Chinese handheld gaming PC maker AYA has unveiled yet another new model coming to the company’s growing lineup of portable gaming devices.
The AYA Neo Next II has a few features that make it stand out from the rest though.
First, in addition to D-Pads, analog sticks, action buttons, and shoulder buttons, the AYA Neo Next II has two built-in touchpads. The only other modern handheld PC maker to include touchpads at the moment is Valve, which uses them for its Steam Deck.
Touchpads theoretically open the door to playing games that were designed for keyboard and mouse input rather than controllers. They could also make it a bit easier to navigate Windows or Linux-based operating systems without a mouse. But despite the Steam Deck’s popularity, I’ve seen mixed opinions on whether the touchpads are actually all that helpful.
Another thing that sets the AYA Neo Next II apart? It’s designed with support for discrete graphics.
While initially it had looked like that meant that the little computer would be designed with support for external graphics docks, that wouldn’t actually be much of a distinguishing feature. Theoretically any handheld game system with a Thunderbolt 4 or USB4 port with support for 40 Gbps data should also be able to work with external graphics docks.
AYA CEO Arthur Zhang says the Neo Next II will go a step further than that though, by offering a laptop-class discrete GPU. The company hasn’t finalized exactly how it will do that yet, but there are two possibilities that AYA is considering:
- One option would be a laptop-like discrete GPU positioned on the motherboard along with the CPU. This model would be a bit heavier than most handhelds and would have a removable battery, allowing users to choose between heavier/higher-capacity batteries or thinner, lighter batteries for more portability (but less run time).
- Another option would be a removable module that includes both a battery and a discrete graphics card. Basically pop the battery off the back of the AYA Neo Next II and replace it with a dGPU module when you want extra gaming power or use the original battery when internal graphics is good enough.
AYA is apparently considering using Intel Arc graphics and AMD Radeon 6000 series graphics for its discrete GPUs. And while the company hasn’t finalized the details yet, Zhang says the Neo Next II isn’t a “concept device,” but something that AYA actually plans to bring to market.
But this does open the door toward using the handheld gaming PC as your only gaming PC. Hook it up to an external GPU and display while gaming from home for the best experience. Or unplug it and take it with you for lower-resolution, lower-quality gaming on the go.
AYA has suggested that the Neo Next II will be available with a choice of Intel Alder Lake or AMD Ryzen 7 6000U processor options, although the company hasn’t revealed specific chips yet.
While AYA has already shipped a couple of handheld gaming PCs including the AYA Neo and AYA Neo Next, the company’s roadmap for the coming year is looking very ambitious, with the recent announcements of upcoming models including:
- AYA Neo 2 and AYA Neo 2 GEEK
- AYA Neo Air and AYA Neo Air Pro (with OLED displays)
- AYA Neo Air Plus (with Intel or AMD processor options)
- AYA Neo Flip (with a flip-up display)
- AYA Neo Slide (with a slide-up display)
- AYA Neo Next II (with touchpads)
That’s a lot of devices. AYA says the goal is to cater to the different needs/requests of different gamers. And indeed, this lineup means the company is promising to deliver a wide variety of products at different price points, some of which have unusual features to help them stand out in the increasingly crowded handheld gaming PC market.
But it’s pretty odd to see a company that has only delivered a few products to date announce so many new models in the span of a month or two.
Update: This article originally suggested that the AYA Neo Next II would support an eGPU (external graphics dock), but AYA CEO Arthur Zhang says that was a mistranslation and that the company is actually planning to bring discrete graphics to the handheld PC itself.