Last year we learned that the company behind the Orange Pi line of single-board computers planned to branch out into the handheld gaming PC market. This week at FOSDEM in Belgium, developers from the Manjaro Linux team are showing off the first Orange Pi handheld running their GNU/Linux-based operating system.
The Orange Pi Neo has a 7 inch FHD+ 120 Hz display, an AMD Ryzen 7 7840U processor, and Steam Deck-style touchpads in addition to game controllers. You can also find more pictures and detailed specs at the Manjaro website, and on social media.
In terms of specs, the Orange Pi Neo looks a lot like many other handheld gaming PCs launched in the past year or two. But there are two key differences: the Orange Pi Neo’s touchpads make it one of a relatively small number of recent handhelds with this feature, and it’s one of an even smaller number of models intended to run Linux-based software rather than Windows.
With Radeon 780M integrated graphics, the Orange Pi Neo should be able to handle many recent games, and with eight AMD Zen 4 CPU cores, support for up to 32GB of LPDDR5-7500 memory, and an M.2 2280 slot for PCIe NVMe solid state storage, it should be pretty decent as a general purpose computer as well.
It also features two USB4 Type-C ports, a microSD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack, 50 Wh battery, 65W wall charger, and support for WiFi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. It has an active cooling system with a fan and dual copper heat pipes.
But the built-in controllers with hall sensors and RGB backlit analog sticks, motion sensors, and overall design make it clear that this computer is designed first and foremost for gaming.
We’re getting our first proper look at the handheld thanks to the Manjaro team, but I suspect that users will be able to pick their own operating system. Orange Pi is a company that’s best known for making single-board computers that can be used as development boards and flashed with a variety of operating systems, usually Linux-based.
The Orange Pi Neo can probably run Windows software reasonably well, as its has hardware that’s quite similar to many existing Windows handhelds. But support for free and open source GNU/Linux distributions like Manjaro help set it apart from the competition.
So far the only significant Linux handheld gaming PC with an x86 processor and support for mainstream games has been the Steam Deck, which ships with Valve’s SteamOS Linux distro, which is based on Arch Linux and adds Valve’s Proton software for compatibility with Windows games, as well as the Steam Game Client.
But since you can also run Proton and Steam on other Linux distributions, you could theoretically make a decent Linux gaming PC using other operating systems. We just haven’t really seen any other handheld gaming PC makers take this route yet. AYANEO had planned to use a third-party version of SteamOS called HoloISO for their new AYANEO Next Lite budget handheld, but the company reversed course and the handheld is now expected to ship with Windows instead of a SteamOS fork that’s not officially supported by Valve.
It’s unclear what kind of gaming experience users will be able to expect from the Orange Pi Neo, but it’s probably a safe bet that a lot will depend on your choice of an operating system.
Here’s a run-down of known specs for the upcoming handheld:
|Orange Pi Neo specs
1920 x 1200 pixels
|AMD Ryzen 7 7840U
8 Zen 4 CPU cores / 16 threads
3.3 GHz – 5.1 GHz
15 – 30W TDP
|AMD Radeon 780M
12 RDNA 3 GPU cores
Up to 2.7 GHz
|16GB or 32GB
|512GB – 2TB
PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
(Other operating systems TBD?)
|2 x USB4
1 x 3.5mm audio
1 x microSD
Dual Analog Sticks (RGB backlit)
X, Y, A, B buttons
Dual 6-axis gyroscope
|Stereo 1W speakers
3.5mm audio jack
|65W USB-C GaN power adapter
Dual copper heat pipes
|Magnesium Alloy, plastic, and glass
|259 x 107 x 19.9mm
Orange Pi hasn’t announced pricing or a release date for the Neo yet, but given the hardware I suspect “more than a Steam Deck” is a safe bet. As of last summer, Orange Pi was also working on a cheaper handheld with a Rockchip R3588S ARM-based processor though. It’s unclear if or when that model will hit the streets though.