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  • Soon Kai Hong

Forget The Steam Deck. ROG Is Your Ally.

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

This is the best way to play your PC games on the go. Forget the Steam Deck. In many parts of the world, the Steam Deck wasn’t officially available anyways and to be frank, the hardware is a little old by today’s standards. So here’s the better Steam Deck. The ROG Ally boasts the latest AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme and it performs admirably. We’re talking up to 60 frames per second in Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080P or up to 120 frames per second in Devil May Cry V.

It’s no surprise at all that when Valve did the unthinkable, everyone went bonkers. The Steam Deck ushered in a new era of gaming, something which many of us never thought possible. Now it’s true that there’s been many handheld PC consoles even before the Steam Deck. But the Steam Deck brought in the much-needed support and software for such a device to really flourish.


I mean just look at it now. Just knowing whether a game is Deck Verified or not really changes the way you approach gaming. It’s that mark of trust and the fact that developers are actively working on optimizing for the Steam Deck, that really makes it awesome.


It’s the Steam Deck’s biggest advantage.


But if you’re expecting anything more than 720P gaming, you’ll be out of luck because the APU in the Steam Deck is a little old by now. So here comes the ROG Ally with the brand spanking new AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme.

Design

In a nutshell? This is an amazing gaming experience unlike anything before it. But before we get to that, let’s touch on design a little bit.


In all honesty, the overall design and ergonomics of the Ally is pretty similar to that of the Steam Deck. While we might not have a Steam Deck with us to directly compare, the Ally has been really comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The grips do feature a deep enough handle for most hands and the use of texture lines and a crosshatch pattern on the back provides enough grip even in the most intense of gaming sessions. In addition, it is also a tad lighter which helps a little as well.


We’re also quite digging the white colourway which complements really well with the PS5, might we add. Though it does get dirty pretty easily so here’s hoping that there will be other colourways available in the future.


The main difference between the Steam Deck and Ally however, comes down to the layout. Unlike the Steam Deck which features a symmetrical layout with a custom touchpad, the Ally uses a more traditional asymmetrical layout like you would find with an Xbox controller. On the back, you'll also find one less pair of rear multi-function triggers.


Honestly, it simply feels great and we have basically no qualms with regards to the layout and the comfort and feel of the button presses. The only thing we do find a little lacking would be the thumbsticks. They are just a little too light for our liking and we do find ourselves overcompensating most of the time. The RGB is a nice touch however. We definitely did find ourselves leaving it on should we be playing plugged in.

1080P 120Hz For The Win.

The next big difference would be the display. While the Steam Deck featured a 7” IPS display with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 running at 60Hz, the Ally features a 7” IPS display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 running at 120Hz. It also support FreeSync Premium, covers 100% sRGB and has a 7ms response time with a max brightness of 500 nits.


Needless to say, it’s a fantastic display and a huge upgrade all around. Now sure, the aspect ratio is a traditional 16:9 instead of 16:10 but we daresay this works better with most games out there. Interestingly enough however, there is enough of a bezel on the top and bottom, that if shaved off, would probably be able to fit a 16:10 display with no issues at all. Perhaps ROG is holding this out for the next iteration, who knows. But right now, it’s still fantastic and we do love it.


Speakers are positioned on the front and they do sound surprisingly great. They get pretty loud for one, but two, they do not distort at max volume either. There’s also a surprising amount of thump for the mids and low-ends.


As I/O, it’s all on the top and you’ll get the 3.5mm headphone/mic combo, a microSD card slot, the XG Mobile connector which is also where you’ll find the Type-C port that’s part of it, the volume rocker and the power button which also houses the fingerprint sensor.


Now here is also where you’ll find the dual exhaust vents for the dual fan cooling system which sucks in cold air from the back and blasts hot air out the top. Which by the way, works incredibly well. Which leads us to talk about the performance.

Performance... Wow.

And this is where the ROG Ally is seriously impressive.


For our model, we have the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme, 16GB of LPDDR5 6,400MHz RAM and 512GB PCIe Gen4 SSD.


Now because the Ally is the first such device we’re reviewing on this channel, we wanted to go a little more in-depth with it and curate our testing a little. So we’re taking a look at 3 games in particular, Cyberpunk 2077, Devil May Cry 5 and Genshin Impact and we’ll also be going through them in the 3 main power profile settings available on the Ally. To note, all our testing was done only on battery power to better reflect the real world performance and use case.


Now this is going to be a little lengthy with quite a few graphs so we do advise you to take note of the power profile in use, as well as the graphic settings. In particular for Cyberpunk, we do explore the different FSR performance as well. With all that said, let’s roll the graphs.


Watch our review on YouTube for all the details!

Temperature & Noise & Battery Life

So as you can tell, we were pretty impressed with the performance and the visual fidelity that you can get from the Ally. It’s definitely way better than what the Steam Deck offers. And if we were to talk about temperatures and acoustics, the Ally is in a class of its own.


On the Turbo profile, we’re looking at about 84C during gaming load. On the Performance profile, that drops to just about 65C and on the Silent profile, that drops to a mere 50C. And no matter which profile you’re using, the fans are really really silent.


But we then come to battery life. And this is where things aren’t that perfect. For games such as Cyberpunk 2077, using the Turbo profile really provides a substantially better gaming experience. But with the APU using up to 40W constantly, you’re looking at just about an hour of gameplay on a full charge.


Using the Performance profile drops the wattage down to about 22.5W in most scenarios and in our testing, that provided us about 1 hour and 45 minutes of gameplay on a full charge.


The Silent profile limits the APU to 13.5W and it certainly yields the best battery life, allowing you to play for almost 3 hours.


If you’re wondering about the optimal settings to play the 3 games we tested on the Ally, here’s our suggestion.


Compared to the Steam Deck which can technically last you anywhere from 2 hours to 5 hours or so depending on the load, it certainly isn’t the best. And this is where we reckon that the Ally’s biggest advantage is also its biggest flaw.

Windows 11 Is A Double-Edged Sword

Being able to run full blown Windows 11 is amazing and it allows you to basically play any game you would want to. But Windows in itself is a really heavy operating system. There’s just so many layers to it and so many background processes that are constantly running which sip on the battery bit by bit.


There was even one time when we were playing Cyberpunk 2077 and we just paused the game, hit the power button to put the Ally to sleep and chucked it in the bag. Only to find out that the fans had still been running the whole time it was in the bag, heating the entire system up and we had just about 20% battery left.


It’s just weird quirks that happen with Windows from time to time.


To that extent, the use of the physical controls to navigate the Windows desktop is practically impossible. At least Windows has decent touchscreen support, so save yourself the trouble and always use the touchscreen outside of Steam Big Picture.


But despite all that, do we still very much like the Ally? Absolutely. There’s just nothing else quite like it at the moment, especially for the price.


Now to be fair, we actually don’t know the actual pricing at the time of filming this, which is a couple of days before the embargo lifts, but Asus has definitely confirmed with us that it’ll retail for less than US$1,000.


The Steam Deck 256GB model retails for US$529 while the 512GB model retails for US$649. So here’s our educated guess. We reckon that the Ally with the Ryzen Z1 will retail for about US$599 while the Ryzen Z1 Extreme will retail for US$729.


Now again, that’s our educated guess. We’ll update the official pricing in the description and via a pinned comment below. Let’s see how far off the mark we are. But essentially, the prices we guessed are basically the maximum we feel that Asus can charge. Any higher and it is going to be a very very expensive purchase for what it is.

We Love It.

Overall however, if price isn’t a concern, we are still mightily impressed by what Asus and AMD have managed to produce. To just put things into perspective, this gaming handheld has basically more performance than a PlayStation 4 while consuming a fraction of the power. That is insane.


On that note, we’re also simply excited at the gaming landscape once again. Things are getting really interesting and this new kid on the block is certainly going to turn up the heat for the fierce competition that will inevitably occur.


Now, we’re even more excited for what the next Steam Deck will be capable of and to that end, perhaps even the successor to the Nintendo Switch.


If you’ve always wanted a Steam Deck but it’s not officially available in your country. Or perhaps you’re still waiting for the more powerful Steam Deck 2. Well, perhaps you might want to look at the ROG Ally instead.



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