Alright, here we are back with another update on our CES adventure. Yesterday we shared Day One, which was a very full day on the Las Vegas Convention Center floor. Honestly, that place was basically an entire city, with entire blocks dedicated to the likes of Sony, TCL, Hisense, and all their various attention-grabbing shenanigans. It became difficult, if not impossible, to really properly absorb all of the information we received from the hundreds of booths on offer.
Well Day Two is quite a bit different, taking us instead to the Venetian and Wynn hotels. Despite being a far smaller, less bombastic affair, this is where the serious stuff takes place. Big companies in small semi-private rooms giving full access to all their goodies, without all the pomp and showboating of the main show floor exhibitors. For Day Two we had a much smaller itinerary, but arguably one much more interesting and important. MSI, Asus, and Lenovo, all of whom we had to schedule dedicated appointments with to get the attention of their product managers.
Let’s roll right in to the info here with CES Day Two.
MSI is, at least in our handheld community, the biggest new news on the block right now. You better believe we went straight to The Claw.
The MSI Claw is the latest news in the handheld community, a new Windows handheld being developed for the consumer market. It looks a lot (a LOT) like a color-swapped ROG Ally at first glance. Underneath the hood, however, MSI is working with Intel’s latest mobile chips to give Ryzen a run for its money in this segment. We got a chance to handle the device, both chained and unchained, as well as play games on it. I spent some time with Assassin’s Creed Mirage on one of the units and came away…mostly just curious to see how it all pans out. The hardware we were on wasn’t finalized, the units were some earlier engineering samples I would later find out. All in all, however, the external hardware will likely be adequate if MSI has at all been paying attention to their competition’s design peaks and pitfalls. In particular, MSI needs to have learned from Asus about the SD card reader issue regarding heat, which a representative assured us they had.
No, instead what I am curious most about is the beating heart of the device, Intel’s new Core Ultra 7 155H. Using a rather unusual 16-core configuration comprised of 6 power cores, 8 efficiency cores, and 2 low power efficiency cores, it leaves a lot of questions regarding performance. Will it switch to those higher power cores at high TDP and then route power into the low powered ones at low TDPs to preserve battery? Meanwhile integrated graphics and Intel have never been fast friends. Will they manage to shore up graphical driver suppport to properly compete against long-standing competitor AMD? Ultimately many of these questions can’t be answered in a mere 15-20 minutes of playing with engineering samples, but what we did get to scratch the surface on has left us excited to see what it can do if, or when, we have one of our own to push the limits on.
While the Claw may have been the star of the CES show for us, we certainly took our time to peruse their other goodies. In particular, we would like to start looking into covering laptops as well, as a more all-encompassing coverage of mobile gaming in general, rather than purely handhelds. We got a good look at their upcoming models, from the humblest budget Cyborg model to the impressive powerhouse the Titan. Maybe if we’re lucky we may be able to talk more about those products in the future.
Overall our experience at the MSI booth was enticing, but much like an appetizer before the meal. We eagerly await more news, but in the meantime you can also hear the thoughts of the rest of the team regarding the Claw on our podcast embedded at the end of this article.
We took a brief detour into the AMD room where we got to put our hands on the Deck, Ally, and Legion Go to directly compare against the experience we just had with the Claw. Then it was off to see Asus and what they have in store for the future.
Asus was perhaps the manufacturer I was personally most excited for, being a long-time fan of their gaming laptops. We were unsure if we would get any sort of handheld news here, seeing as the Ally is still a fairly recent release, but we were hopeful to make connections with Asus itself for the future. So imagine our surprise when we walked in and happened upon their interesting new Tessen telescopic controller.
It was ergonomic, it felt and looked a lot like a Backbone controller, but it folds in half for easier storage and transport. Really cool, and right up our alley. In addition to that, our group was largely attracted by Asus’ new AirVision M1 AR glasses. They used computer software to show off IPD and diopter adjustments, as well as true AR capabilities like 6DOF tracking and multi-monitor support. They also had a pair hooked up to the ROG Ally, playing some dirt racing game with the worst possible control scheme ever. Honestly, who decides to use the left analog stick for both acceleration and turning?
I also got a chance to look at some of the sweet new laptops coming down the line, in particular the sensual new Zephyrus G14. Ditching yesterday’s plastic for an aluminum unibody shell, and leaving behind IPS for OLED, this thing rocked my socks. Speaking of OLED, the entire group was also mesmerized by a giant ultrawide OLED monitor that was simply stunning, but so stunning we didn’t dare photograph it for fear of misrepresenting its majesty. Or we forgot. One of those two.
Ultimately we walked away from Asus content with what we saw, though we weren’t able to confirm the existence of a possible ROG Ally 2. There were still things to be excited by, and I would once again advise checking out the podcast below to hear the thoughts of the other members.
This just leaves Lenovo, with a mile-long trek through the city streets of Las Vegas to an entirely different hotel where they were hosting their event. My poor, poor feet cried out in pain as we rushed to make our appointment, but when we did we were greeted with the most curated experience of the day. Oh, and eggs, they gave us hard boiled eggs to eat.
Like I said, this was the most curated experience we had at a CES booth. Where MSI and Asus had open rooms we could walk around and play about in, Lenovo had a closed-doors presentation for us before we could meander. They showed us their new Legion laptops, their new Thinkpads, and even their new tablet, before letting us loose to touch all the toys.
So what did we learn from the presentation? The Legion line has a snazzy new white and steel colorway that looks really sleek, and a new special edition Thinkbook will have a stainless magnesium finish that looked really cool. They’re getting rid of the “Slim” line of Legion laptops, preferring to differentiate between the thicker heavier “Pro” and the thinner lighter non-Pro variant of their 5i and 7i laptops for more streamlined naming convention. One of the larger Thinkbooks can be docked into a keyboard to be a Windows laptop, and then removed to become an Android tablet. Also some of their laptops will now have magnets and pins that allow you to connect a variety of accessories to the lid of the laptop such as webcams, second screens, or external storage drives. Overall a lot of laptop stuff. Sadly, they did not have the Legion Go anywhere in sight, due to this particular showcase only being meant to show off new to-be-released products.
Oh and also Zu and Stubbs got into some shenanigans and put on a fashion show with some of Lenovo’s prototype “wearable tech” for a product manager’s amusement.
Overall we had fun with Lenovo, and at least one of their people seemed to have fun with us. They’ve got an exciting lineup as always, and are poised to continue their path as usual in 2024.
By the end of Day Two we hadn’t gone nearly as many places or seen nearly as much as we saw on Day One, but what we did see and do should hopefully have powerful ramifications for the future. The second day was a fantastic opportunity to start relationships with these various companies whose products we would love to feature on our channels and website. After all, these three are set to be the “Big 3” of mainstream Windows handhelds for the near future, with the Claw, Ally, and Legion Go battling for supremacy in the “not the Steam Deck” category. We left Day Two feeling energized and excited for the future of Retro Handhelds.
Here’s that podcast, containing more of our thoughts and feelings regarding the products mentioned in days 1 and 2 of these round-up articles.
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