‘The Claw’ Is MSI’s Steam Deck-Like That Looks a Hell of a Lot Like a Steam Deck

Say it with me, “The Claw.” What does that name evoke? Saturday morning cartoons? Timeless Pixar classics? PC maker MSI hopes you’ll start to instead think about gaming, as it’s the latest company to offer up its version of a Steam Deck, and this one indeed shares quite a few similarities to Valve’s original handheld console, at least at first glance.

Hands-on: Lenovo Legion Go

If the leaks didn’t already spoil the surprise, MSI’s big push into the exploding handheld console market is a design very reminiscent of what’s come before. However, a few things happening beneath the plastic make it unique compared to its competitors. For one, the Claw is going in the opposite direction of every other AMD-powered device and instead uses an Intel Core Ultra processor. Compare that to the Lenovo Legion Go and Asus ROG Ally, which both top out on power with the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APUs.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether the Meteor Lake CPUs can match up with the Ryzen 7 series, but we’ll have to wait for full tests to tell if performance can match the other big handhelds out there. There are some signs that Intel’s iGPU performance on its Meteor Lake chips, specifically the Core Ultra 7 155H, managed to edge out a Ryzen 7 7840HS on synthetic benchmarks.

The Claw’s fans and twin heat pipes proved that it could keep relatively cool despite running Assassins Creed Mirage for hours on end.

The Claw’s fans and twin heat pipes proved that it could keep relatively cool despite running Assassins Creed Mirage for hours on end.
Photo: Kyle Barr / Gizmodo

Then again, it may be more important to optimize the games for the small form factor. The Claw will use Intel’s Arc graphics and the chipmaker’s XeSS AI upscaling tech to boost FPS while not stressing the GPU. XeSS isn’t supported by every title out there, but depending on what games you want, it could make your handheld gaming a little easier.

MSI is also promoting its stick, one of the biggest batteries in any gaming handheld device. The Claw comes with a 53 Whr battery, which beats the Legion Go’s and Steam Deck OLED’s new 50 Whr cell. Time will tell whether battery life matches the size of the battery itself.

The 7-inch screen isn’t a slouch at a 120Hz refresh rate, but less than the Legion Go’s 8.8-inch 144Hz. Baseline has 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a microSD slot, a headphone jack, and a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connection. With everything together, the Claw weighs just under 1.5 pounds, effectively equivalent to a Steam Deck and a fraction more than the ROG Ally.

This is another Windows 11-based handheld, but there’s a twist. MSI is advertising the system’s native App Player, which will offer games across Windows and Android. It’s the company’s UI that works on top of Windows. It could prove less useful if it still requires you to open up separate apps like Steam or Epic Games Store, which defeats the whole purpose of the extra UI. Still, it could offer easier access to Android games or apps without changing any system settings or downloading additional apps.

Now, the name first evokes images of cute claw machine aliens from A Toy Story or the supervillain from Inspector Gadget. Still, it’s a far more evocative title than slapping a “Go” or “Ally” to the existing Legion or ROG gaming ranges. And hell, those rainbow LEDs around the joysticks do look spiffy. We’ll see how well MSI’s console can claw its way out of the grasp of stiff competition to see how it compares.

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