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The Zotac Zone is the first true rival to the Steam Deck OLED

It's quite simple: OLED screens are amazing, particularly for gaming handhelds, and the Zotac Zone has a stunning 800nits-bright, 7-inch one.

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The Zotac Zone has caught most other Windows-based gaming handhelds napping, as it’s arrived with arguably the most compelling package out of all the chief Steam Deck OLED rivals. Top among its credits is its AMOLED screen, but it has plenty of other qualities too.

It’s now just the OLED screen that keeps the Steam Deck OLED at the top of our best handheld gaming PC guide, of course, but it is absolutely one of the key reasons why it’s so beloved. Whether Zotac‘s rival can truly compete is something that we’ll only know with a longer time with the device, but our first play on it has set our hopes high.

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Let’s start with that screen then. It’s lovely. It has all the dazzle of the Steam Deck OLED, with its 800nits peak brightness technically being 200nits lower than the Valve device. but in practice it proves to be just as good. In the bright lights of the Computex trade show floor it was still dazzlingly bright.

Like the equally new MSI Claw 8 AI+, the resolution of this screen is 1080p, which puts it higher than the Steam Decks, making for a clearly sharper image, without it pushing to the slightly unnecessarily high resolution of the Legion Go.

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Where we’re less impressed is with the styling and build. Not that it looks horrendous or feels flimsy but the silver paint of the d-pad and triggers, along with the shinier grey plastic surrounds of the joysticks, just don’t feel quite as well-refined as the finishes on the likes of the Steam Deck.

As for the rest of the Zotac Zone, its ergonomics felt surprisingly refined for a first-generation product. The overall form sits comfortably in your hand, with reasonably deep and rounded grip sections.

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Interestingly, when it comes to design, Zotac has gone in completely the opposite direction to MSI with its Claw 8 AI+ second-gen handheld design. That product is noticeably more flared outwards at the bottom than its predecessor, whereas Zotac has really tucked the bottom corner of the Zone inwards. It felt comfortable to hold for a few minutes on the show floor, but the wider grip approach could possibly prove better over a longer period of holding the device.

The controls also fall easily to hand, though I admittedly didn’t get much chance to use the touchpads. The joysticks and triggers all felt as responsive and accurate as I’d hoped.

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Meanwhile, performance was in line with expectations of the AMD Ryzen 7 8840 APU, with it comfortably managing to run Need for Speed smoothly at settings that looked great on the compact screen. The device comes with 512GB of storage space and 16GB of RAM, so it hasn’t jumped up to 24GB like on the ROG Ally X. We don’t suspect this will be a problem in the vast majority of instances.

In terms of physical extras, the Zone includes a slim kickstand, a microSD slot, a USB 4.0 connection – not two again, like on the ROG Ally X – and the rear has switches for converting the triggers to short-throw triggers.

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All told, we’re generally impressed by the package Zotac has put together and we’re looking forward to giving it a proper test when it launches later in the year for a price of $799 (£799).

For more of our thoughts on Asus’ updated competitor to the Zone, check out our ROG Ally X preview, while for more stories from the show floor of the world’s largest PC tech trade show, check out our Computex news story hub.