Ayaneo Air Plus review: A compact powerhouse
The Ayaneo Air Plus is among the brand’s new portable gaming consoles. We’ve had our hands on the system and put it through our gauntlet of tests.
The Ayaneo Air Plus, as the name suggests, is a successor to the Ayaneo Air, which was introduced about a year ago. While Valve and Nintendo release one device and give it enough time to mature and rake in numbers, Ayaneo is more interested in rapid iteration.
While this Chinese brand can be credited for democratizing handheld gaming consoles, it’s the only brand with more than one entry in our upcoming gaming consoles list. This clearly means the company is flooding the market with various options at different price points and with iterative updates.
The Ayaneo Air Plus is one such console that was introduced recently. It has an updated CPU, but replaces the OLED panel with an IPS LCD panel. Aside from the large display, the specs are similar to the Ayaneo 2 we reviewed late last year.
The result? The Ayaneo Air Plus is a powerful gaming console, but is it really worth the price?
- CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 7 6800U
- GPU: AMD Radeon 680M
- RAM: up to 32GB LPDDR5
- Storage: Up to 2TB NVMe SSD
- Panel: 6-inch IPS
- Price: Starts from $599, $979 (reviewed)
Included in the box: Ayaneo Air Plus, Travel Charger, 2x USB-A to USB-C converters
If you’ve used Windows-based portable gaming consoles before, then the Ayaneo Air Plus’s design might not feel alien. However, compared to most consoles, it’s a clearly premium piece of hardware. The moment you unbox the console, you come across the gorgeous and bright 6-inch IPS display.
While the screen itself isn’t bezel-less, as seen on its premium siblings, the bezels are more prominent on the sides. The controls include analog hall-sensing thumb sticks on each side, D-Pad on the left, face buttons on the right with triggers and bumpers at their usual locations. There’s even an extra button on each side neatly hidden in the silver-colored strip.
The LED lights beneath the sticks are a great feature. Its blue light is helpful when gaming in a dimly lit room. When the console is low on charge or is being charged, the lights helpfully turn red.
Up on the top, you have a power button with an embedded fingerprint sensor, a volume rocker, and a USB Type C port on the top. You also get a couple of bottom-firing speakers, a USB Type C port, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot at the bottom. There is a fan intake at the back and an exhaust at the top to help keep the temperatures in check.
The overall finish feels premium, and thanks to the ergonomic and traditional design, you really don’t feel the bulkiness or the weight of this console while playing games.
The Ayaneo Air Plus runs Windows 11 out of the box, like almost all the consoles from the company. The presence of a relatively familiar operating system is helpful for a first-timer, as it lets you play with the settings and install a wide variety of non-gaming software. This means that the Ayaneo Air Plus essentially becomes a portable PC. You can even install productivity apps, should your PC or Laptop ever choose to give up the ghost. I used the console as a backup PC on a recent trip where my primary laptop temporarily gave up on me.
That said, this also means that you might have to live with the feeling of being unable to disconnect from your PC. A gaming console should ideally give you that feeling of disconnection during your personal time; however, that is primarily a drawback of the operating system, not the console in question.
Windows 11’s implementation on portable hardware could serve to be better than it currently is. But, Ayaneo’s Ayaspace software tries to smooth over these rough edges, and become your own gaming hub.
The dedicated button to switch back to the Ayaspace app is handy. This shortcut key fires up Ayaspace instantaneously, allowing you to tweak the console’s TDP, screen resolution, and more on the fly.
Since Ayaspace is intended to be your primary method of interacting with the console, we expected it to be better at handling updates. With every update, Ayaspace switched back to Chinese as a default language, and you have to manually select English as the language, even though a different language is set as default on the console itself.
Once you get the hang of using Ayaspace, you can easily tweak almost every aspect of the console. From changing the color of RGB rings to setting deadzones on your analog sticks and triggers. You can even tweak fan settings to get the best performance and reduce fan noise.
When it comes to portable devices, battery life always leaves you wanting more, and Ayaneo Air Plus is no exception. That said, the smaller 6-inch screen does help in reducing the strain on the console’s battery compared to the Air 2, which had a significantly larger display.
We could get over two and a half hours of game time with Destiny 2, with optimized settings. We capped the resolution at 720p and the framerate at 30FPS.
Though if it’s your first time with such a console, tinkering with the settings can be a bit overwhelming. Remember, pushing the console to its limits when playing games will drastically reduce game time. So, you’ll need to find a perfect balance.
Though sceptics doubt the performance of such compact devices, our unit sporting a Ryzen 6800U with 680M graphics could play almost everything we threw at it.
Games like Cyberpunk 2077, Destiny 2, and Forza Horizon 5 were pleasant experiences. Understanding the combination of settings which work the best commands a steep learning curve. But, once you get the hang of it, you can enjoy extended gaming sessions.
Moreover, to get the best experience, it is suggested to tweak the settings for each game. This could mean tweaking your power output to ger more juice out of the system, too. Reducing resolutions in AAA titles also goes a long way to preserve that previous battery life.
One of the biggest complaints we have with the console is it’s sleep mode. When we try to wake it up by pressing the power button, there was no indication that the console was booting up. We’d press the power button repeatedly to force the console awake. But, it never felt like a smooth experience.
Lastly, the brightness slider in Ayaspace is also slightly off the mark. Once you move past the 40% mark, you might not notice a significant bump in brightness, which seems odd.
Should you buy it?
Considering its screen size, which is close to most smartphones, it feels like you’re playing games on the phone with external controls attached to it. It doesn’t look awkwardly big and is highly portable. Once you’ve got the hang of playing games and getting the best out of the battery, the Ayaneo Air Plus is one of the best portable gaming devices you can get.
The Ryzen 7 6800U, is a powerful CPU capable of running almost any game thrown at it, which makes the Ayaneo Air Plus as powerful as any other gaming console. However, with the competition catching up fast and brands like Asus entering the fray with a cheaper device sporting an OLED panel, it might put Air Plus in troubled waters.
If you’re looking for a compact gaming device with much power and is highly portable, then the Ayaneo Air Plus should be on your list.
The Verdict: 4/5
Carrying the Ayaneo Air Plus is like taking a super-portable gaming laptop around with you. Thanks to Windows 11, you can also use it for many other applications, but the experience can be less than perfect. While Ayaspace is a powerful piece of software, it still needs tweaking to smooth over those rougher edges.