Early MSI Claw benchmarks don't look great versus the seemingly superior ROG Ally — Will Intel's Core Ultra CPU be a mistake for portable PC gaming handhelds?

MSI Claw and ROG Ally.
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • MSI Claw is an upcoming gaming handheld that features the brand new and extremely powerful Intel Core Ultra CPU. 
  • A Chinese media outlet was already able to conduct early benchmark comparisons for the MSI Claw against the ROG Ally and it looks like ASUS' handheld is more powerful. 
  • These results don't necessarily mean anything definitive at this point since the MSI Claw hasn't officially launched yet. 
  • A video on Bilibili showing the MSI Claw being taken apart was also uploaded so viewers can see the handheld's internals. 

The upcoming gaming handheld known as the MSI Claw won't be releasing until March or April, but it looks like some Chinese media outlets have already been able to conduct side-by-side benchmark comparisons between the MSI Claw and the ROG Ally. So far, it's looking like ASUS's AMD Z1 Extreme handheld produces significantly better results than MSI's upcoming Intel Core Ultra one (thanks VideoCardz).

Specifically, an outlet ran different game benchmarks on both devices including the graphically intensive Cyberpunk 2077 as well as Shadow of the Tomb Raider. You can view the side-by-side Cyberpunk 2077 40W benchmark comparison of FSR and XeSS in which the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme managed an average 59.83 FPS while the MSI Claw tended to stick lower around 44.82 FPS. That's quite a bit of a difference and this doesn't appear to be a fluke since the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark setting showed the ROG Ally reach an average of 59 FPS when at 20 TDP while the MSI Claw only reached a 45 FPS average at a 20 TDP setting. 

This might be surprising considering that the MSI Claw houses the Intel Core Ultra, which is one of the most powerful CPUs ever to be created, presenting the most significant CPU shift in 40 years. You can learn more about the handheld's specs with our MSI Claw FAQ. Additionally, you might want to watch this MSI Claw teardown video to see the handheld's internal components and their placement.

So, is MSI Claw going to be a disaster?

I got to play with the MSI Claw at CES 2024. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

So what is going on here? Is the MSI Claw an inferior gaming handheld? Honestly, it's still too early to tell. When I went to CES 2024 and spoke with an MSI representative, I was told that updates for the handheld were being pushed out as late as that morning to get the device ready for attendees. Even so, it played well enough in my hands and seemed to offer a very smooth experience. Who's to say that more updates and drivers won't continue to improve the playing experience on MSI Claw before the device officially launches.

Obviously, the ROG Ally is at an advantage since it has been out for several months now. During that time, Asus has improved its performance with significant updates, including adding more dedicated VRAM allotment options for the system. As such, it's very likely that the same kind of improvement updates will happen with MSI Claw before and after release day and could get the handheld to perform much better in these same benchmark tests.

Now, there is the argument that going with the Intel Core Ultra as the MSI Claw CPU wasn't the best decision since this CPU was intended for laptops whereas the AMD Z1 Extreme was specifically created for handheld systems. As such, there is the possibility that MSI Claw could still have a disadvantage due to the overall system not working as efficiently as a more dedicated handheld design. But like I said before, it's still too early to know for sure until the final product launches and we can do our own testing.

For now, it's best not to count the MSI Claw out, though. It will have a lot to offer and might have strengths in areas that the ROG Ally doesn't. 

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).