MSI, the Taiwanese manufacturer known for its gaming PCs and components, has officially unveiled its first handheld gaming device called the MSI CLAW at CES 2024. The device seems positioned to compete directly with the popular Steam Deck handheld from Valve.
MSI Enters Handheld Gaming Market
The gaming handheld market has seen growing interest lately, kickstarted mainly by the successful launch of the Steam Deck in early 2022. The Steam Deck allows PC gamers to play their entire libraries on the go and has proven that there is demand for powerful portable gaming devices.
MSI is looking to capitalize on this demand with its new CLAW device. The company has been teasing the gaming handheld on its social media for the past few weeks before fully revealing it at its CES 2024 keynote.
“Get a grip. Stay tuned.” – MSI on Twitter
The CLAW name appears to be a reference to the unique grip controllers on either side of the screen, whichfeature analog sticks, D-Pads, and an array of buttons for gaming input.
High-End Specs to Rival Steam Deck
Early leaks of the MSI CLAW showed that it will pack some serious performance hardware to match and even exceed the Steam Deck. The CLAW is powered by a high-end Intel Core Ultra 155H mobile processor which can be configured up to 16 cores and 32 threads based on Intel’s Raptor Lake CPU architecture.
This dwarfs the Steam Deck’s AMD Aerith quad-core APU solution. The CLAW also features dedicated Intel Arc discrete graphics, up to 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of fast PCIe SSD storage. These should allow modern AAA games to run smoothly in higher graphical settings compared to the Steam Deck.
|Valve Steam Deck
|Up to Intel Core i7 Ultra 155H (16 cores, 32 threads)
|AMD Aerith quad-core APU
|Intel Arc discrete graphics (Model TBC)
|AMD RDNA 2 integrated graphics
|Up to 32GB LPDDR5
|Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
|64GB eMMC or 256/512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
First Geekbench tests of an engineering sample CLAW unit with the 8+8 big+little core Intel i7 Ultra 155H show a single core score of over 1900 and multi core score of nearly 15000. This is multiple times higher than Steam Deck scores, demonstrating the CLAW’s commanding performance lead.
Unique Design for Handheld Gaming
The leaked images showcase the MSI CLAW’s unique design tailored for long handheld gaming sessions. The wider grip handles with controllers allow adjustable holding positions to prevent hand strain. An adjustable kickstand is also integrated for those who prefer connecting the CLAW to a bigger screen instead.
An OLED screen seems likely given MSI’s partnerships with major OLED panel suppliers like Samsung Display and TCL CSOT. High resolution Quad HD+ or 4K panels with up to 120Hz refresh rate are certainly possible. Haptics and advanced microphone noise cancellation seen in high end headphones should also make it into the CLAW based on the company’s audio visual expertise.
The operating system was not clarified but Windows obviously makes sense for a powerful x86 gaming device like this. Microsoft and Intel are collaborating closely in the handheld space as well. An Xbox Game Pass announcement for the CLAW could happen alongside Windows 11 preloads.
Steep Competition Against Steam Deck
The MSI CLAW has charted an ambitious product roadmap for itself as evident from the hardware specifications. However, competing against the firmly established Steam Deck could prove challenging despite the raw performance advantage.
Valve has built up goodwill amongst PC gamers from years of excellent service through Steam. And the Steam Deck has only gotten better since its launch with major usability improvements in SteamOS. Valve’s handheld starts at just $399 as well compared to an expected $999+ pricing for the CLAW.
MSI does have over 35 years of experience in making premium gaming hardware and is no small player itself. The company seems up for the fight to carve out a share of the fledgling portable PC gaming space. An uphill battle lies ahead nonetheless against a formidable incumbent.
It will likely come down to actual product execution – how smoothly games run through optimizations, how comfortable and ergonomic the device feels for long hours of handheld use, the software ecosystem tie-ups like Xbox Cloud Gaming for platform exclusives, and ultimately the pricing value proposition.
CES 2024 Reveal: MSI Details CLAW Launch Plans
MSI finally lifted the covers off the CLAW at its CES 2024 keynote event. More details have now emerged – the CLAW gaming handheld will make its debut in Q3 2024 worldwide with pre-orders expected by June.
The company also showcased some exclusive design elements tailored for gamers. The CLAW features RGB accent lighting across its chassis which can be customized through included software. Active cooling is handled by dual fans and a vapor chamber heatsink to sustain high performance.
MSI also talked up various usability aspects like the kickstand for external display connectivity, swappable SSD storage, and interchangeable stick caps for a personalized feel. The CLAW runs Windows 11 Pro out of the box.
On the software side, MSI has partnered with Microsoft to integrate Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming. This will allow CLAW owners to stream Xbox console exclusives like Starfield and Redfall. Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud service is also coming later to enable high fidelity AAA gaming by offloading processing to remote servers.
While MSI did not disclose full specifications, the base configuration is still very capable – Intel Core i9 Ultra 139H processor with 14 cores and 20 threads, Intel Arc discrete graphics, 16GB RAM, and 512GB NVMe SSD storage. More premium specifications can be unlocked through MSI CLAW “Beast Mode” packages for maximum performance.
Pricing is quite steep, though largely expected due to the flagship grade internals. The base CLAW model starts at $1099, with higher end configurations going upwards of $1999. Whether this will limit its addressable audience against the $399 Steam Deck remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, MSI has put its best foot forward to take on the thriving handheld gaming space. The CLAW sets itself apart with bleeding edge hardware and functionality specifically designed for gaming use cases. We will know in a few months how it fares out in the real world against the Steam Deck once the initial units start shipping to consumers.
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