Greetings friends and fellow enthusiasts!

This is Mikhailov from Team Retrogue, where we like retro games and the devices that bring them to us.

Last time, I reviewed the Aya Neo Next Lite. Now it’s time for another handheld review with the MSI Claw. No, this is not the patron deity of toy aliens in a prize machine. Nor is this Jim Carrey’s hand in the hit movie “Liar Liar”.

The Claw is an intel-based Windows Handheld that has a lot of potential, but also possesses several issues that make the handheld a hard sell.

This review supplements my video on the MSI Claw, which you can find below:



The MSI Claw comes equipped with an Intel Core Ultra 5 or 7 depending on which unit you purchase.

All units ship with an Intel Arc GPU and a 2230 M.2 SSD of either 512GB or 1TB. There is also expansion via a Micro SD card slot.

The Claw has 16GB LPDDR5 RAM and a 7” 1080p IPS screen. This screen has a refresh rate of 120Hz and is a variable refresh rate screen. The system comes with Hall effect sticks and triggers.

There is a 53-watt hour battery. There is also 1 USB-C port that is capable of display out, and LED lights around the joysticks and face buttons. The Claw has front-facing dual speakers, and for connectivity has Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4. MSI Claw ships with Windows 11 Home. 

Design & Build Quality

If you press the L1 and R1 bumpers on the MSI Claw, it’s an oddly mushy experience. The bumpers are not horrible, but they require more force to actuate than I’m used to. They’re mushy to the point of squishy, and only work when pressed towards the end of the button. I adjusted, but this is still an odd design choice.

Mushy Buttons

Most bumpers work with very little travel. I am not quite sure why MSI decided to make these bumpers as mushy as they are, but they will get through most games just fine.

The MSI Claw arms itself with one of the oddest D-Pads I’ve ever seen on a retro handheld. This whole thing just kind of clicks in, and again, there is that mushiness. Odd as it feels, it is serviceable. I was able to pull off special moves in Street Fighter games with a decent success rate.

Mushy D-Pad

However, on the positive, I really appreciate that MSI decided to go with full-sized face buttons. In addition, the buttons light up. I have been waiting for light up A, B, X, and Y buttons on an x86 handheld for a long time.

Light Up Buttons!

The back of the unit features cooling. That’s it. Nothing but fans back here. MSI is serious about keeping this thing cool. I personally never felt this device get hot at all. In fact, it was great to not have to mess with fan curves in order to get this thing to stay cool.

There are also two function buttons in the back which, like the ROG Ally, aren’t very programmable. They basically serve as hotkey and macro shortcuts. They are also just stiff enough that you can rest your hands on them without accidentally pressing them. 

Very “Cool”….get it?

MSI Center M

The MSI Center Software app is a little buggy. The Taskbar kept popping up instead of staying hidden when in fullscreen. However, the software is honestly the best Windows handheld software from a corporation to date.

Like the ROG Ally, the Claw comes equipped with several TDP presets based on the type of game you’re playing, including a manual setting and an AI Engine setting that attempts to learn how much power it needs to draw based on the gaming situation you put it in.

You can also adjust the lighting. I expected to be able to choose a different color for the lighting around the joysticks and the face buttons. Sadly it’s all or nothing. You can set the joysticks to have the rainbow effect, and then set a color for the face buttons, but that’s more of a workaround than anything else. Hopefully, this will be fixed in an update.

MSI Center M also possesses shortcuts to some major gaming storefronts like Xbox and Steam. The software will guide you to the installation location if it is not already installed. This is nice, but I wish I could delete shortcuts for frontends I don’t use. 

The right button opens up your quick settings where you can control volume, brightness, and power. You can customize your own shortcuts such as changing the resolution, the power profile, pulling up the keyboard, and even some functions that I haven’t seen in software before like choosing what to do with external monitors.

I didn’t feel the need to set up an external front end. I just loaded any PC game I wanted to play from the MSI software, and if I wanted to emulate, I booted up ESDE. There’s something to be said when something “just works.”

Gameplay and Battery Life

While every gaming experience I had on this handheld was some of the most impressive-looking gaming in a long time, it was also very short-lived. Take Breath of the Wild running on the CEMU emulator.

Using the FPS++ mod, I can get a very beautiful and impressive 45 Frames per Second, and I’m sure I could go higher, but I felt that the game was super smooth at this frame rate so I didn’t want to push the system more than I had to.

Using the AI Engine preset, I was super impressed to find that the game never dipped below the 45FPS marker. It maintained that beautiful frame rate throughout my entire game session, which came to an abrupt end after two hours. 

A pretty experience I wish lasted longer.

I tested  Final Fantasy XIV next. I usually set a 40FPS cap on this game. However, since the Claw’s minimum setting is 5 watts more than the Steam Deck’s Maximum of a 15W TDP, I attempted to maintain a steady 60FPS while running a dungeon. I couldn’t, but the framerate didn’t dip below 55FPS. The game looked smoother than any other device I currently own. This fun experience was also cut short after two hours.

With both Breath of the Wild, and Final Fantasy XIV, the Claw drew around 42-44 watts. Although the battery in the device is beefy, the system is drawing too much power – more than it needs, resulting in poor battery life.

Although this was some of the best gaming I had experienced on one of these handhelds, I was forced to take that massive MSI plug and plug it in next to my living room couch so I could reach for it the second I received my low battery warning. 

What Does This Mean?

This brings up a serious argument against purchasing the Claw because you can purchase the Ally Z1 starting at $300 at Best Buy if you can find some open-box deals.

If you can get a similarly performant device for $300, why get the Claw at all? However MSI and Intel are supposedly working together to update the drivers and software on the Claw, so I believe that over time we will be saying similar things about the Claw that we are currently saying about the Ally, and by then there will be new Ryzen devices out. This might put MSI in a very weird position with this handheld, and it might not retain its value. 

Final Thoughts

Let’s start with the positives. I like the face buttons on this device. I like that they are full-sized and that they light up.

The MSI Center Software is one of the most impressive Handheld Management Programs I have seen in a long time, and it just worked well no matter what game I was playing.

While I didn’t test the most powerful of games, the ones I did play on this device looked really impressive and maintained their framerate with little to no dips. The device was overall comfortable to hold, and it never felt hot or loud thanks to that abundance of vents and cooling. 

No device is perfect, and that statement couldn’t be more true in the case of the MSI Claw. This device should not have the abysmal battery life that it has. The device should also not be drawing the power that it is. There’s definitely something weird going on here with power draw. I’m hoping that six months from now I end up saying that updates to software and drivers have fixed my concerns with this device.

I also hope that MSI lets us set different colors for the face buttons and the joystick LEDs. I have waited too long for a device with light-up buttons for my creativity to be stifled.


I feel like the MSI Claw needed more time in the oven.

It feels rushed. However, I’m hesitant to criticize it too much because the ROG Ally was also rough on release.

While I understand that technology moves fast and companies need to get these devices into consumer’s hands as fast as possible to turn a profit, I’m not a fan of spending my hard-earned dollar bucks on an incomplete device. 

I maintain my cautious optimism that MSI Claw can it. If you were to ask me as of this recording If the claw is worth your money, I would definitely say it is not. In six months? Yeah. It might be. There is a good foundation here, but it needs more build time. 

Until next time, bye for now….and don’t stop believing. 

Purchase the MSI Claw from the links below:

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