The MSI Claw will be one of the first handheld gaming PCs with an Intel Core Ultra processor inside — but despite what the company told us at CES 2024, it won’t have a variable refresh rate (VRR) screen. To my knowledge, the Asus ROG Ally is the only handheld with that dynamic gameplay smoothing display feature, and it’s one of its biggest advantages. I’m disappointed the MSI Claw won’t have it, too.
Instead, MSI marketing specialist Anne Lee tells me you’ll be able to manually set the seven-inch 1080p, 120Hz screen to 48Hz or 60Hz if you want.
MSI claims that still counts as “VRR” — but it doesn’t unless you’re taking the phrase in an exceptionally literal direction I’ve never heard a company argue before.
VRR is the generic form of technologies like Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync, which let a screen’s refresh rate dynamically match the frame rate delivered by your system’s GPU. That means you don’t experience choppy gameplay or screen tearing just because your graphics don’t hit, say, 60fps, because the screen can automatically display 59fps or 50fps or 48fps perfectly fine.
You can often still manually set the refresh rate of screens without VRR. The Steam Deck lets you set arbitrary manual refresh rates of most any number the display supports, and the Lenovo Legion Go lets you pick between 60Hz and 144Hz, for example. But to avoid choppiness and tearing, your system still has to consistently deliver the right number of frames (which can require frame limiters and a bit of tweaking).
The Asus ROG Ally’s VRR screen comes in handy particularly when your game is running between 48 and 60fps, which are within its VRR range. A game running at 48fps on the Ally will look smoother than one running at 59fps on the Lenovo Legion Go, in my experience.
None of the MSI Claw’s other rivals advertise a VRR screen, and… neither does MSI, for that matter! The reason I reached out to MSI this week was because its product pages went live without any mention of VRR, and I thought that seemed weird.
After I explained all of this to MSI, it continued to claim that the device had a VRR screen.
I don’t know if MSI is backtracking on VRR or if the company simply doesn’t want to admit that something got lost in translation. (No shame; it happens!) I do know that MSI told me at CES that the screen I saw wasn’t final and would be replaced with a screen that added VRR.
The MSI Claw doesn’t have a confirmed release date yet, but rumors suggest it could arrive as soon as February or March.