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Can MSI's Steam Deck rival claw its way to handheld gaming success?

Unveiled at CES 2024, MSI's Claw A1M is the first portable gaming console built with Intel's new Core Ultra chipset. Here's why that could be a problem.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer
MSI Claw
June Wan/ZDNET

The handheld gaming space grew by one as MSI unveiled their Steam Deck competitor, the Claw A1M. The portable gaming console is the first to be built with Intel's new Core Ultra chipset, which uses advanced AI algorithms and on-chip video codec support for enhanced video quality while streaming games as well as improving performance under heavy workloads. And while some first-look specs are impressive, a few of MSI's decisions leave me scratching my head. 

Also: What do you get for the gamer who has everything?

For the GPU, the Claw A1M uses an Intel Arc card, which is pretty much a beefed-up, standalone version of their readily available integrated Xe graphics chips. Here's what makes this interesting: The Intel Arc support forum is bursting with complaints of Arc cards causing crashes and glitches, as well as flat-out not working with a whole host of games

The problem seems to stem from various driver updates being incompatible with various games and launchers, so we'll have to wait and see if Intel addresses the issue before the Claw launches pre-orders. 

MSI Claw
June Wan/ZDNET

However, there are a few bright spots: The 7-inch IPS display provides 1080p full HD resolution as well as a 120Hz refresh rate, the Claw A1M has a built-in fingerprint reader for added security, and it supports Wi-Fi 7 for faster, more stable online gaming.  

Also: Valve's Steam Deck turned this 40-year-old dad into a gamer again

So, if the MSI Claw A1M caught your attention, how does it stack up against the Steam Deck and Asus ROG Ally?

Specs

Steam Deck OLED

Asus ROG Ally

MSI Claw A1M

CPU

AMD Zen 2 4-Core

AMD Ryzen Z1/Z1 Extreme

Intel Core Ultra 7 155H

GPU

AMD RDNA 2

AMD RDNA 3

Intel Arc

RAM

16GB DDR5

16GB DDR5

16GB DDR5

Storage

Up to 1TB internal, expandable with microSD

512GB internal, expandable with microSD

Up to 1TB internal, expandable with microSD  

Display

7.4-inch OLED, 1280 x 800 90Hz

7-inch IPS LCD 1080p 120Hz

7-inch IPS LCD 1080p 120Hz

Battery

Up to 12 hours

Up to 12 hours

Up to 4 hours

Dimensions

11.7 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches

11.02 x 4.37 x 0.83 inches

11.57 x 4.6 x 0.83 inches

Weight

640g

608g

675g

While the MSI Claw A1M has some promising specs, the known issues surrounding the Intel Arc graphics drivers is going to make it a hard sell in a market that is already dominated by the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck.  

Editorial standards