Aya Neo has just announced a couple of days ago that they are going to release a new handheld, the Ayaneo NEXT LITE, featuring HoloISO (aka SteamOS, I guess?), at a very competitive price point of 300 USD for the cheapest model.
This is excellent news for two reasons:
- We have finally another company, apart from Valve, betting on a console-like interface based on Linux instead of bad ol’ Windows 11.
- They are targetting mainstream audiences with such a low price point.
But a Steam Deck killer it is not, for many reasons. Let’s go in details.
Here’s the specs for the device. You like tables? Lucky day.
|Aya Neo Next Lite Handheld
|7” 800P IPS Original Color Screen
|AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
|16GB LPDDR4X 4266MHz
|128GB (AMD RyzenTM 5 4500U)
512GB (AMD RyzenTM 7 4800U)
M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 SSD Support up to 8TB
|Customised Dual Copper Pipe Cooling System
|Pastel Blue / Bright White / Jet Black
|Hall Sensing Big Joystick
|X-Axis Linear Motor
|2 Full Function USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C
1 USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (data only)
3.5mm headphone jack
|WiFi 6 / BT 5.2
|267 × 112 × 22mm (Controller: 30mm)
(officially optimized for compatibility by AYANEO)
So what’s up with that?
PROS and CONS
There’s things to like about some of the choices they made here. For example, going for the exact same resolution as the Steam Deck for the screen is an excellent way to jump on the “Verified Games” bandwagon. Then there’s the Hall technology joysticks, that last longer and do not have drift issues over time, as mentioned in the recent review of the GameSir T4 Kaleid by Nils.
The cooling system may be better too. Two pipes = Better right?! I mean, maybe.
There’s more external ports, with two USB3 ports. Delicious. And nice shoulder buttons, too.
Bigger capacity battery? Check. 47Wh vs 40Wh for the original Steam Deck.
So far, so good. Price is very competitive, for the cheaper model. Something that we only thought that Valve could do.
I will admit, I really like what they did with the multiple colors. I’ll usually go for Black because I like black in general for devices, but I can appreciate nice, pastel colors any day too.
But… there’s some drawbacks, too.
First, the APU is nowhere near the performance of the Steam Deck’s. It uses Vega technology which was already obsolete by the time RDNA came out, and RDNA2 is the next iteration that’s on the Steam Deck that goes even further.
Not only RDNA2 has better performance, it’s also feature better efficiency. You can take for example one of the games where even the Steam Deck struggles to go beyond 40 FPS, like Horizon Zero Dawn. On the Steam Deck you can usually get between 30 and 40 FPS in most areas - but it looks like the the APU 4500U will have trouble going beyond 22 FPS, as seen in this video a few years ago:
Now drivers may have improved since then, but we are talking about a 150% to 200% difference in performance between both architecture, for a very similar price point. Of course, the RAM speed is also a major point that’s causing the performance to drop. The Van Gogh APU in the Steam Deck uses DDR5 and this makes a huge difference - and we know such APUs are very sensitive to RAM speeds with AMD.
- APU Ryzen 5 with DDR4: Max transfer rates 4266 MT/s
- Van Gogh APU (Steam Deck) with DDR5: 6400 MT/s
The whole unit is somewhat heavier than the Steam Deck, too. 720g while the Steam Deck is about 640 g and the ROG Ally just above 600g. That’s almost 100 g more than the devices in the same size category - maybe it’s ok, or maybe it will make some noticeable difference if you play for a longer period of time. Who knows? Weight for handheld devices is a very tricky parameter. You want to add as much battery as possible, but then battery increases weight, which increases discomfort… it’s an exercise in trade-offs.
No mention of a microSD card slot. It’s not a killer issue, but it would have been a nice and cheap way to add storage without having to open the device up.
The biggest problem is that it lacks the additional controls of the Steam Deck. No trackpads. Which means you’ll be somewhat restricted when to comes to playing games - especially the ones that require a mouse.
And is HoloISO going to be exactly the same as SteamOS? SteamOS for the Steam Deck has been reportedly made with numerous patches to accomodate the Steam Deck’s hardware. Will that work as well on a different device of the same family? Is the compatibility going to be exactly the same? My guess is that it should be fairly similar… but there’s no Valve behind this to guarantee that they will address potential issues related to that hardware, if any. Unless we hear down the road that Aya Neo is working hand in hand with Valve on this (which may well be the case).
I like it! It’s daring. It’s trying to carve itself a space at the low end of the spectrum, while every other competitor’s device is aiming for expensive pricing. Aya Neo has another advantage over the Steam Deck: they could potentially be shipping them everywhere, while you can’t actually order the Steam Deck in many countries as of now.
Betting on SteamOS, or HoloIso, is a good call. They don’t take a huge risk, because it’s just one of their devices in a larger line-up. It’s an experiment. Even if it’s not as polished as the Steam Deck’s, it’s very likely to be better than your generic Windows 11 desktop-hack experience. If they manage to get some traction, to sell more than they expected, there’s some potential that other companies consider doing the same down the road… OneXPlayer… GPD… ?
I’d be careful if I were them, however, about promoting games that are going to be performing not so well on such hardware. This is definitely a lower performance device, and it will run most indie games and older AAA titles fine, but more recent, more demanding titles? You are in for a subpar, less than 30 fps experience even on the lowest settings.