MSI Claw A1M handheld gaming PC challenges the status quo with an Intel chip

If you haven’t noticed lately, there has been quite a good number of handheld computers being launched, almost all of them designed specifically for gaming. The success of the Nintendo Switch as well as the popularity of the Steam Deck has sparked dreams of recreating the magic (as well as the profits) for PC gaming. If you have indeed been paying attention, you might have also noticed that almost all of these ultra-mobile PCs are running on AMD processors and, consequently, AMD graphics. Of course, its biggest rival wasn’t going to take things sitting down, and it was only a matter of time before an Intel-powered handheld PC would come to light, which is exactly what the MSI Claw A1M is putting on the table.

Designer: MSI

The rivalry between Intel and AMD goes back decades, but there was a time when it seemed that Intel was the only one left standing. AMD then made quite a comeback and started to threaten Intel in areas it had traditionally performed poorly in namely, mobile and graphics. As if to emphasize its advantage, AMD has become the partner of choice for mobile PCs like the Steam Deck, the ROG Ally, and the Lenovo Legion GO. It’s this apparent monopoly that MSI and Intel are trying to break up with a design that is oddly not at all that different.

It’s almost too easy to mistake the MSI Claw A1M for the ROG Ally because of their eerily similar appearances, except in the choice of colors with the Claw opting for an all-black coating. There are, of course, very minute details, like bigger and presumably more comfortable grips, but the basic shape of the unibody chassis, button layouts, and the like are nearly identical. Since the ROG Ally only comes in white, some might be tempted to reach for MSI’s version just for the darker version.

Of course, there are major differences inside, like a larger 53Wh battery and support for the faster Thunderbolt 4 technology. That latter is thanks to the biggest difference that the MSI Claw A1M makes, that it’s running on an Intel Core Ultra chip rather than AMD. It’s not a simple case of substituting one chip for another and calling it a day. Each of them has their own sets of pros and cons, with the latest Intel Core Ultra chips boasting stronger AI performance, though Intel has yet to prove that its young integrated Arc graphics can truly match AMD’s Radeon technologies.

At the end of the day, while the Intel-powered MSI Claw A1M sounds bold and daring, it will all boil down to whether it can deliver the same or even better performance than the existing crop. At the moment, however, MSI hasn’t fully revealed availability details, other than a ballpark $699 starting price tag, so it will take some time before we can confidently say that the new kid on the block is more than just a new face.