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SMACH Z handheld gaming PC reaches Kickstarter goal

Prototype of the SMACH Z, a handheld gaming PC. (Source: SMACH)
Prototype of the SMACH Z, a handheld gaming PC. (Source: SMACH)
When people talk about handheld gaming, they typically don't mention PC titles. Startup SMACH hopes to change that conversation with their upcoming SMACH Z and SMACH Z Pro, handheld gaming PCs able to play AAA Steam releases. SMACH has turned to Kickstarter for funding, and their initial goal has been met.

The handheld gaming market has long been dominated by console manufacturers like Nintendo and Sony, with smartphones making inroads in recent years. Startup SMACH hopes to change this with the SMACH Z handheld gaming PC.

After setting up an initial Kickstarter campaign in December 2015 to fund the project, the company put the project on hold to focus on design and create a working prototype. Last month, SMACH opened a new Kickstarter campaign with the goal of reaching €250,000 (a little over USD $275,000). The Kickstarter was fully funded before October 31. As of 10:30 AM CST on November 4, 2016, the campaign has €330,855 (USD $367,928) pledged.

The device looks rather unique. The prominent feature is the 6” 1080p touch-enabled LCD display in the middle of the device. Flanking the screen are two haptic touchpads, a clickable joystick on the left, and four face buttons on the right. Four triggers sit on the top of the device and two more action buttons rest on the back.

Two SKUs are in the works, the SMACH Z and the SMACH Z Pro, which will differ internally. SMACH decided to rely on an AMD SoC to power both devices. The chip has a 800 MHz Radeon R7 GPU integrated into the die. Full specs are as follows:

 

ProcessorQuad-core AMD Merlin Falcon RX-421BD SoC (2.1 GHz clock speed)
GraphicsIntegrated Radeon R7 at 800 MHz (specific model and video RAM unknown)
RAM 4GB (SMACH Z) / 8GB (SMACH Z Pro) DDR4-2133
Storage64 GB (SMACH Z) / 128 GB (SMACH Z Pro) (HDD/SSD/eMMC unknown)
Connectivity

WiFi and Bluetooth capable (standards unknown), 4G LTE (SMACH Z Pro only), micro SD card slot, HDMI out, USB 3.0 Type-C

Battery life5 hours of gaming

Benchmarks from SMACH show that the Pro variant should be capable of running most AAA games from the past few years, albeit at low resolutions and graphical settings. Some highlights include Sykrim (25 FPS on High settings in 720p) and Overwatch (30 FPS on Medium settings in 720p). While not ground breaking, these frame rates are playable. SMACH has not released any benchmarks for their base model, but as it uses the same SoC and iGPU, performance should be similar.

The SMACH Z and SMACH Z Pro will run SMACH Z OS, a custom version of Linux. The OS is optimized for the device and compatibility with games running through Valve’s Steam client. SMACH has promised that games available on Steam’s Linux store will work on their devices. If users choose, they can load Windows 10 onto their unit, but SMACH has not offered support for Microsoft's OS.

The startup will face steep competition from Nintendo's Switch console, another highly portable gaming device. Mobile gaming will also pose a real threat to SMACH, as smartphones (like Apple's iPhone 7 and Samsung's Galaxy S7) are becoming more powerful and mobile games have vastly improved in quality. In addition, gaming notebooks are now much more portable and offer gaming experiences similar to full desktops, thanks to AMD and NVIDIA's new and more power efficient GPUs. The SMACH Z and SMACH Z Pro will have to bring something unique to the market in order to stand out.

SMACH has set up multiple stretch goals to expand the capabilities of the devices. These stretch goals can be found at the bottom of their Kickstarter page. SMACH is planning to ship the base model SMACH Z to backers who pledge at least €249 and the SMACH Z Pro to those who pledge €399 or more. SMACH plans to begin shipping units in April of 2017.

A rendered image of the SMACH Z. (Source: SMACH)
A rendered image of the SMACH Z. (Source: SMACH)
The SMACH Z and Z Pro are slightly smaller than a Wii U Gamepad. (Source: SMACH)
The SMACH Z and Z Pro are slightly smaller than a Wii U Gamepad. (Source: SMACH)
Various benchmarks of the SMACH Z Pro. (Source: SMACH)
Various benchmarks of the SMACH Z Pro. (Source: SMACH)
Benchmarks of the SMACH Z Pro compared to current consoles on the market. (Source: SMACH)
Benchmarks of the SMACH Z Pro compared to current consoles on the market. (Source: SMACH)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2016 11 > SMACH Z handheld gaming PC reaches Kickstarter goal
Sam Medley, 2016-11- 4 (Update: 2016-11- 4)
Sam Medley
Sam Medley - Review Editor - @samuel_medley
I've been a "tech-head" my entire life. After graduating college with a degree in Mathematics, I worked in finance and banking a few years before taking a job as a Systems Analyst for my local school district. I started working with Notebookcheck in October of 2016 and have enjoyed writing news articles and notebook reviews. My areas of interest include the business side of technology, retro gaming, Linux, and innovative gadgets. When I'm not hunched over an electronic device or writing code for a new database, I'm either outside with my family, playing a decade-old video game, or sitting behind a drum set.