MSI Claw release date is in the books but it’s not all sunshine

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MSI Claw in Club386's hands.

A UK retailer has let the MSI Claw release date slip, and it’s not that far away. Otherwise known as Claw A1M, MSI’s upcoming device is Intel’s first major handheld, aiming to give AMD some competition. Even without reviews, we already know when it’s dropping, how much it’ll cost, and somewhat how it stacks against competition.

Until recently, handheld gaming machines were mainly made by Chinese companies through crowdfunding. Following Valve’s Steam Deck, many big global brands have joined the market. MSI, represented by its Claw handheld, has deviated from Team Red with an Intel chip. It’s not the first with OneNetbook’s OneXPlayer beating it to market, but it’s the first off-the-shelf model. Given the shape and size, it’s no surprise that its main competition is Asus ROG Ally.

MSI Claw release date

MSI Claw A1M gaming handheld with the brand's logo on screen.

MSI Claw A1M

“A groundbreaking handheld gaming device that marks a new era, powered by Intel Core Ultra processors and featuring Intel XeSS technology.”

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Thanks to Currys in the UK, we know MSI Claw hit shelves on March 20. Pre-orders are now live in the country, with other regions expected to follow shortly.

The retailer doesn’t list all SKUs, though. While we can see the Intel Ultra 5 512GB and Ultra 7 1TB models, the Ultra 7 with 512GB version is missing. It’s possible that MSI is staggering the release of different versions of the handheld PC, but we’ll need to wait and see.

MSI Claw price

There are three MSI Claw models, each with a different price. The base MSI Claw Core Ultra 5 with 512GB costs $699.99 / £699. Core Ultra 7 with 1TB of storage will set you back $799.99 / £799. By this logic, Core Ultra 7 with 512GB of storage should sit at $750 / £750ish, but this isn’t official just yet.

Generally, pricing is a little disappointing. The top-end Asus ROG Ally with an AMD Z1 Extreme processor debuted at £699 in June 2023. This rival has since fallen in price significantly, often sitting around £549. Lenovo Legion Go, on the other hand, sports the same processor at £699, but offers a bigger screen with a higher refresh rate, detachable Nintendo Switch-like controllers, and a touchpad. MSI Claw has to truly impress in benchmarks to justify its lofty price.

MSI Claw specs

The top MSI Claw features a Core Ultra 7 155H processor with six P-Cores and eight E-Cores clocked up to 4.8GHz. An iGPU handles the graphics with eight Xe Cores clocked at 2.25GHz. This model comes with 1TB, and should feature a 512GB variant at some point post-release.

Looking towards the budget option, the base MSI Claw has a less powerful Core Ultra 5 135H CPU. The only differences between this and the higher-end model are two fewer performance cores and slower clock speeds. This one features four P-Cores and eight E-Cores at 4.6GHz, and eight Xe Cores at 2.2GHz. You’ll only find the starter model in 512GB.

Both models feature a microSD card slot to bolster storage and 16GB LPDDR5-6400 memory. Dual 2W speakers surround the 7in 1080p screen. It’s both bold and bright with an IPS panel rated at 500nits. The 120Hz refresh rate beats anything Steam Deck can muster, putting it on par with ROG Ally instead. The star of the show is probably the 53WHr battery keeping it juiced up, but I’m partial to the fingerprint sensor on the power button, which makes logging in far easier.

We handled the device during CES 2024, and it was deceptively light. Despite clocking in at 675g, which is heavier than ROG Ally, it feels featherweight by comparison. MSI says this is due to weight distribution. We weren’t conducting a side-by-side test, though, so take our opinion with a pinch of salt.

MSI Claw performance

According to early MSI Claw benchmarks, the device musters up 44.8fps in Cyberpunk 2077 on a 28W TDP. This falls short of 59.8fps on the ROG Ally using identical settings. In Red Dead Redemption 2, the performance was again lower by 11fps, reaching 49.2fps. These numbers are perfectly playable, but falling short of AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme does cast doubt on the value given the launch price. We’ll need to see more before we can judge.

While small in size, the Claw will show if Intel is capable of delivering a good gaming experience. Even more so, as rumours talk about a potential Intel-powered Xbox console.