Computer Repair

What Can The $1200 Aya Neo Inform Us About The ‘Swap Professional’?

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Subsequent yr, the Swap can be 5 years previous – a reality which makes the continued demand for the console all of the extra exceptional. Regardless of being powered by expertise that, even again in 2017, may hardly be described as cutting-edge, the hybrid system has shifted over 90 million items worldwide and exhibits no indicators of slowing down as we transfer into 2022.

Even so, Nintendo is savvy sufficient to know that continuous {hardware} refreshes are a great way of sustaining momentum, and it has already iterated on the bottom Swap mannequin twice (3 times in the event you rely the model with improved battery life). This yr’s OLED mannequin is probably probably the most vital enhancement, bringing with it a bigger, super-bright show, improved audio and superior construct high quality. Nonetheless, the one factor that many individuals had been hoping for is absent: extra energy beneath the hood. By way of processing prowess, it is basically the identical deal because the 2017 unique.

Relying on who you consider, we could effectively nonetheless see a ‘Swap Professional’ subsequent yr, however in the interim, the OLED Mannequin is the perfect we will get. Nonetheless, there are different moveable gaming programs in the marketplace that boast extra spectacular specs than the Swap, certainly one of which is the Aya Neo.

Initially crowdfunded in 2020, the Aya Neo is a Home windows-based handheld PC that runs on AMD’s extraordinarily well-reviewed Ryzen 4000 system-on-chip. This yr, the system was rebooted within the type of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional, which replaces the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U chipset with the extra highly effective 4800U variant. The AMD Radeon GPU additionally will get a spec bump, packing 8 cores and a clock pace of as much as 1.7GHz (in comparison with 6 cores within the unique mannequin and a clock pace of 1.5GHz). Now, PC {hardware} is not strictly our space of experience, so we referred to as upon Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter to get the lowdown on this gadget. “It is mainly a longtime laptop computer processor with AMD Vega built-in graphics, operating at a really low energy threshold to provide affordable battery life,” he explains.

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
The ‘Retro Energy’ design is clearly meant to attraction to avid gamers of a sure classic (Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran)

Aya Neo 2021 Professional: The Design

The Aya Neo 2021 Professional sports activities a really Swap-like design, with the assorted buttons and sticks being in acquainted locations, and is an in depth match to Nintendo’s console by way of its general dimensions. Nonetheless, its controllers don’t detach from the primary unit – a key promoting level for Swap – however you’ll be able to play it on a TV or monitor utilizing a dock which is bought individually. Wired connectivity and Bluetooth help permits for a wide selection of optionally available equipment, equivalent to controllers, mice and keyboards.

Whereas the Aya Neo 2021 Professional shares an amazing many similarities with Swap from a design perspective, it is not an entire match. The controls actually really feel acquainted, with all the normal instructions in the identical locations you’d discover them on Nintendo’s console – however there are a couple of exceptions. The four-button cluster on the left-hand facet is a strong D-pad right here, and it is a good one, too, even when it does really feel considerably spongy at instances. Under which are 4 extra buttons, the perform of which varies relying on what sport you are enjoying or the place you occur to be within the system’s UI – these are mirrored by one other 4 buttons on the right-hand facet of the system. On this cluster, one button is ‘Escape’ and is helpful for getting out of sure functions, whereas one other brings up the near-essential on-screen keyboard.

On the underside fringe of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional you will discover the stereo audio system and a USB-C port, whereas on the highest there is a huge vent for the fan – in addition to two extra USB-C ports, a 3.5mm headphone socket, the quantity controls and the facility button. There are 4 shoulder triggers right here, too, with LT and RT being analogue in nature, whereas LB and RB are smaller, digital buttons. On the again, there’s one other huge vent for the beefy inside fan, which does a good job of holding issues cool – nonetheless, it does not completely negate warmth build-up, and through some video games, you will really feel the rear of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional getting fairly heat.

The console’s 7-inch, 1280×800-pixel H-IPS display screen is first rate sufficient when in comparison with the LCD panel on the unique Swap – nonetheless, when set alongside the OLED display screen on the newer iteration, it comes off trying second-best. Whereas the general design of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional calls to thoughts the Swap, it is really a lot thicker and heavier – an comprehensible consequence of getting to cram all that cutting-edge expertise into a conveyable body. On the plus facet, the ‘Retro Energy’ design we’re reviewing right here – which relies on the unique 1989 Recreation Boy – seems to be beautiful.

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
Sure, you’ll be able to play Halo Infinite on this factor (Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran)

Aya Neo 2021 Professional: The Video games

Whereas it might be silly to recommend that the Aya Neo 2021 Professional and Swap are in direct competitors with each other, they’re arguably sharing the identical area in terms of lots of the video games they run. Valve’s well-liked digital storefront Steam is filled with AAA content material and indie titles, and this can be utilized to populate the Aya Neo 2021 Professional’s 1TB of inside storage (different digital shops are supported, too).

A cursory look exhibits there’s a variety of crossover with the Swap eShop; DOOM Everlasting, Witcher 3, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Firewatch, Ace Legal professional Trilogy, Hades, Stardew Valley, Subnautica, Hole Knight, FIFA 22, Apex Legends… the checklist is sort of countless, and we have not touched upon the various titles which aren’t on Swap, equivalent to Forza Horizon 5, Cyberpunk 2077, Resident Evil Village, Satan Might Cry V, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Halo Infinite and numerous others.

Steam is among the hottest digital storefronts on the earth, and a large boon with a tool just like the Aya Neo 2021 Professional – it is also price mentioning that Recreation Move members can obtain lots of the similar titles obtainable on Steam as a part of their subscription, and Xbox Cloud Gaming can also be supported – however the massive catch is that you just clearly do not get the video games that most individuals purchase a Swap for: these made by Nintendo itself. Meaning no Zelda: Breath of the Wild, no Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, no Metroid Dread and no Animal Crossing: New Horizons (until, in fact, you are feeling like being very naughty certainly, which we would not condone for a second).

Talking of naughtiness, it goes with out saying that the Aya Neo 2021 Professional is an emulation powerhouse. It is highly effective sufficient to emulate consoles as much as and together with the PlayStation 2, and, through the versatile RetroArch utility, provides a vibrant and deeply customisable platform for experiencing previous video games.

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

What’s The Aya Neo Like To Truly Use?

Whereas there is a diploma of crossover when evaluating the Aya Neo 2021 Professional and the Swap, issues are very, very completely different in terms of the consumer expertise and interface. Swap has a streamlined and easy-to-parse UI which makes every thing clean and hassle-free (even when it lacks folders on the time of writing), however the Aya Neo 2021 Professional is a extra unwieldy, advanced beast; Home windows 10 (which the unit ships with) is hard to work together with and navigate utilizing simply the contact display screen, and whereas there is a ‘pill’ mode baked into the OS, it is nonetheless extra sophisticated and fiddly than the Swap’s UI. The corporate behind the system has at the least tried to make it extra pleasant by together with the ‘Aya House’ utility, which presents a gaming-focused UI that pulls collectively all your put in video games and permits you to simply tinker with settings equivalent to throttling (or unleashing) the total energy of the Ryzen {hardware}, or altering the pace of the inner fan.

Hyperlink the Aya Neo 2021 Professional to an exterior monitor through USB-C and you’ve got a fairly highly effective desktop laptop

In fact, with the elevated complexity {that a} Home windows-based handheld provides comes massively expanded alternative for customisation, and since it is a PC, you’ll be able to join a mouse and keyboard and use it like one. That makes the Aya Neo 2021 Professional an extremely attractive prospect to individuals who need a gadget that covers gaming, media and PC-related capabilities. Hyperlink the Aya Neo 2021 Professional to an exterior monitor through USB-C and you’ve got a fairly highly effective desktop laptop, which suggests you should use it for every kind of issues – phrase processing, picture enhancing, media consumption and (as we have already talked about) emulation.

The Aya Neo 2021 Professional is surprisingly fast besides, with only some seconds separating you from an entire switch-off system to the total desktop. The inner fan is not as loud as you would possibly anticipate, though the default ‘wild’ setting is extremely annoying, because it makes the fan fluctuate to the purpose the place we had been genuinely involved that there could be a fault with it. Toggled to the ‘Saving’ mode within the Aya House utility, it is much less erratic and solely actually will get noisy when the system is performing some actual heavy-lifting by way of processing.

So, what’s it prefer to play on a handheld that is able to operating the critically-maligned Cyberpunk 2077? Efficiency is definitely surprisingly good, though it is price noting that when operating in-game benchmark checks, many titles recommend the ‘medium’ or ‘low’ graphical settings to maintain issues ticking alongside easily. This is not a lot of a problem whenever you’re enjoying on a 1280×800 pixel display screen, however you do miss out on among the extra eye-catching results, equivalent to shadows, superior gentle and (in fact) ray-tracing. Even so, we had been impressed with how effectively a title with a fame like Cyberpunk 2077’s runs on a tool the scale of a Swap, and even Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite had been clean and playable (once more, largely as a result of visuals being toned down). None of those titles hit a clean 60fps, although – 30fps is the perfect you’ll be able to fairly hope for.

Whereas the Swap itself can hardly boast probably the most spectacular endurance, it effortlessly outperforms the Aya Neo 2021 Professional by way of stamina

The huge catch right here is that regardless of packing three 4100mAh batteries, the Aya Neo 2021 Professional’s stamina is disappointing. Whereas the producer advertises between 5 and 6 hours of play beneath sure settings, we discovered {that a} wildly optimistic determine, particularly when enjoying something even remotely demanding. The extra lifelike estimate, additionally given by the producer, is “as much as 140 minutes for demanding AAA gaming”, which matches up with our personal real-world expertise of utilizing the system; two hours is about the perfect you’ll be able to hope for when enjoying comparatively latest video games. Granted, you’ll be able to tone down the facility when enjoying less-demanding video games, however it’s clear that whereas the Swap itself can hardly boast probably the most spectacular endurance, it effortlessly outperforms the Aya Neo 2021 Professional by way of stamina.

“It is probably not stunning that battery life is poor,” Leadbetter says when introduced with this information, however provides that any machine promising this sort of energy goes to be hamstrung in terms of battery life. “I am not anticipating that rather more from Valve’s upcoming Steam Deck. It has a 40Whr battery and the primary chip gobbles as much as 15Whr so as soon as display screen and storage are added to that, that’ll be round 20Whr from a 40Whr battery – which equals two hours. That is why they’re speaking about 30fps caps and what-not within the advertising supplies to decrease energy consumption and prolong battery life.”

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

What Can The Aya Neo Inform Us About A ‘Swap Professional’?

As we have already mentioned, the Aya Neo is not prone to problem the Swap by way of pure gross sales figures, and is clearly aimed toward a way more area of interest sector of the market – however that does not imply it will probably’t inform us some vital issues about what a future Swap revision may entail.

For instance, it is clear that, regardless of being a bit lengthy within the tooth now, the Nvidia Tegra X1 chipset that powers the Swap was the suitable tech for the job again in 2017. Its mobile-focused nature has enabled Nintendo to create a platform that’s light-weight, not too power-hungry and – when handled accurately – can ship spectacular visible outcomes. In reality, one of many issues that struck us most of all throughout our time with the Aya Neo 2021 Professional is that, for probably the most half, lots of the video games are visually similar to their Swap counterparts. Positive, titles like Witcher 3 and DOOM Everlasting look higher, however there’s maybe not the gulf one would anticipate when you think about the relative energy of the silicon inside every system – particularly when the Aya Neo 2021 Professional prices round $1200 in comparison with the Swap’s extra modest $300 price ticket ($200 for the Swap Lite). That reality alone will put it manner out of attain for many informal gamers, not to mention hardcore console avid gamers.

The balancing act struck by Nintendo is all about fine-tuning that ratio between energy and stamina – one thing the creators of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional have arguably ignored in an effort to present as a lot processing grunt as potential. Whereas it provides unimaginable energy on faucet and successfully delivers a PC-style expertise within the palm of your hand, that comes at a large price by way of battery life; two hours merely is not going to be sufficient for lots of gamers.

Aya Neo 2021 Pro
The ‘Aya House’ app makes an attempt to make the UX a little bit extra console-like and simple (Picture: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran)

The largest draw of a system just like the Aya Neo 2021 Professional is not essentially the uncooked energy it offers, however the truth that it provides moveable entry to Steam, which is packed to bursting level with video games. This does, in fact, place the system in direct competitors with the upcoming Steam Deck, which can also be powered by AMD silicon and has the identical decision show. The catch? It is round half the value of the Aya Neo 2021 Professional, which is able to more than likely imply that it’s going to cannibalise gross sales when it will definitely arrives in early 2022 – and that is earlier than we even bear in mind the truth that the moveable gaming PC panorama is already fairly crowded, what with the GPD Win 3, Win MAX 2021 and ONEXPLAYER all obtainable. “I’d anticipate Steam Deck to be a good bit higher, as it’s utilizing a extra trendy AMD CPU core (albeit with 4 cores), extra environment friendly RDNA 2 structure and a remarkably extensive reminiscence interface – key to getting probably the most out of built-in graphics,” says Leadbetter.

Nintendo could be very a lot targeted on providing a mass-market product that appeals to the widest potential viewers on the most agreeable value

In fact, it is unlikely that the corporate behind the Aya Neo 2021 Professional expects its machine to have something greater than a distinct segment following, and a profitable crowdfunding marketing campaign exhibits there’s an viewers for this sort of gadget – even when options just like the Swap and Steam Deck exist. Nintendo – regardless of providing a machine that covers a lot of the identical floor by way of software program – is sort of sure to chart its personal course with the Swap Professional, or Swap 2 – whichever comes first.

Its relationship with Nvidia has been extremely worthwhile for each events, and it is unlikely that Nintendo would contemplate switching allegiances to a different chipmaker until the advantages had been overwhelmingly apparent (Qualcomm could effectively strive its hardest to tempt Nintendo and others with its recently-announced Snapdragon G3x developer equipment, nonetheless). It is also price noting that Nintendo could be very a lot targeted on providing a mass-market product that appeals to the widest potential viewers on the most agreeable value, which guidelines out any daring transfer right into a technological arms race; the Kyoto agency hasn’t performed that exact sport because it opted to base the Wii on previous-gen expertise.

Whereas it is tempting to carry up the Aya Neo 2021 Professional – and, certainly, the Steam Deck – as potential blueprints for a future Swap {hardware} refresh, Nintendo has at all times executed issues its personal manner. “Comparisons to the brand new Swap are going to be tough,” says Leadbetter. “They’re very completely different. I feel – as at all times – individuals hoping for a cutting-edge, tremendous high-end Nintendo handheld can be upset, but when we’re getting a generational leap in efficiency and a few type of DLSS AI upscaling as rumours recommend, it ought to nonetheless be very spectacular.”

The Aya Neo 2021 Professional unit used on this function was equipped by the producer.

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