The MSI Claw is the latest addition to a growing class of Steam Deck competitors, but until now, they have all been powered by AMD APUs like the AMD Z1 and AMD Z1 Extreme. The MSI Claw will come equiped with up to an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor with integrated Intel Arc graphics, 16GB LPDDR5, NVMe SSD storage, Intel Killer WiFi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4, and a 7-inch, full HD touch display with a 120Hz refresh rate, with 100% sRGB color coverage and up to 500 nits brightness.
As the first PC gaming handheld powered by Intel's new Core Ultra processor, the MSI Claw is a major stage for Intel to show off its latest architecture in a market that has seen major growth following the smashing success of the Steam Deck. As MSI's first gaming handheld, the Claw comes with some major gaming pedigree to back it up, something that should help distinguish itself from the growing number of competitors like the Lenovo Legion Go and Asus ROG Ally.
One thing that the MSI Claw also brings to the game is Intel XeSS graphics upscaling. Unlike the ROG Ally and Legion Go, which relies on software algorithms to render a frame at a lower than native resolution before expanding it to the target frame resolution, the MSI Claw will be able to use dedicated AI hardware to better upscale the lower resolution frames. This will provide a higher quality result with fewer visual artifacts while maintaining faster frame rates.
In addition to the impressive internal specs, the new handheld also comes equipped with a 53WHr battery, the largest battery for any gaming handheld on the market right now. This should make the MSI Claw an ideal gaming handheld for thos eon the go who aren't going to have easy access to a power outlet to keep the device charged, and MSI promises 50% longer battery life than other handhelds, including two full hours of battery life under full-performance workloads.
Finally, the MSI Claw also features full key recording functionality so users can create their own personal macros for certain games, and the MSI Center M interface is designed to make accessing your games pretty straight forward, something that had bedeviled other handheld gaming systems.
If you're looking forward to getting a new MSI Claw, it is expected to go on sale between mid-February and the end of March, with an expected sale price of between $699 and $799 depending on the configuration.
The stakes — and the possibilities — are huge for the MSI Claw
The introduction of PC gaming handhelds to the scene with the Steam Deck opened up a whole new way for people to get into PC gaming and for long-time PC gamers to have an easier way to game on the go without having to rely on one of the best gaming laptops, which are barely portable when they are thin and light, and are downright burdensome when you get to the desktop replacement level.
So it's understandable that MSI would come out with its own competing handheld, but whereas AMD's Z1 and Z1 Extreme chips that power the Asus ROG Ally and Lenovo Legion Go are fairly well established now as capable gaming processors, the same can't be said yet about the Intel Core Ultra with its integrated Arc graphics. With 8 Xe cores, the integrated GPU in the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H has the same number of GPU cores as the Intel Arc A380, though it understandably would have a lower power draw, so we can't expect the same level of performance as a desktop card.
Even with that stipulation, though, the Intel Arc GPU does have some notable advantages. With respectably strong dedicated ray tracing cores, games that use ray tracing are going to look great, but the biggest draw will be the XeSS upscaling technology.
The hardware AI cores in the Arc graphics architecture simply outclass any software solution that AMD could implement with FSR (especially when it comes to the quality of the resulting upscaled frame), so the MSI Claw being the first gaming handheld to feature hardware-powered upscaling is going to absolutely be a critical advantage for the new handheld, assuming it works as intended.
This is the first Intel Core Ultra processor in a gaming handheld, so even though there shouldn't be any issue translating the strength of Arc graphics and Intel's processors to a gaming handheld (which is just a Windows 11 computer, at the end of the day), there's also no getting around the fact that this is the first time Intel has tried to do this, and the fate of MSI's handheld is now tied to how well Intel adapts its processor to the new form factor. A highwire act indeed, but there's no denying that the MSI Claw is shaking up the most exciting gaming hardware market going right now.
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John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY.
Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.
You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.
Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).