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MSI Claw hands-on: New handheld console emerges with Intel Core Ultra 7 chip inside

MSI Claw console from the front

The latest addition to the Windows handheld console scene has an Intel CPU inside, instead of AMD

We’ve seen plenty of Windows-based gaming handhelds by now but the MSI Claw is one of the most interesting yet. That’s not because it does anything particularly different practically speaking, but because it’s one of the first handheld consoles to come with one of Intel’s new Core Ultra chips inside.

And, as we’ve seen already, in our reviews of the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED and the Acer Swift Go 14, one of the new CPU’s biggest strengths is the power of its integrated Arc Graphics, which boosts performance vastly over the Iris Xe integrated graphics found in the previous generation of low power Intel chipsets.

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MSI Claw hands-on: Specifications

  • 7in 120Hz 1080p IPS display
  • Intel Core Ultra 7 155H CPU
  • 16GB of RAM
  • Up to 1TB SDD storage
  • Twin analogue control sticks with RGB rings
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • microSD card slot
  • 53Wh battery
  • Price: $699 to $799
  • Availability: First half of 2024

MSI Claw hands-on: Design and first impressions

The design of the MSI Claw is pretty much in line with other handheld gaming setups like the Asus ROG Ally. It has a 7in 1080p IPS display that refreshes at 120Hz, flanked on either side by a set of integrated games controller grips.

Added to this, there are left and right shoulder buttons and analogue hall-effect triggers mounted behind those. Along the top edge are arrayed the volume buttons, a 3.5mm audio jack a USB-C Thunderbolt 4-enabled port and microSD card slot, and there are a couple of menu buttons just to the right of the screen at the top.

MSI Claw console top edge

As with other PC-based handheld games consoles, the MSI Claw is littered with vents, partly to add to the gamer look of the thing, but mostly to keep the internals cool while gaming.

The whole thing is fairly compact and pretty lightweight. I found it comfortable to hold in my very brief time with it, with textured, moulded grips that seemed to fit my hands nicely. And the whole thing is constructed from textured black plastic.

I did have the chance to take it for a quick spin, albeit around the fairly undemanding dungeons of Hades, and it played smoothly with no sign of lag or stuttering. The screen seemed to be nice and vibrant, too, although it isn’t an OLED panel.

MSI Claw buttons and analogue stick

It’s that Intel Core i7 Ultra 155H CPU that’s the most interesting thing about this particular handheld. It’s the first time we’ve seen an Intel chip inside a modern handheld console, and as we’ve seen its Arc graphics are seriously capable.

It will be particularly interesting to see how it stacks up against the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU inside the ROG Ally in particular. I’d expect it to be pretty punchy, though, given the results we’ve so far had from the laptops we’ve tested with the new chip inside. Indeed, Leaked Geekbench 6 CPU scores suggest it’s faster, although not by a massive margin.

What will really be interesting to see, though, is whether the battery life is better, as that was one our big complaints about the ROG Ally when we tested it last year.

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MSI Claw: Early Verdict

So far, I’ve only really had a sneak peak at the MSI Claw during an Intel event at CES 2024 – I’ll be adding further details here as I get them – so it’s difficult to say whether or not it will prove to be a practical alternative to the likes of the ROG Ally, the SteamDeck and the Lenovo Legion Go.

From what I’ve seen, though, I’ve so far been impressed with it. Hopefully, it won’t be too expensive when it eventually hits the shops and the battery life is better than the ROG Ally was able to deliver.

MSI Claw playing Hades

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First Look