Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MSI’s sequel to the Claw handheld is a major redesign, and I saw it in the flesh

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Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Computex 2024 logo.

This story is part of our coverage of Computex, the world’s biggest computing conference.

I was critical of the MSI Claw when I reviewed it, and I wasn’t alone. MSI’s push into the world of handheld gaming PCs wasn’t graceful, with lacking performance, subpar battery life, and plenty of software quirks marring the experience. With all the backlash against the device, it would have been easy for MSI to throw in the towel. Instead, the company’s doing the opposite. Just six months after the original Claw was shown to the world, MSI is already working on its next version of the Claw and is looking to right its wrongs. I got a look at it at Computex 2024.

Contents

  • An early reboot of the Claw
  • The first Lunar Lake handheld

Considering it’s just the second generation, it might shock you to find out that this isn’t just a refresh of the original Claw. The Claw 8 AI+, as it’s called, is a complete hardware redesign that includes one of Intel’s new Lunar Lake CPUs. I was invited out to the company’s headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, to get an early look at the new device and talk through what it might be capable of.

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An early reboot of the Claw

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s a lot new here. Specs-wise, MSI confirmed it’s a Lunar Lake chip, but wouldn’t say specifically which one. Intel itself hasn’t confirmed any Lunar Lake models at this point. MSI confirmed some other specs, though. You can get up to 32GB of LPDDR5x at 8.5 Gbps speeds, as well as a 1TB SSD. MSI says it’s using an M.2 2280 SSD, similar to the new ROG Ally X, making upgrades easier.

Elsewhere, MSI added dual Thunderbolt ports to the top of the device, and it redesigned the triggers and external shell. I wasn’t able to actually touch the handheld — or any Lunar Lake device, for that matter — but the larger body certain looks more comfortable than the original’s. It also provides room for the 8-inch screen. It’s larger, but MSI says it’s still a 1080p panel running at 120Hz.

Along with the new specs, MSI says it’s using an 80 watt-hour battery with the Claw 8 AI+, which, again, matches the new ROG Ally X. That’s a significant jump up from the 53 watt-hour battery in the original, which provided some pretty disappointing longevity.

The announcement comes just months after MSI released the Claw originally, showing how much ground it’s trying to make up in the competitive world of handhelds. MSI tells me that, although this is a new generation of device, it’s not giving up on the current Claw. It’s continuing to work with Intel to release driver updates for the handheld, one of which released since I’ve been on the ground in Taipei.

The first Lunar Lake handheld

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Even with that, MSI indeed has a lot of ground to cover. Lunar Lake might be the key to that, however. Intel hasn’t been shy about the “radical low-power architecture” that is Lunar Lake, which has a lot of implications for a handheld gaming device. There’s also the significantly improved integrated graphics, which adopt Intel’s Battlemage architecture. Details are sparse, but Intel is certainly talking a big game when it comes the graphics.

Then again, we’ve been here before. Although the original MSI Claw has some issues outside of the processor, there’s no doubt that the Meteor Lake CPU plays a significant role in its pitfalls. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that the Claw was the only handheld to adopt the chips, with other devices opting for AMD.

MSI didn’t share pricing details with me, but it said that the new device should launch in September. That could change, as MSI was clearly showing off a prototype when I visited its Taipei headquarters. Although it’s hard to say how much the Claw 8 AI+ will cost, MSI hinted that a price drop on the original version may be on the way soon.

I’m happy to see MSI and Intel continue to push the envelope on this exciting new form factor for PC gaming to give AMD and Asus a bit of competition.

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