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Technology

Ayaneo’s Kun gaming handheld is an exercise in decadence

Nature

Thirteen. That’s how many different portable gaming PCs Ayaneo features on its homepage as of this writing. Fourteen if you count the preview as one in the carousel. Each device comes in a choice of colors with different storage and RAM configurations. Ayaneo offers many SKUs. It was only five months ago that I reviewed the Air Plus and it has already been discounted to make room for the next version. The current pinnacle of all these handhelds is the Ayaneo Kun and it is currently one of its kind.

The Kun is the company’s most capable machine ever, and after using it for a few weeks, I can say that it’s both a fantastic gaming handheld and (if you want it) a PC decent general purpose laptop. But despite being the latest and greatest, it didn’t take long for one thing to become abundantly clear: the Kun is just a placeholder for the Kun 2, or the Kun 1S, Kun Pro or… whatever they call the beefier, updated version. this awaits the next generation of processors. We’ll see why in a moment, but for now, it’s the most impressive console the company has ever made.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

With an 8.4-inch screen, the latest AMD Ryzen 7 7840U processor, and up to 64GB of RAM and 4TB of storage, the Kun kicks the digital sand against the anemic Steam Deck in comparison. Physically, he’s a bit bigger and, at two pounds (900g), a (double) handful. But as it approaches its second anniversary, Valve’s laptop is starting to make less sense measuring the current wave of gaming laptops against it. That said, just take one look at the Kun, with its familiar-looking trackpads and rear buttons, and it’s clear how much it’s been influenced by the market-leading device.

Before we talk about the performance of all that hardware or the software experience, we should talk about price. The fully loaded Kun I tested costs $1,700. That’s enough money for a good desktop gaming PC, including the monitor. It is also enough to buy two High-end Steam Decks with change (or two high-end ROG Allys). A better comparison is the lower-spec Kun, as it matches the RAM and storage (16GB/512GB) of the high-end Deck ($649), and that the model costs a slightly more reasonable $999. You can add about $200 extra to these Kun prices if you buy outside of the IGG campaign, but Ayaneo tends to leave them out long enough that anyone who wants one gets the best price.

Although the Kun is new, we’ve seen a lot of it before. The Ayaneo 2S shares the same 7840U processor and graphics chip. But performance-wise, you can reasonably expect the Kun to be a bit worse, as that 8.4-inch screen allows for 1600p gaming, which is more intensive than the Ayaneo 2’s 1200p max or 2S. The reality, however, is that even if you can If you play games at higher resolutions, it’s usually not worth it due to the performance impact. This is where the Kun’s other important hardware difference comes in: the massive 75Wh battery.

The Ayaneo Kun plays a game while displaying the settings overlay.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

When playing games at 1080p or 1200p, everything still looks fantastic. This screen is bright, has excellent dynamic range, and really brings games to life. The combination of optimized graphics settings and a bigger battery results in significantly longer gaming sessions. The exact duration will depend on a few variables as well as the maximum power consumption/TDP you specify in the Ayaspace software. But as a guide, for lighter games and things like retro emulation, you should be able to get through five hours. For many AAA games, you can expect more than three hours of gameplay at 1080p (assuming a TDP between 15 and 20). If you want to increase the resolution to 1200 or 1600 and increase the TDP closer to 30, you might save two hours if you’re lucky.

These times are pretty good for this current generation of Windows handhelds, but there are other factors to consider. The Kun is a foot wide and a bit heavy. Sure, you can carry this thing, but you won’t slip it out of a pocket while waiting at the DMV. The Kun lives to be played, without irony, at home – or in someone else’s house, or perhaps on a plane or a long train ride. Size and weight aren’t an issue in these controlled indoor environments, but you’ll want to be somewhere relatively comfortable or ergonomic. There’s a kickstand, which really helps with certain types of gaming, but it positions the Kun vertically like a laptop screen. I wish the stand was adjustable to allow for a variety of angles, but it’s better than nothing.

Rear view of Ayaneo Kun gaming handheld

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Personally, I found myself playing with it on the couch, grabbing about an hour of play between work and dinner. For extended sessions, I would plug it in and play on the TV. This hybrid use case seems to be where the Kun excels. You don’t need to occupy the main living room screen, but you can still be with your friends or family. And then, when you really want to get into a game, playing through the TV is where the Kun’s higher 54W maximum power draw/TDP can come in handy.

This is a good time to return to something I alluded to at the top. This maximum TDP of 54W is really high compared to the Steam Deck’s highest power setting of 15W. This is also much higher than the Ayaneo 2S’s 30W limit. But right now, that doesn’t translate into much additional gaming performance. The GPU on this device will be the bottleneck, typically hitting 100% well before reaching anywhere near 54W. Unfortunately, increasing the power to 54W once the GPU is already running at max won’t change anything. . But it can help in two ways.

The Ayaneo Kun combined with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

First, it allows you to perform more CPU-intensive tasks like general computing. Want to run music creation software on this thing? You could definitely do it. Do you want to edit video sequences on the go? The Kun will eat this. Equipped with a keyboard and mouse, the Kun is, comically, a good all-purpose computer. Hell, it even has a webcam with infrared for Windows Hello (and Zoom calls), something many laptops don’t even have. The Kun’s screen is more Netbook than Macbook in terms of size, but it is large enough. Either way, you can always connect it to a monitor. Of course, don’t buy it for that reason, it’s just a testament to the size and power of this thing.

Second, and most importantly for gamers, that 54W TDP is a pretty clear indicator that the Kun form factor will undergo the same ongoing revisions as Ayaneo’s other models. The Kun is basically ready for a chipset that can use a 54W TDP for gaming once AMD and others start making APUs with more powerful GPUs. We’re a long way from any likely refresh from AMD, but you never know, because that’s not the only name in the game. Not even in the handheld gaming game.

The result is, as you might expect, a device with a lot to offer but also quite restrained appeal. In fact, there’s a good chance that if you’re interested in any of them, you’ve already placed an order for them. For these people, Kun keeps its promises. For that small group that didn’t know they were looking for a $1,000+ gaming handheld, the Kun currently has no real competition at this size and spec. For everyone else, it’s probably excessive exercise, but at least it’s fun.

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