MSI reveal the Claw, the first Intel-powered Steam Deck rival

MSI are the latest gaming gear makers to unveil a Steam Deck-alike, announcing the Claw as part of their CES 2024 showcase. The Claw – great name, by the way – actually looks and sounds closer to the Asus ROG Ally than Valve’s handheld, being a Windows 11-based device without any flashy hardware tricks like the Lenovo Legion Go’s detachable controllers. All the same, it’s aiming to stand out among these portable PCs through two means: its engorged 53Whr battery, and the industry-first use of a 14th-gen Intel Core Ultra chip as its APU.

Specifically, it’s an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H, of the same make that high-end gaming laptops are currently adopting, with its integrated Arc graphics on GPU duty. The Steam Deck and all its subsequent rivals have stuck to AMD APUs, so this is quite the switch-up, even if MSI maintain that the Core Ultra 7 155H is up to the task of a “smooth and immersive gameplay experience” in AAA games.

Then there’s that battery, which totes an even bigger capacity than the Steam Deck OLED’s upgraded 50Whr cell. This promises a “2-hour battery life under full workload conditions,” which I’m assuming is press release-speak for “really thirsty games.” Such games, like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and Horizon Zero Dawn, tend to average a little over two hours in my Deck OLED battery tests, so that extra capacity could put the Claw on at least level footing. Despite, it must be said, a higher-res, less power-efficient 1920×1080 IPS display. This 7in screen runs up to 120Hz as well, out-refreshing the 90Hz Deck OLED.

The MSI Claw against a blue background.
Image credit: MSI

Price and release date info is, unfortunately, not as forthcoming. I’d hope that it’s at least on par with the ROG Ally, the top Ryzen Z1 Extreme version of which has dropped to £599. Since they’re so close on specs, it would take a barnstorming performance from Intel’s Arc graphics to justify much of a premium.

What’s more, it will have to do so without undermining the embiggened battery. More capacity won’t hurt longevity, of course, but I can’t help but dwell on the Core Ultra 7 155H’s base TDP of 28W. The Ryzen Z1 Extreme, and the custom AMD APUs inside both Steam Deck versions, can run games well below 10W – will the higher battery capacity have to simply compensate for this, or will the Claw make some clever tweaks to improve the chip’s efficiency? Wait and see, we must.

MSI also announced some new Intel Core/Core Ultra-powered gaming laptops, though none of them have names as cool as “The Claw.” Instead they’re mainly updates to existing MSI laptop lines, from the top-spec Titan 18 HX and Raider 18HX down to the more mainstream Vector HX 16 and 17, the Crosshair HX 16 and 17, and the Pulse 16 and 17. These all pack 14th-gen Intel CPUs and dedicated Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 series GPUs.

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