MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Which PC gaming handheld is best?

When Asus released the ROG Ally last year, it made a huge splash as a competitor to the Steam Deck. Since then, multiple companies have released their own gaming handhelds and the latest to join the ranks is the MSI Claw

The ROG Ally and MSI Claw are similar in that they both run Windows 11 and are basically small gaming laptops with controllers attached to them. So which of these devices is best? Let's dive in and compare what they have to offer. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Specs

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

To begin with, take a look at the MSI Claw vs ROG Ally specs. After that, I'll dive into various aspects of the two devices and explain which one is better suited to different things. 

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Header Cell - Column 0 MSI ClawROG Ally
Price$699 | $749 | $799$599 | $699
Release dateMarch 2024Jun. 13, 2023
ProcessorIntel Core Ultra 5-135H | Intel Core Ultra 7-155HAMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme | AMD Ryzen Z1
Storage512GB | 1TB SSDUp to 512GB PCle 4.0 SSD
Memory16GB LPDDR5-640016GB LPDDR5 on board (6400MT/s dual channel)
OSWindows 11 HomeWindows 11 Home
Display7-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 120Hz IPS-Level touchscreen7-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 IPS-level touchscreen, 120Hz, 500nits, 100% of sRGB, 120Hz
Ports1x USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port with PD charging and 1x microSD card reader1x USB-C port, 1x PCIe port, 1x microSD card slot, 1x headphone jack
HapticsHD hapticsHD haptics, Gyro: 6-Axis IMU
Dimensions11.6 x 4.6 x 0.83 inches (294 x 117 x 21.2mm)11.0 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches (279 x 111.8 x 12.7mm)
Weight1.5 lbs (675 grams)1.3 lbs (590 grams)
Battery lifeUnknown (53Whr capacity)Up to 4 Hours

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Price

ROG Ally has two versions. One sells for $599 while the other sells for $699. (Image credit: Asus ROG)

Both the ROG Ally and the MSI Claw come in two different versions with separate price points. First off, there's the ROG Ally Z1 with 512GB of space that starts at $599, but then there's also the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, a more powerful handheld, that starts with a $699 MSRP. 

We've also seen the prices of the ROG Ally Z1 and Z1 Extreme reduce significantly during Best Buy sales events to just $399 and $599 respectively. So, it's far easier on your wallet to get one of these devices if you can catch it at a discount.

The biggest difference with the MSI Claw is the Intel chip inside. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear | Windows Central)

As for MSI Claw, there will be three configurations to choose from. An Intel Core Ultra 5-135H with 512GB SSD for $699.99, an Intel Core Ultra 7-155H with 512GB SSD for $749.99, and finally an Intel Core Ultra 7-155H with a 1TB SSD for $799.99. That's quite a bit more expensive than what the ROG Ally configurations are selling for. 

Even with potential sales, it isn't likely that the MSI Claw's two versions will ever be cheaper to purchase than the ROG Ally. 

TL:DR PRICE WINNER: The ROG ALLY is more affordable than the MSI Claw due to Asus offering the lower Z1 version at $599 and the more powerful Z1 Extreme at a $699 price point. What's more, these devices have even gone on sale at Best Buy for $100 to $200 off, so if you catch them during a discount they can be a lot easier on your wallet. Meanwhile, the MSI Claw starts at $699 with a middle version at $749 and a more powerful version offered at a $799 MSRP. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Performance and storage

I got to play Assassin's Creed Mirage on the MSI Claw at CES 2024. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

During CES 2024, I had the opportunity to hold the MSI Claw and play several minutes of Assassin's Creed Mirage on it. While using it, I was struck by how smooth gameplay was. There was no choppiness, and everything reacted the way I expected it to. I'm planning on conducting MSI Claw testing to really get a feel for the system's performance, but so far the MSI Claw has left a good impression on me.

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This isn't surprising given that the Claw is the first gaming handheld to feature the new Intel Core Ultra processor (formerly called Meteor Lake), a chip with an NPU (Neural Processing Unit) that allows the system to run far more efficiently. Seriously, the Intel Core Ultra processors mark the biggest CPU shift in 40 years, so it's very likely that the MSI Claw is the far better performer between the two handhelds.

As for storage, the MSI Claw can be purchased with either a 512GB SSD or a 1TB SSD. Both options give you plenty of room for your various game files, but the bigger capacity is better suited to people who access larger game libraries regularly. Of course, additional storage can easily be supplied using the microSD card slot.

The ROG Ally can get very hot near the microSD card slot which can cause these external storage cards to malfunction.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Earlier this year, I did our ROG Ally review and as part of that, I played several hours worth of games on it and ran various benchmark tests to get a feel for the handheld's performance. Since then, I've continued to use my ROG Ally regularly to play various games. It has proved to be an excellent device that runs titles in a mostly smooth manner as long as settings are adjusted properly. Part of this is due to the ROG Ally having VRR support, but this is something the MSI Claw has too. 

When it comes to storage, the ROG Ally only comes with a 512GB SSD. As I talked about before, this is a good amount of space to hold a few large games, but you might want to add more storage if you tend to play a lot of different titles. 

Now, Asus' handheld does have a big problem that you should be aware of. Due to an overheating issue, the ROG Ally can cause microSD cards to malfunction. So if you want to increase storage, it's best to install a larger SSD rather than using a microSD card. If you need help with that, you can check out my step-by-step guide on how to do an SSD upgrade on ROG Ally.

TL:DR PERFORMANCE AND STORAGE WINNER: Due to the fact that the MSI Claw uses the brand new Intel Core Ultra chips with an NPU, it's very likely that this handheld will offer better performance than ROG Ally. As for storage, MSI also offers a higher SSD capacity to choose from and additional storage can be supplied with a microSD card. Meanwhile, ROG Ally only comes with a lower SSD capacity option, and it's well known for an overheating issue that can fry microSD cards. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Display

The MSI Claw features a 7-inch IPS display that can reach up to a 120Hz refresh rate. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Before colorimeter testing, it's impossible to say which gaming handheld has the best display. Looking purely at the specs, it's likely that the screens are very similar or perhaps even the same. Both have 7-inch FHD IPS touchscreens that can reach up to a 120Hz refresh rate.

I've probably spent hundreds of hours with my ROG Ally by now, and I've never been distracted or disappointed with the display. Colors come through clearly, there's plenty of crisp detail to make out objects in environments, and there's also a good amount of contrast to help make things stand out. This is likely all the same for the MSI Claw. 

I'll pay attention to the screens when I review the MSI Claw and will update this section when I learn more. 

TL:DR DISPLAY WINNER: We have a tie, folks. Before testing, it looks as though the MSI Claw and ROG Ally's screens are basically the same. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Buttons, joysticks, and grip

MSI Claw has ergonomic grips, Hall Effect joysticks, and comfortable button positioning.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

The MSI Claw has a sleek design with ergonomic grips, offset, joysticks, and large buttons. When I held it, it felt very well-balanced and all of the buttons responded beautifully to my presses. It's worth noting that it has Hall Effect triggers and joysticks, so it shouldn't develop drift issues as some other gaming handhelds do. 

Technically, it does weigh a bit more than the ROG Ally, but the grip design makes it easy to hold for a while. All in all, it looks good and feels good too. 

ROG Ally is designed with ergonomic grips and large buttons.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

As for the ROG Ally, it too is well-balanced with grips that help relieve wrist and hand pressure. The buttons are also very large and easy to use. However, while the triggers use Hall Effect, the joysticks are potentiometers, which are susceptible to drift. So, it seems like the MSI Claw is a better option when it comes to longevity. 

TL:DR CONTROLS AND GRIPS WINNER: Due to the inclusion of offset Hall Effect joysticks and large buttons, the MSI Claw offers better controls than the ROG Ally. Asus' handheld is by no means bad, but it could develop drift over time whereas the MSI Claw isn't likely to.

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Compatible games & software

I only spent a few moments with the MSI Claw, but the MSI Classic M interface seemed to be clean and easy to interact with. As with so many other aspects, I'll need to spend more time with the Claw to get a full feel for how good the game launcher and setting customization options are. 

Since both the ROG Ally and MSI Claw run Windows 11, there will likely be the same kind of bloatware running in the background on either one. You'll want to put a stop to certain programs and prevent others from running on startup in order for games to run more efficiently. 

ROG Ally's Armoury Crate also allows you to adjust which settings options appear in the Quick Settings menu.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

As for the ROG Ally itself, I've found that its Armoury Crate interface can be rather clunky at times and even slow to respond. However, the game launcher works very well and there are plenty of settings options to adjust to get the device running just the way you want it to. 

Something I've been really impressed about is that the ROG Ally team has continued to push updates and improvements for the handheld to provide even more features and settings options. So, you can expect that the company will continue to do so going forward. 

TL:DR SOFTWARE WINNER: I cannot fully pick a winner at this time until I have more experience with the MSI Claw. Suffice it to say that ROG Ally's Armoury Crate can be clunky, but that the Ally team has done a marvelous job adding additional options and settings as time has gone on. So it's possible ROG Ally has better customization. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Battery life

MSI Claw has a 54Whr battery. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

One of the biggest issues that even the best gaming handhelds face today is short battery life. On average, most of these devices can only last between one to three hours while playing more intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 on low settings. To be clear, battery life can last a few hours longer on less demanding games, but it really varies depending on the settings you have and the title you're playing. 

That all being said, it's very likely that the MSI Claw is also somewhere in the one to three-hour battery life average. We'll know more when we do testing. For now, what we do know is that the Claw utilizes a 53Whr battery and that MSI claims it "lasts 50% longer," although the company is very unclear about what this is being measured against. Still, the Intel Core Ultra processor has been shown to increase battery life, so it's very possible it could have a good effect on the MSI Claw. 

Charging the ROG Ally.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

As for the ROG Ally, battery life typically lasts between 1.5 to two hours while I play games like Diablo IV or Baldur's Gate 3 on low settings. The longest I've ever gotten it to last was around four hours. It's not great, especially not for people who like to play long gaming sessions. But that's where you might want to invest in one of the best ROG Ally accessories, a dock that allows you to play on a monitor or TV while the handheld receives a charge. 

TL:DR BATTERY LIFE WINNER: It's currently too early to tell. However, the MSI Claw's Intel Core Ultra processor might run more efficiently to the point that it helps the device last longer. We'll update this section after testing. 

MSI Claw vs ROG Ally: Which should I buy?

The MSI Claw is looking really tempting. (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

Now we come down to the meat of it all — which gaming handheld is better? Overall, the MSI Claw is looking like the best option between the two. For one thing, it has the new Intel Core Ultra processor, which should help the system run more efficiently and could even provide better battery life than the ROG Ally. When it comes to controls, having Hall Effect joysticks means that the MSI Claw isn't likely to encounter drift issues as time goes on whereas the ROG Ally just might. 

That all being said, the ROG Ally is still a great device. Its lower price point and tendency to go on sale also make it an excellent option for people on a budget. Plus, the ROG Ally team does an excellent job updating the software so it provides more features and is more convenient to use over time. However, it does have a notable microSD card malfunction issue that could cause a major problem for you. As such, it's better to install a larger internal SSD rather than use a microSD card if you want to add more storage to it. 

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's gaming editors 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 game guides, previews, features, 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).