Due to the hype surrounding ASUS’ big reveal of the ROG Ally X, most of us missed out on a couple of interesting announcements at the 2024 Computex. It seems another rival has arrived to challenge the market dominance of Valve’s Steam Deck. Moreover, it comes from a totally unexpected player in the PC hardware and accessory scene. This is the ZOTAC ZONE.

Ever since the Steam Deck launched in early 2022, it ignited a demand for handheld gaming PCs. Running on a custom Arch Linux-based operating system, Valve’s platform is up against brands that run on Microsoft’s Windows 11. ZOTAC’s surprise unveiling is welcome change in scenery given almost every company at the recent event showcased the latest in artificial intelligence integration.

The ZONE’s form factor is nothing to write home about, but it’s button layout, features, and functionality somehow gives it a leg up other systems. However, some tech industry pundits are slightly concerned about how Windows 11 can be finicky at times, which causes some unexpected performance and gameplay issues.

Still, if ZOTAC manages to iron out the kinks and maybe add a custom software overlay to improve the interface, the ZONE might be able to match the streamlined experience offered by the Steam Deck. As of this writing, the specifications are still subject to change, yet it was noted that the device is equipped with a AMD Ryzen 7 8840U with AMD Radeon 870M graphics.

To cater to the demands of modern gamers, the joysticks and shoulder triggers use hall effect components. These should virtually eliminate the dreaded stick drift and register inputs accurately. Furthermore, the triggers have a 2-stage adjustment to adapt to the preferred comfort and response of the player

The ZONE is endowed with a vibrant 7″ FHD (1920 x 1080) AMOLED panel. It also has two trackpads like the Steam Deck. Other unique elements exclusive to ZOTAC’s system are the jog wheels integrated around the sticks and a Windows Hello front-facing camera. RAM is listed at 16 GB and internal storage is at 512 GB. A microSD card slot is likewise on board.

Powering ZOTAC’s handheld gaming PC is a 48.5 Wh battery. Dimensions are 310 mm x 135 mm x 40 mm with a weight of less than 700 grams. Feedback from those who were lucky to hold the ZONE in their hands say the grips feel ergonomic and the rear buttons are easy to actuate. A small kickstand is built-in just in case you want to place it on top of a table at an angle.

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Images courtesy of ZOTAC