In a bid to stake its claim in the burgeoning handheld gaming market, MSI has thrown its hat into the ring with the announcement of the MSI Claw at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Positioned as the first of the latest wave of portable gaming PCs powered by an Intel processor, the Claw is set to debut in February or March with an estimated price range of $699 to $799, depending on the chosen configuration.
Drawing parallels with its Windows-based counterpart, the Asus ROG Ally, which relies on the AMD Ryzen Z1 processor, the Claw is distinguishable by its striking black and red aesthetic. Both devices feature a 7-inch, 16:9, 1920 x 1080 touchscreen boasting a 120 Hz refresh rate, complemented by an Xbox-style controller layout featuring offset joysticks.
At launch, MSI plans to offer two CPU options: the Intel Core Ultra 5 135H and Core Ultra 7 155H, with the graphics likely sporting Intel’s Arc branding. Notably, the Claw is equipped with 16GB of RAM, and Intel’s upscaling technology, XeSS, is anticipated to enhance gaming performance across a spectrum of titles, with over 50 games already supporting this feature.
Despite similarities with the Ally, the Claw tips the scales at 1.34 pounds, making it slightly heavier, taller, and wider. MSI defends this design choice, attributing it to ergonomic considerations, accentuated by significant grips on the rear. However, early hands-on impressions suggest the plastic used for the main shell feels somewhat slick and lacks the premium touch expected from a gaming device. Further scrutiny is required to provide a comprehensive assessment.
Similar to the Ally, the Claw boasts two macro keys on the rear and four menu buttons surrounding the screen. MSI emphasizes the tactile feel of the buttons and employs hall effect triggers for a responsive gaming experience. The angular design of the top triggers, although distinctive, initially feels less comfortable to press, a nuance that demands further evaluation during extended gaming sessions.
All ports, including Thunderbolt 4 over USB Type-C, a microSD card reader, and an audio jack, are conveniently located along the top of the Claw. Although a second Type-C port, as seen in the Lenovo Legion Go, is absent, the Claw seeks to compensate with a larger 53 WHr battery compared to its competitors, promising extended gameplay. MSI has optimistically pledged a remarkable 2-hour battery life under full workload conditions, a claim that will be thoroughly tested in real-world scenarios.
MSI introduces its proprietary software, MSI Centre M, for the Claw, serving as a game library, launcher, and hub for accessing platforms like Steam and Epic Games. The software also facilitates macro settings and RGB lighting adjustments. Additionally, MSI’s inclusion of an App Player, familiar from its gaming laptops, could open the door to seamless integration for mobile gaming on the go, provided compatibility with the controller is seamless.
A dedicated dock for the Claw is also in the pipeline, although details are scant at this stage. The preliminary image reveals USB Type-A ports and HDMI connectivity, with final I/O specifications expected to be disclosed along with pricing and release details.
The announcement of the Claw injects fresh competition into the handheld gaming sector, offering consumers an alternative in a market dominated by the likes of the Steam Deck OLED. With a starting price of $699, the Claw faces stiff competition, and both MSI and Intel must deliver on promises of performance to carve out a niche in this rapidly evolving landscape. As anticipation builds, enthusiasts eagerly await the chance to experience the Claw first hand and determine whether it lives up to the hype, making it a worthy contender in the realm of handheld gaming.