MSI simply introduced the Claw, a handheld Home windows gaming PC following the Steam Deck’s lead. It’s destined to problem the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go on the similar beginning worth of $699 — solely this one has an Intel Core Extremely inside, which MSI claims is the clear winner over AMD in efficiency and battery life.
I simply acquired hands-on at CES 2024, and I can confidently inform you that as of proper now, it’s unimaginable to say whether or not it’s any good — that depends upon efficiency and battery life, which aren’t last. MSI is displaying off engineering samples right here at CES, ones that really feel like they want the months of tuning they’ll hopefully get earlier than a first-half 2024 launch.
Right here’s the excellent news: for those who just like the Asus ROG Ally and want it have been simply extra snug and longer-lived, MSI may need you lined. The grips are larger and comfier than Asus, with out the overwhelming beefiness and dig-into-my-palms edges of the Lenovo Legion Go. In some ways, the Claw feels prefer it’s cribbed immediately from the ROG Ally, save for these grips: it’s equally formed, with related port placement (together with an SD card reader proper subsequent to a vent), near-identical button placement, and related display bezels surrounding an analogous 7-inch 120Hz 1080p IPS display.
The person interface feels minimize from the identical fabric and equally wants creature comforts that didn’t come to the Ally for some time, like the flexibility to map an Xbox button, and anti-deadzone to counteract joystick oversensitivity in some video games.
Importantly although, you get a 53Wh battery, which is bigger than the ROG Ally’s 40Wh pack and in keeping with Lenovo and the Steam Deck OLED. And it’s acquired Corridor impact joysticks just like the Legion Go.
MSI says it can even embody the Ally’s greatest function over the Deck and Legion Go: variable refresh price, which may make your complete Asus expertise smoother.
However easy will not be what I’m seeing from the Intel Core Extremely chip, not less than not but. The Intel Core Extremely-powered engineering samples MSI delivered to CES are a bit stuttery in gameplay, with a great deal of body spikes. The chip presently defaults to a 24W-27W TDP, which is greater than I anticipated from what’s supposedly a extra environment friendly chip than AMD’s. (Once more, engineering samples! Seemingly months earlier than launch!) The followers do appear comparatively quiet underneath load, although it’s powerful to inform in a crowded room.
It actually isn’t aggressive with the Steam Deck at decrease wattage fairly but. Once I set it to the “Tremendous Battery Saver” 15W mode, like for like with the Deck, it struggled in an Murderer’s Creed Mirage benchmark even at 720p and lowest settings. I noticed a mean of simply 24fps amid enormous body drops.
Set your wattage, set your followers.
However like different Home windows handhelds, you do get turbo modes, too: as much as 35W on battery energy or 40W whereas plugged into the wall. Even the 27W efficiency mode gave me a mean 40fps at 720p and simply over 30fps common at 1080p in Mirage. And you’ll set your personal fan curves, map keys, and simply program as much as 12-key macros with per-key delays. And the Claw has Wi-Fi 7. Whereas an MSI rep says Home windows 11 might not formally assist Wi-Fi 7 till the second half of the 12 months, additionally they declare they noticed 4x the speeds in lab testing.
Oh, nearly forgot, this handheld has synthetic intelligence: you may activate AI noise canceling, and there’s an allegedly AI-powered efficiency mode that makes use of the Intel chip’s NPU to dynamically regulate the display backlight and chip energy, says a rep. I noticed chip wattage vary between 24W and 27W in Mirage after I turned it on, so it did appear to be doing one thing.
Regardless of the electrical energy it’s consuming proper now, MSI says we must always nonetheless see two hours of battery on a cost from demanding video games, with 4 hours from lighter fare and 5 or extra hours of video playback. That’s undoubtedly no more than I count on from the Deck OLED, however it hasn’t been a assure for Home windows handhelds. One rep says they’re already getting two hours of Forza 5, the place they’d see an hour from the Asus ROG Ally.
Whereas I can’t confirm that but, I did see the battery dip 25 p.c over 30 minutes of testing. The maths suggests I may need managed two hours if I stored going.
Hasty tradeshow images by Sean Hollister / The Verge