MSI Claw Review | PCMag

MSI Claw Review | PCMag

Due to units just like the Nintendo Change and the Valve Steam Deck, gaming on the go has by no means been extra fashionable, and nearly each gaming {hardware} maker desires a chunk of that candy handheld gaming pie. However, whereas Asus and Lenovo iterated on the Steam Deck’s design with their merchandise, they each opted for the AMD Z1 Excessive, a customized processor primarily based on AMD’s newest GPU structure. The MSI Claw (beginning at $699, $799 as examined), whereas not too totally different in design from these two handhelds, makes use of Intel’s latest silicon, the Core Extremely, relatively than AMD’s Z line of chips. On paper, this implies greater good points in efficiency, however in observe, Intel’s Arc built-in graphics processor (IGP) falls a number of drivers in need of prime time, with sufficient video games delivering worse efficiency throughout the board—and, in some instances, not operating in any respect—to trigger concern. MSI’s Claw could seem sharp at first, but it surely will not take lengthy to see that this paw isn’t fairly a risk simply but.

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Design: Touring MSI’s First PC Gaming Handheld

MSI’s Claw is sort of an identical to the Asus ROG Ally, full with asymmetrical joysticks and RGB lighting, a round eight-directional D-pad, and menu buttons that hug the highest nook of its 7-inch IPS display screen. (It is available in all-black as an alternative of white.) Two units of shoulder buttons sit on the high of the gadget, whereas further proper and left macro triggers hug the again aspect. On the high of the console, you’ll discover the system’s port hub, which features a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card slot, quantity and energy buttons, and the only real USB-C port. The MSI Claw omits a further contact panel, nonetheless, which is able to disappoint if you happen to desire touch-based over analog controls.

Measuring 0.8 by 11.5 by 4.6 inches (HWD), the MSI Claw is a hair wider than the Ally and, at 1.48 kilos, simply barely heavier. In hand, the console feels substantial regardless of its plastic construct. The grip on the MSI Claw is shallower than the ROG Ally, however general, they’re the identical on this division. This was a wise transfer, because the ROG Ally is definitely one of many extra snug handheld PCs we’ve reviewed.

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

Turning the Claw round, you’ll see that about 80% of its again is devoted to air flow, which is cool (pun meant), but it surely foregoes a stand, similar to the Asus ROG Ally. (You’ll see that final line loads on this evaluation.) Should you’re in search of further assist, the MSI Claw carrying case, which is offered individually, features a kickstand.

The MSI Claw makes use of a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) touch-screen show with a 16:9 side ratio and a refresh fee of 120Hz. That’s the identical dimension and backbone because the Asus ROG Ally, and sharper than the Steam Deck OLED’s 1,200-by-800-pixel display screen and the Nintendo Change’s 720p display screen. The Lenovo Legion Go nonetheless has the very best decision (2,560 by 1,600 pixels), the quickest refresh fee (144Hz), and the most important display screen (8.8 inches) amongst its contemporaries.

MSI Claw rear

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

A sharper image is not every little thing, nonetheless, because the Legion Go struggles to play video games at full decision. In the meantime, the Steam Deck OLED and Nintendo Change OLED IPS shows enhance image high quality, because of their deeper blacks, larger distinction ratios, and brighter screens. The Claw’s 500-nit display screen isn’t any slouch, nonetheless, and whereas I didn’t formally take a look at display screen brightness and shade vary, each movies and video games look shiny and colourful to my eyes via this panel.


Utilizing the MSI Claw: Taking Management of the Claw

The MSI Claw runs full Home windows 11, which implies it really works as a laptop computer when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. You’ll most likely need to use one, as navigation continues to be a ache utilizing solely the contact display screen. Having a full-fat model of Home windows has advantages, like downloading and putting in Home windows apps with ease. Different sport launchers, just like the Epic Video games Retailer and the Xbox Sport Cross app, are nonetheless not natively supported on the Steam Deck (solely via the Linux again finish), so accessing video games on these different shops gained’t be a trouble.

MSI preinstalls MSI Heart M into all Claw models. Heart M aggregates your put in video games into one place kind of in the identical approach that the Asus Armoury Crate and Legion Area apps do. Nonetheless, these pre-installed apps seem rapidly made: The resized thumbnails, the selection of sort, and the way in which sport titles barely match into their squares are all tells. In its protection, Heart M is ugly however useful, and it’s not as intrusive as Lenovo Area is on the Legion Go.

MSI Claw Center M app

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

Heart M can be for enhancing your consumer settings. Right here, you may regulate the RGB lighting and the Person Situation, a preset profile that modifications your system settings to accommodate your wants. You’ve got a alternative of 5 choices: Excessive Efficiency, Balanced, Tremendous Battery, Guide, and AI Engine. Now, I do know what you’re considering: The MSI Claw makes use of the brand new Intel Core Extremely, which has a neural processing unit, or NPU, particularly for operating native AI workloads. Nicely, if the Claw certainly is, it’s not doing a lot with it right here. 

The AI Engine, when enabled, makes use of AI to study consumer habits to regulate varied settings for you routinely and relying on the scenario. For instance, it’ll change your fan velocity and activate RGB lighting while you begin a sport. MSI deployed one thing related within the MSI MPG 321URX QD-OLED, which featured an AI Imaginative and prescient perform that may regulate distinction and brightness relying on what you had been viewing, however no precise AI upscaling was concerned. The identical concept is utilized right here.

MSI Claw joystick closeup

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

Regardless, navigating the MSI Heart M was not with out problem. In a single weird occasion, when navigating to the Noise Cancellation part, the system language immediately modified to German. However Heart M has its makes use of, and it makes updating your MSI Claw’s drivers painless, so it will get a go.

MSI Claw 5

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

The software program, like Asus Armoury Crate and the Lenovo Area app, is a far cry from the Steam Deck working system. And fortunately, you may entry the Steam Deck OS by triggering Large Image Mode in Steam.

MSI’s Claw additionally helps Nahimic, SteelSeries’ audio software program that makes use of high-definition sound expertise to spice up audio efficiency. That is fairly helpful and provides the dual 2-watt audio system some added bass. With out it, the Claw’s sound is noticeably hole, reliant on these small audio system.


Configuration and Parts: Intel’s Newest and Best

Naturally, the principle draw of the MSI Claw isn’t how acquainted it’s to carry or how straightforward it’s to make use of, however how totally different its internals are. It marks the primary handheld gaming PC with an Intel processor inside, and, on this case, MSI picked the most recent Intel CPU for its maiden voyage.

Intel’s “Meteor Lake” laptop computer CPUs, generally referred to as the Intel Core Extremely collection, noticed a stymied launch late final yr right into a full rollout simply months in the past. That includes Intel’s totally revised 3D structure and intensive AI integration, the brand new silicon guarantees a wave of highly effective new options.

MSI Claw joystick

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

This can be a daring transfer by MSI, particularly when the Claw’s contemporaries use customized AMD CPUs designed across the wants of a handheld gaming PC. MSI as an alternative opts for an Intel Core Extremely H collection CPU, which is supposed for high-performance techniques, corresponding to gaming laptops and content material creation techniques. 

Our evaluation unit got here outfitted with an Intel Core Extremely 7 155H CPU, 16GB of DDR5 reminiscence, and 1TB of solid-state storage, although you may discover two cheaper fashions: A $749 model, which cuts the SSD storage capability in half, and a $699 model which downgrades the CPU to an Intel Core Extremely 5 135H. You will not discover any devoted GPU right here; the system runs on the Intel Arc IGP.

MSI Claw in hands

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

The ultimate add-on that units the MSI Claw aside from the competitors is the inclusion of Wi-Fi 7, which may be greater than 4 occasions sooner than Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, the latter of which is discovered within the Steam Deck OLED, the Asus ROG Ally, and the Legion Go.

On paper, this implies all of this offers a wholesome steadiness of energy, efficiency, and battery-saving effectivity—all of that are vital for a gaming handheld. However with bleeding-edge tech comes novel issues, and we’ll see how the MSI Claw pans out in our subsequent part, the place we benchmark the gadget.


Testing the MSI Claw: Not Sharp Sufficient

The MSI Claw is a well-known gadget on its floor, however Intel’s new silicon units it aside. With that on our minds, we pose this query: Was choosing the most recent laptop computer CPU higher than utilizing an AMD processor engineered explicitly for handheld PC gaming? To quantify the MSI Claw’s efficiency, I subjected the hand held to the identical benchmarking suite as our gaming laptops. With the MSI Claw on efficiency mode, I in contrast it with each of the out there ROG Ally fashions (the Z1 Excessive and Z1), the Lenovo Legion Go, and two gaming laptops which are constructed round Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series laptop computer GPUs.

Productiveness and Content material Creation Exams

Our first block of benchmarks measures basic productiveness throughout a number of eventualities. Our first take a look at is UL’s PCMark 10, which simulates a wide range of real-world productiveness and workplace workflows to measure general system efficiency and likewise features a storage subtest for the first drive.

To additional stress the CPU, utilizing all out there cores and threads, we run a number of extra assessments to fee a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 makes use of that firm’s Cinema 4D engine to render a fancy scene, whereas Geekbench 5.4 Professional from Primate Labs simulates fashionable apps starting from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine studying. Lastly, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to transform a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p decision (decrease occasions are higher).

We additionally run PugetBench for Photoshop by workstation maker Puget Programs, which makes use of the Inventive Cloud model 22 of Adobe’s well-known picture editor to fee a PC’s efficiency for content material creation and multimedia purposes. It is an automatic extension that executes varied basic and GPU-accelerated Photoshop duties starting from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving a picture to making use of masks, gradient fills, and filters.

In these assessments, the MSI Claw got here in barely above or under each the ROG Ally techniques and the Legion Go. The Claw proved itself considerably sooner within the full storage benchmark, nonetheless, protecting tempo with the Lenovo Legion 5i Professional Gen 7. Intel’s laptop computer CPU makes the MSI Claw the equal to an honest funds laptop computer if paired with the suitable keyboard and mouse, since it could competently deal with on a regular basis computing duties after which some. (In fact, the display screen is tinier than any laptop computer’s.)

Graphics and Gaming Exams

We run artificial and real-world gaming benchmarks for gaming laptops and different cellular gaming {hardware}. The previous contains two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night time Raid (extra modest, appropriate for techniques with IGPs) and Time Spy (extra demanding, appropriate for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). Moreover, we use the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which gauges OpenGL efficiency. Or, no less than we tried to: The GFXBench assessments wouldn’t run on the MSI Claw, although they carried out on the Legion Go high quality.

Our real-world gaming testing comes from the in-game benchmarks out there in F1 2021, Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege. These three video games—all benchmarked at 1080p decision—symbolize simulation, open-world action-adventure, and aggressive/esports shooter video games, respectively. Valhalla and Siege are run twice (Valhalla at Medium and Extremely high quality, Siege at Low and Extremely high quality), whereas F1 2021 is run twice at Extremely high quality settings with and with out AMD’s and Nvidia’s performance-boosting FSR and DLSS options turned on.

These are crucial assessments for the MSI Claw, and the outcomes had been disappointing. Our formal testing in 3DMark was principally constructive, particularly contemplating the gadget’s kind issue, however after we ran video games on the {hardware}, we noticed the MSI Claw lose its grip in stunning methods. Each F1 benchmarks didn’t run, and we couldn’t get Murderer’s Creed Valhalla’s high-end take a look at to run, both. And the Claw delivered considerably worse numbers on Rainbow Six: Siege than the ROG Ally (Z1 Excessive) and Legion Go. Even the lower-end Z1 ROG Ally pulled larger frame-rate averages. 

What occurred right here? Given the bizarre {hardware} and software program marriage, it could be a scarcity of optimization. AMD’s Z1 and Z1 Excessive had been explicitly made for handheld PC gaming. In the meantime, Intel’s H-series Core Extremely chip was initially designed, albeit with a greater Intel IGP than ever, not as a gaming-first resolution. Intel’s Arc IGP could be spectacular on paper, but it surely fumbled with these assessments in observe.

Extra Gaming Exams: Enjoying on the Go Is Simpler Mentioned Than Accomplished

Regardless of the early crimson flags whereas testing the MSI Claw, it’s not unusual for benchmarks or particular sport titles to run improperly on new {hardware}. To finest perceive how the Claw runs, I picked a variety of recent and outdated titles to see how Intel’s Arc Graphics performs—and the outcomes had been combined right here, too.

First, I attempted Cyberpunk 2077. Launched in 2020, Cyberpunk 2077 noticed one of many roughest launches in gaming historical past but additionally certainly one of its most spectacular comeback tales. Contemplating the {hardware}, Cyberpunk 2077 ran pretty on the Steam Deck and Legion Go.

MSI Claw in hands on menu screens

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

Utilizing the sport’s inside benchmark, the Claw reported a mean of 33fps utilizing the Steam Deck preset settings. Needless to say’s with FSR 2.1 enabled. FSR, or FidelityFX Tremendous Decision, is AMD’s upscaling and frame-generation resolution that helps enhance body charges in supported video games (and would not particularly require AMD graphics silicon). It’s additionally a vital a part of what helps these video games run in addition to they do on lower-end {hardware}. Tweaking the preset to Extremely Efficiency, the Claw squeezed out 41fps. And simply to see what it could do, I turned ray tracing on the Low preset and noticed a mean of 28fps.

Intel additionally has an upscaling possibility, known as XeSS (Xe Tremendous Sampling), its reply to FSR and Nvidia’s DLSS. XeSS makes use of AI to upscale and improve lower-native-resolution visuals, enabling better efficiency good points. With that in thoughts, I reran the benchmark, utilizing Steam Deck presets with XeSS set to Efficiency. Right here, the Claw averaged 36fps, barely worse than FSR 2.1 however much like what we noticed on the Lenovo Legion Go.

Let’s transfer on to Baldur’s Gate 3, 2023’s smash-hit RPG set on the planet of Dungeons & Dragons. Baldur’s Gate 3 ran at a good body fee on the Steam Deck OLED and the Lenovo Legion Go, and it carried out fairly properly right here, too. On the Low graphics preset, the Claw reported 33fps, which fluctuated in both route relying on what was occurring on display screen. Enabling FSR 2.2 improves the sport general, with body charges bumping as excessive as 45fps to 50fps. When it comes to body fee, that is comparable with the handhelds above, although I felt some enter lag.

MSI Claw 9

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

That final half goes to hold over many different titles I examined. Final yr’s Resident Evil 4 hung within the higher 40s whereas taking part in Mercenaries mode, however I felt numerous enter lag and frame-rate hitching, which made the general expertise disagreeable. The 2022 PC port of Sackboy: A Large Journey maintained 60fps on the Medium preset, however once more, enter lag made the platformer really feel choppier than typical. 

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Assortment, the 2022 PC port of 2017’s PlayStation 4 blockbuster, stuttered and crashed once I tried to run it on the Excessive preset. For comparability, this sport held 30fps in that mode on the Steam Deck OLED. Low settings didn’t show a lot better, as the common body fee dropped under 30.

With current video games out of the way in which, I additionally determined to attempt some older ones. Sizzling off the Fallout TV present hype, I redownloaded Fallout 4 to see if the now nine-year-old RPG would run on the system. And it did, surprisingly properly—till I needed to enter my title, anyway. For some motive, the sport doesn’t assist an on-screen keyboard. The Legion Go additionally bumped into this problem, whereas the Steam Deck dealt with it.  Keyboard shenanigans apart, the MSI Claw runs Fallout 4 properly, much better than each the Steam Deck OLED and Lenovo Legion Go.

MSI Claw rear in hands

(Credit score: Joseph Maldonado)

Smaller, older video games like Steel Slug X and Ultimate Fantasy VI ran high quality on the hand held, at each full decision and 60fps, however 2011’s Bioshock Infinite merely wouldn’t work on the MSI Claw. For comparability, the decade-old first-person shooter managed a gradual 90fps at 720p on the Steam Deck OLED.

General, this was a less-than-stellar exhibiting from MSI’s handheld. MSI is working alongside Intel to proceed enhancing system efficiency, so these take a look at outcomes can and sure will change after a number of updates. (We noticed as a lot throughout this evaluation course of.) Nonetheless, contemplating the MSI Claw has been available on the market for a couple of month now, it’s a bit disappointing that it’s nonetheless struggling to run each new and older titles. However, we anticipate efficiency to enhance within the coming months, as MSI guarantees improved efficiency throughout Steam’s high 100 video games with its newest replace.

Battery Check

We put the gadget’s battery to the take a look at in our closing trial.  We benchmark the cellular PC battery life by taking part in a domestically saved 720p video file with show brightness at 50% and audio quantity at 100% till the system quits. We make sure the battery is absolutely charged earlier than the take a look at, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting (not related right here!) turned off.

Transferring over to the Balanced preset, we noticed the MSI Claw ship nearly seven hours of battery life. This was a a lot better end result than the Legion Go, but it surely was nonetheless properly underneath the Asus ROG Ally. Now, that is easy video playback; MSI says you may anticipate as much as two hours of precise gameplay on the Claw at most load, which tracks with my timed take a look at of Baldur’s Gate 3 on battery.


Verdict: Claw’s No Risk But

Whereas spectacular on paper, the MSI Claw inadvertently reveals the distinction a well-optimized, customized CPU could make. The mixture of this way issue and this laptop computer CPU simply isn’t prepared for prime time, and Intel and MSI nonetheless have some driver updates to problem earlier than we may take into account a extra constructive suggestion. Whereas it is solely a matter of time earlier than MSI smoothes out the problems with the Claw, will it’s sufficient if Asus and Lenovo proceed to refine their merchandise? For now, the MSI Claw wants an replace and a value drop. In any other case, the Steam Deck OLED stays our best choice, however if you happen to desire Home windows, the Asus ROG Ally is the way in which to go.

Cons

  • Costly

  • Spotty sport efficiency, at finest

  • Nonetheless wants crucial driver updates

  • Glitchy MSI Heart software program

  • Unimpressive AI features thus far

  • Carrying case offered individually

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The Backside Line

The MSI Claw is a PC gaming handheld brimming with potential, but it surely requires some crucial updates and a value reduce to earn a extra constructive suggestion.

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