Lenovo’s first Legion gaming phone is here, includes a side pop-up camera

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

Credit: Lenovo

Lenovo has unveiled its first-ever Legion gaming phone, and it’s every bit as over-the-top as you’d expect. The Lenovo Legion Phone Duel includes the high-end specs you’d anticipate, including a Snapdragon 865 Plus and 5G wireless data, but it also boasts a design and camera layout that revolves almost exclusively around gaming — to the point where you’re making compromises if you use it like an ordinary smartphone.

A design focused on games

lenovo legion duel phone landscape

Credit: Lenovo

You’ve probably seen gaming phones before, but Lenovo is promising to treat the Legion Phone Duel as a “mobile gaming console� that just happens to take calls. This is a device meant to stay in landscape mode, and much of the hardware has been tweaked accordingly.

There’s no escaping the most obvious change: the camera layout. Lenovo has placed the 20MP selfie cam in a pop-up on the side, helping it both avoid notches or cutouts on the 6.6-inch, 1080p, 144Hz AMOLED screen and ensuring your face is front-and-center when livestreaming games. Even the 64MP main camera and 16MP ultra-wide cam are placed towards the middle of the back so you don’t cover them while in landscape view.

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Lenovo also put one of the two USB-C charging ports on the side to help you charge while you play, and it’s using dual battery cells (5,000mAh total) to deliver 90W fast charging that should bring you to full capacity in 30 minutes. The dual-cell approach also keeps your hands cooler by moving them away from hot-running chips. This capacity won’t be as large as the 6,000mAh for Asus’ upcoming ROG Phone 3, but Lenovo’s device might also charge faster (The ROG Phone is expected to stick with 30W charging).

You can also expect two ultrasonic trigger buttons, dual vibration motors, programmable RGB lighting, and enhanced gyroscope features like a virtual joystick.

Software is key

lenovo legion phone duel back

Credit: Lenovo

The software may play as much of a role in the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel’s gaming abilities as its hardware.

To start, Lenovo’s camera software is optimized for gaming. Activate the selfie cam and you can both overlay and record yourself using “popular streaming apps� like Twitch and YouTube, including background removal and AI-guided touch-ups. When you’re done playing a game, you can preview all your highlights and merge them together. You can even use the right ultrasonic trigger to revisit a moment and record it for posterity.

Legion Realm software lets you fine-tune performance, download apps, and choose a low-lag network. Legion Assistant, meanwhile, can enable the virtual joystick as well as fine-tune hardware performance, switch wireless networks, and find games. The phone will also turn audio signals into vibration cues to help you get directional feedback, such as a rumble if you hit a car on your right side.

Other specs

lenovo legion phone duel thermals

Credit: Lenovo

It won’t surprise you to hear the Legion Phone Duel is well-equipped beyond its display, processing power, and 5G.

The handset comes with either 12GB or 16GB of RAM, and you’ll get either 256GB or 512GB of built-in UFS 3.1 storage. The sound should be powerful, too, thanks to Dirac Audio-tuned stereo speakers and a quad-microphone system to cut out background noise when you broadcast gameplay. The two nano-SIM slots both support 5G and LTE, so you won’t have to sacrifice speed when switching providers.

Curiously, video recording performance isn’t as  strong as you’d expect given the hardware. Even with the rear cameras, you’re still stuck recording 4K video at 30 frames per second — you’ll want a device like the Galaxy S20 if you expect to capture 8K or 60fps clips.

Also read: The best camera phones you can buy

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel price and availability

lenovo legion phone duel screen

Credit: Lenovo

The Legion Phone Duel will launch in China later in July as the Legion Phone Pro, and should come to “select� parts of Asia Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Unfortunately, North America appears left out. The Motorola Edge Plus is as close as you’ll get to a Lenovo gaming phone in that region.

Prices are also poised to vary based on country, although Lenovo makes clear there will be a split between versions with 12GB and 16GB of RAM. Given the all-out hardware design, we’d expect this inaugural Legion phone to carry a significant premium.

There’s a looming question, though: will this be worthwhile compared to the ROG Phone 3? That’s a tougher call. Both the Lenovo and Asus devices should have similar processing, memory, fast-refresh displays, extra gaming controls and even 64MP main cameras. It could primarily come down to nuances like Lenovo’s streaming-friendly selfie camera or the a third rear cam on the Asus phone. Either way, it’s a good time to be a mobile gamer.

Next: The best phones for gaming