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MSI Claw (Quick Look) - A New Era of Portable Gaming

We check out and share some thoughts about MSI's entry into the handheld PC gaming space.

Audio transcription

"Hello everyone and welcome to another Gamereactor Quick Look, I'm Anus and this time it's time to take a look at another PC gaming handheld.
What I mean specifically by that is this is an additional unit from the established, entrenched behemoths that have decided over the past couple of years to try and emulate the Steam Deck's success by making a Windows-based handheld PC gaming device."

"Now that all started with some alternatives from China from manufacturers like Ioneo, but has since garnered mainstream attention through the Asus ROK Ally, since then the Lenovo Legion Go.
Now MSI is trying their hand at a PC-based gaming handheld, this time with one key difference."

"So the first key difference that you might see is not in the looks, because while this is black, and the standard ROG Ally from Asus is white, this looks very similar to an ROG Ally.
I know that there's probably going to be similarities just based on the overall layout of how these devices are designed, so that means that the off-kilter, off-center analog stick placements, the D-pad, the face buttons, they just seem to look similar, although Lenovo managed to make their Legion Go really stand out on the design front by simply making a beefier build, making detachable Joy-Con-like controllers, and a whole host of other features, but this is very much an ROG Ally in anything but name."

"But there again is a key difference.
So first and foremost, there is this perforated backside here.
Now you may look at this and think, well, this has to dissipate a lot of heat, that is why it's there, but it really isn't, because the only actually perforated bits, which means that it's basically ventilated all the way through to the SOC and the components generating heat below this backplate, are here and here."

"You can basically see that these are cutouts here, and this is something for show, or something akin to it, and obviously most of the heat will be dissipated through the top, because it can't happen on your hands.
That would mean that it's incredibly uncomfortable in anything but stretches with indie games for more than 20 minutes."

"No, dissipates heat from the top, draws cool air in from the back.
So what is that difference I keep talking about?
Well, let's get to that before we talk about the rest of the device.
So this is not made with AMD architecture."

"The others that we've tested, mainly the Lenovo and the Asus ROG, since Steam Decks is something else entirely, because they're not built on a Windows platform.
This is an Intel-based device.
More specifically, this is the Intel Core Ultra 7, the 155H."

"You can get one with an Intel Core Ultra 5, which is clocked slightly lower, lower core count, that kind of stuff, if you want a more condensed and less aggressive gaming experience.
But this is the top-of-the-range model.
Now, that's a 16-core CPU, six of which are performance cores, eight are sort of efficiency cores, and there are two really low-power e-cores as well."

"It goes up to 16 gigs of LPDDR5 RAM.
They run at 6,400 megahertz, and you can get up to a one-terabyte M.2 drive SSD, which is just fine.
It is something that we'd semi-come to expect, both on the RAM and the SSD front."

"It is this new chip that basically means that this is a different animal altogether than something like the ROG Ally, which you can get with up to a Z1 Extreme from AMD, which the Lenovo also uses.
So the things that we know about modern AMD portable SoC architecture is that it is both power-efficient and it is heat-efficient, and that means that it can sometimes generate longer battery lives."

"Now, that is something that this very much sacrifices.
The Intel Core Ultra 7, in my personal experience, because I've just reset this, it's getting ready to go back to MSI, I've already reviewed it, is that this performs as well, if not a bit worse, in most of the benchmarks in games that I was able to perform."

"So that is Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Cyberpunk, Far Cry 6, a whole host of the semi-new and modern AAA games performed at around 40, 45 FPS, with dibs way below that in games like Cyberpunk 2077, where the MSI Claw is basically sort of unable to perform.
Now, it is very good at dissipating heat through this hypercool system here that runs through MSI's cooler booster, it works very well, it doesn't, at least to my mind, thermal throttle all that much, but it seems to be software optimization, maybe it's even if you use something like FSR in-game, or XESS, which is something that is natively supported through both the Z and ARC platforms, it's just not as good, and it's not as optimized, which is something that could improve with software updates and firmware updates over the next months or even years, but for now, it's an odd choice to go with Intel, and I implore you to, at least before you consider the MSI Claw, to go and check out further testing to see if this really is for you."

"The screen should be very familiar to most of you because it is exactly the same as the one you'd get on an ASUS ROG Ally, it's a 7-inch, 1080p IPS LCD display running at 120Hz, and it's fine, it covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut, it peaks at around 500 nits, it's generally fine."

"So, going back to the Intel vs AMD discussion, battery life, now, this can go all the way up to a 40W TDP, that basically means the power budget for the CPU, while an ASUS ROG Ally is hamstrung at 25W, well, there is good reason for that, because I got an hour and a half battery life, if it's an intense title, it could be an hour, or a half, it can really get that low depending on what you're actually doing."

"I would say you would average around 2-2.5 hours, which is a little bit less than you would get out of an ASUS ROG Ally with the Xeon Extreme and about the same as a Lenovo Legion Go, and there is vast differences in performance as well between when you're just sitting using it, and when you are plugged in, that's basically just because it frees up some of the cores and some of the TDP watt budget for the chip."

"So I would, it seems ironic that with a handheld system, I would personally recommend that you use the plug to anchor yourself to the wall for as much of the duration that you play as possible, because it's just a better experience.
So overall, what about the MSI Claw?
Well, it feels very good, it's weighted in a really nice way, it's ergonomically pleasing, it has hall sensor analog sticks, which are great, the fundamentals of the system are really strong, and it seems like that MSI really has made it in a competent way."

"But the choice to go with Intel seems odd to me, because we, it's just not as well of a supported platform currently as AMD's portable architecture, and based on that alone, I would probably recommend something else.
Thank you so much for watching, see you on the next one."

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