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MSI Claw review: Cool gaming handheld

MSI Claw review: Cool gaming handheld

MSI Claw

The MSI Claw A1M is the yin to the Asus ROG Ally's yang. Both are similar-looking 7-inch handheld gaming PCs that will run Windows games on the go — for a couple of hours at best. But while the ROG Ally and the Lenovo Legion Go are powered by AMD's Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip, the MSI Claw uses Intel's latest Core Ultra 7 processor. More importantly, the MSI Claw runs mostly cool, and quiet in games.

Quick specs

  • 7-inch Full-HD, 120Hz IPS touchscreen
  • Intel Core Ultra 7 Processor 155H with 16GB memory and 1TB SSD
  • USB Type-C, microSD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack
  • 53 watt-hour battery

At 675g, the MSI Claw is slightly heavier than the Ally (608g), but it's still portable enough. In fact, it will run out of battery before your arms get tired, despite a slightly larger 53 watt-hour battery (40 watt-hour for the Ally). The Hall sensor joysticks and triggers, as well as the A/B/X/Y face buttons feel great, though the bumpers are a bit mushy. I prefer the rear paddles on the MSI Claw, which seem less prone to accidental presses than the ROG Ally. Similarly, there are four shortcut buttons, including two Xbox-like controller buttons (View and Menu). One of the additional buttons brings up the console-like MSI Center M interface, while the other lets you adjust settings (Wi-Fi, brightness, etc). At the top edge, you'll find the power button (with integrated fingerprint sensor), microSD card slot, Thunderbolt 4 port, audio jack, and volume controls.

MSI Claw
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

The Claw's 7-inch, 1080p IPS LCD touchscreen is glossy with decent brightness (500 nits). It has a typical 120Hz refresh rate with variable refresh rate support. Like the ROG Ally, the initial Windows 11 setup can feel frustrating because the touchscreen, and gamepad controls aren't exactly designed for it. But you will mostly be using the MSI Center M interface. It gives you quick access to your games, and key settings like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Meanwhile, there's also a Quick Settings overlay with customisable shortcuts. I went with more frequently-used ones like resolution, refresh rate, and power modes. MSI has several power modes (Balanced, Performance, Super Battery), as well as a manual one, and an AI-optimised mode. Note that the manual mode only lets you select between 20W and 40W TDP.

MSI Claw
Credit: Vincent Chang/Can Buy or Not

At 1080p and Low graphics setting, Lies of P mostly ran between 50 to 60fps in Performance mode. But there would be sudden dips in frame rates. Switching to 720p boosts the frame rates to the 100 to 120fps range, though I still experienced stuttering. In games like Watch Dogs: Legion and Metro Exodus, the Claw managed around 30 to 33fps using Low/Medium settings at 1080p. Its 3DMark Time Spy Extreme score (1,756) is also lower than Lenovo's budget Intel Arc gaming laptop (2,536). The MSI Claw can use Intel's XeSS upscaling feature to boost performance. However, there aren't many supported games yet compared with AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). I'm also slightly concerned about the power draw. Even while idling in Windows desktop, it used around 8 to 10W TDP. When set to 720p and 60fps, Hades showed a 22W TDP, or just under 2.5 hours of playtime.

On the bright side, the MSI Claw feels cooler in the hand during gaming than its rivals. Despite CPU temperatures reaching 85 degrees Celsius in benchmarks, the Claw's plastic chassis feels just slightly warm to the touch. However, the MSI Claw falls short of its rivals in terms of performance, especially the stuttering in more demanding games. Power consumption seems a tad high, but the Claw's bigger battery gives it more leeway over its competitors. The MSI Claw costs S$1,069 for the Core Ultra 5 model, and S$1,299 for my Core Ultra 7 review unit. In comparison, the ROG Ally is around S$950 to S$1,000, while the Lenovo Legion Go start from S$900. While the MSI Claw seems to have better thermal management, it has some catching up to do for performance, and pricing.

See Also
Belkin BoostCharge 140W Wall Charger

Note: Review unit provided by MSI.

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Runs cooler than competition, but performance could be better

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