Maybe it’s more of an amuse-bouche.
It’s been a banner year for mobile gaming. Nintendo was sort of the only game in town for a while, but it has since evolved into one of the more interesting gaming subgenres. Currently, there are handheld options for every type of media, including AAA, Indie, retro, and more. Additionally, the current generation of mobile processors has resulted in hardware that is unexpectedly powerful. Currently, the biggest issue is that the software side of things hasn’t yet caught up. The Ayana Air Pro is a fantastic example of what can be done and what needs to be improved in the developing field of portable computers, and it serves as possibly the best illustration of this.
It’s understandable if you’re not familiar with Ayana. The firm hasn’t been around for very long, but it’s already establishing a name for itself thanks to impressive gear that expands PC gaming to portable devices. You wouldn’t be far off if you visualize a Steam Deck with Windows and a smaller size.
The hardware deserves more attention than the gaming experience before we get started. Impressively well crafted, the Air Pro. Its footprint is comparable to that of Nintendo’s Switch Lite, although it is heavier and thicker (.85 inches vs..55 inches) (.88 pound versus.55). Sincerely, the Ayana feels much better constructed. The analogue sticks and triggers for the Hall effect have great travel and are smooth. The buttons are just the proper amount of sharp, and the D-pad is responsive. The eye-catching 5.5-inch OLED display serves as the device’s focal point and, as Ayana likes to point out, is a first for a Windows gaming handheld. In practically every way, it feels luxurious and is a pleasure to handle. It somehow evens out the power button’s fingerprint reader.
Since that this is essentially a Computer, there are a lot of setting options. Depending on your budget, some run the 5825U chipset and some use AMD’s 5560U chipset, with varying amounts of RAM and storage. And as you’ll quickly discover, you’ll require a hefty budget.
The Air Pro can run Windows 11 out of the box and a surprising number of high-end games in a more-than-playable manner, but it doesn’t quite have the power of Valve’s venerable Steam Deck. The Air Pro is genuinely portable without making too much of a performance sacrifice, even though the Steam Deck outperforms it in terms of computing power.
The price discrepancy is the primary distinction after size and internals. The 512GB version of Valve’s portable costs $650, while the Air Pro starts at $699 (5560U/16GB RAM/512GB storage). If you want the speedier silicon, 32GB of Memory, and 2TB of storage, you can raise that price all the way to $1,399, which is obviously rather expensive. The device we examined was in the medium to top range and had a superior processor, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage (though all models have expandable memory via a microSD card slot).
There are other Windows-based gaming handhelds available, but many of them lack the processing capacity to play many larger titles. For instance, Abanic Win600 utilizes Radeon Vega 3 graphics on a vintage AMD Athlon Silver 3050e chipset. Although this represents a huge reduction, the Win600 is just $375. Windows is also compatible with Ayn’s Odin, but the ARM-based version has some compatibility problems. GPD has been active in this market for some time, however its Win 3 is currently appearing to be underpowered (though its Win 4 is coming this month and it looks suitably beefy).
The fact that numerous additional handhelds are being developed by businesses like Ayn, the aforementioned GPD, and others is perhaps the most telling. Even the firm itself has released a new flagship model called the Ayaneo 2, which ought to give prospective purchasers of Steam Deck some trouble. All of these unreleased devices have AMD’s 6800U chipset in common. There always seemed to be a need for portable PC gaming, but we lacked the necessary hardware to support it. Prior till recently.
Technological restrictions are one thing, but a deeper, more philosophical point also needs to be addressed: Why create a portable PC when many AAA games can be streamed without the need for costly, resource-intensive dedicated hardware? While it’s true that streaming is more practical than ever, this method necessitates the purchase of a console or gaming PC or a membership to a service like GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud, which isn’t practical from an economic standpoint for many people (not to mention the libraries might not have what you want). Not to mention that it depends on a network connection, which in-flight WIFI may have trouble providing.
Which takes us back to the underlying problem: Neither Windows nor many of the games that run on it are designed to be utilized on small screens. By integrating its own launcher, named Airspace, Ayaneo has made a concerted effort to address this problem. All of your games are played through it, which also gives off a hazy console-like vibe. But it’s not long before the spell is broken and you find yourself using an analog stick as a mouse trying to log-in to Steam and then using a tiny onscreen keyboard to peck out your credentials.
Ayaneo has at least made an effort to address some of these inescapable issues. For instance, the top of the Air Pro contains two buttons (between LB and RB) that, when pressed, will bring up the onscreen keyboard and double as ESC and other crucial Windows keys to make browsing easier. Yet, if you want to do a simple task, you will probably need to plug in a mouse and keyboard at some point.
Also, it will soon be clear that AAA games weren’t always designed with small screens in mind. On the Air Pro’s OLED display, games generally look fantastic. Games still look amazing even when played at 720p (the monitor is 1080p), but it’s frequently a necessary trade-off for performance. You’ll probably wish that display was a little bit larger than it is. Not least of all to improve overall quality of life, but also to get rid of those bezels.
Not the least of all for games with a lot of text. Games like Disco Elysium, for instance, include a lot of textual conversation, which is, overall, easy to read but notably more taxing while playing on a mobile device. It’s all still quite legible thanks to the clear display and excellent resolution, but there’s a nagging feeling that the user interface wasn’t designed for a screen this big.
You wouldn’t be the first one to ask, “Why not just run Steam OS on it?” Various levels of success have been achieved in doing so. The more significant issue might simply boil down to Windows’ practicality (millions of games available, broad hardware support). Steam OS has a few less significant problems that prevent it from being a sure replacement for certain handhelds. primarily, compatibility with games. If it’s not on Steam, you can probably still install it on Steam OS, but doing so may require switching to desktop mode or utilizing other workarounds, which may ruin the “console” experience you were hoping for.
Most notably, despite anticipating shorter battery life with Windows on the Steam Deck, some users are actually experiencing greater battery life. According to the claims, it is generally comparable to Valve’s native operating system and, in some circumstances, is even superior. There are many factors that affect PC gaming, so this isn’t entirely unexpected. This won’t always be the case, but it’s at least not a compelling reason to make Steam OS the preferred platform for gaming on portable PCs.
It would be a mistake to state that the Ayaneo Air Pro excels at battery life, which is crucial for mobile devices. or even performs well enough. Depending on the game you’re playing and the amount of power (sometimes referred to as TDP) needed for it to function properly A TDP of 12 Watts or higher is required for more demanding games, and at this intensity, you can expect a battery life of roughly one hour and forty-five minutes. Some games can be played for up to 2.3 hours if they are run at 8W without any issues. On the lowest 5W level, you can obtain more than three hours of life, but this won’t be enough for anything but the lightest games, while it’s useful for general setup activities.
This is obviously not ideal for a handheld, especially since your battery pack probably won’t be able to handle it unless it can supply 65W, which the majority of them can’t.
In conclusion, the Ayaneo Air Pro illuminates several issues and offers a lot of optimism. There is hope that truly mobile PC gaming, on top-notch hardware and in a pocket-friendly compact, may finally be possible. The difficulties are a little more intricate. Although Windows has many benefits, it also has several real-world problems. It appears like the solution is being worked out in real time, whether it involves modifying the hardware to work around issues or simply adding smart software on top.
There will need to be some intelligent thinking and equally good software to create a fully “console” experience. For its part, Ayaneo is developing its own Linux-based operating system called Ayaneo. It remains to be seen if this will help with the difficulties, but it is obviously an area of focus. Yet that just includes one business. There is a chance that other manufacturers with connections to Windows, like GPD, will use a variety of methods. But hopefully, increased rivalry will lead to more invention (or more “stolen” ideas).
The fact that there are now additional options for enjoying high-end gaming away from a PC is thrilling for some people. Not everyone wants to spend more time at a computer, or perhaps you just want to satisfy your want to play Elden while you’re waiting for a trip. No matter what you favor, things are about to get much more fascinating.