There are a growing number of handheld gaming computers available including three models that launched in just the first half of this year, the ONEXPLAYER, GPD Win 3, and AYA Neo.

But one device that was announced long before any of the others has been stuck in limbo for years, and now it looks likely that the Smach Z handheld gaming PC will never ship to customers or backers of several crowdfunding campaigns.

In a recent update posted to the members-only Smach Z forum, and re-posted to reddit, Smach founder Daniel Fernandez says that the company has lost the support of its primary investor, and will likely declare bankruptcy soon.

Fernandez notes that there’s still a slim chance that Smach Z could find a new investor, but he acknowledges that it’s unlikely to happen. It’s also unclear if or when the company will have the funds to continue issuing refunds to customers.

The Smach Z was an ambitious project from the start. First announced as the SteamBoy in 2014, the idea was to put a full-fledged computer (running Valve’s Linux-based SteamOS operating system at the time) into a handheld device at a time when portable gaming typically required a big laptop or a purpose-built device like a Nintendo DS.

After a name change and a few false starts, the first Smach Z crowdfunding campaign went live in 2016, with the promise that backers would get a handheld computer with a 6 inch full HD display, an AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD processor, and integrated game controllers the following year.

That… did not happen.

Some folks took the failure to launch as a sign that the Smach Z was always a scam, meant to dupe investors and backers out of their money. Others figured the designers were just in over their head and failed to fully grasp the time, effort, and money it would take to transform the Smach Z concept into an actual, working device.

We may never know the full truth of the matter (and it may just depend on your personal definition of the word “scam”). But the Smach Z started to show signs of life again in 2018 when Fernandez detailed a hardware revision based around AMD’s newer, more powerful Ryzen V1605B embedded processor.

The hardware design was said to have been finalized the following year, and the company even sent a mostly-functional prototype to YouTuber The Phawx, and then… not much happened.

In the latest updated, Fernandez lays out a number of setbacks the company experienced, including financial setbacks and several hardware issues that the Smach team doesn’t have the resources to resolve. At this point the company is down to just 3 people and there’s not enough money left to pay partners to work on hardware or to issue refunds to customers.

If Smach does declare bankruptcy, that might free upĀ some money to continue offering some full or partial refunds, but there are no guarantees that anyone who backed the crowdfunding campaigns will get their money back – Fernandez says any refunds the company is able to issue will first go to “direct customers from our website” who put in a down payment to reserve a Smach Z.

While the Smach Z will probably never ship, its legacy does sort of live on in the current crop of handheld gaming computers from other companies. In 2014 when the SteamBoy was first announced, there was nothing quite like it on the market. Now there are multiple options for gamers who want to a handheld PC.

But that’s cold comfort for those who may have already spent money on the doomed Smach Z.

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  1. Not really surprised at all. The writings were on the wall, always vague updates. With the money the backers invested, they can already get the Gpd Win 3/Max/Max 2021, Aya Neo and OneGX player.

  2. This is why I don’t do crowdfunding. Lately all I see are these SSD usb sticks and variants promoted by companies specializing in promoting crowdfunding. They all have slick graphics and mockups and sometimes videos, but nothing provably working, They also dis competitors who have actual products on sale now for something they might ship in 4 months. And then just follow it along over time. I recently learned it might be related to how long it can be before you can’t do a CC chargeback. Honestly I’m beginning to think its irresponsible for any website to link to kickstarter campaigns unless there’s a significant proof its real–and not just shuffling the wording around on a press release of some kind.

    I’m saying this while staring at a Beelink Expand X that reboots my phone whenever I plug it in or disconnect it. Having dealt with second screen support on Android before, I knew the wording on those posts were misleading–but just do a google search and look at all the tech blogs that breathlessly fed on the press release without a reality check.

    Also, second time to get burned by Beelink this year. Fair warning to all. If you do enough research you’ll see that there are widespread problems with their products and that their CS is almost nil.

    I do appreciate that this post is follow-up, there’s not enough of that in the industry. What did actually come of a product announcement, or how did things really go for buyers after your rushed 3 day review to meet word length and not miss the publishing cycle.

  3. This is why I don’t participate in crowdfunding. The success rate for crowdfunding campaigns seems to be less than 50%.

  4. ScamZ finally comes to an end. After wasting all their supporters time and money, it is going to be fun watching how much the refunds or should I say unable to refund part work out.

  5. The Smach Z project is a miserable failure and a flop, but, objectively and legally, it can not be classified as a “scam”.

    The YouTuber, Stop, Drop and Retro, is being an over-exaggerating & moronic drama queen, who is click baiting for YouTube views. He doesn’t know what the definition of an actual scam is, and is just throwing the word around like an idiot.

    1. Smach Z is still lying until the end, even with this “reveal”. Lying too much or being deceptive most of the time is as good as a scam.

      Do you see any advertizements on SD&R’s video? There is none, because he never monetize it. But he got this one correct.

    2. LOL you’re hitting messenger in hate of message.
      Admit it, whether scam or not is not decided by founder’s assurance. If it is, every Wall street CEOs should take hypnosis therapy to f***k federal laws.

  6. Not surprised at all to see this. I really didn’t think this product was going to launch. The problem is that the only people who probably had an interest in a real launch were the original backers, which probably makes it hard for their investor to have any interest in it, because theres little money to be made that hasn’t already been collected.

    I’m really surprised that anyone continued supporting them after their dubious trade show demonstration, with products that were clearly not even real prototypes.

    It’s hard to definitively call this a scam, but I have a hard time telling the difference between a scam, and someone just being careless about other people’s money.

  7. Smach Z just full of Smoke and Mirrors. Hire companies to build rough prototypes for parade to get preorders. Was never able to finalize and mass manufacture anything. Thats why all those delays upon delays.

    Gotta be foolish for anyone to continue to believe their excuses. Batteries are no biggie because Smach Z uses off-the-shelf batteries. Does anyone still believe the earlier button paint job or the dented plastics excuses? Really…

  8. Many of us in the online community knew the investors went in in over their heads, consciously overpromising in the remote hope that the boldness of their idea would attract the necessary engineering and production expertise to fix their problems for them. They had zero experience doing this before and while it is admirable they got some working prototypes out the door, they never came clean on their business model. They just were bedazzled like anyone would be by the idea of a handheld gaming PC as being the next big thing in tech but these investors actually knew next to nothing about the business of actually making it happen. That is why many of us term this to be a scam: they lacked experience and tried to deceptively spin themselves as some up-and-coming force who did.

    1. Those “working prototypes” were a screen in a 3D printed housing connected to a laptop with a cable, and a cheap Atom based tablet’s motherboard hacked into the same case later on when they were called out. Nah, man, this was no simple inaptitude. In fact it was a success: they go many for the fake videos time and time again, people with buyer’s (supporter’s?) remorse defending them tooth and nail was just a PR bonus for a second and third run. They did not set out to make something impossible. GPD did it before them, at that time also a small company. Intel HDMI sticks were widespread, space was not an issue, they didn’t need to R&D some new technology to shrink it down. Remember at first they claimed it will be passively cooled with some space-age metal-foam heatsink? Yeah, that was a bullshit, cause they wanted to one-up the then new GPD Win 1 with it’s loud fan, but they never even considered making it. It was a scam all along.

        1. Rough unfinished “pre-production” prototype with numerous problems, which shows its not ready for the real world. Some of those problems not mentioned in the video. And Smach Z only sent to one reviewer only, isn’t that strange? Probably because other reviewers would take more critical look and divulge problems with the review sample. Likely a move to allay backers’ fears and try to quench the ever present negative stigma around this project.

          Hence my earlier post “Hire companies to build rough prototypes for parade to get preorders.”. Well, whoever pre-ordered because of that showing just wasted time (waiting) and money.

          1. I know we sometimes are inclined to want to turn this into a conspiracy theory, but having seen the idiots at many startups, it is more of greed wanting a quick buck blinding them to common sense than actually realizing they need to invest in long-term engineering and staffing. People just don’t understand the idea of making it their own and making a long-term investment even means and instead think that charts and wads of cash will make them the leaders they need to be to make a product a success without making it their own and actually investing time and interest in what makes it tick. They were very stupid, yes, but CEOs do the same thing all the time and drive companies into the ground on Wall Street and what do they get? Fat bonuses, stock options, and raises before they are respectfully asked to resign, only after they fire 10,000s of employees. That’s the mindset of the business “genius” behind Smach Z. It makes perfect sense to us, but they just don’t get it and yet they honestly think they do and that’s what makes them just so dangerous as investors in the tech sphere.

          2. And what’s even worse is CEOs who are absolute failures are so oblivious to their failure that they make books describing their fantasized success that they believe happened but never actually did. Their mindset breeds this mindset through the industry which is why I refuse to work with these money vacuums who don’t want to sit down and get to know the ins and outs of the business and learn how to gather up just the right talent and inspire them to achieve. Instead you have misers who just want to invest hoping that because it is in a key market and they’re hyping it, that their enthusiasm and them imagining themselves succeeding will drop pixie dust and magically make all their dreams come true. Excuse my long posts, but this is exactly the stupidity that is rampant in the markets these days and people honestly don’t call it out even a tiny fraction of what they should. Instead, they normalize it and accept it as fact and don’t want to call these lazy leaders (yes, even the Ivy League MBAs who think their financial theories and meaningless platitudes actually bring innovation when it is the engineers and the researchers who are working their magic by working 100+ hour weeks to make it happen) on the carpet for the charlatans that they are.

      1. I understand how it makes sense to us because we are technically savvy, but having dealt with MBAs who have more cents than sense, there are quite a few ding-a-lings out there who are CFOs of big companies who would do stupid crap like this because they don’t know better. They think because their financial charts show it is a growing market and it looks cool, they can just magically make it happen without getting to know the business. So they will throw their wads of cash at it hoping like mud it will stick, and instead of paying for good engineers, they will go cheap and pay for one-off prototypes and then pay for someone else who is cheap to hopefully make it good. This sounds ridiculous but the number of willfully uninformed bean counters wildly outweighs talent, because look at how many major corporations just let their innovation go to pot and then imagine what stupid crap a startup run by greedy bean counters might end up doing. And the saddest part is they are not conscious of their ignorance during the whole ordeal because it hurts so many third parties (case in point: Smazh Z backers) in the process just because they don’t want to do their homework because they think their money entitles them to not having to do their homework.