The team behind the Smach Z portable Steam Machine (i.e. handheld) has been disclosing a little more info as they are gearing towards their virtual social event on the 8th of December. While this project may sound like vaporware at this stage, at least they have now announced who plans to manufacture the console itself. ImasD Technologies.
ImasD technologies is a Spanish manufacturer that has been known for recently announcing (in March 2015) the Click-ARM tablet device, on which you can install any operating system (not limited to Android, but also Linux, Tizen).
The problem is that the said tablet was supposed to be available by Q3 2015 and as far as I could tell it has still not be released. So that puts some doubt as to whether ImasD, if proved legit, can even deliver something by end 2016 for the Smach Z project.
So, what else ? We have a new picture of the proposed machine. Here it is.
They have been bold enough to announce what kind of games you can actually play with it:
Powerful enough to play any game on the market: Portal 2, DOTA, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, SOMA, Civilization V, Metro: Last Light Redux, Borderlands 2, The Witcher 2, …
I understand they need to get the hype running, but I’m pretty sure the hardware they plan to use (“AMD embedded G-Series SoC “Steppe Eagle” with Jaguar-based CPU and GCN based Radeon graphics”) is not going to support very well some of these games (Witcher 2, Metro: Last Light Redux in particular). At least they did not risk mentioning that Shadow of Mordor would run on it, because we already know it runs not-too-well (here’s a euphemism for you), even with medium details, on the Alienware Steam Machine.
How about controls ? Well, it seems that they answer to the usual question “what if you don’t want to use the trackpads to play games?” is an interesting take on the problem:
But if you are “classic” gamer, and you prefer more traditional controls, SMACH Z will include magnetic adapters to configure physical controls your way. Just put the add-on on top of any of the touchpad and play.
So, they plan to address it with some additional parts to put on top of the trackpads. Not sure how well it would work in the end, but for now they are not shying away from the issue.
They will probably announce at least 2 models down the road, since the 4G connection bullet point refers to another version of the Smach Z:
4G mobile network connectivity (PRO model only).
All in all, it will be very difficult to say how serious of a project this is until they disclose any video of a running prototype, or showcase one during an upcoming event in 2016. I certainly hope they plan to be either at an upcoming CES or E3 to let people try it by themselves before they launch a pre-order campaign.