery will last at 25W.

  2. Interesting. Thinking of getting one. What’s upgradeable? Thinking of getting the base model without a camera and upgrading the RAM and storage.

  3. Not a good look that the prototype model was shipped with higher specs (32GB ram) than the top end production model (16GB.) Although I’m actually surprised that after years of slipping release dates and deceptive videos there is a possibility they could release a real product.

  4. I don’t believe the Production Model will get much/any improvements over this Prototype Model. Especially when it comes to the factors of ergonomics, portability, battery life, and performance.

    With that said and done, I’m not quite impressed with what I am seeing here. To me, the GPD Win2 actually looks like the superior product. So unless the Smach Team can fulfil all their orders in the next 6 months, and start production of a “Smach-Y” next year, using a 7nm Zen2 4c/8t APU with Navi iGPU… there’s really not much to say about it.

    We’re more likely to see GPD retaliate with an even better GPD Win3 sooner than later. I guess competition is healthy for innovation and consumers!

    1. I wanted to add to this, just a list of systems for the heaviest titles for emulation!!

      PS4 – NA/TBA
      Switch – NA/TBA

      PS3 – MGS V, GTA V, Tomb Raider, TLOU, Uncharted2, Basara 3, RDR, Crysis 3, Motorstorm 3,
      Wii U – Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, BotW, SCell Blacklist, Project Cars, CoD BO2, AC BFlag,
      Wii – Monster Hunter Tri, Xenoblade Chronicles, Skyward Sword, Metroid Corruption,
      GameCube – Wind Waker, StarFox Adventure, Luigi’s Mansion, REvil 4, NFC Carbon, Simpsons,
      PS2 – MGS3, SotC, GT4, Black, Tekken5, GoW2, JakDexter2, GTA SA, Silent Hill 3, NFCUG2,
      DreamCast – Shenmue 2, Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure 2, Tony Hawk 2, Q3A, Ecco, CTaxi 2,
      DosBox – Duke Nukem, Doom 2, Syndicate Wars, Death Rally, Monkey Island, Carmageddon,
      PSP – Motorstorm, Tekken 6, GoW Sparta, Monster Hunter, GTA LCS, Burnout Legends, Resist,
      PS1 – MGS1, GT2, Tekken3, SoulReaver, TombRaider Last, Driver2, CTR, Crash 3, Wip3out, Alien,
      DSi – GTA China, New SMario, Mario Kart DS, Cop Recruit, Kingdom Hearts, DBO 2, DQ Monsters,
      N64 – Wave Racer, Conker, Perfect Dark, World Driver Champ, Mario Kart, Super Mario64, Star Fox,

      GBA – All should run perfectly
      SNES – All should run perfectly
      NES – All should run perfectly
      Sega – All should run perfectly
      Atari – All should run perfectly