Remember the Alienware Concept UFO at CES 2020? Well, it looks like Lenovo is looking to follow up with a portable gaming PC of its own. At CES 2021, Lenovo is showing off the LaVie Mini – which, when paired with a bunch of optional accessories, could take mobile PC gaming to the next level.
This mini PC would have an 8-inch 1200p display, backed up with a Tiger Lake Intel Core i7 processor with Iris Xe graphics. So, it wouldn't exactly be capable of running Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing on, but it should be more than capable of running pretty much anything on medium settings.
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Let's be clear, Lenovo is framing the LaVie Mini as a prototype, and is a result of its partnership with the NEC corporation. However, given that Intel's Xe graphics processors are able to provide real gaming performance without the robust cooling that gaming laptops generally require, we wouldn't be surprised if this one actually made it to market. After all, with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, Lenovo was the first to market with a foldable laptop.
Unfortunately, you'd need to shell out extra cash for the accessories that would make the LaVie Mini a compelling product. Though, we imagine there would be bundles available to make that easier on wallets.
Both the Gaming Controller and the HDMI-connected Dock are deemed as "optional" accessories, which means the product is, at its core, an 8-inch laptop, which makes it seem a lot like the netbooks of yore.
CES is traditionally full of fun concept products that may or may not ever make their way to market, but it's always interesting to see where the world of computing may be heading in the future.
We need devices like this
Game streaming services like Google Stadia, Microsoft xCloud and Nvidia GeForce Now are becoming ubiquitous, and portable computing devices are basically the perfect way to take advantage of them. Likewise, these streaming services will probably be the best way to play games on small PCs like this, which are restricted to integrated graphics.
While Intel has made great improvements to its graphics technology with its Tiger Lake processors, they're still nowhere near what a discrete GPU can bring to the table.
Just look at Cyberpunk 2077. That game, regardless of how you feel about it, is extremely heavy on hardware, to the point where we've run into framerate issues on the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 – a desktop graphics card originally pitched as an 8K GPU. However, Google Stadia made headlines in December, because it just so happened to be the most accessible way to play the game.
As the next generation of game consoles matures, and system requirements for PC ports starts to inflate again (which has already started), streaming services will likely continue to gain mainstream appeal, as they cut out the need to worry about hardware at all.
By that same token, having a device like the LaVie Mini or the Alienware Concept UFO would make for a much better gaming experience than playing on a smartphone, thanks to the controller accessories. Include Windows 10's more robust external hardware compatibility, and these handheld gaming PCs could be a dream come true for anyone who wants to take advantage of these game streaming services.
There are a few handheld "gaming" PCs on the market already, like the GPD Win 2, but we'd love to see more widespread adoption of the form factor. Now we just have to wait for one of these concepts to actually make their way to market.
- Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2021 coverage. We're remotely covering the online-only show to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus a smattering of hands-on reviews.
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Bill Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's computing editor. They are fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but they just happen to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop them a line on Twitter or through email.