The AYA Neo Next Lite is a budget handheld gaming PC with a starting price under $299, making it the cheapest x86 handheld from AYA Neo to date. But after teasing the handheld earlier this week, the company has now revealed the full spec sheet… and I’m not sure it’s worth even that much money.
Don’t get me wrong. The specs aren’t awful. It’s just that most people are probably going to be better off spending $349 on a Steam Deck instead.
There are primarily two reasons for that. The first is that the AYA Neo Next Lite ships with an unofficial 3rd-party version of SteamOS, which almost certainly won’t be as well-supported as the version of the Linux-based operating system that runs on Valve’s Steam Deck.
Jan 25, 2024 Update: AYA has announced that the Next Lite will ship with Windows 11 Home rather than HoloISO, although it will offer images based on the third-party, SteamOS Linux distro for download from the AYANEO website for those who want to use it. The original article continues below.
The second is that the AYA Neo Next Lite is powered by an AMD Ryzen 4000U processor with Radeon Vega graphics. These are mobile chips that were first released about four years ago, and which don’t offer the same level of graphics performance as the AMD “Aerith” and “Sepiroth” custom chips in the Steam Deck, which both feature RDNA 2 GPUs.
While those decisions certainly helped AYA keep the price of the Neo Next Lite low, it doesn’t seem low enough when Steam Deck prices start at just $50 more.
Still, it’s nice to see AYA make a play for the budget handheld space. The company has primarily focused on high-end devices up until now, with most existing AYA Neo handheld gaming PCs selling for $899 or more.
|AYA Neo Next Lite specs
|AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
6 Zen 2 cores / 12 threads
2.3 GHz base / 4 GHz max boost
Radeon Vega 6 graphics @ up to 1.5 GHz
10 – 25W TDP
|AMD Ryzen 7 4800U
8 Zen 2 cores / 16 threads
1.8 GHz base / 4.2 GHz max boost
Radeon Vega 8 graphics @ up to 1.75 GHz
10 – 25W TDP
|128GB / 512GB
M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 SSD
M.2 2280 PCIe 3.0 SSD
1280 x 800 pixels
|2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (full function)
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (data only)
1 x 3.5mm audio
|Dual copper heat pipes
“PC grade” fan
|Controllers, sensors & motors
|Hall sensor joysticks
Hall sensor triggers
Dual X-axis linear motor
|HoloISO (3rd-party, open source SteamOS build optimized by AYA Neo for the Next Lite)
Windows drivers available for download
|267 x 112 x 22-30mm
The decision to use HoloISO is a particularly interesting one. It’s an open source, third-party version of SteamOS that’s been adapted to run on devices other than the Steam Deck.
But there hasn’t been major update to HoloISO since August, 2023, while Valve pushes SteamOS/Steam Deck updates on a very frequent basis in order to fix bugs, improve performance, offer optimizations for specific games, and more.
While AYA says it’s optimized HoloISO to play well with the Next Lite handheld, it’s unclear what kind of long-term support the company will offer. But AYA does plan to host Windows drivers on its website for users who want to install Windows.
All of which makes me wonder if AYA is actually serious about offering a viable Linux-based operating system for gamers… or if the company just opted to ship something without Windows as a way to keep the up-front costs low, but expects users to install Windows on their own (which will drive up the price for anyone who doesn’t already have a spare Windows license lying around).