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Zotac Zone hands-on: Hot handheld

Zotac Zone hands-on: Hot handheld

Zotac Zone

I spotted the Zotac Zone during my Computex 2024 walkabout, and was pleasantly surprised. The burgeoning gaming handheld market is growing, and having more competition will only make prices drop, leading to more options for consumers like you and me. However, users will have the final say on whether the Zotac Zone can compete with the bigger PC brands, despite packing a brilliant AMOLED display, a Steam Deck-ish body, and powered by the AMD Ryzen 7 8840U APU.

Quick specs

  • AMD Ryzen 7 8840U APU
  • 7-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, no variable refresh rate
  • 48.5Whr battery
  • 16GB LPDDR5X-7500 RAM, starts with 512GB M.2 2280 SSD

The AMD Ryzen chip in the Zotac Zone is similar to the ones powering the Asus ROG Ally and the Lenovo Legion Go. But the main difference is that the Zotac handheld comes with a NPU, which is rated at 16 TOPs. This isn't enough for Windows Copilot+, but on such a small device, I wager that it's pointless anyway. There aren't that many (or any yet) games that would need to use an NPU, too. Still, you can at least expect comparable performance to the other gaming handhelds.

Zotac Zone
Credit: Aloysius Low/Can Buy or Not

Design-wise, the Zotac Zone shares some features with the Valve Steam Deck, but the former is slightly larger. It has a trackpad on each side, and also has the D-pad at the outer edges instead of the inside like the other gaming handhelds. I have a feeling that Zotac wasn't looking too far afield for the design of its handheld.

I do like that the Zotac Zone comes with a 7-inch full-HD 120Hz AMOLED screen, but given its size, I'm surprised that Zotac didn't choose to go with a bigger display. Especially since it even has a kickstand. Connectivity-wise, it has two USB-C 4 ports, one on top and one at the bottom. And it supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 6E. The triggers are adjustable with two stages, and the gaming handheld uses Hall Effect joysticks.

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Zotac Zone
Credit: Aloysius Low/Can Buy or Not

One thing I noticed while quickly trying out the handheld was that it was running quite warm. It was significant, especially when I compared it to the Asus ROG Ally X that I tried earlier in the week. To be fair, the ROG Ally X is Asus' second iteration, and the PC maker has obviously tweaked the handheld to provide a lot more cooling, especially for the display. The Zotac Zone's screen was pretty hot to my hand, even on the cold exhibition floors. That said, it could just be because this is still a prototype.

Zotac Zone
Credit: Aloysius Low/Can Buy or Not

The Zotac Zone is set to go on sale sometime in September for around US$800, though there's no word yet on availability in Singapore. I do note that it could feel a bit dated by then. And if they don't fix how warm it feels while running, it may be a deal-breaker for some.

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