Ayaneo 2 review: The Steam Deck meets its match
Ayaneo’s latest device offers powerful performance that can outpace Valve’s incredibly popular Steam Deck. But is it worth its premium price tag?
Ayaneo is not a new competitor in the handheld PC space. Ever since its debut, the company has continued to iterate on its handheld devices to become a robust competitor to even the likes of Valve. However, before we go any further it’s important to state who a device like this might be for.
Coming in at $399, Valve’s Steam Deck has unbelievable value for what you’re getting. And while it’s not perfect, for many, attaining one can be very expensive. Or, people might want something with a slightly more open stock system to run from. This is where Ayaneo operates in its niche. The Ayaneo Air was no different, and we don’t think that the Ayaneo 2 comes into direct contention with the Steam Deck when it comes to value either.
Instead, the person who the Ayaneo 2 might be for will be power-users, looking to optimize every ounce of power on the silicon, those who simply can’t get one in their region, or those who just want something a little bit different.
The Ayaneo 2 offers a sleek shell, bright and large display, and comfortable controls, wrapped up in a Windows device which is being generally released for $1099.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 6800U
- GPU: AMD Radeon 680M
- RAM: 16GB
- Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
- Panel: 8.4-inch IPS
- Price: Starts from $949, $1,099 (Unit reviewed)
- Where to buy: IndieGoGo
Included in the box: Ayaneo 2, Travel Charger, 2x USB-A to USB-C converters.
The Ayaneo 2 is a striking device. Our review unit is furnished with a fully-white gloss front, which houses a stunning bezel-less 8.4-inch IPS display. While it’s not an OLED, the color and contrast ratios on the panel are incredibly good, and we thought that the screen looked absolutely gorgeous. We had to even do a double take and compare it to an OLED screen, just to make sure that our eyes were not deceiving us.
The screen is flanked by the controls which include Gulikit’s disruptive undriftable hall-sensing sticks. Up at the top, you get comfortable triggers and bumpers, in addition to two extra bumper buttons on each side, in addition to two USB-C ports, and a power button, which also works as a fingerprint sensor. Over at the bottom, you get a microSD card slot, another USB-C port, which can be used with USB4, and a headphone jack.
The device itself is smooth to the touch around the back, with grooves contoured to allow for an ergonomic fit. In our hands, it was an incredible fit, and we barely noticed the 680g of weight inside the system while in use.
You also have a fan intake around the back, with an exhaust at the top. Unlike our complaints with the Ayaneo Air Pro, the Ayaneo 2 manages to be relatively quiet under operation, unless you are pushing it to the absolute brink at 33W.
The Ayaneo 2 comes loaded with Windows 11, which is incredibly simple to set up. After you manage to get it all sorted, you’re greeted by Ayaspace. Ayaspace acts as a game launcher, overlay, and will allow you to configure the Ayaneo 2 to your liking.
It’s all simply presented, but we just wished that the software was slightly faster, and didn’t take as much time to install. We also encountered several software updates that changed the language to Chinese, which we had to manually switch back to multiple times. This is easily solved, we just wish that there was a language selection option while you install the device.
You can create your own “Pro” power profile, and if you want to get the absolute most out of the Ayaneo 2, you’ll want to make a 33W profile. The rest are a 22W “Game” mode, 15W “Balanced” option, and an 11w “Power saving” option. Generally, less demanding games can be played using a power profile that doesn’t require too much juice, and that’ll help keep your battery topped up and healthy.
You can easily pull these up during play, and these allow you to effectively tune the device’s performance. It’s fairly stable at this point, and Ayaspace also allows you to change aesthetic elements like the LED underglow of the analog sticks.
It all works pretty well, as long as you know what you’re doing, and how TDP interfaces with the power that lies just beneath the hood of the Ayaneo 2.
Battery life is always a concern for devices like these, which can at times be incredibly demanding. Given that the Ayaneo 2 has a huge IPS display, in addition to a hungry Ryzen 7 6800U, the device can run out of battery life quickly if you’re not keeping an eye on it.
At 33W, we managed to achieve just over an hour of battery life. This is overkill, and the increase in performance that you get at 33W in heavy titles like Death Stranding and Spider-Man just isn’t worth the slightly higher performance.
We found that the ideal sweet spot between power, performance, and battery was at around 18W. Sure, 25W gives you more frames, but if you manage to configure an 18W profile, you’ll get a good two hours or so of use out of the device.
It only gets better from there, where we reached a maximum of around three hours while playing Chained Echoes at a meager 5W with zero issues whatsoever.
As we stated, battery life will generally vary from title to title, but a general rule of thumb is that if it’s harder to run, then you’ll run out of juice much quicker. We were not blindsided by this, and managed to enjoy a few days out with the device without worrying too much about the Ayaneo 2’s battery life.
When you’re putting a lot of power into such a small package, it can be really tough when it comes to cooling. Thanks to the Ayaneo’s relatively chunky design, there appears to be enough airflow and thermal density to handle the load much more effectively than the Ayaneo Air Pro.
Only while running the most demanding titles did we hear the fans spin up, meaning that the curve might not be too aggressive out of the box, which is a good thing for those sensitive to noise.
The Ayaneo 2 will excel in CPU-bound tasks like emulation, and when handling complex games like Civilization 6, or Stellaris. The Radeon RDNA2 680M graphics are also certainly no slouch. You can easily play games like Cyberpunk 2077 on the Ayaneo 2 with the device delivering a more than adequate experience.
The screen’s resolution tops out at 1920 x 1200, however by dropping this down to 800p in the heaviest titles, you can get a much more playable experience, without sacrificing too much graphical quality too. However, you can also run slightly less intensive titles at 1200p without any issues whatsoever.
For those wanting to eke out more power from the device, you can also hook it up to an external GPU enclosure, though we were not able to test this.
The Ayaneo 2 puts up a considerable fight in synthetic benchmarks. We used 3DMark’s Time Spy Extreme to pit it against the older Ayaneo Air Pro, and it manages to outperform the old handheld by a significant margin.
We also compared it to two different gaming PCs. Test System 1 is equipped with a Ryzen 5 3600 and RTX 3080 with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Test system 2 is our usual benchmarking PC, which is equipped with the latest components, an i5-13600K, RTX 4080, and 32GB of DDR5 RAM.
|3DMark||Ayaneo 2||Ayaneo Air Pro||Test System 1||Test System 2|
|Time Spy Extreme (Overall)||1286||643||6890||12266|
|Time Spy Extreme (GPU)||1150||566||8644||13557|
|Time Spy Extreme (CPU)||3957||2911||3205||7968|
The Ayaneo Air Pro finds its footing here as an extremely performant CPU-based device, managing to outpace a desktop-class Ryzen 3600. Where it falters is GPU performance. However, considering that we were only pulling 33W of power, this is an incredibly impressive score. Especially so when you realize that it has almost double the graphical power of the Ayaneo Air Pro in this benchmark.
The Ayaneo 2 can and will play just about everything that you want to throw at it. From AAA titles like Cyberpunk 2077, all the way to titles like Tactics Ogre: Reborn, or even Dead Cells and older games like Binary Domain, there’s just so much this portable powerhouse can pull off.
We were incredibly impressed with the device’s performance in Cyberpunk 2077, which can still bring some titles to its knees, but when using the 33W power profile in addition to FSR at 800p, you get an extremely playable version of Cyberpunk, which also has a Steam Deck-optimized graphical profile you can easily switch to. With this, we managed to achieve a solid 60FPS.
Other titles like Doom: Eternal is playable at 60FPS on Medium settings at 15W, at 800P, too.
But, our real success with the handheld clicked when playing SD Gundam Battle Alliance. Where the Steam Deck can struggle running the title, the Ayaneo 2 tears past the competition with brute force, and is easily playable at 1200p with all the bells and whistles switched on at the 22W setting.
This showcases that these handhelds are finally beginning to eclipse the Steam Deck in performance, and while the same is not true at slightly lower wattages, we’ll only have to wait for a few more generations to see the real fruit of AMD’s GPUs, without a dedicated graphics card. If the chip managed to keep up at lower wattages, we’d have loved it even more. As it stands, we had to switch to an 18W or higher setting if we wanted to see playable performance out of the device in AAA titles.
That being said, we played more than a few titles at just 5W at 1200P. Things like Super Hexagon, Dead Cells, and Hollow Knight run just fine without a hitch, though you’ll want to offer up more wattage for more demanding titles.
You can also get Windows emulators set up on the Ayaneo 2, and we found that the device managed to perform incredibly well in consoles up to the PS3 in addition to the infamous Nintendo Wii U. If you have the know-how, you can play pretty much anything on here. Thanks to the strong CPU power, you can expect to find incredibly solid performance across a number of titles.
As ever, performance will differ between consoles and wattage settings, but we found most emulators to deliver perfectly respectable performance at the 18W setting and pushing in power for more demanding titles.
Should you buy it?
The Ayaneo 2 might be around a $1000 device, but it manages to double as a proper portable PC, if you choose to pick up its dock.
The console has extremely high-quality build quality, with more than adequate battery life. There is quite a bit of finicking with settings, so we feel that this device is for advanced power users only. Until Ayaspace and SteamOS get a little bit better, it might be a hassle if you’re expecting a console-like experience.
However, what it does manage to do is deliver power in large quantities, you can run almost anything on this, and it’s a perfect portable companion for unchaining yourself from your gaming PC. We can’t wait to see what the company chooses to do next.