The Nintendo Switch has made one thing eminently clear: people like playing console-style games on the go. The Aya Neo theoretically goes a step further: It’s a handheld gaming PC.
This innovative gadget is currently in the middle of a very successful crowdfunding campaign. If it’s successful, it could be one of the first opportunities for everyday consumers to get their hands on a gadget that’s been a CES concept up until now.
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Information comes from Indiegogo, where Aya Neo, a boutique Chinese electronics manufacturer, has set up shop. The pitch is pretty straightforward. The Aya Neo is a gaming PC in a handheld console shell. It has two analog sticks, a D-pad, face buttons and a handful of functionality buttons. But be prepared to spend serious money.
The Aya Neo runs demanding PC games at 1280 x 800 resolution, and with a frame rate of at least 30 frames per second. You can get an Aya Neo for $870 (6,750 HKD); that's nearly triple the price of the Nintendo Switch. But the Neo is more like a a low-end gaming laptop than a mini console.
Whatever else you can say about the Aya Neo, it doesn’t do things by halves. The system comes equipped with a 7-inch IPS screen, an AMD Ryzen 5 4500U CPU, an integrated AMD Radeon GPU, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD storage and at least five hours of battery life. There are also a bevy of ports, including three USB-C ports with video output and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Wi-Fi 6 lets you download new games quickly, while Bluetooth 5.0 allows you to connect controllers and other peripherals.
What makes the Aya Neo interesting, however, is that it really does seem to be designed from the ground up as a handheld, rather than a very small PC that happens to have some joysticks attached. The 800p screen is a touchscreen; the joysticks resemble the Razer Kishi. There’s also an optional $47 docking station, which lets you stand the device upright and play it like a tiny standalone console.
In terms of performance, the Aya Neo doesn’t offer anything close to a traditional gaming laptop or desktop, but this device looks like it can hold its own. The developers promise frame rates of 30 fps for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, 45 fps for The Witcher 3 and 60 fps for Skyrim. It can even run Cyberpunk 2077 at 30 fps (no word on whether it can run the game without bugs, however).
What arguably sets the Aya Neo apart from similar concept projects is that its first run already sold out, and the second run has nearly $1,500,000 at its disposal, at the time of writing. The second run of Aya Neo devices should see improvements in UI, weight, controller rumble, button actuation, gaming stability and screen resolution, compared to the first round.
Whether any of this makes the Aya Neo worth buying — particularly over a Switch — is debatable. Spending almost $900 on a handheld out of the gate is quite a bit of money, although in theory, you already have a library for it. There’s also the question of whether Aya Neo can deliver on its promise. It’s an ambitious handheld, and Aya Neo would hardly be the first company with a big dream, a lot of crowdfunding resources and mixed success combining the two.
In any case, Tom’s Guide always urges caution when dealing with crowdfunding campaigns, and reminds readers to not pledge more than they can afford to lose. The promise of a more versatile, powerful handheld than the Switch may be alluring, but we’ll see if the rate of production can match the scale of demand.