Between the ASUS ROG Ally, the Lenovo Legion Go and the Steam Deck, AMD has a virtual monopoly over the chips powering high-end gaming handhelds. But for the Claw, MSI is partnering up with Intel to bring a little more balance to the portable PC performance wars.
On paper and in its design, MSI’s Claw shares a lot with the ROG Ally. It has a 7-inch full HD LCD screen with 500 nits of brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate. (I asked an MSI rep if the Claw also supports VRR, but they didn’t have an immediate answer, so stay tuned.) Even its case looks very familiar, with both handhelds sporting almost identical chassis, button layouts and power buttons with built-in fingerprint sensors, except that the Claw is black and has much bigger grips, which makes it way more comfortable to hold.
But that’s where the similarities come to an end, because on the inside, the Claw is powered by either an Intel Core Ultra 7 or Core Ultra 5 chip depending on the configuration. That’s a pretty big departure amongst the sea of AMD-based alternatives, and may have some people wondering if Intel’s first foray into high-end gaming handhelds can keep up. That’s because in addition to a new chip, developers will be relying on Intel’s integrated Arc graphics and a library of drivers that simply aren’t as deep or as well tested as AMD’s. It’s also unclear how much the NPU inside Intel’s latest chip will help with things like XeSS super sampling, which is sure to play a big part in the Claw’s capabilities.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget
However, even on the pre-production models with unfinished software (including beta drivers) that I tested things were surprisingly smooth. Launching games was snappy and I only ran into a small handful of hitches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pull up MSI’s built-in performance monitor, as its MSI Center game launcher is still a work in progress. A spokesperson I talked to claimed that, during internal testing, the Claw delivered 20 to 25 percent higher frame rates than an equivalent AMD-based handheld in 14 out of 15 popular titles. That’s a pretty big claim but, if those figures carry over to a larger library of modern games, AMD might soon find itself playing catch-up. But, that’s a big if.
Another benefit of going with an Intel chip is that it allows MSI to include a Thunderbolt 4 port (Thunderbolt is a proprietary connector owned by Intel), which brings super fast data speeds and the option of hooking up an external graphics dock if you want even more performance. MSI is even using one of Intel’s Killer modems that includes support for Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4, so wireless connectivity is pretty much as good as it gets.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget
Also, while I didn’t have enough time to test its longevity, the 53Whr battery should give the Claw some significant advantages over the ROG Ally, which has just a40Whr pack. There’s huge mesh vents on its back too, which should help keep MSI’s handheld and your hands from getting too sweaty. Also, both the Claw’s buttons and joysticks use precise hall effect sensors, compared to the Ally whose sticks relies on potentiometers. In a lot of ways, the Claw feels like what a mid-life refresh for the Ally might look like, assuming ASUS felt like switching from AMD to Intel.
Even this early there’s a lot to like about MSI’s new Intel-based handheld. And when you factor in that the Claw starts at $699 with a Core Ultra 5 chip, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, $749 for a faster model with a Core Ultra 7 CPU or $799 for one with a 1TB SSD, it looks to be pretty competitive regarding pricing as well.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget
Unfortunately, there’s no word on an official release, though MSI says it’s shooting for a window closer to the end of Q1 instead of Q2. And as someone who loved the huge wave of gaming handhelds we got last year, it’s really encouraging to see MSI carry that momentum into 2024 with the Claw.This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-intel-powered-msi-claw-is-challenging-amds-handheld-gaming-monopoly-ces-2024-171643042.html?src=rss

Between the ASUS ROG Ally, the Lenovo Legion Go and the Steam Deck, AMD has a virtual monopoly over the chips powering high-end gaming handhelds. But for the Claw, MSI is partnering up with Intel to bring a little more balance to the portable PC performance wars.

On paper and in its design, MSI’s Claw shares a lot with the ROG Ally. It has a 7-inch full HD LCD screen with 500 nits of brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate. (I asked an MSI rep if the Claw also supports VRR, but they didn’t have an immediate answer, so stay tuned.) Even its case looks very familiar, with both handhelds sporting almost identical chassis, button layouts and power buttons with built-in fingerprint sensors, except that the Claw is black and has much bigger grips, which makes it way more comfortable to hold.

But that’s where the similarities come to an end, because on the inside, the Claw is powered by either an Intel Core Ultra 7 or Core Ultra 5 chip depending on the configuration. That’s a pretty big departure amongst the sea of AMD-based alternatives, and may have some people wondering if Intel’s first foray into high-end gaming handhelds can keep up. That’s because in addition to a new chip, developers will be relying on Intel’s integrated Arc graphics and a library of drivers that simply aren’t as deep or as well tested as AMD’s. It’s also unclear how much the NPU inside Intel’s latest chip will help with things like XeSS super sampling, which is sure to play a big part in the Claw’s capabilities.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

However, even on the pre-production models with unfinished software (including beta drivers) that I tested things were surprisingly smooth. Launching games was snappy and I only ran into a small handful of hitches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pull up MSI’s built-in performance monitor, as its MSI Center game launcher is still a work in progress. A spokesperson I talked to claimed that, during internal testing, the Claw delivered 20 to 25 percent higher frame rates than an equivalent AMD-based handheld in 14 out of 15 popular titles. That’s a pretty big claim but, if those figures carry over to a larger library of modern games, AMD might soon find itself playing catch-up. But, that’s a big if.

Another benefit of going with an Intel chip is that it allows MSI to include a Thunderbolt 4 port (Thunderbolt is a proprietary connector owned by Intel), which brings super fast data speeds and the option of hooking up an external graphics dock if you want even more performance. MSI is even using one of Intel’s Killer modems that includes support for Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4, so wireless connectivity is pretty much as good as it gets.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Also, while I didn’t have enough time to test its longevity, the 53Whr battery should give the Claw some significant advantages over the ROG Ally, which has just a40Whr pack. There’s huge mesh vents on its back too, which should help keep MSI’s handheld and your hands from getting too sweaty. Also, both the Claw’s buttons and joysticks use precise hall effect sensors, compared to the Ally whose sticks relies on potentiometers. In a lot of ways, the Claw feels like what a mid-life refresh for the Ally might look like, assuming ASUS felt like switching from AMD to Intel.

Even this early there’s a lot to like about MSI’s new Intel-based handheld. And when you factor in that the Claw starts at $699 with a Core Ultra 5 chip, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, $749 for a faster model with a Core Ultra 7 CPU or $799 for one with a 1TB SSD, it looks to be pretty competitive regarding pricing as well.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Unfortunately, there’s no word on an official release, though MSI says it’s shooting for a window closer to the end of Q1 instead of Q2. And as someone who loved the huge wave of gaming handhelds we got last year, it’s really encouraging to see MSI carry that momentum into 2024 with the Claw.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-intel-powered-msi-claw-is-challenging-amds-handheld-gaming-monopoly-ces-2024-171643042.html?src=rss …Read More

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