Forget laptops - Steam Deck clones could provide a home for Intel’s budget GPUs

Image of the AYANEO Next II handheld PC against a white background, displaying the product name on-screen.
(Image credit: AYANEO)

The Steam Deck alternatives just keep coming, with new announcements this week from both AOKZOE - touting its upcoming A1 handheld, which will be powered by the AMD Ryzen 7 6800U processor - and long-term Valve competitor AYANEO, who revealed a successor to its successful ‘Next’ portable PC.

The interesting part is that the Next II will use a dedicated graphics card, unlike its predecessor (which ran on AMD APUs with integrated graphics). There are both AMD and Intel versions; the former will run on a Ryzen 6000 CPU with a Radeon RX 6000 GPU, while the latter will feature a 12th-gen Alder Lake Intel processor and an unspecified Arc graphics card - VideoCardz has speculated that this will be a compact ACM-G11 GPU, such as the Arc A350M or A370M.

This makes the AYANEO Next II the very first handheld gaming PC to use a dedicated GPU - a huge step for the format that could bring into question the validity of future products running on iGPUs. The Next II is also a lot closer design-wise to the original Steam Deck than AYANEO’s previous efforts, with a pair of square touchpads flanking the screen in addition to the usual console-esque button layout.

Opinion: Steam Deck lookalikes are the right place for Intel Arc A3

Between repeated delays and the lackluster initial performance of Intel’s Arc GPUs, the future of Arc has felt a bit uncertain of late. The desktop version of the lower-end Arc A380 recently launched in China with very little fanfare, and it doesn’t look all that impressive. With solid affordable offerings elsewhere, the budget A3 portion of the Intel Arc range is going to struggle.

The Arc A350M and A370M that might appear in the AYANEO Next II are pretty low-end cards, liable to struggle in gaming laptops. But handheld PCs, like the Steam Deck and its many imitators, don’t necessarily need the same level of grunt as a laptop designed for gaming.

With low power draws and good thermal performance, the A3 Intel GPUs could prove to be an excellent choice for any manufacturer looking to riff on Valve’s coveted handheld. Sure, the performance doesn’t measure up against other dedicated GPUs, but when the competition is all running on integrated graphics, Intel has a definite chance to impress.

Still, it’s going to be difficult for Intel to compete with AMD, since Team Red has been active in the GPU game for a lot longer and more recently has been pushing for superior gaming performance from its CPUs too. AYANEO hasn’t confirmed which Radeon GPU will be appearing in the Next II; if it’s the lackluster RX 6400, Intel’s odds are looking good. If the Hong Kong-based manufacturer can squeeze an RX 6500 XT or better into its new handheld, though, Intel could be in for an uphill battle.

Christian Guyton
Editor, Computing

Christian is TechRadar’s UK-based Computing Editor. He came to us from Maximum PC magazine, where he fell in love with computer hardware and building PCs. He was a regular fixture amongst our freelance review team before making the jump to TechRadar, and can usually be found drooling over the latest high-end graphics card or gaming laptop before looking at his bank account balance and crying.

Christian is a keen campaigner for LGBTQ+ rights and the owner of a charming rescue dog named Lucy, having adopted her after he beat cancer in 2021. She keeps him fit and healthy through a combination of face-licking and long walks, and only occasionally barks at him to demand treats when he’s trying to work from home.