The Aya Neo Next, a powerful handheld gaming PC, has launched its crowdfunding campaign and you can get a discount if you order during the campaign. If you’ve followed the booming handheld PC market, you may have heard of the Aya Neo. Earlier this year I reviewed the Aya Neo Pro, a device that only got into the hands of Indiegogo backers a few months ago. While the Aya Neo Pro was, and still is, pretty impressive, I did mention in my review that a revamped version of the Aya Neo is on the horizon. I have now had the opportunity to test the Aya Neo Next ahead of its April launch and I can say with confidence that if you are interested in the Aya Neo brand, the Next is the version to pick.
The Aya Neo Next is more of an iteration of the existing Pro and 2021 models than a brand new handheld. It still shares the same core DNA as a Windows handheld PC with an AMD mobile processor and integrated Radeon Vega graphics. If you already have the Aya Neo Pro, upgrade to the Next probably doesn’t make much sense. If the Next featured a 6000-series processor – instead of the 5000-series – that might be a different story, but as it stands, the Next feels more like the definitive version of the company’s first step into the handheld market -PC games on.
It might seem odd that a new Aya handheld would launch just a few months after its predecessors, but when you look at it from a PC gaming perspective – where minor component upgrades are released regularly – it makes sense. Despite being an iterative upgrade, the Aya Neo Next features significant improvements in terms of build and modest performance improvements.
Note: For more information on the features of the Aya Neo, visit our Aya Neo Pro review. This article is intended to be the one in Next.
The Aya Neo Next has an outstanding form factor. Despite the fact that the handheld is fairly heavy compared to mainstream devices like the Switch, the Next is the most comfortable portable gaming device I’ve ever held in my hands. With subtle curves and rounded grips on the back that mimic a traditional gamepad, holding the Next feels completely natural. It’s like playing a switch with a custom-fit grip. Previous Aya Neo models were flat on the back and had squarer edges. The back of the Next feels rubberized and grippy. While I thought these models were comfortable, the Next takes it to the next level. The handheld comes in numerous color schemes, including pastel blue, midnight blue, jet black, bright white, and silver (the one I tested).
The outstanding feel extends to the handheld controls, particularly the triggers and analog sticks. The triggers are much wider and beefier than the pros and feel like pockets for your fingers to rest comfortably. The analog sticks also help in the ergonomics department, as they’re larger and raised higher than the Switch-like thumbsticks on the 2021 and Pro models. I found the sticks to be more accurate and had a finer range of motion, while the triggers were more sensitive to light pulls, which helps with a variety of games.
The triggers and sticks are actually quite novel in design. The Next is the first handheld game console to use “Hall Effect” sensors. The analog sticks and triggers have magnetic systems, which means the components don’t physically rub against each other when in use. In this sense, Hall Effect components are not subject to normal wear and tear. In theory, this should curb any possibility of drift or other unwanted bugs that are prevalent in many modern controllers, including Switch Joy-Cons. Since we’ve only tested the Next for a few dozen hours, we can’t really comment on the longevity and durability of the components, but they’re built to last. Along with the Hall sensors, the sticks are modular so they can be swapped out at will. Out of the box, the Next has concave stick grips, similar to Xbox controllers.
The Next has slight differences in terms of design elsewhere. The various menu and settings buttons have been reduced from eight to four. On the right are two unlabeled buttons. The larger one opens a quick menu for Aya Space, proprietary software that makes managing your games and experiences feel like a proper gaming console. Aya Space is available on all models of the Aya Neo, but comes pre-installed on the Next. The smaller blank button offers a one-click option to exit windows, which is handy on a PC like this. I don’t think all of the buttons, like the Xbox Game Bar, were particularly necessary on the Aya Neo Pro, and the Next looks cleaner and less cluttered by omitting a few of them.
The Next’s power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor for login, which is a nice little feature. The sensor works fine as long as it’s not dirty, but I had to wipe it a couple of times for it to register. You can still enter your Microsoft password or use a unique PIN to unlock the device. Like the Aya Neo Pro, the volume buttons and headphone jack are next to the power button. The Next only has two USB-C ports, which is one fewer than previous Aya Neo models. That’s a bit of a shame, but it only makes a difference if you’re connecting multiple peripherals to the device at the same time.
As mentioned, the Aya Neo Next offers modest performance improvements over its predecessors. The model I tested comes with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800U processor and Radeon Vega 8 graphics, while the Pro has a Ryzen 7 4800U processor and Vega 6 graphics. I found in my Aya Neo Pro review that the difference between the Pro and base 2021 models was negligible from a performance perspective. The performance increases of the Next, on the other hand, are quite noticeable.
Without tinkering with the TDP or tweaking the visual settings in games, I was able to get noticeably higher frame rates and better fidelity with the Next than with the Pro. And with some setting tweaks, most of the games I tried ran at around 60fps or higher, including Grand Theft Auto V, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Psychonauts 2, Forza Horizon 5, and the Tomb Raider trilogy. Some outliers were Control and Halo Infinite, which hovered in the high 30s but were still playable. Finding the right balance between frames per second and visual fidelity is unique to both each game and the person playing it. And if you increase the TDP at the expense of battery life, you can get even better results.
Because the Aya Neo’s 7-inch IPS display maxes out at a resolution of 1280 x 800p, the GPU doesn’t have to work as hard as it does at 1080p or 4K resolutions. This in turn gives the GPU more room to work on rendering textures and keeping gameplay performance smooth. The Next uses the same screen panel as in previous Aya Neo models, which is perfectly fine considering it’s a beautiful display. You don’t get high-end graphics features like ray tracing, but many games still look stunning on the Next’s display. Keep in mind that you can connect the Next to a monitor or TV and benefit from better resolutions, but performance will obviously suffer.
While the Next is a natural leap in performance for the Aya Neo brand rather than a giant leap, small improvements in frame-rate and visual settings can add up to make a impactful difference. This is the case here.
price and models
I tested the Aya Neo Next Advance, which has a 5800U processor and 16GB of RAM and 2TB of storage. The standard Next will have a slightly better 5825U processor, and the Next Pro will have the 5825U processor and 32GB of RAM instead of 16GB. Prices range from $1,265 to $1,565, and you’ll save money by ordering when the crowdfunding campaign begins.
Yes, all of the Aya Neo models are expensive, but considering the Next is only marginally more expensive than the Pro (which starts at $1,215), the Next line is the ideal choice between the two. The significantly revised form factor and performance improvements make it well worth the extra money. If you’re looking for a portable Windows PC, the Aya Neo Next is ready to go. Of course, Valve’s Steam Deck is about to be released, and it’s certainly a more budget-friendly option.
|Aya Neo next advance||Aya Neo next||Aya Neo Next Pro|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 7 5800U||AMD Ryzen 7 5825U||AMD Ryzen 7 5825U|
|graphic card||Radeon Vega8||Radeon Vega8||Radeon Vega8|
|R.A.M.||16 GIGABYTES||16 GIGABYTES||32GB|
|storage||2TB||1TB or 2TB||2TB|
|advertisement||7 inch IPS touch screen||7 inch IPS touch screen||7 inch IPS touch screen|
|Battery life||2-5 hours (tested)||2-5 hours (tested)||2-5 hours (tested)|
|ports||USB-C x2||USB-C x2||USB-C x2|
|Price||$1,345 at launch / $1,465||$1,265 to $1,465||$1,465 (at launch) / $1,565|
Steven Petite tested the Aya Neo Next for over 30 hours. Aya Neo provided a sample unit.
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