Over the past few years handheld gaming PC maker AYA has largely been focused on the premium end of the market. But the company is positioning its next device as a “budget friendly choice.”

The AYA Neo NEXT Lite features a 7 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display rather than a 1080p or higher resolution screen. And it ships with a Linux-based operating system based on SteamOS.

While SteamOS is developed by Valve for that company’s Steam Deck, many of its key components are open source, which has enabled third-party developers to create alternate operating systems like ChimeraOS and HoloISO, and it appears that despite marketing language the describes the AYA Neo Next Lite as running “SteamOS,” the CEO of the company says it will actually run “third-party SteamOS, not official SteamOS” and it looks like that will be HoloISO.

As companies like Valve, Asus, Lenovo and MSI have entered the handheld gaming PC space over the past few years, smaller Chinese companies like AYA, GPD, and One Netbook have largely focused on adding premium features to help their product stand out. But that tends to mean that those devices cost a lot more than a Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally.

So it’s nice to see AYA promising a more cost-competitive device that leaves out a few bells and whistles like backlit joysticks to help keep the price down.

That said, AYA still hasn’t revealed how much the AYA Neo Next Lite will cost, or what’s under the hood yet. We shouldn’t have long to wait though: pre-orders are set to begin on January 11, 2024.

So far we know that the handheld has a 47 Wh battery, X-axis linear motors, and a design that seems very similar to the AYA Neo Next, which launched a few years ago.

But until we know what kind of processor, graphics, memory, and storage the new model has, it’s difficult to say whether it’s truly a budget-friendly device… or just one that’s a little cheaper than AYA’s other handhelds, which currently sell for around $899 and up.

It’ll also be interesting to see how well a Linux-based operating system designed for gaming runs on an AYA handheld. SteamOS may be based on open source software including Arch Linux, the WINE Windows compatibility layer and Valve’s own Proton enhancements for playing Windows games on Linux, much of the work Valve has done on SteamOS over the past few years has been aimed first and foremost at the Steam Deck. The company pushes out regular updates that improve performance and add support for additional games, but those updates are designed for the Steam Deck.

Relying on a third-party project like HoloISO means that AYA’s device likely won’t receive the same level of support as the Steam Deck. But I suppose if users are unhappy with the experience they can always install Windows on the console… which will drive up the effective price of ownership.

via Aya Neo, Fan the Deck, and AYA Neo Discord

This article was first published January 10, 2023 and most recently updated January 11, 2023 to indicate that the AYA Neo Next Lite will ship with “third-party SteamOS” rather than an official version of the Linux-based operating system that runs on Valve’s Steam Deck.

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  1. Yeah. I was skeptical Valve was involved in this when this news was making its rounds. Especially when Valve didn’t want to spend that much time and effort supporting GPD when their talks with GPD a while back for the Win Max 2 stopped. GPD just kind of threw it over the wall and expected Valve to do almost all the work.

    Unfortunately a Linux distro will require a lot more work for the OEM than Windows. I wonder what things won’t be working or not well on this Aya device. Did they just slap HoloISO on it and called it a day?

    1. I agree about the additional effort needed. SteamOS working better on the Steam Deck than Windows for most people is largely because Valve is spending a lot of resources on the SW side specific to the Steam Deck. Sure some of it trickles to other HW but not all of it.

      Another OEM wanting to get SteamOS on their handheld will both need Valve and their own team to support it. Otherwise, some things won’t work or some experiences being noticeably less smooth compared to the Steam Deck.

      One thing for sure is sleep on Linux has problems on 6800 and 7840U notebooks and handhelds. Some notebooks have high power consumption during sleep. Others sometimes don’t wake up or it didn’t even successfully sleep and just froze. There’s also the weird degraded GPU performance after resume (supposedly happens on Windows too I hear).

  2. Any GNU/Linux now is better than MS WOS 11.
    And any will receive more updates.
    Probably Holo ISO will be more bleeding edge than Steam OS, and less than Steam OS beta, but for a gamer user, receiving those updates weeks later, always less than a month, does not matter a lot.
    Consider, again (many people wrote or said that everybody was going to erase Steam OS and install MS WOS, because Linux was not ready for gaming, in particular Linus Sebastian, with Lots Of Laughs) MS WOS as a better? alternative is almost an insult to people that read benchmarks, and runs GNU/Linux or dual boot.

    1. It’s pretty clear that Windon’t is an inferior experience on the SD, compared to SteamOS

  3. Unless this considerably undercuts the Steam Deck at every relative price tier, i.e. 512GB AYA Next Lite cheaper than the 512GB Steam Deck, then I don’t have any idea how this can survive lol. If you strip away the premium stuff that companies like AYA, GPD, and OneXPlayer try to add, you’re left with what’s essentially a worse Steam Deck that costs more. I know I’m probably just echoing a common sentiment, but what the hell is the point? Devices like the Legion Go have unique features that justify the slightly higher relative price, but this thing is a Steam Deck without trackpads or an OLED display (granted, I’m assuming the display part as I would think that’d be a selling point if they had one). All of that coupled with the worse support you’d get from AYA than you’d get from Valve.

    Maybe they’ll greatly undercut the cost though? Doubt it lol

  4. It cant be running SteamOS if Aya are responsible for OS support, that is Valve’s job.

    Also no trackpads is an easy design fix, you just remove the exit to desktop in SteamOS and only enable it when the system has a USB mouse/keyboard attached.

    If Aya have actually worked with Valve on their design then all support is in SteamOS.

  5. Wow that seems pretty shocking that Valve would partner with a manufacturer (amongst several) seemingly known for shipping and forgetting, rather than QC and long term support…but maybe this would be a move looking to enable changing such a policy?
    Maybe if it’s easier for AYA to maintain SteamOS for this device with support from Valve, AYA can focus more on hardware QC and long term customer support.

    1. Well, it’s not like the partnership really need consist of anything more than “can we get it in writing that it was okay to ship these computers with your operating system that anyone can download and use for free”.

      1. I didn’t think Valve had made SteamOS available for other, non-SD devices yet?

          1. Apparently it’s actually a modified (forked?) HoloISO on the AYA?

  6. So, there is a very important distinction to be made here, at least for those who care…
    Is Aya saying it’ll ship with Steam OS proper, or some other alternative distro such as Chimera OS, HoloISO, among several others?
    Key difference here is that if it’s gonna come out with Steam OS, it’s likely that Steam will provide some sort of support for it to work properly with the hardware, which is something not guaranteed in any of the other clone distros.
    I’ve been personally waiting for Steam Deck to launch in my country so that I can get a device that is guaranteed to work with Steam OS… but if Asus Ally comes down in price significantly in a sale, I might just get it because I’m tired of waiting. But I really don’t want a Windows 11 device, so I’ll have to go with one of the Steam OS clones.
    I also don’t want some custom Steam OS thing… it’s all about continued support here. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t go for the Chinese brands too… warranty and continued support.

  7. I do believe Valve said they’re willing to work together with hardware manufacturers to bring Steam OS to other handhelds, so I don’t think Aya would have to do the optimization work by themselves.

  8. @liliputing_ Interesting, first device besides the #steamdeck shipping with SteamOS that I know of. Hopefully Valve has been working with them to make it possible. Personally I'm more interested in a device like this vs. a similar one that ships with Windows and a bunch on janky apps to approximate the SteamOS experience…