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The world of handheld gaming PCs is getting yet another contender, and this one, by the looks of it, may well stand the best chance at going mainstream. The ASUS ROG Ally is, at its core, a wholly fascinating device — one that, if priced appropriately, will probably sell like hotcakes.
So, what is it exactly? Well, in short, we’re talking about one of the most powerful (and surprisingly well-rounded) handheld gaming PCs on the market — a device that can, in certain scenarios, double the performance of Valve’s Steam Deck..
But the really interesting thing about it isn’t its more advanced chipset nor its more impressive cooling solution, but rather the ancillary stuff — the bells and whistles that serve as the icing on the proverbial cake.
We’ll touch on those additions further down below, but the gist of it is this: ASUS has a tremendous opportunity at usurping the market, especially if it can price the ROG Ally competitively.
That, however, isn’t as easy as it might seem. ASUS, unlike Valve, can only generate profit through hardware. That’s a very concrete problem, and is also one of the main reasons why companies like AYANEO, GPD and ONEXPlayer charge two times as much for a device that’s very much comparable to Valve’s Steam Deck — one which can easily be bought for a measly $400.
Be that as it may, even if the ROG Ally ends up being sold for, say, $649, it’d still offer a tremendous boost in performance as opposed to the most popular handheld gaming PCs on the market — Steam Deck included.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dive straight into it.
ASUS ROG Ally — The Most Powerful Handheld PC On the Market
The ROG Ally, despite being ASUS’ first true foray into this particular segment of the market, has all the hallmarks of a “winner.”
And so, with that in mind, let’s go over the spec sheet:
- A jaw-dropping display — 7”. 16:9. 1080p. 120Hz. 500 nits of maximum brightness. It’s not an OLED panel, but it sure will offer a tremendous gaming experience.
- The “OP” cooling solution — According to Dave2D’s measurements, the ROG Ally, when pushed to its limit, emits a measly 20 dB. The Steam Deck, on the other hand, goes up to 37 dB. Now, 37 dB is by no means a jet engine, but you can hear it. How did ASUS achieve such low fan noise? It’s simple: the ROG Ally has two separate fans to dissipate heat which, for an APU that’ll only be able to draw, say, up to 35W (at best) is truly overkill. We’re glad they went this route, though, as it’ll result in a kind of gaming experience no other handheld gaming PC can match.
- The best APU on the market — We’re talking about a custom APU built in collaboration with AMD. Zen 4 CPU cores and RDNA 3 integrated graphics. In other words: it’ll deliver a level of performance (in a handheld, no less) we could only dream of a couple of years ago. And, needless to say, it’ll be a whole lot better and more powerful than the SoC currently found in Valve’s Steam Deck.
- The performance — ASUS claims that, at 15W, the ROG Ally is up to 50% faster than Valve’s Steam Deck, whereas at 35W, it can essentially double its performance. Those are some mighty impressive numbers, especially for a handheld its size.
- The I/O — The ROG Ally comes equipped with a headphone jack, microSD card clost, ASUS’ proprietary XG Mobile connector (which contains the only USB-C port on the device), and even a fingerprint sensor on the top right-hand side. Logging into Windows will be just a press away. It’s not a mind-blowing selection of ports by any stretch of the imagination, but it is sufficient.
Perhaps the best part about this whole thing is that you’ll be able to buy an ROG Ally no matter where you are in the world. ASUS is one of the biggest and most prominent OEMs in existence, which means availability won’t be an issue.
Based on all available data, it’s hard not to board the hype train. The 120Hz panel alone makes it worth the price of admission — to say nothing of its “next-gen” APU and almost non-existent fan noise.
All of this screams potential and we, for one, can’t wait to get a unit in for review!
ASUS ROG Ally — Is It Better Than the Steam Deck?
That’s up for debate. It does have many sought-after features, but it’s not necessarily a “better” device.
Moreover, the fact that it’s more powerful than the Steam Deck won’t necessarily result in a better overall experience. It’s still sporting an APU so both the CPU and GPU will have to fight for power — all within a very constrained power envelope.
Moreover, it’s safe to assume that the Ally will sport AMD’s latest and greatest 780M iGPU. These integrated graphics are better than those found in the Steam Deck, but their full potential can only be harnessed when the SoC can draw more than 15W of power. Otherwise, the gains are marginal at best.
We’ve yet to see the 780M in action, but a couple of leaked benchmarks have surfaced the web, so it’s definitely a “point of concern.” And, well, that’s probably why Valve isn’t in all that big of a hurry to create a “next-gen” Steam Deck.
Finally, there’s battery life. You can’t have a 120Hz panel, a more powerful APU and expect to get as many hours as you would on a Steam Deck. That’s a very significant trade-off. Now, granted, users will be able to fine-tune the whole experience so as to attain the best possible results, but the point stands nonetheless.
The Phawx explained it best:
ASUS ROG Ally — Is It Worth It?
Absolutely, especially if it ends up selling for, say, $649. It’s not going to provide as smooth of a user experience as Valve’s Steam Deck, but having Windows 11 will grant you a fair bit more freedom in regards to what you can install.
Moreover, this is ASUS we’re talking about. A reputable company and one of the most prominent OEMs on the market. If something happens to go awry or malfunction, you’ll actually be able to get it repaired. If you source a handheld gaming PC from, say, GPD or AYANEO, you might not be so “fortunate.”
So, if the price is right, the ROG Ally could very well become one of the best and most alluring options on the market — and it could effectively decimate everyone else’s sales.
We’re in love with what we’ve seen so far. The ROG Ally from ASUS has a whole lot going for it, and if ASUS can price it aggressively, it’ll no doubt make one heck of a splash. There’s very little, if anything, to critique and point out as a negative which, frankly, is quite rare in today’s day and age.
It seems like a superb, well-rounded device. We just hope it doesn’t end up costing an arm and a leg.