ASUS ROG Ally Handheld Gaming PC Review: Steam Deck Alternative

ASUS ROG Ally Handheld Gaming PC Review

ROG Ally, the first gaming handheld by ROG Republic of Players, will officially launched on June 13th. Since its initial unveiling on April Fool’s Day this year, the device has garnered significant attention, with its real machine debut at the media experience meeting and the recent official price announcement. It boasts the most powerful PC gaming performance on the market, thanks to the inclusion of AMD’s latest Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor and AMD RDNA 3 architecture GPU.

The moonlight white body prominently features ROG Slash elements, exuding a trendy aesthetic. Additionally, it offers an excellent user experience, facilitated by its intuitive controls and the incorporation of a dual-fan configuration and zero-gravity design optimized duct structure. These features not only reduce fan noise but also enable seamless 360-degree gameplay.

The gaming handheld features a 7-inch FHD 120Hz touch screen, offering the highest refresh rate available along with impressive specifications such as 100% sRGB color gamut, a 1200:1 contrast ratio, and 500 nits of brightness.

Right PROSWrong CONS
Fantastic 1080p displayShort battery life
Slick design and sturdy build
Windows 11 compatible
Quiet dual fan
Fast charging

Specifications

ASUS ROG Ally
BrandASUS
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
GPUAMD Radeon Graphics 4GB VRAM
RAM2x 8GB LPDDR5
Storage512GB M.2 2230 PCIe Gen4 SSD
Screen Size7 inches
ResolutionFHD 1920 x 1080
Refresh rate7ms response time
PanelIPS
Refresh Rate120 Hz
NetworkingWi-Fi 6E
Dimensions280 x 111.1 x 21.2 mm
Weight608 g
OSWindows 11 Home

Design

ROG Ally features distinctive sharp edges and corners, setting it apart from the brick-shaped design of the Steam Deck. The body of the handheld showcases ROG’s iconic Slash twill elements and incorporates a one-shot design with a captivating magic color effect.

This design gives ROG Ally a unique and trendy appearance that is rarely found in other gaming handhelds from different brands. While there were some players suggesting a black model, based on the prototype showcased during the media experience, it must be said that the white version is still preferred.

ASUS ROG Ally Handheld Gaming PC

The design of the back of the handheld also incorporates classic ROG elements, such as the 45-degree beveled “one-cut” design and the air outlet in the shape of an eye of faith affectionate. It can display changing colors under different angles of light, and two M1/M2 macro keys are set at the position where the left and right middle fingers are placed, which can be used as standard buttons or custom shortcut auxiliary keys.

ASUS ROG Ally Handheld Gaming PC back

Ergonomics

The ergonomic of the ROG Ally is perfect in every aspect. It allows even women with small palms to securely hold the handheld device, while ensuring that the joystick buttons are easy to operate. However, when it comes to charging while playing, the cable can only be plugged into the top of the handheld.

Ergonomic of the ROG Ally

The gaming handheld has a dual fan and a single heat sink at the upper edge. It’s a 7-inch device with a luxurious configuration. By lifting the heat insulation paper in the center, users can access the M.2 2230 SSD hard disk, which is the only component that can be replaced and upgraded by users. The right side is where you’ll find the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor under the black cover. The lower edge has 16GB LPDDR5 6400 memory soldered on the motherboard, and there is a lithium battery in each of the lower corners. The middle section doesn’t have any I/O configuration.

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The ROG Intelligent Cooling system in this device is different from the single-fan cooling systems found in other game consoles. Its dual-fan setup improves cooling efficiency while operating at a slower speed to minimize noise. The fans have a thickness of only 0.1 mm with ultra-thin aluminum fins. The high-density 102 fins reduce wind resistance and provide smoother airflow.

Screen

The game console’s screen comes with a 7-inch IPS-level touch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio and FHD (1920 x 1080) resolution. It stands out with the highest refresh rate on the market, a remarkable 120Hz (compared to the 60Hz Steam Deck). Additionally, it offers a quick 7ms response time and features AMD FreeSync Premium anti-tear technology.

The panel has a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and provides a vibrant display with a 100% sRGB color gamut. To ensure accurate color reproduction, professional color calibration using the X-rite iDisplay Pro instrument was conducted. As a result, the screen achieved a coverage rate of 91.1% for sRGB, 63.4% for Adobe RGB, and 65% for DCI-P3 color gamut. The calibrated display delivers vivid and sharp visuals for an enhanced viewing experience.

To enhance the outdoor gaming experience, ROG has applied Corning’s Gorilla Glass DXC coating to the handheld screen. This coating significantly reduces the reflective refractive index to less than 0.6% compared to 4% without coating, allowing for 99% light transmittance. With a brightness of 500 nits, the screen ensures improved visibility in outdoor environments. Moreover, this coating increases the screen’s hardness by over 40%, providing greater scratch resistance.

While it is advisable to purchase a dedicated travel protective case, ROG Ally’s screen stands as the highest specification available in the market. However, it’s worth noting that as a 16:9 ratio screen, there is still a slight visibility of the outer black border (with silver ROG text on the lower edge). It is hoped that future designs will consider a borderless design with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

Controls

The ROG Ally game console has a button layout similar to the Xbox controller, designed for comfort and ease of use. The buttons and joystick are conveniently placed in the upper half where your thumbs naturally rest. This makes it the most comfortable handheld console among the top three.

On the left side, there is a joystick at the top and a disc-shaped arrow key below it. This allows for easy and intuitive control during gameplay.

The edges of the screen have additional buttons for viewing and controlling various functions. You can also access a work manager by long-pressing these buttons.

On the right side, you’ll find the ABXY keys at the top, and below them is an analog joystick. This joystick can even be used as a cursor when using the console in desktop mode.

ROG Ally game console button layout

The menu button and the Armory Crate button are located on the edge of the screen for easy access. Additionally, there are special buttons on the upper edge, along with an array microphone.

From left to right, there are 3.5mm headphone jack, UHS-II MicroSD card slot, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (also a charging port and supports DP 1.4) , ROG XG Mobile interface, volume up and down buttons, two-color battery indicator light, power indicator light and power button, as for the top two ends are the shoulder button LB/RB and the trigger button LT/RT (triangular texture is also used on the surface).

The power button incorporates a fingerprint recognition function, allowing for quick unlocking and fast access to the desktop.

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ROG Ally ports and button

The gaming console is equipped with dual Smart Amp front speakers positioned on the left and right sides of the screen. These speakers use advanced technology to reduce background noise and provide immersive sound with support for Dolby Atmos.

ROG Ally game console speaker

The ABXY keys of this gaming console have smooth keycaps, giving them a longer key travel sensation compared to the Xbox controller. This makes pressing the buttons feel more responsive and comfortable during gameplay.

ABXY keys ROG Ally game console

Armory Crate Software

Let’s talk about Armoury Crate after examining the device’s appearance. The software offering a game collection library and customizable features. The armory crate page includes the media library, update center, and support center.

By clicking on the System usage tab, you can check the specifications and notice that the actual storage space. This means you can probably only install around 4 to 5 high-quality games. However, if you insert a MicroSD card, you can move media files to the storage space interface.

ROG Ally game App

The content page also provides installation guides for popular game platforms like Xbox, Steam, EA app, Epic Games, Ubisoft Connect, and GOG Galaxy.

ROG Ally game Armory crate button

Even if you don’t find battle.net or Wargaming game centers on the list, you can still download and install them on the handheld. This aspect offers more flexibility compared to SteamOS. Now you can understand why ROG named the handheld “Ally.”

It comes from the middle of the promotional slogan “PlayALLYourgame,” which highlights the ability to play games on different platforms and in any format.

Performance

ROG Ally is equipped with AMD’s Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor specially designed for gaming handhelds, and it is Zen4 architecture. Through the CPU-Z software, we can see that the code name of this processor is Phoenix. It adopts an 8-core 16-thread architecture, and is equipped with 8MB L2 cache memory and 16MB L3 cache memory.

CPU-Z software

ROG Ally is equipped with an 8-core 16-thread processor that has 8MB L2 cache memory and 16MB L3 cache memory. It can reach a maximum CPU clock speed of 5.10GHz and has a power cTDP configuration ranging from 9W to 30W.

Rog Ally CPU-Z software

In CPU-Z tests, ROG Ally achieved a score of 632.4 points for single-thread performance and 6,014.2 points for multi-thread performance.

Rog Ally CPU-Z software Benchmark

In the multi-thread performance tests of CINEBENCH R20 and CINEBENCH R23, ROG Ally scored 5,207 points and 12,260 points respectively.

Rog Ally CPU-Z Cinebench

When it comes to overall performance in Modern Office tasks according to PCMark 10, ROG Ally scored 7,143 points. It performs well in most areas, except for digital content creation where it received a lower score.

This game console has a built-in 16GB LPDDR5 memory, which is configured as two 8GB on Board and cannot be expanded. In the memory and cache memory test of AIDA64, the performance test result of the main memory is 50330 / 93120 /67868 MB/s (read/write/copy), the latency is 117.2ns , and the performance of L3 cache memory is 1015.2 / 978.86 / 891.18 GB/s (read/write/copy), the latency 11.6ns.

Rog Ally AIDA 64

Its graphics performance is comparable to the PS5, which has 10.28 TFLOPs. It also shows a 55% performance improvement compared to the Steam Deck’s Aerith processor.

In the 3DMark graphics performance test, ROG Ally achieved a score of 21,104 points in the Night Raid project, which assesses DirectX12 performance on the built-in display. It scored 7,161 points in Fire Strike and 3,003 points in Time Spy.

Rog Ally Time Spy Score
Rog Ally Fire strike score
Rog Ally Night raid score

Its graphics performance surpasses that of the stem deck by 31.03% and 37.69% respectively. With a score of 3,003 points in Time Spy, it outperforms the current highest standard internal display, Radeon 680M, and is on par with the GTX 1650 Max-Q.

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Gaming Benchmarks

Rog Ally Gaming Benchmark

Sound Levels

The sound levels of the ROG Ally’s fan running in “Extreme Speed” mode while playing Cyberpunk 2077. Using a decibel measurement, I found that the front emitted a noise level of 46dB, while the back emitted 47.9dB. The fan noise is barely audible under normal game volume, and the dual fans provide powerful cooling.

I also used a FLIR thermal sensor camera to record Ally’s body temperature during the game. When shooting from the front, the average temperature was 38 degrees. The left and right thumbs had hotspots at 39.4 degrees and 43.8 degrees, respectively.

Rog Ally Heating software

A hotspot of 53.8 degrees appeared at the lower edge of the screen. When shooting from the back of Ally, the highest temperatures were located at the two cooling holes on the top of the machine, measuring 49.8 degrees and 51.4 degrees. The handle and trigger button temperatures remained normal at 34.3 degrees.

Rog Ally Flixr
Average temperatureMaximum temperaturePower
Play 0 minutes34.75296%
Play for 10 minutes35.354.579%
Play for 30 minutes35.254.446%
Play for 45 minutes34.452.720%
Play 53 minutes38.552.36%

Connectivity

The “ROG Gaming All-in-One Charger” has both charging and display functions. Its size is 68 x 33 x 49mm, with HDMI 2.0, USB 2.0 Type-A and USB Type-C on the top, HDMI 2.0 can support 4K 60Hz or 1080p 120Hz output, compatible with all TV or computer monitors. When connected to an AC power source, it can bring 65W of power supply through the included USB-C (supports PD 3.0 fast charging) cable, and the other USB-A port can be connected to an external keyboard or mouse.

ROG Ally can connect wireless controllers via Bluetooth, such as its own ROG Raikiri Pro or Xbox wireless controllers, etc.

Rog Ally Charger

Conclusion!

The appearance, screen, hardware performance, software customization, and versatility of ROG Ally are all deserving of high praise. Its good looks are captivating at first sight, showcasing the experience accumulated by ROG as a “e-sports trendy brand” through numerous cross-border collaborations. Not only is it highly recognizable, but it also takes ergonomics and anti-skid design into account.

The inclusion of a dual fan configuration and optimized heat dissipation design ensures lower noise levels, while the dual air outlets come equipped with dust-proof filters, ensuring the durability of internal components. The easy removal of the back cover and the replaceable M.2 2230 SSD are additional advantages.

In terms of game performance, ROG Ally impressively runs AAA game masterpieces at a frame rate exceeding 40fps under the “extreme speed mode, FHD resolution, low image quality, and AMD RSR” settings. Even online games perform at a frame rate of over 55fps. For lighter 2D games, the panel’s high update rate feature can be fully utilized.

Users can conveniently switch between four operating modes with different power consumption using the “Armory Crate Software” interface. The user experience is top-notch, with quick response times and clear instructions. The 7-inch screen not only offers a high refresh rate and faster response time, but also boasts impressive brightness, low refractive index, and scratch resistance, ensuring peace of mind when using the device on the go.

ROG Ally is designed to cater to three usage scenarios: Me Time, Pro Time, and We Time. Whether you are a high-end or casual player, and whether you prefer single-player or multiplayer games, this handheld device allows you to enjoy your gaming time to the fullest.

ROG Ally also takes advantage of opportunities to expand the e-sports ecosystem, such as incorporating the XG Mobile external graphics card, previously exclusive to the ROG Flow series of e-sports laptops. This unprecedented method of upgrading performance ensures that professional players’ demands for visual quality and performance are met.

Overall, ROG Ally excels in various aspects and proves to be an exceptional handheld gaming device.