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The ASUS ROG Ally has a metric ton of hype behind it and, well, naturally so — it’s arguably better than Valve’s Steam Deck in every possible way. It’s smaller, lighter, has a better screen, a more powerful APU, is running Windows 11, and will soon be available across the globe for, supposedly, $699.
We’re talking about the 512GB SKU here, which will — if the rumors are to be believed — sell for just $50 more than Valve’s 512GB Steam Deck. That’s simply incredible, and if it really does end up being priced so aggressively, ASUS will no doubt have an absolute winner on its hands.
Is it actually better than the Steam Deck, though? Valve’s handheld gaming PC can be bought for a “measly” $400 [64GB SKU], it’s been out for over a year now, has gotten better and better with each new update, and is beloved by millions of gamers across the globe.
It’s been tweaked and tuned and tinkered with by some truly capable developers, all of which were quick to publish their tools and software for us to use and harness. The Steam Deck is much stronger and more versatile than it might seem at first glance, and that’s in no small part because of the thriving and enthusiastic community which surrounds it.
Both options have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, which makes picking one over the other quite a complicated endeavor. That, in essence, is the whole point of this article — think of it as a primer of sorts and an in-depth comparison between the two handheld PCs, their flaws and virtues but also unique use-cases.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin!
Steam Deck vs. ASUS ROG Ally — Which Is Better?
Many words were said and written about Valve’s Steam Deck and its surprising amount of power (and versatility). The ROG Ally, however, is scheduled to come out in two distinct flavors and will essentially provide potential buyers with a lot more for the asking price.
Here’s how all three handheld PCs stack up specs-wise:
|Steam Deck||ASUS ROG Ally
w/ AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
|ASUS ROG Ally
w/ AMD Ryzen Z1
|APU||4c/8t Zen 2 AMD CPU; RDNA 2 iGPU w/ 8 CUs
(up to 1.6 TFLOPS)
|8c/16t Zen 4 CPU
AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme;
RDNA 3 iGPU w/ 12 CUs
(780M, up to 8.6 TFLOPS)
|6c/12t Zen 4 CPU
AMD Ryzen Z1;
RDNA 3 iGPU with 4 CUs
(740M, up to 2.8 TFLOPS)
|RAM||16 GB LPDDR5||16GB LPDDR5||16GB LPDDR5|
w/ microSD [
|512GB w/ microSD [UHS-II]||256GB w/ microSD
|Screen||7″, 1280×800, IPS LCD, 60Hz, Touch||7″, 1920×1080, IPS LCD, 120Hz refresh rate; AMD FreeSync support; 500 nits with Gorilla Glass anti-reflective coating, Touch||7″, 1920×1080, IPS LCD, 120Hz refresh rate; AMD FreeSync support; 500 nits with Gorilla Glass anti-reflective coating, Touch|
|I/O||USB-C, headphone jack||USB-C (w/ ASUS XG eGPU support)||USB-C (w/ ASUS XG eGPU support)|
|Size||298 × 117 × 49 mm
(11.7 × 4.6 × 1.9 in)
|280 x 113 x 39 mm
(11.0 x 4.4 x 0.5 in)
|280 x 113 x 39 mm
(11.0 x 4.4 x 0.5 in)
|Battery Capacity||40 Wh||±40-45 Wh||±40-45 Wh|
|SteamOS 3.0 (Arch-based);
KDE Plasma Desktop Environment
|Windows 11||Windows 11|
|Price||$400 [64GB]/$529 [256GB] /649 [512GB]||$699 (presumably)||$599 (presumably)|
The ASUS ROG Ally is superior across the board. It’s smaller, lighter, has a more powerful APU, a (noticeably) better screen, and is much more well-rounded overall. Whether it’ll be as big of a home run as ASUS is hoping still remains to be seen, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what this venerable company has been able to devise.
From a sheer specs perspective, there’s really no reason to invest in a Steam Deck once the ROG Ally happens to hit the market. Is that a somewhat theatrical — and arguably incorrect — statement? Without a doubt, but it’s nonetheless a fairly rational take.
For anyone who doesn’t want to tinker with their devices, for those whose game libraries aren’t entirely tied to Steam, for those who want a full-fledged Windows experience — with all of its flaws and virtues — the ROG Ally is a vastly superior option.
Its biggest selling point, one could argue, is its semi-custom SoC — an APU that is specifically tuned for handheld gaming PCs.
ASUS ROG Ally — A Custom APU Shows Promise
AMD claims that both the Z1 and the Z1 Extreme have been heavily tuned and will use “customized power and voltage curves.” Whether that’ll result in a tangible performance uplift over regular U-series APUs still remains to be seen, but it’s good to hear that AMD’s “all in” on this fledgling part of the market.
Having such tremendous power in the palms of one’s hands sounds surreal. A whopping 8.6 teraflops of computational performance? The times we live in!
Now, we know for a fact that TFLOPS don’t really paint the whole picture. Still, if there’s one thing that the top-of-the-line ROG Ally won’t lack, it’s power. This seems like the best possible APU for a device of its kind — one that is both highly efficient and superbly capable.
And, needless to say, it’s noticeably more powerful than the APU found in Valve’s Steam Deck. The following image from AMD tells the whole tale:
Do note that AMD’s RSR had to be employed so as to attain these numbers. Moreover, the APU most likely drew 30W to reach these frame rates. That’s… not really ideal for a handheld gaming device as it’ll heavily affect your battery life.
And that, precisely, is our main — and arguably only — concern.
ROG Ally vs. Steam Deck — It’s Not Just About Performance
Valve’s Steam Deck didn’t succeed as much as it did just because it was priced so aggressively. It didn’t succeed because of its Linux-based operating system, either, or its stacked control/input options, its “malleable” APU, or whatever else. It succeeded because it blended everything together in a way no other device of its kind did in the past.
It’s better and stronger and more versatile than the sum of its parts. It’s a stupendously capable device in the right hands and, if you tinker with it long enough, you’ll be able to get incredibly impressive results without incurring too big of a penalty in regards to battery life.
These handheld gaming PCs, despite being fairly efficient, aren’t really designed to handle AAA games for longer than, say, an hour or two (depending on the settings, resolution, and desired frame rate).
With the SoC containing both the CPU and the GPU, these two components are constantly fighting for power. You can’t push both of them at full throttle and expect stellar results — a more nuanced approach is always the best route.
You can either get jaw-dropping performance for an hour/hour-and-a-half or, alternatively, four or five hours of play time but only in less demanding titles and/or with lowered settings.
The Ally’s power, therefore, could also end up being its biggest weaknesses — the Achilles’ heel, if you will.
The Phawx explained it best:
ASUS ROG Ally vs. Steam Deck — Biggest Benefits
Still, despite our few concerns, the ROG Ally seems like an absolutely spectacular handheld gaming PC — one that improves and iterates on the “Steam Deck formula” in a myriad of different (and highly important) ways.
Here’s a list of its most alluring features:
- A superior display — 500 nits. 1080p (as opposed to 800p). And, perhaps most surprisingly, a 120Hz refresh rate. The Ally’s display is awe-inspiring, and will deliver a much better gaming experience (in both AAA and indies alike) than Valve’s Steam Deck. Heck, the inclusion of a high refresh rate display alone makes it a better option, despite the fact that you won’t be able to reach those kinds of frame rates in most titles.
- A more powerful chipset — The ROG Ally, much like the Steam Deck, targets a 40-to-60 FPS gaming experience at 720p-1080p, depending on the title and a myriad of other factors and settings. It’s not a next-gen console. It’s not a spec’d-out gaming PC nor can it actually replace one. Still, it will be able to reach higher frame rates than Valve’s Steam Deck, and it will provide its customers with a much smoother gaming experience — one which won’t require as much tinkering and tweaking and tuning.
- Smaller and, therefore, more portable — The Steam Deck might look like an unwieldy piece of tech, but it’s actually incredibly well designed in regards to ergonomics. It’s still a bit too big, though, which means it’s the least portable “console” or handheld gaming PC around. The ROG Ally, on the other hand, seems to have struck a very nice balance. It’s smaller, lighter, and yet retains the same screen diagonal of the Steam Deck. You do lose out on those nifty trackpads (which most people don’t even use) and two additional buttons on the back, but that’s a worthwhile trade-off for added portability.
- Better cooling — Based on preliminary reports, the ASUS ROG Ally emits a measly 20 dB of fan noise whilst gaming which, when compared to the ±37 db of the Steam Deck, makes it seem like ASUS employed some sort of wizardry. Here’s the “secret,” though: it has not one but two axial fans, hence the barely audible fan noise. Quite stellar, all things considered. The Steam Deck isn’t obnoxiously loud, but lower fan noise is always appreciated.
- Global availability — It’s pretty easy to get one’s hands on Valve’s Steam Deck, but it’s not exactly available worldwide. Scalpers are also a problem in some regions, which only further complicates things. The ROG Ally, on the other hand, will be widely available, just like most of ASUS’ gaming and productivity laptops. Moreover, should something go awry, you’ll be able to get it RMA’d and fixed with ease, which isn’t really the case with companies like AOKZOE, ONEXPlayer, GPD, and so on. ASUS is as reputable a source and manufacturer as they come, so if you need peace of mind — and a warranty that actually means something — the ROG Ally should definitely be atop your list of priorities.
- eGPU support — ASUS’ proprietary XG mobile eGPUs are both incredibly compact and tremendously powerful. They’re devilishly expensive as well, but for some, they might just be worth the asking price. If you have the funds (and the willingness to make such a hefty investment), buying an external graphics card and pairing it with an ROG Ally will instantly imbue it with a stupendous amount of graphics performance. It’s not something the vast majority of users will ever need (or want to use), but it’s still nice to have the option. It’s an “upgrade path” of sorts, and having it available is very much appreciated.
- Windows 11 — The ROG Ally will run a full-fledged version of Windows, which means that you’ll be able to install whatever you so desire — any kind of software, browser, and, perhaps most importantly, game launcher. You won’t have to fiddle with any drivers, to use third-party forks and solutions, to create any bootable flash drives or what have you; it’ll be as seamless and frictionless as it is on a regular gaming rig. And that, in short, will be a tremendous boon to your gaming endeavors. For most people, this is the most optimal solution.
Conclusion: Steam Deck vs. ASUS ROG Ally
The ASUS ROG Ally has all the hallmarks of a “home run.” It’s better, more compact, more powerful, and even more beautiful (a subjective criterion, to be sure, but still a thing worth mentioning). The Steam Deck has won many different awards and accolades, but none of them for its beauty.
The most important things, as far as we are concerned, are its screen, more powerful SoC, and the fact that it’s running Windows 11 out of the box. You can just log in, download your digital storefront/launcher of choice, download your favorite games, and be up and running in a matter of minutes! No iffy drivers, no weird bugs or compatibility issues — it’ll all work as intended.
These things can definitely make a world of difference, especially to those who aren’t all that tech-savvy or just don’t want to spend hours on making sure everything works right. No Proton, no Linux, no third-party fixes, command prompts, et caetera.
The ROG Ally is essentially a Windows-based gaming laptop presented in a more portable form factor. You can connect it to your monitor, add a couple of peripherals (by connecting them either through Bluetooth or a hub/dongle) and have yourself a surprisingly powerful Windows PC — one which you’ll then be able to detach from all those cables and connections and start gaming on-the-go in a moment’s notice.
A truly stellar option, and also one that is priced just right: $699, if the rumors are to be believed. ASUS knew it had to lower the price as much as possible so as to have a fighting chance and, by the looks of it, they’ve put themselves in a position to succeed.
Who Should Buy an ROG Ally Instead of a Steam Deck?
You should opt for the ASUS ROG Ally over the Steam Deck if:
- You want a great “out of the box” experience, one that’ll require very little (if any) post-boot tinkering and tweaking
- You want the most portable handheld gaming PC that’s manufactured by a reputable company
- You want the absolute best APU on the market
- You want to play all your games regardless of the launcher; Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net — they’ll all work perfectly
- You want a handheld gaming PC that won’t sound like a jet engine taking off once you start pushing it
- You’re interested in upgrading it further down the line by attaching the optional XG Mobile from ASUS
- You’re looking to play the latest and greatest titles whilst on-the-go
- You have $699 to spare (or $599 if you’re okay with the lower spec’d model)
Who Should Buy a Steam Deck Instead of an ROG Ally?
You should opt for the Steam Deck over the ASUS ROG Ally if:
- You want the a handheld gaming PC that pairs stellar performance and amazing ergonomics, with a price that’s basically impossible to beat ($400 for the base 64GB SKU)
- You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for a device of this kind
- You want a stupendously versatile machine that also has a dedicated Linux-based desktop environment
- Your entire game library is on Steam
- You don’t have to play AAA titles whilst on the go (or are content with playing them with lowered settings)
- You primarily want to play legacy titles and emulate older consoles and systems
- You’re okay with tweaking numerous different settings so as to acquire the best possible gaming experience (and battery life)
All in all, it’s fair to say that both consoles have their inherent pros and cons. You can’t say that one’s better than the other as they cater to slightly different audiences and are, essentially, priced in noticeably different ways.
Valve’s Steam Deck, despite not being as powerful as the upcoming ROG Ally, is still an exceptional device and is more than worth the asking price. It is projected to sell over three million units by the end of 2023 which, in all fairness, would be quite a spectacular result — and added proof that handheld gaming PCs are finally a thing.
It also has an incredibly passionate community surrounding it, alongside a tremendous amount of third-party tweaks and tools and software, all of which can be downloaded for free and used to maximize and harness all that Valve’s Steam Deck has to offer.
It’s the most well-rounded option, although it does come with its own list of flaws and peculiarities. For those who want the highest frame rates (not to mention a 120Hz panel and Windows 11), the ROG Ally is hands down the better option. If your games are mostly tied to Steam, though, Valve’s Steam Deck is still a worthwhile choice. It’s cheaper and is sufficiently capable at running most things you’d want to throw its way.