AYANEO NEXT: The Latest in Handheld Gaming

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When the Nintendo Switch came on the scene in 2017, it elevated the status of handheld gaming consoles as a fresh, exciting way to play AAA games. Enter: AYANEO NEXT, a new handheld gaming PC that uses the Windows 10 operating system. The AYANEO NEXT boasts itself as the first Windows handheld to use an AMD Ryzen 7 5825U processor and Hall Sensor joysticks, and is positioning itself as a higher-end console. So how does it stack up?

Unboxing

From the moment you open the box you get the feel that this is a high end, premium product. I’ve owned quite a few consoles and this is the first time I was ever given a pair of gloves with which to open the packaging.

The first step in unboxing AYANEO NEXT
The first step in unboxing AYANEO NEXT
Unboxing gloves that came with the AYANEO NEXT
Unboxing gloves that came with AYANEO NEXT
Unboxing AYANEO NEXT
The box interior
The first look at AYANEO NEXT
The first look at AYANEO NEXT

Normally when I’m unboxing a console, my excitement is primarily in getting to the actual console itself, but here I enjoyed taking my time to indulge in the experience. The NEXT team put a lot of thought and care into building anticipation to get to your handheld, and unboxing this felt fun.

As a Switch user, I was initially concerned with the size and weight of the NEXT. This thing is huge.

Comparing the Nintendo Switch (left) with AYANEO NEXT
A side-by-side comparison of the Nintendo Switch (left) and AYANEO NEXT

I was pleasantly surprised to see that, although there is a substantial difference in size, the console feels amazing. Extremely slick design, excellent grip, and I can’t lie: I love the pastel blue color. Since I’m so used to the Switch’s size and portability with the removable joy cons, I can’t see myself carrying the NEXT around as frequently, but this handheld indeed feels great to hold.

Setup

I was surprised by how simple it was to set up the console. You could choose to do it from a vertical or horizontal alignment, which is a small thing that I found pretty neat.

Setting up AYANEO NEXT
Setting up AYANEO NEXT

Ultimately it felt exactly like setting up a new desktop or laptop. Using the touchscreen was far easier than using the controls. The D-pad and action buttons didn’t seem to map entirely to every part of the setup process, which was frustrating. In some cases, I could navigate with the controls; in others, I couldn’t. My biggest complaint here was that I had to make several attempts to set up the fingerprint sensor and it still never worked for me. 

After completing the setup and logging into your Microsoft account, you’re brought to the AYANEO NEXT app’s home screen and the standard Windows 10 home screen is just a click away.

Gaming

Now let me preface this by saying that this is a legitimate PC handheld. You can use this to browse the internet, manage your files and folders, and adjust your settings just like you could on any other Windows PC.

The AYANEO NEXT supports Windows-compatible games that you would normally play on your desktop or laptop. You can download Steam and install some favorites from your library or head over to the Microsoft Store and do the same. I logged into my Xbox Game Pass account and downloaded Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite to test things out. Note that I ran this at the default performance settings and didn’t alter anything to affect gameplay or power usage.

AYANEO NEXT gameplay with Forza Horizon 5
AYANEO NEXT gameplay with Forza Horizon 5

The Hall Sensor joysticks felt amazing.When I played Forza Horizon 5, the precision between the slightest joystick movement and car movement made driving feel fluid. Similarly, controlling my character in Halo Infinite felt natural and the feedback on the triggers made playing feel comfortable. 

The graphics met or exceeded expectations and the frame rate performance held up well. I want to feel immersed when I play AAA games, and for the most part, I did.  

More Forza Horizon 5 gameplay on AYANEO NEXT
More Forza Horizon 5 gameplay on AYANEO NEXT
More Forza Horizon 5 gameplay on AYANEO NEXT
More Forza Horizon 5 gameplay on AYANEO NEXT
Gameplay with Halo Infinite on AYANEO NEXT
Gameplay with Halo Infinite on AYANEO NEXT
Gameplay with Halo Infinite on AYANEO NEXT
Gameplay with Halo Infinite on AYANEO NEXT

While the games performed well, the console itself presented a number of issues I needed to work through. The AYANEO NEXT app in particular presented problems for me. The app’s Game Management screen is meant to serve as your gaming hub. It scans for every game you’ve downloaded and conveniently displays your entire library in a single area. Presumably, you should be able to launch any of your games from this screen, but games didn’t load or function properly when I accessed them through the app. Halo Infinite didn’t launch at all, and Forza’s load screen would freeze or the screen would go black during gameplay. That said, you can also load games from your Windows home screen, and I didn’t experience any problems as long as I avoided the AYANEO NEXT app. 

Two additional minor issues I encountered: The fingerprint unlock doesn’t work (which I mentioned above) and the fan gets very loud during certain cutscenes

Who is this for?

I have mixed feelings about the AYANEO NEXT. I enjoyed playing games on it when it worked and I was impressed by its general functionality, but that qualifier – “when it worked” – makes the AYANEO NEXT hard to endorse. You absolutely do not have to use the AYANEO NEXT app, but if it’s a core offering, it needs to add to the experience – not create frustration. I don’t think this is a console for the casual gamer, especially when you consider its $1,259 USD price point. The advertised battery life of approximately two hours for AAA offerings was fairly accurate, but not ideal. Hardcore gamers would appreciate the depth of features and power this console is able to provide, but regardless of the user base, there are some key issues that need to be fixed first. Once those are taken care of, I think this Windows handheld could have a bright future within the gaming community.

Want to learn more about the AYANEO NEXT? Check out the campaign page today!

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