Ever since Nintendo released the Switch in 2017, it feels like handheld gaming is having a bit of a renaissance. Not only has it blasted past a hundred million units sold, but it’s also come alongside the successful Steam Deck and a handful of other x86 handhelds from smaller companies.
One such company is Ayaneo, which has released numerous handhelds since its first in 2021. In that short timeframe, we’ve seen the tiny Ayaneo Air and the powerful Ayaneo Next. Now, however, the company has a proper follow-up on the way – the Ayaneo 2.
The Ayaneo 2 is a Windows-based handheld PC that packs a punch, with an AMD Ryzen 7 6800u alongside customisable RAM and SSD storage (my unit came with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage – a prototype unit, mind you, so any issues could be ironed out for the final shipments). That puts it on par with a handful of other new handhelds from OneXPlayer and Aokzoe – basically, it’s among the most powerful handhelds you can get today.
One thing these handhelds also all have in common is a price tag. The unit I’m reviewing costs around $1,099 / £1,000, while lower-end models start at $949 / £900. What we’re dealing with is a bona fide premium product. So, we have to expect a level of luxury. And oh boy, Ayaneo sure delivers. For the most part.
Let’s start with the fun stuff – specs:
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 6800u
- Screen: 8.4-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS, 60Hz
- RAM: 16G/32G LPDDR5 6400Mhz
- SSD: PCIE 4.0M.22280 (supports double-sided)
- IO: USB Type-C x3 (two of which support USB4)
- Size: 264.5 x 105.5 x 21.5mm
This all comes with expandable SSD storage, a microSD card slot, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, hall-effect triggers and joy-sticks (so no drift!), a fingerprint sensor in the power button, two customisable buttons, and customisable lights underneath the sticks. It’s an up-to-date bit of kit, set up for the future of handheld PC gaming, at least on paper.
It all comes in a wonderful package too. Unlike that Steam Deck, the Ayaneo 2 doesn’t feel at all cumbersome. It’s just a tad longer and taller than a Nintendo Switch and about the width of a pack of playing cards at its thinnest. Either end is wider to allow for what Ayaneo calls its “baby sleeping grip position”. Now, I have no idea what that means, but ergonomically it’s ace. And all this is without even turning the thing on.
On the face of it, literally, is one sheet of glass from edge to edge, upping that premium feel through the roof. In its centre is the 8.4-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS panel with a 60Hz refresh rate; an edge-to-edge bezel-less beauty with rich colours and great brightness. It’s mightily impressive for an IPS panel, though, as someone very used to the Switch OLED, it doesn’t quite match that vibrancy I’ve become accustomed to.
So, we’ve looked at the darn thing long enough by this point, I say it’s time to actually play a videogame. This is where things aren’t all that simple for a classic console cowboy like myself. I’m in the PC gaming realm now – a driver download is almost inevitable.
The Ayaneo 2 boots up quickly and takes you straight into the AyaSpace overlay. This is a full-screen navigation system to find your games, just slapped over the top of Windows. There’s a tiny little button to take you back to the desktop, though, so it’s not intrusive.
The overlay also lets you adjust TDP – basically how much power the system is getting – from game mode at 22W, balanced at 15W, and power saver at 11W. You can also customise it minutely, from 3W all the way up to 33W, though I didn’t fiddle around with that too much.
My first aim was to get a bunch of stuff downloaded: The Witcher 3 from Steam, Death Stranding from the Epic Games Store, and Hitman 3 from Xbox Game Pass. All three games downloaded and booted up perfectly, and instantly recognised the Ayaneo 2’s controls – wonderful.
While running at 22W TDP, The Witcher 3 runs beautifully on medium settings, with what looks to my naked eye like a solid 60fps. Death Stranding, similarly, ran smoothly on medium settings, while Hitman 3 impressed me the most, running like an absolute dream at 15W. The first test is a success then – recent games with big graphics look excellent and run smoothly. And, most importantly, I had no issues getting them up and running.
The same applied to Persona 5 Royal, Control, FIFA 22, and Batman Arkham Knight, with a tiny bit of graphical and TDP fiddling. Getting Red Dead Redemption II running properly was a real nightmare, though I suspect that’s more to do with the Rockstar launcher than the console. Once I had worked it out – after around an hour of fiddling – the game looked really beautiful, other than some surprising pop-in no matter how I changed the graphics settings.
On the indie side of things, you can bump the TDP down to power-saver mode and still have a slick time. Running Fuga: Melodies of Steel, FIST, and Chained Echoes as tests, everything went smoothly.
This isn’t always the case, however. I couldn’t get GTA V to go full-screen, the first Witcher game wouldn’t recognise the controller, and after playing for twelve hours my Death Stranding save disappeared. Again, this is PC gaming, and this stuff happens. It’s hard to blame the console without knowing the root cause.
The reason for mentioning this, however, is the key thing to keep in mind if you fancy heading into the x86 handheld market. While the Steam Deck OS does its best to mimic a classic home console experience, no other handheld even comes close – the Ayaneo 2 included.
This is fine if you’re expecting it. But any Nintendo Switch owners who are on the hunt for more portable power need to have some tech nous to get into this sorta stuff. For example, I had to revert Windows to a system restore point when some unknown thing went wrong – likely Windows 11’s fault – to solve the issue. This is annoying techy stuff, and you have to be fine dealing with it in this realm.
Anyway, assuming everything works, how does the thing actually feel to use? Well, it’s not too heavy, and the controller grips feel good while playing. The joysticks are big and smooth, the buttons aren’t too clicky nor too squishy, and the d-pad is up there with the best. Everything on the Ayaneo 2’s face is wonderfully luxurious and beautifully built.
The triggers, however, have a little too much travel on them for my liking, without too much resistance. For me, the triggers just fly to their endpoint all too easily and travel way too far. This isn’t the end of the world for all games – it feels great in Forza Horizon 5 – but it’s the one bit of the controls that just doesn’t feel right.
Meanwhile, the haptic motors – apparently the same as the ones in the Nintendo Switch – don’t feel quite right either. They make far too much noise and don’t give much feedback in any interesting way. I turned them down to their smallest vibration mode and still felt they were too loud.
The speakers are similarly quiet, though they sound nice. The main issue is they struggle to fight against the noise of the fan. I don’t really mind this, though, as there’s a headphone jack. And the fan is clearly doing its job properly, keeping everything performing slickly.
With all this power, the big gorgeous screen, and all manner of future-proof innards, how’s the battery? Well, it’s pretty good for this sorta thing. You can get around an hour and a half in something like The Witcher 3 at 22W TDP, while 15W can up that to nearer three hours. This is solid when compared to other devices on the market.
So, all this considered, the main thing I keep coming back to is the whole luxury of the thing. While there are nitpicks and classic PC gaming gripes, when everything works, all the nonsense fades into the background. The Ayaneo 2 is a gorgeous-looking console in a comfortable package which packs serious power inside.
While you need to be prepared for some tech fiddling to get certain things to work, and while the AyaSpace beta is still not quite there – it runs at 800p on a 1200p screen, for example – it’s worth the hassle just to lie in bed and experience the excellent performance.
The Ayaneo 2 is a portable gaming PC for a specific type of person – one who has a reasonable amount of money spare, likes fiddling around with technology, and has a decent library of PC games to play (while also needing the best-of-the-best in portable gaming tech). When put like that, it sounds like a niche.
But, for a young manufacturer like Ayaneo to offer not only a high-end handheld in terms of performance but also in build quality and ergonomics, is mightily impressive. And, when people do invest in expensive stuff, they often want the best of the best. And the Ayaneo 2 very well may be exactly that, at least for now.
Ayaneo 2 review
The Ayaneo 2 packs powerful performance into a gorgeous handheld package with excellent controls and a seriously impressive screen. While predictable PC gaming gripes come to spoil the party, it’s a wonderful ride once everything settles down, even if it is more than twice the price of a Steam Deck. Be prepared for tech fiddling and a bit of sticker shock and you may just fall in love.