SMACH announced the SMACH Z portable computing solution two years ago and showcased it quite a bit at E3 this past year. Before that, doubts had surfaced about the device's validity – but having it be shown off was wise. Since then, the official site has launched with a store showcasing a variety of units available to buy. The SMACH Z features 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and lacks a camera and sets you back $700 to start or around $630 with the pre-order discount. The Z Pro features double the storage and RAM and a 5-megapixel camera for $900 or about $800 with the discount. The final version is the SMACH Z Ultra that doubles the RAM and storage once again - but retains the same limited camera for $1,100 normally or around $1,000 with the discount.
The device is heralded even at a lower tier at being able to run full-fledged PC and Linux games depending on what OS you choose to go with. The initial pitch video showed GTA V, Alien Isolation, and the Witcher III running at fairly high levels given the device's size. Given that it has AMD Ryzen processors with Radeon Vega 8 graphics inside, it should be able to run anything you throw at it to some degree. Given that this is targeted for people who want a high-end gaming experience on the go, it makes sense to use it for things that you can't get on portable console gaming hardware - now including Nintendo's own Switch.
Nintendo's hybrid device puts the SMACH Z in an interesting place given how that is basically a portable indie machine if nothing else – but its small stature can push some surprisingly-good performance out of modern-day games – albeit with major concessions made to resolution and framerate stability. This device has a real chance to succeed where the Switch falls short by not compromising graphics to an absurd degree. If it can run most games released over the new few years at around 720p and at least 30 frames per second, then players will have a somewhat future-proof portable device that won't be matched by a gaming console-centric device for quite some time.
The device's full HD six-inch screen should allow games to look good, and its mixture of a Steam controller with an Xbox One controller design is fantastic for most games - but might make portable Shovel Knight play a bit troublesome if you don't get the optional Z-pad add-ons to give you a d-pad overlay. For left-handed players, being able to put the d-pad or a pre-set style of face buttons on either side is nice too. When it comes to picking a unit to buy, the best long-term option is the most expensive one. It's a bit disappointing that there isn't a way to expand the storage - at least from what's been shown off so far. Having something like micro SD card support would be nice and wouldn't increase the device's size any. 256 GB is enough for most games out there now, and you can always just be picky about what you want to play on the go and mix up a few big games alongside a lot of smaller ones to give yourself some portable variety.
Development of the device has taken over two years and is finally set to be released in the first quarter of 2019. The SMACH line definitely seems like it will be a niche product, but if it gets high enough reviews and strong word of mouth support, maybe we'll see it get released in major chain stores. It would be pretty cool to step into a Best Buy store and walk out with a small device capable of running nearly any modern game you throw at it and run Linux on the go for a native SteamOS experience. More info can be found on the SMACH Z website!