The Smach Z is Not Completely Dead

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Following last year’s failed attempt to bring a portable SteamOS console to reality, the team behind Smach Z has apparently been able to get investors funding and this time came with a prototype to the recent Gamescom in Koln, Germany. I was not there myself, but there are now some reports as to what they were showing exactly and how it was actually working.

First, let’s be honest, they have done serious homework and have an actual working prototype. So at this stage it would be unfair to call if vaporware. At least they were able to build something, and that’s one milestone to recognize. Now… it certainly wasn’t really pretty (prototype) and it appeared to be pretty bulky and massive. They used a 6 inches screen for the demo, but it will apparently be a 5.7 inches screen in the final iteration of the machine.

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Not sure if we can consider this kind of console a pocketable item anymore. Here’s the PR video they released after the event, where they make it sound better that it is. Well, it’s PR after all.

Despite the fact that they advertize that it will be available with both SteamOS and Windows10, it was apparently Windows10 that was chosen for the Gamescom demo:

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I hope they have figured a solution on how to enter text for such kind of situations – currently they are apparently using a USB keyboard for the demo! That was certainly funny.

In terms of ergnomics, I don’t thing the choice of having the screen in the middle and the controls on the side is a very good thing. It looks unnatural and testers have complained about that too.

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The specs:

  • Full HD screen (probably not a very good idea, will lead to poor performance) – apparently they want to have a matte screen.
  • 64GB or 128 GB Memory – not much for most demanding games.
  • 4GB or 8GB of RAM – that sounds reasonable.
  • Battery lasting 5 hours of gaming. I’m seriously doubtful about such claims.
  • Wifi, LTE (PRO model only), Bluetooth, etc…
  • From 299 Euros to 499 euros. Price-wise, it sounds reasonable again, but it needs to be compared with the GPD Win at some point…

Here’s a video from golem.de :

I saw a couple more videos and the performance in games (I can remember FEZ) was actually pretty bad and the whole thing lagged even worse than my Intel i5 HD Graphics laptop. They are apparently having drivers issues and not using the latest chip that they plan to have. So, how good the final version will perform is a little of a question mark, but so far it remains unimpressive. Their homepage shows off the machine running a Metro game, but honestly that seems a little too much for what the hardware can deliver:

Note that they have provided the following communication after the GamesCom 2016, before they go for their kickstarter effort:

Some people were expecting to see the final device with the final hardware already. However, as we explained, this was just a prototype and we still have work to do on the final device. We’ll publish the benchmarks of the final hardware during the Kickstarter, showing different games running and its frame rate. The design of the console will also be improved: The prototype is very bulky, the materials are not final, the buttons are just placeholders, etc.

So I guess, we will just have to wait a little more to see:

  • a revised design
  • how well games will actually run
  • a delivery date

That’s it for now.


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4 Comments

  1. Even at 5.7″ pocketability looks to be a struggle.

    As for keyboard stuff, they can emulate a Steam Controller enough for Valve’s virtual keyboard to work, and have a touch screen for Windows to show its virtual keyboard. Either one will get you working enough for SteamOS and Windows.

  2. They won’t be able to install SteamOS on it b/c their Graphics solution is AMD. Many of us told them this when they started, and they just ignored us. Anyways, don’t expect SteamOS to run on this unless they change their SOC solution away from AMD. They won’t at this point because they are committed.

    • The latest version of SteamOS have a beginning of AMD support I believe, but I don’t know if they would support the chip they are planning to use.

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