The Steam Deck wasn’t the first tiny PC to take inspiration from portable game consoles. But its unbeatable price is one of its standout features, since the nearest competitors in the same form factor are more than twice as expensive as the Steam Deck’s $400 base model. But Valve won’t hold on to its price advantage for very long. Two different companies which already have well-received portable gaming machines on the market are preparing even cheaper alternatives.
The first is the AyaNeo Air Plus, a budget alternative to the standard range of AyaNeo designs. With a more chunky body that brings the Switch Lite to mind, this portable PC runs on an AMD SoC, just like the Steam Deck. The AMD Ryzen “Mendocino”-class processor can handle Windows, Steam OS, or Aya’s custom Linux operating system, running on Zen 2 architecture with RDNA 2-based Radeon graphics.
The Air Plus will use a 6-inch, 1080p screen, making it considerably smaller than both of the previous AyaNeo designs and the Steam Deck (all of which use 7-inch screens). The only other technical detail available at the moment is that the machine will use an M.2 2280 SSD, possibly allowing for some easy and inexpensive storage upgrades, plus a MicroSD card slot for quick swapping. When it hits the market it’ll start at just $289 USD, undercutting the Steam Deck by more than $100. Exactly when will that be? The company isn’t saying, but it’ll likely debut as a crowdsource product before a full retail launch.
Another handheld that’s been making waves in the portable gaming community is the AYN Odin, a device clearly cribbing on the Switch form factor but using mobile hardware and Android OS for easy game downloading and management. AYN is now ready to step up to a full x86 version of the design, dubbed the AYN Loki. (Shouldn’t Loki be less powerful than Odin? Anyway…) The base model will allegedly use a 12th-gen Intel Pentium processor for just $299, or an AMD Mendocino design for the same price.
According to the teaser video, the device looks nearly identical to the Odin, with a screen that’s slightly smaller than its 6-inch panel. Liliputing reports that more powerful versions of the Loki at higher prices will use AMD’s Ryzen 6600U platform and Radeon 680M graphics, up to a 12-core, 512GB variant for $799. All models will have user-replaceable storage. Once again, there’s no specific launch date for the AYN Loki.
Stiffer competition for the Steam Deck was inevitable, but it’s shocking to see multiple companies undercut it so quickly. I had assumed that Valve was pricing the base model so low as a loss-leader, a common tactic in the game console market. Of course, the fact that these manufacturers might beat the Steam Deck on price doesn’t mean they’ll be better products. The Steam Deck’s fit and finish, and its impressive integration with Valve’s home-grown Steam OS Linux derivative, count for a lot.
That being said, more choice is never a bad thing. It’s fascinating to see the market for tiny portable gaming PCs heat up so quickly.