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Aya Neo: A New Challenger for Handheld PC Gaming (boilingsteam.com)
69 points by ekianjo 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 76 comments

In case you haven't seen, there's actually a quite a big market of generic portable consoles now days.

Specifically cheap linux-based emulator handhelds.

Had no idea this was a thing until I came across this subreddit recently: https://www.reddit.com/r/SBCGaming

Its quite impressive what you can buy for ~$30. It would have been pretty mind-blowing to have one of those as a kid.

Another good resource if you're interested in handheld or SFF computers for gaming is ETA PRIME's channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ETAPRIME

He goes pretty in depth on the products he reviews, and periodically does videos where he compares several competing products and suggests which he recommends depending on your budget and other priorities.

I owned a GP32 back in the day. The killer app was of course Super Nintendo emulation, but it was also amazing to have a media machine at that time, and something you could easily develop for. I wonder if the mindset is different these days though. The title linked machine seems overkill for 16 but nostalgia. I wonder if people really want a portable machine that they can stick steam on and play indie games?

> I wonder if people really want a portable machine that they can stick steam on and play indie games?

Well it does not have Steam, but the Switch is full of indie games and it looks like there is a market for it.

Man, if my Switch supported Steam Link it'd be hands down my favorite portable ever. I've got a ton of games that would play just fine with the Switch's controls, but simply don't have Switch ports, plus plenty I'm just not going to buy a second copy of just for playing on the Switch.

If your Switch is old enough ist should bei possible to Run Android in it. Should Just Work with steamlink or moonlight

I can say that I do. I (before COVID) travel a lot, and played games while on the road. I would love to have a capable handheld system like this, especially if it can also be plugged in to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and do dual duty as my personal computer when I am traveling for work.

Odroid is also venturing in that space with the Odroid Go series.

What can I get for $30?

Not sure for $30, but for $50 you can get the Odroid Go Advance which is a very nice piece of hardware: https://www.hardkernel.com/shop/odroid-go-advance-black-edit...

You can get a handheld that can emulate most 2D consoles (e.g. gb, gba, nes, snes, genesis, DOS, etc)


I'm pretty excited about this device in particular, and the fact that the handheld PC gaming space is getting some competition in general! I'm also really happy to see AMD scoring a win here.

Up until recently this market, niche as it is, has been pretty much dominated by GPD and their Win line of devices.

I probably won't buy an Aya Neo, because I have a GPD Win Max that I'm still pretty happy with, and I prefer having the physical keyboard because I use it for non-gaming tasks on occasion. But if I don't, then I'd probably be backing this project.

Oh, and because I've seen a couple of folks mention the screen size and resolution, I just want to say that it's well suited for this device and it's intended use. It's for handheld gaming on battery, on integrat,ed graphics. Higher resolution would draw more power, reduce frame rates, and not make much of a noticeable improvement to the actual gaming experience.

This thing is clearly meant to have great specs for its form factor, but it doesn't even have 1080p on a 7" screen. It's slightly better than 720p, which is what I expected on my smartphone 5+ years ago on a smaller screen (and even then you could find that on a budget phone).

This feels like a worse PSP. It's meant to be powerful, but the battery life will suck and it won't be powerful enough to matter. The fact that I can pull out my phone and have a substantially better screen (resolution and quality as OLED is preferable to LCD) just makes this a nonstarter for me.

This is the sort of thing I'd salivate over when I was a teenager before I understood tech specs don't make a good product. In fact, it reminds me of this thing which I was excited for over 10 years ago (I don't remember when it launched, but it took forever and by the time it happened I'd lost interest).


EDIT: The Pandora stopped production in 2013 and they've been working on the successor since, which apparently just delivered the first preorders.


The PSP had a 480x272 screen, and you’re saying that this thing having 800p feels worse? The Switch does 720p in portable mode and it’s tons of fun and is selling like crazy 3+ years after release. You can’t expect a portable device to render most games at a playable framerate at 1080. Cell phones can have high resolution screens to play videos and render text. Most cell phone games can’t render at 1080p except on the highest end flagships. Since the S20 Ultra can literally be double this price it’s not a fair comparison anyway.

Then you talk about how tech specs don’t matter when you were just complaining about a spec? I don’t really understand that argument.

There will be plenty of people that buy this. The only real issue is that you still can’t get a Neo, the GPD Win 3 is going to enjoy a lot of sales from people that don’t want to wait.

> The PSP had a 480x272 screen, and you’re saying that this thing having 800p feels worse?

I was accounting for the fact that the PSP launched 16 years ago. It's a similar form factor - big screen, big power, short battery life.

> The Switch does 720p in portable mode and it’s tons of fun and is selling like crazy 3+ years after release.

Comparing this to the Switch is silly. They are nothing alike. Thinking you can compete with Nintendo in handheld gaming is like thinking you can compete with Google in search. History has shown this time and time and time again.

Nintendo sells the Switch because it's the only way to play Nintendo games. That is 90% of their value. The other 10% comes from having an affordable handheld gaming device in a comfortable form factor and they've been trying to get more third party and indie support.

> Then you talk about how tech specs don’t matter when you were just complaining about a spec?

Specs don't matter, and this thing has nothing to sell itself but specs - and its specs aren't even that good.

> There will be plenty of people that buy this.

I'm not saying nobody will buy it. I'm saying I won't, and I doubt it will be considered a success by most. But hey, if you like it and want to buy it go for it! If you love it that's what counts.

To piggyback on what you're saying - the thing that makes Nintendo do so damned well - even beating iOS for games, is that their market is carefully curated to produce a "middle class" of game developers.

Specifically ones who don't go bankrupt and stop making games, which is basically what's happening on iOS, and even worse on Android. iOS gamedev is kind of a slaughterhouse, where a tiny crust of lottery-winners make it look viable, but the other 98% or so of devs don't break even.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and all of them are things Nintendo's worked pretty hard to counter. Refusing to let stuff on the store if it doesn't meet certain QA criterion, forcibly preventing the race-to-the-bottom on the price wars, deliberately avoiding top-10 lists and any of the other reflexive techie moves that end up being anti-patterns (by being attention-funnels that drive further sales to the people who don't need it, and starve the ones who do). There's a LOT of stuff they do right, and some of this they're historically famous for (the QA angle was the thing that famously let them buck the videogame crash of the 80s, in contrast to the prior vendors who had no qualms about allowing outright broken/unplayable games on their devices).

This stuff is important.

Generally what makes markets like this work isn't a technological problem, but a social/political problem. Nintendo understands that game devs need to make a living, but apple and google treat them as cannon fodder, and it has consequences for the quality of work.

If you don't get this right, people will make a bunch of shallow stuff that's a low upfront investment (Angry Birds, Monument Valley, etc), but you'll have shockingly few "deep" games like BotW, because nobody can stomach that risk, especially when they'd have to make an insane number of sales to break even at (presumed) lower prices.

The Pyra is actually shipping for the first preorders. Several people I know have received their unit.

I appreciate the extra info. How do they like it?

It's still pretty much WIP on the software side of things. The graphics drivers are not working as they should yet, and the default (debian-based) distro needs polish.

Just curious, as you seem to be an enthusiast in this space - what do you see as the ultimate goal of this form factor and/or platform? Is it for emulation in general, for specific consoles, is the hope to play Steam games that don't demand powerful computers? I get that it's a general purpose PC and people can do what they want with it, but I assume there is a leading reason to develop this. And reading the comments there is an entire world around this space I am woefully ignorant of.

I'm genuinely asking out of curiosity, I know my first comment was dismissive but that mostly means I'm not the target audience.

It's a shame the Pyra is so underpowered for how expensive it is. The Raspberry Pi can beat it on both compute and memory.

The Pyra is not really about its internals but the whole packaged unit. Making a raspberry pi fit into such a form factor is actually pretty hard.

It would mainly be hard because of all the peripheral ports on the board taking up space where you don't want it. I bet making a Pyra with the compute version of the Pi: https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/compute-module-4/?varia... wouldn't be too difficult.

Smartphones can't run PC games natively, which I personally prefer to smartphone games.


There are plenty of PC games that have mobile ports. All the GTA3 ingine games, several bioware rpgs.

You're confusing "can't" with "publisher hasn't bothered".

The hardware, certainly on newer iphones,is plenty powerful.

His claim is still correct. It does not run PC x86 games natively. If you have to port every PC game one by one it will take forever.

Yes, the body of x86 PC games is massive and the overwhelming majority will never receive mobile ports. Furthermore, it's still going to be a few years before phones have enough power to emulate x86 competently enough to be able to play these titles via emulator.

Crazy how people buy computers nowadays based on which OS you are allowed to run on it, right? Almost feel like the early 80s all over again, but less for technical reasons.

In this case it's also a hardware issue. If smartphones ran x86 I'm sure some clever hackers would've found a way to boot windows on them and from there you could play any game you like. But being ARM it's pointless.

that is pointless and show a lack of understanding of the core issue.

first, there were tons of x86 android devices. samsung tab3 to name the last one i used.

second, most of the code on android is tainted GPL code. technically GPL was supposed to not prevent you from running whatever you want on devices you own if it was distributed with GPL based code, but alas, that is exactly what happens.

> Almost feel like the early 80s all over again, but less for technical reasons.

It's almost exclusively due to technical reasons.


(tried to add as much as you to the discussion)

Cell phones need high resolution to render crisp text, not for games

I hate to sound like a hater, but with 5G, plentiful power banks and things like Stadia and the Razer Kishi isn’t this super super niche these days?

I have my computer, which doubles as a server, on all the time and was blown away how fast Steam Link worked on a remote connection (albeit I have gigabit upload speeds, but still). I imagine Stadia and GeForce Now are even better.

I went down a YouTube rabbit hole - my theory is these devices are primarily attractive to the higher end emulator gamers - NeoGeo, GameCube, PS2, some PS3 and that generation as well.

This is why the screen size is OK because they're usually upscaling anyways.

I watched some benchmark of modern generation or even previous generation games and they are mostly dogshit, the GPU is anemic for modern workloads but fine for emulators it seems.

This is just my best guess, especially given the price of the hardware, it just doesn't make sense for normal portable gaming, but definite hits a niche for retro emu.

Neo Geo emulation has not been considered high end for a long time now. PS3 is where the hardware hits the limits currently.

Yeah, I hope I was clear that I'm only a YouTube-level expert :)

Good to know - I thought NeoGeo had some low latency input concerns that were harder to get close to in slower emulators, but like I said - not an expert!

Not sure if you heard but Stadia's future is probably not as solid as before. They have shut down first party studios already.

Did you have expectations of good games coming from Google? Do they have a track record for that?

Shutting down a Google game studio seems like a good decision. Stadia should be trying to make it easier for publishers to publish on their platform (or paying for exclusives); not trying to build their own games.

That said, I'd have a lot more enthusiasm if I had better than 20 ms ping to my first hop.

> Did you have expectations of good games coming from Google? Do they have a track record for that?

Nope, but the fact they even considered it in the first place was kind of foolish. Now, there's so few titles available on Stadia it's hardly going to be a Steam competitor any time soon.

sure, but other services are likely to catch up fast. speeds / input lag on stadia are fantastic.

You will not have 5g everywhere and Stadia does not have every game in existence...

Not to mention new incarnations of Castlevania, League of Legends and Diablo for mobile coming down the pike ;)

It comes down to culture for me. Nintendo originally marketed the Game Boy in the "toy" rather than "video game" or "electronics" categories. Something physical to be put under the xmas tree. Developers love handhelds because budgets are 1/10 of AAA titles. Low power GPUs like the Tegra X1 and Neo's Ryzen are plentiful. Along with an explosion in indie handhelds, I wouldn't be surprised to see upgrades to the Vita, 3DS, Shield, etc.

Sure, but being able to use hardware controls is a big plus and opens up a lot more games. Touch screen controls can be okay, but I never found it great (the little I tried). (Edit: of course you could use a bluetooth controller, but for on the go that gets a bit cumbersome to prop up the screen and bring a separate controller. No perfect solution either way.)

Surely someone makes some sort of bluettooth controller that snaps on an iphone like a case?

Edit: Of course they do: https://www.razer.com/mobile-controllers/Razer-Kishi/RZ06-03...

The switch does wonderfully for combining stick/button, touch, and motion controls

Switch is basically ditching touch, for the ability to play on TV.

Genshin Impact with Razer Kishi on iPhone 12 Max feels like a high end game.

(Note if you want to try it: the Settings menu, needed to enable controller, doesn’t unlock until 5 mins in, after you beat the slime creatures using the wind.)

Even if none of those things existed, at a price point of over $800 this seems completely DOA.

Can't imagine the battery life is much, either. I'd be shocked if it's more than an hour or two.

All of that to run poorly at 800p.

While I'm happy for the handheld pcs for gaming, I wish there were more iterations of the gpd p2 max, mini pcs that were geared towards productivity. I want a mini pc that has a webcam and a backlight, which the gpd p2 max doesn't have.

More than anything I wish there was more options in keyboard layouts. Even with remapping, the layouts of the GPDs and others are a hard no, but the only thing stopping me from buying on.

I've always found it strange that phones never really went this way. There are attachments, I've seen attempts. But it just seems like such a large and available market to overlook.

I think the problem is people want to play mobile games until they don't.

What works about the switch is the option. I can play handheld or pop it in its dock and play on the TV with other people. Phones never quite got this. They had the mobile part built-in, but attempts at multiplayer on a screen were either ignored or botched horrifically.

There's another big challenge with phone games, in my opinion ...

Phones are also very personal, and I've observed that people are less likely to commit to longer-term games on their phones for some reason. Some of it is no doubt inertia - the early games on mobile were meant to be played in full in under an hour. But part of it is - I think - that having your phone occupied by something persistent like a game robs people of their ability to use the phone in the open gaps we normally use phones.

Things like Switch or Stadia or whatever are dedicated gaming devices, even if they slingshot from your phone's computing power. I can use them and still have my phone in front of me. They do one thing and get out of the way.

That's all depressing to write out, but it's the world we live in.

Yeah, one of the most limiting factors imo about phones-as-consoles is actually getting the game onto a larger display. They're more than powerful enough to run lower-spec console games - as evidenced by the fact that, say, remastered Square Enix titles have also been hitting mobile platforms.

But the Switch, being a dedicated system for this, doesn't have to put nearly as much work into the implementation. You can easily just throw it into a dock and leave it there indefinitely, because you don't need it for anything else. While you can cast a phone wirelessly, the setup will depend largely on your ecosystem and/or accessory vendors. And even then, the entire thing is typically mirrored - which not only leaves the rest of your device otherwise unusable, but also raises further cases to handle around notifications (or worse, calls) while you're actually gaming on it.

These issues would make single-player gaming annoying enough, and local multiplayer effectively becomes a nonstarter. (Never mind that one you introduce that as a requirement you also introduce the need to set up additional controllers a nontrivial amount of the time, and fast pair support within the Bluetooth spec is just as messy.)

For phones to really be able to cover these things without introducing tradeoffs that just don't exist with a dedicated device, we'd need OS- and hardware- level support for running a secondary display, wirelessly, without also introducing lag in the process.

Effectively, we're comparing them to the wrong platform. Because while the internals most directly line up with those of the Switch, the interface design they'd need in order to really make the experience work is arguably a lot closer to that of the Wii U.

[0] Note that, for the sake of this discussion, on Android's side I'm referring strictly to what's available in AOSP. I'm aware of, say, DeX, but the app ecosystem as a whole doesn't tend to have great support for vendor-specific implementations, and the stock desktop mode is still a. experimental, b. wired.

Intel fumbled hard trying to go into mobile. It went so poorly it cost them billions of dollars, tens of thousands of jobs in layoffs, and quite a few executives (including the CEO): https://siliconangle.com/2016/05/01/intel-shuts-down-develop...

Phone gaming never quite took off outside of the freemium stuff. And gaming is a hard business for new entrants.

The most likely path would’ve been if an existing gaming company made a handheld that was also a phone, but Microsoft doesn’t have a handheld entry, Sony’s Vita go down well, and Nintendo is just not really interested.

This thing also costs $699, which is quite a bit more money than say a Switch. In fact a Switch is pretty much the cousin of a phone, hardware wise.

Saying Switch is a phone is like saying phone is a PC.

They use similar components, but designed very differently:

Switch has dedicated controller, phones don't, at least the vast majority of them.

Switch has lower resolution, targeting framerate instead.

Switch has active cooling for sustained performance, phones usually only work on short bursts.

Switch is cheap, comparing to premium phones.

Phones are ok for a lot of things, but good for nothing, while Switch is good at gaming, undeniably the 1st in the mobile gaming market.

I feel like if you were to debut a gaming-oriented phone, you need to go all the way. Like, an Xbox phone that had all your Gamepass titles would be a compelling buy on day 1.

This was a bit half-baked. It didn't even get the update to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Nokia did.

It flopped. Horribly.

And it did also because the execution was horrible. Not sure thought if it would have been successful were it done better...

The problem is the target market (teens/young twenty-somethings) don't have an inflation-adjusted $1k to drop on a phone.

They can, but you need iPhone-level cachet to get that kind of money from them, and Nokia is not that.

You mean Gaming Android Phones? I guess the main reason is that it would detract from their primary use as phones? However you do have a lot of Android-based gaming devices with proper physical controls.

It's interesting that the Sony Experia Play phones never got anywhere. They were pretty impressive.


I so want an "always in my pocket" smartphone gaming solution. Ideally a modern Xperia Play style slider phone with buttons and a slide pad but I'd also take a keychain-sized Bluetooth gamepad that attaches to the phone. Something visually like an iMpulse controller that plugged into the USB port and gave you an upright Gameboy-style experience. Every pocketable gamepad on the market expects you to have a table to rest your phone on.

Yes! I still have one, and it is amazing.

Counterpoint: n-gage.

Manufacturers aren't bold enough these days so I really hope this product succeeds, but I find myself not being as ravenously excited about it as I would've been a decade ago. Between my hacked Switch and my smartphone the emulation space and medium-low end gaming is basically covered. Maybe this could work well for someone who spends a lot of time on public transportation and couldn't easily use a laptop.

It'll be interesting to see if "handheld PC gaming" continues to grow in market share.

Handheld PC gaming is still a niche on the PC Market, but with more and more devices capable of running games decently, it can only grow.

I'm just missing GSM module with modem and voice support and AMOLED screen and price below 500USD and the sales would skyrocket, otherwise it'll be another minor handheld PC

That right-hand thumbstick looks like it's blocking access to the 4 buttons.

Why such a small resolution though?

At 7 inches higher resolutions are great for clearer text, but really don't make a hugely noticeable difference in games, especially fast moving ones.

And the lower the resolution the better the framerates you'll get (and running upscaled ~1280x800 on a higher res screen would look worse than native 1280x800). 1280x800 @ 7 inches is already 215.63 PPI[0], which is more than twice the average 1920x1080 24 inch PC monitor.

This is all especially important with a low powered GPU like the Vega 6.

[0]: https://www.sven.de/dpi/

FWIW my preference with a device like this would definitely be lower resolution, until someone manages to stuff much faster hardware into the same form factor.

Yeah lots of people fail to see this, high resolution, high frame rate, low power consumption, you can only choose two.

Modern phones have impressive burst performance, but they can't sustain for real gaming, while Switch and this thing can, this is a big difference.

If Switch tell us anything, it is that phones are not (good) for gaming.

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