MSI Claw A1M: Revolutionizing Gaming Handhelds with 4 Game-Changing Features

MSI Claw A1M
The MSI Claw is Intel's first Meteor Lake gaming handheld, and it shows some serious promise.

1. Hall-effect Triggers and Joysticks

One of the biggest gripes relating to the current crop of gaming handhelds is the use of regular analogue triggers and joysticks, which tend to suffer from drift over time. The MSI Claw A1M makes use of hall-effect joysticks and triggers, increasing the device's resistance to joystick drift and allowing players to fine-tune their controller sensitivity.

The Lenovo Legion Go (currently $699.99 on Amazon) and the Asus ROG Ally address similar issues with hall-effect joysticks and triggers, but the Claw stands out as the only handheld so far that utilizes both.

2. Thunderbolt 4

In a gaming handheld, performance often understandably takes a backseat to portability, battery life, and ergonomics. Still, there might be times when gamers want to play games with higher graphical fidelity that the iGPU simply can't handle. In those cases, an external GPU enclosure is an almost-ideal solution.

The MSI Claw's USB Type-C port, certified for Thunderbolt 4, offers transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps. Compatibility with other Thunderbolt 3 and 4 devices is virtually guaranteed, providing a reliable solution compared to USB's compatibility hazards. This feature dramatically expands the graphics capabilities of the MSI Claw, making it a potential Steam Deck killer.

3. The Intel Arc 8-Core iGPU is Impressive

The Intel Arc 8-core iGPU found in the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H has proven to be a capable chip, scoring only slightly behind the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Laptop GPU in some scenarios. Continued work on Arc drivers shows promise for both feature support and performance improvements.

Intel's Arc iGPUs support various AI-powered features, including XeSS and Ray Tracing, enhancing game visuals, especially at lower resolutions. The support for AV1 encoding could be a game-changer for in-game recording and streaming, thanks to its improved efficiency on a less powerful device.

4. Intel CPU Customization Offers Efficiency Benefits

Much of the discussion around the MSI Claw revolves around the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor. While some criticism, such as spotty support for older titles and emulators, is valid, the processor presents interesting possibilities for efficiency and running undemanding tasks and games.

The Intel Core Ultra 7 155H is a 16-core processor with a unique mix of cores, enabling configurations like disabling non-essential cores for demanding games or using efficiency cores for low-strain tasks. With Intel's Thread Director, the built-in NPU, and MSI's AI-enhanced Center M for CPU and power customization, the MSI Claw becomes a flexible handheld gaming powerhouse. Enabling and disabling cores as needed may be necessary for the MSI Claw to reach the efficiency levels of competitors.

Whether it's the innovative hall-effect triggers, Thunderbolt 4 support, the powerful Intel Arc iGPU, or the customizable Intel CPU, the MSI Claw A1M stands as a formidable contender in the gaming handheld market, poised to challenge the dominance of the Steam Deck. While not without its criticisms, the potential of this device is undeniable.

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