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MSI’s latest Steam Deck rival has much more than just a new Intel CPU

We get up close with the refreshed MSI Claw 8 AI+ gaming handheld, which isn't only more powerful, but looks more comfortable to hold too.

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The new MSI Claw 8 AI+ broke cover just a couple of days ago, promising a new larger 8-inch screen and an upgrade to the new Intel Core Ultra 200 Lunar Lake processor. However, as we’ve seen after getting up close with the new device, there’s more to it than just these tweaks.

While the first iteration of the MSI Claw didn’t make much of a splash on our best handheld gaming PC guide, it still did enough to at least make us intrigued about what a follow-up, Intel-powered rival to the AMD-powered Steam Decks and Asus ROG Allys of this world would look like. Seeing it in the flesh only heightens that anticipation.

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The MSI Claw 8 AI+ may have a silly name, but the design of this handheld has been made much more appealing thanks to changes to its grips and overall shape. Much like comparing the Asus ROG Ally X with the original ROG Ally, the MSI Claw 8 AI+ has rounder, deeper grips that subtly flare out a little more towards the bottom, which should make the device feel more natural to hold.

We couldn’t quite get our fingers in to reach and confirm this, but the sides also appear to be coated in rubber to aid grip, and at the very least the surface is textured, which again should make for a better purchase on this portable.

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Most of the controls appear to be the same as those on the original MSI Claw, but the bumpers are visibly larger and the menu buttons close to the screen are larger too. Both changes should make it easier to reach and activate these features.

Overall, the design also feels more, well, second-gen. In addition to the more rounded edges, there’s also the two-tone black and cream color scheme, again with the color seemingly coming from a more complex doubleshot manufacturing process, where the casing will have gone through two different runs of an injection molding machine. The first-generation product will have only had one run to be produced.

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The ratio of the screen to the bezel and overall device looks better too, with the 8-inch panel filling the chassis better than the 7-inch one of old. The screen looks bright and punchy too, though it’s hard to really gauge image and motion quality with just a static Windows 11 desktop background on display.

It remains an IPS-type LCD, and it has good viewing angles and punchy colors, but some will be sad it hasn’t moved to an OLED panel like the Steam Deck OLED. Sensibly, its resolution is also 1080p, rather than the over-specced 1440p screen of the Lenovo Legion Go.

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According to the manufacturer, other upgrades on the MSI Claw 8 AI+ include a larger battery, a two-fan, two-heatpipe cooling system, “advanced” hall effect joysticks, and of course there will be that much faster, more efficient Intel Lunar Lake CPU at its heart. Its Xe2-based graphics, in particular, should greatly elevate the new Claw’s gaming performance, as long as Intel can provide solid driver support.

We got to see the new Claw 8 AI+ while treading the boards of the Computex 2024 show floor, where we also saw the new ROG Ally X and will soon be handling the new Zotac Zone. For more stories from the show, check out our Computex story hub.