ASUS ROG Ally ReviewAugust 30, 2023
The Steam Deck’s release set a precedent on what gaming-on-the-go should be. All thanks to Valve’s efforts on that front, powerhouse handheld gaming devices are now all the rage today. Its promise of high-performance and visual fidelity brought new experiences today that were only imaginable years before. The ROG Ally seeks to set a new standard with AMD’s brand-new Ryzen Z1 series processors, ASUS’s technical prowess in design and functionality, and features that will make it stand out among the crowd. Let’s see how it fares.
The ROG Ally comes in quite a compact yet hefty packaging. You can feel the weight of the handheld right from the get-go. The ROG Ally’s outline is pictured at the top, which seems to denote its actual size. There’s no fancy or overbearing details printed on the box. Just a sticker at the bottom to indicate key specs so you know what you’re getting. Other than that, the ROG Ally branding is also there. That’s actually just about it when it comes to presentation – subtle and classy.
Once you open it up, there’s the ROG Ally itself, and underneath it are the essentials such as the 65W power adapter and manual to get you started on your handheld gaming. No fancy extras here like stickers, keychains and whatnot on our test unit, but there’s a handy stand that you can use to prop the ROG Ally, you can also 3D print one yourself and choose the color and material you want for it if you have a 3D printer available. (ASUS has the file ready on the ROG Ally page). Don’t forget to take a look under the box. It’s there.
You can easily feel the heft of the ROG Ally upon holding it. The thing weighs over half a kilo. 608g to be precise. Not to mention, it’s also quite bulky at 28.0 x 11.1 x 2.12 ~ 3.24 cm. It’s a 7-inch handheld extended by a chunky controller. What did you expect?
At the front, there’s the screen of course, sandwiched between the button faces and speakers. The analog sticks here feature RGB around its base (not the analog sticks themselves to be clear), and none for the controller face buttons. Interestingly, there are dedicated buttons for Armoury Crate and Command Center – both of which will be discussed later on.
At the top are the shoulder buttons, power button, volume rocker, the ROG XG interface, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C® / DisplayPort 1.4 / Power (DC) input combo port, UHS-II MicroSD card slot, and 3.5mm Combo audio jack. No USB Type-A ports here, so you better have a USB Type-C flash drive of your own if you want to have a quicker way of doing things, or an adapter at the least. Below that line is the exhaust for ventilation. The shoulder buttons are somewhat plasticky and doesn’t give a thocky feedback.
At the back, there are two macro buttons that you can program through the Armoury Crate software. They’re quite easy to reach and are handy for whatever shortcut you need.
The ROG Ally comes equipped with a 7-inch 1080p display with 120Hz refresh rate and AMD FreeSync Premium support and 100% coverage of the sRGB color space. It’s touch-screen, of course, to make navigation and user experience more tolerable on a 7-inch Windows desktop environment.
Brightness can also go at 500 nits at the maximum, as per Asus, so if you’re on the move during daylight and when the sun is at its angriest, you’re good to go. There’s also Corning Gorilla Glass Victus here as an added layer of protection from the daily wear and tear.
There are two front-facing speakers on the ROG Ally. Dolby Atmos is here, and they’re quite loud and crisp to boot. There’s also a built-in microphone here, as well as Two-Way AI Noise Cancelation that processes both incoming and outgoing audio for clearer voice chats.
If there’s one thing that can set a Windows handheld gaming device apart from the competition, it’s the user experience. And that’s going to be mostly dictated on the software side of things. Windows on a 7-inch display does not translate well when it comes to usability, after all.
The ROG Ally is a handheld gaming device, and that’s where its primary focus on user experience should be. So this is where the Armoury Crate comes in. Basically, this gives you all access to your games easily. And how you’ll want to change settings and whatnot without having to go through hoops.
It would have been better to have this launched at startup and navigate from there because of how much of a pain Windows 11 can be on small screens with touch-screen as your primary method of control.
The ROG Ally comes in two variants, one with the Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor and the other with the base Ryzen Z1 processor. What we have here is the former. Basically everything from features to storage are the same, the only difference here being the processor. So nothing will be held back in that regard should you go with the base version.
To be more specific, we’re working with the ROG Ally that features the AMD Ryzen™ Z1 Extreme Processor with Zen4” architecture with 4nm process, 8-core / 16-threads, 24 MB total cache, up to 5.10 GHz boost and AMD Radeon™ Graphics (AMD RDNA™ 3, 12 CUs, up to 2.7 GHz, up to 8.6 Teraflops). Our tests are conducted on four of its profiles, namely Silent (10W), Performance (15W), and Turbo (25W on battery and 30W plugged in). Game resolutions are tested both on 720P and 1080P, done on all power profiles available out of the box.
Synthetic and Gaming Benchmarks
To standardize our battery test, we’ll be using PCMark 10’s Gaming Battery test just to simplify things and have something uniform across the board during testing. This test is conducted in three profiles – Silent (10W), Performance (15W), and Turbo (25W).
Of course, results will vary for each user as it will depend on the type of games they play,how taxing they are, and what your setup is, volume and brightness wise among other things. You can likely settle with 10W if you’re playing simple titles or with emulators, but you’ll want to step it up to 15W once it gets demanding.
Handheld PC gaming is here to stay. While, yes, it has been a thing for several years now, the Steam Deck contributed greatly to its popularity of late. ASUS’ entry in the fold certainly shakes up things, with the competition getting fiercer. Gaming-on-the-go is much more brighter today, and it’s exciting to imagine playing high-performance multiplayer titles with friends like how it was back in the Monster Hunter PSP days of yore.
Now, for people who already have a gaming rig, the ROG Ally may come off as a stopgap to scratch the gaming itch while you’re on the move. But quite frankly, the ROG Ally shines if you find yourself as a frequent traveler, and gaming is a huge hobby for you. Sure, there’s plenty of compromise made, being handheld and all that, but the potential to unlock is there. With the ROG Ally, you’re presented with the opportunity to explore all that. If you’re big on emulators, the ROG Ally will definitely be something you’ll want to check out. And of course, for PC gaming, while the ROG Ally may not be for E-sports glory as it is (you’ll probably want a mouse, keyboard, and a larger monitor for it to work as one), it does thrive on big AAA titles, and you’ll want to put it to the test whenever you can. Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077 are really jawdropping when the idea of playing them on the move is in play. Want to go all out? There’s the ROG XG Mobile GPU dock that can help you maximize the experience, but again, if money is no object, that’s something worth considering.
So, what’s the best way to look at the ROG Ally? Eyers of a portable handheld with beefy hardware and room to expand will easily find it a great option. It does leverage Windows 11 for its OS, with the added functionality of ASUS’ software on-board, so you’re still in familiar territory here. Ultimately, this is going to depend more on your use case. You may find it lacking if you already have a gaming rig at the ready, and it will be more of an extension for when you feel like playing with it. But odds are, for people who are always on the move and want to invest their time to get into the beautiful world of gaming, the ROG Ally is definitely a great option.
You can learn more about the ASUS ROG Ally by going to this page: https://ph.rog.gg/ARJ9r7