The Ayaneo Air Pro is a step forward for handheld PCs

It’s been a bumper 12 months for gaming on the go. For a spell, it kinda felt like Nintendo was the one identify on the town, however it’s since turn out to be one of many extra thrilling corners of gaming. As we speak, there are handheld choices for every little thing from AAA to Indie to retro and past. Whatsmore, the present era of cellular processors means we’re seeing surprisingly succesful {hardware}. The primary drawback, now, is that the software program facet of issues hasn’t fairly caught up. There’s maybe no higher demonstration of this than the Ayaneo Air Professional: a stellar instance of what will be performed, and what wants enhancing, within the burgeoning handheld PC world.

Should you’re not accustomed to Ayaneo, that’s comprehensible. The corporate hasn’t been round all that lengthy, however it’s already making a reputation for itself due to remarkably good {hardware} that brings PC gaming into the moveable realm. Should you think about a Steam Deck, however with Home windows and a fraction of the dimensions, you wouldn’t be far off.

Earlier than we dive into the gaming expertise, the {hardware} itself is value a better look. The Air Professional is impressively nicely made. It has an analogous footprint to Nintendo’s Swap Lite, however it’s thicker (.85 vs .55 inches) and heavier (.88lbs vs .55). When it comes to construct high quality, actually the Ayaneo feels far superior. The Corridor impact analog sticks and triggers are easy with a pleasant quantity of journey. The D-pad is responsive and the buttons are the proper of snappy. The centerpiece is the gorgeous 5.5-inch OLED show – a primary on Home windows gaming handheld Ayaneo is keen on reminding us. It’s a delight to carry and feels premium in virtually each regard. Even the fingerprint reader within the energy button someway provides a touch of sophistication.

A close up of the left side of the Ayaneo Air Pro handheld gaming PC.

James Trew / Engadget

As that is mainly a PC, there are fairly a couple of completely different configurations accessible. Some utilizing AMD’s 5560U chipset and others working the 5825U with assorted quantities of RAM and storage relying in your finances. And you have to a large finances as you’ll quickly discover out.

The Air Professional doesn’t fairly have the grunt of Valve’s venerable Steam Deck, however it does run Home windows 11 out of the field and may run a stunning quantity of high-end video games in a more-than-playable trend. And whereas the Steam Deck outguns it by way of processing energy, the Air Professional is legitimately moveable with out an excessive amount of of a efficiency tradeoff.

Past dimension and the internals, the opposite fundamental distinction is value. Valve’s handheld tops out at $650 for the 512GB model whereas the Air Professional begins at $699 (5560U/16GB RAM/512GB storage). You’ll be able to carry that determine proper as much as $1,399 if you need the sooner silicon, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of storage – that’s clearly fairly spendy. The mannequin we examined was someplace between center and prime with the superior processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage (although all fashions have expandable reminiscence by way of a microSD card slot).

There are different gaming handhelds that run Home windows, however many are too underpowered to deal with lots of greater video games. Anbernic’s Win600, for instance, runs on an older AMD Athlon Silver 3050e chipset with Radeon Vega 3 graphics. This can be a vital step down, however then the Win600 solely prices $375. Ayn’s Odin can even run Home windows, however the ARM-based model which brings with it some compatibility points. GPD has been on this house for some time, however its Win 3 is wanting just a little underpowered now (although its Win 4 is coming this month and it seems suitably beefy).

Maybe most tellingly there are various extra handhelds within the works from corporations like Ayn, the aforementioned GPD and others. There’s even a brand new flagship from the corporate itself, the Ayaneo 2, that basically ought to trigger potential Steam Deck consumers some complications. These un-released fashions all have one thing in frequent: AMD’s 6800U chipset. It appears there was at all times an urge for food for PC gaming on the go, simply we didn’t fairly have the required {hardware} to run it. Till not too long ago.

Technical limitations are one factor, however there’s one other extra philosophical query that wants answering: Why make a pocketable PC when you’ll be able to stream lots of AAA video games with out the necessity for costly, energy hungry devoted {hardware}? Whereas it’s true streaming is extra viable than ever, that strategy requires that you’ve got a console or gaming PC within the first place or a subscription to one thing like GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud which isn’t economically favorable for a lot of of us (to not point out the libraries may not have what you need). To not point out its dependence on a community connection – good luck with that on in-flight WiFi.

A screenshot of Ayaspace, the game launcher Ayaneo uses on its Windows-based gaming handhelds.

James Trew / Engadget

Which brings us again to the true difficulty: Home windows isn’t prepared for use on tiny screens and neither are most of the video games that run on it. Ayaneo has tried laborious to ameliorate this difficulty by including its personal launcher referred to as Ayaspace. It serves as a front-end for all of your video games and manages to offer a obscure console-like expertise. But it surely’s not lengthy earlier than the spell is damaged and you end up utilizing an analog stick as a mouse attempting to log-in to Steam after which utilizing a tiny onscreen keyboard to peck out your credentials.

Ayaneo has at the least tried to unravel a few of these inevitable issues. The Air Professional, for instance, has two buttons alongside the highest (between LB and RB) that may pull up the onscreen keyboard, double for ESC and different important Home windows shortcuts to make navigating bearable. However you’ll seemingly have to plug in a mouse and keyboard at some level simply to get one thing easy performed.

It’ll additionally quickly turn out to be obvious that AAA video games weren’t essentially made with a small display in thoughts. For probably the most half, video games look unbelievable on the Air Professional’s OLED show. Even when taking part in video games at 720p (the show is 1080p) they nonetheless look unbelievable – however it’s typically a mandatory tradeoff for efficiency. You’ll seemingly end up wishing that show was simply just a little bit greater. Not least to do away with these bezels, however only for normal high quality of life.

Not least for video games the place there’s lots of textual content. Titles like Disco Elysium, for instance, have lots of written dialog – and whereas it’s straightforward sufficient to learn for probably the most half, it’s noticeably extra fatiguing than should you have been on a desktop. Fortunately, the show is sharp and the decision is excessive sufficient that it’s all nonetheless very legible, however there’s simply that obscure sense of a UI that wasn’t constructed for a show of this dimension.

Ayaneo Air Pro handheld gaming PC

James Trew / Engadget

Should you’re considering “Why not simply run SteamOS on it” you wouldn’t be alone. It’s been performed with various levels of success. The larger difficulty may simply come right down to the practicality (hundreds of thousands of video games accessible, huge {hardware} help) and attain of Home windows. There are some extra mundane challenges with SteamOS that don’t make it a shoo-in substitute for these handhelds. Primarily, sport compatibility. If it’s not accessible on Steam, you’ll be able to most likely nonetheless set up it on SteamOS however it may contain flipping to desktop mode or different workarounds which breaks the “console” expertise you might need been looking for within the first place.

Extra importantly, some customers are literally reporting higher battery life with Home windows on the Steam Deck regardless of anticipating it to be worse. The claims are that it’s broadly equal however in some instances even higher than Valve’s native working system due to a mixture of things. PC gaming has lots of variables, so this isn’t essentially that stunning. This isn’t at all times going to be the case, however it’s at the least not a robust incentive for making SteamOS the go-to platform for moveable PC gaming.

Battery life is particularly essential with a handheld and it could be a misinform say it’s one thing that the Ayaneo Air Professional excels at. And even does adequately at. Relying on what you’re taking part in and the facility drain – normally referred to as TDP – required for it to run satisfactorily. Extra demanding video games will want a TDP of 12 Watts or above and you may hope for about an hour and 45 minutes battery life at this depth. Some video games can run simply high quality at 8W which is able to lengthen play time to round 2.3 hours. You will get over three hours of life on the bottom 5W setting however this received’t be sufficient for something however the lightest of video games however it’s good for normal setup duties and the like.

Evidently, this isn’t superb for a handheld, particularly as your battery pack seemingly received’t lower it – until it might probably ship 65W, which most can’t.

In brief, the Ayaneo Air Professional represents lots of hope and shines a lightweight on some challenges. Hope in that true PC gaming on the go in a pocket-friendly format and on unbelievable {hardware}, feels prefer it may lastly be right here. It’s the challenges which might be just a little extra difficult. Home windows has lots of benefits, but in addition loads of sensible drawbacks. Whether or not it’s a case of adapting the {hardware} round these, or only a matter of a wise software program overlay is being discovered in actual time it appears.

Ayaneo Air Pro handheld gaming PC

James Trew / Engadget

Making a very “console” expertise would require some intelligent considering and equally intelligent software program. Ayaneo, for its half, can also be working by itself Ayaneo OS that’s Linux-based like SteamOS. Whether or not this can resolve a few of the challenges stays to be seen, however it’s clearly one thing that’s being labored on. However that simply accounts for one firm. With different producers with ties to Home windows like GPD there’s a danger of ending up with a mishmash of approaches. Hopefully, although, with extra competitors comes extra innovation (or extra concepts to be “borrowed”).

For some, the thrilling half is to lastly have extra choices to get pleasure from high-end gaming away from the PC. Not everyone seems to be seeking to spend extra time at a desktop, or perhaps you simply need to scratch that Elden-itch whereas ready for a flight. No matter your desire, issues are about to get much more attention-grabbing.

All merchandise really useful by Engadget are chosen by our editorial staff, impartial of our dad or mum firm. A few of our tales embody affiliate hyperlinks. Should you purchase one thing by means of one among these hyperlinks, we could earn an affiliate fee. All costs are right on the time of publishing.

Related Articles

Back to top button