ZOTAC ZONE gaming handheld PC tries to outdo the Steam Deck

Although it’s unsurprising that plenty of the announcements at Computex 2024 revolved around AI, the event is still pretty much a showcase of actual physical products. Among the new AI-toting laptops are, also unsurprisingly, a new batch of handheld computers that try to recreate the magic of the Steam Deck and the Nintendo Switch for themselves. Although there are finally some variations in designs that are showing up, the original Steam Deck still has nooks and crannies that can be explored and improved. That seems to be what PC maker ZOTAC is trying to do by putting out what is trying to be a better Steam Deck than the Steam Deck.

Designer: ZOTAC

Although there have been some handheld gaming PCs before it, the Steam Deck was the first to come from a well-established name in the industry. But rather than simply be a Nintendo Switch clone, the Steam Deck differed significantly in its design, not to mention its internals and software. In a nutshell, it was an extra large handheld that, unlike any other gaming handheld even today, added not one but two trackpads on each side of the screen. It was a rather unique design detail that has so far been exclusive to the Steam Deck, at least until now.

To be rather blunt, it’s not hard to see the ZOTAC ZONE as a Steam Deck clone precisely because of this feature. In fact, there are two other things that make it almost too similar to Valve’s gaming handheld. It has an OLED screen, something that almost no other handheld PC has at the moment, and its button layout follows the PlayStation controller more than the Xbox which everyone except the Steam Deck uses.

At the same time, however, the ZOTAC ZONE is, to some extent, also a step above the Steam Deck in so many ways. For one, it will be running more recent hardware while the Steam Deck is still stuck in 2022. For another, it has a built-in kickstand, a feature that’s oddly absent from many handheld PCs that are clearly inspired by the Nintendo Switch. Last but not least, ZOTAC goes all out on configurable controls, from two-stage adjustable triggers to programmable dials around each of the two joysticks. It’s a gamer’s dream, definitely, but one that also carries quite a steep price.

According to the latest information, the ZOTAC ZONE will launch in September with a $800 price tag, which puts it on the more expensive end of the spectrum. That’s not surprising, though, given how much power the device will be carrying. But as ZOTAC’s first foray into this niche market, it remains to be seen whether the handheld PC will experience growing pains, especially when it comes to the durability of its components.