Disclosure: Some links on this page are monetized by the Skimlinks, Amazon, Rakuten Advertising, and eBay, affiliate programs. All prices are subject to change, and this article only reflects the prices available at time of publication.
The Asus ROG Ally is the most powerful handheld gaming PC to date, with a 7 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD display featuring a 120 Hz rate, 16GB of LPDDR5-6400 memory and a 512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD plus support for up to an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme GPU with 12 RDNA 3 compute units.
First unveiled in April, the ROG Ally is up for pre-order today, starting with a $700 model featuring the most powerful hardware. It’s expected to be available starting June 13. A $600 model with a less-powerful processor will be available later this year for $600. But while the ROG Ally certainly offers the best performance of any handheld gaming PC in its price range, early reviews suggest that it still may not be able to compete with Valve’s Steam Deck when it comes to the overall experience of using it.
|ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme)||ROG Ally Z1||Steam Deck|
1920 x 1080 pixels
1280 x 1800 pixels
|Processor||AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme|
8 x Zen 4 CPU cores / 16 threads
9 – 30W TDP
|AMD Ryzen Z1|
6 x Zen 4 CPU cores / 12 threads
9 – 30W TDP
4 x Zen 2 CPU cores / 8 threads
4 – 15W TDP
|Graphics||12 x RDNA 3 compute units||4 x RDNA 3 compute units||8 x RDNA 2 compute units|
256GB PCIe NVMe
512GB high-speed PCI NVMe
Asus ROG Armory Crate (game launcher & settings)
|SteamOS (Arch Linux-based)|
Windows 11 supported
That’s because while the ROG Ally has a significantly faster processor with better graphics, it’s also a more power-hungry chip that results in lower battery life. The higher-resolution display with a higher screen refresh rate probably doesn’t help matter on that front.
Asus does claim that you can get up to 6.8 hours of battery life while streaming videos from Netflix or YouTube in “silent mode” with the processor set to run at 9 watts, even Asus only promises up to 2 hours of “heavy gaming” in the 15-watt “performance mode.” Expect even less if you max out performance by using the ROG Ally’s “Turbo mode,” which allows it to run at over 30 watts when plugged in (or if you’re willing to watch your battery drain to zero in about an hour).
Early reviews from sites like The Verge and Ars Technica confirm that the ROG Ally offers Steam Deck-beating frame rates on many games, which ain’t bad for a device that’s within striking distance of Steam Deck pricing. Up until now, you’ve had to pay $1000 or more for handhelds from companies like AYA, GPD, and One Netbook if you wanted something faster than a Steam Deck in a compact package.
Reviewers also confirm that the ROG Ally runs more quietly than the Steam Deck, which is notorious for its noisy fans. But they also confirm that battery life for the Asus handheld is underwhelming.
Those reviews also point out another area where the ROG Ally (and many other handhelds) struggle: ease of use. While the Steam Deck ships with a Linux-based operating system called SteamOS, the ROG Ally ships with Windows. And that’s both a strength and a weakness.
It’s a strength because you don’t have to check a compatibility list to see if the Windows games you want to play will run well on a Linux-based handheld using Valve’s Proton software. But it’s also a weakness because instead of using an operating system designed from the ground up for navigating and playing games on a handheld device, you’re using a desktop operating system designed for keyboard and mouse input.
Asus tries to address this with a custom version of the Armory Crate software designed for its ROG gaming PCs.
The mobile version acts as a game launcher and settings manager, among other things, but reviewers who tested a pre-release version of the software found it pretty buggy. Hopefully it will get better over time, but unless Microsoft truly embraces this form factor and develops the kind of handheld mode that at least one employee started prototyping, it’s likely that any third-party customizations will always feel like they’re tacked onto an OS that wasn’t really made for this sort of thing.
Hard-core gamers might not care. If you’re the sort of person willing to tweak the heck out of your device to bend it to your will, then the ROG Ally should be at least as usable as the products we’ve seen from smaller companies in recent years. And it’s cheaper and more powerful than most existing models to boot (although we should see some competition when new handhelds with Ryzen 7 7840U chips begin to hit the streets later this year).
But the ROG Ally has a starting price that’s $200 higher than the Steam Deck and about twice as high as a Nintendo Switch. And both of those devices are designed for a much more frustration-free gaming experience, which could make the ROG Ally almost as much a niche device as something like the GPD Win 4 or AYA Neo Geek.
The ROG Ally does have one secret weapon that helps set it apart from most other existing handhelds: its ROG XG Mobile connector allows you to connect a high-speed external GPU with up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 graphics. But with prices as high as $2000, that’s going to be a feature I suspect very few folks will take advantage of.
Meanwhile several of GPD’s upcoming mini-laptops will have Oculink ports which will also enable high-speed external GPUs. Those include the GPD Win Max 2 (2023) and GPD Win Mini.
Here are some more ROG Ally reviews to read through while waiting for the device to begin shipping on June 13:
- The Asus ROG Ally beats the Steam Deck at all but the most important things – Ars Technica
- Asus ROG Ally Review: Handheld Gaming, Windows-Style – CNET
- Asus ROG Ally review: Incredible hardware marred by Windows – Dexerto
- Asus ROG Ally review: goodbye, Steam Deck – Digital Trends
- ROG Ally Review: The Steam Deck’s First True Competition – TheGamer
- Asus ROG Ally Review – IGN
- Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme Review – Gaming handheld with 120 Hz display and AMD Zen 4 – NotebookCheck
- ASUS ROG ALLY: The first in line for the Steam Deck’s throne – PCGamer
- Asus ROG Ally review: an imperfect Steam Deck rival – PCGamesN
- Asus ROG Ally Review – PC Mag
- Asus ROG Ally review: the Steam Deck’s first legit challenger – Polygon
- Review: ASUS ROG Ally – The Xbox Handheld We’ve Been Waiting For? – PureXbox
- The Asus ROG Ally Could Take On The Steam Deck If It Gets The Software Sorted – Reviewed
- Asus ROG Ally review – TechAdvisor
- Hands on: Asus ROG Ally review – TechRadar
- Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme Review: Lighter and Brighter – Tom’s Hardware
- Asus ROG Ally Review – Trusted Reviews
- Asus ROG Ally review: it’s time to stop pretending Windows is the answer – The Verge
- Review: Asus ROG Ally – Wired
Some of the specifications here are incorrect. Z1 and Z1 Extreme were later clarified by AMD to have a 9W-30W cTDP. Also, the non-Extreme Z1 model has a 512GB SSD as well. Check Best Buy and AMD’s websites for the full details.
You’re right about the TDP, but I’m not as certain about the storage. The Asus web site shows a slightly different model number for the ROG Ally with Z1 and says it has 256GB.
I see 512GB on both there. I would look back at that. Also check the Best Buy listing as a secondary source I refrained to post the links because of the spam filter, but here it is:
It has been up and in the search results since the Z1 Extreme model went up.
I see this under the right column on the ASUS specs page (https://rog.asus.com/gaming-handhelds/rog-ally/rog-ally-2023/spec/) for the Z1:
512GB PCIe® 4.0 NVMe™M.2 SSD (2230)
I am not sure how you are seeing 256GB. I even searched the page (CTRL+F) and did’t find the search term 256 anywhere.
Looks like they changed it to mess with me. I figured the Asus site was more likely to be correct than Best Buy, but the fact that Asus updated it’s listing suggests that was either not the case, or that they decided to make a hardware change at some point and forgot to communicate it to the folks who manage the website.
If that slide is right, I could see the Ally coupled with the GC32 as a potentially really good deal. $1,500 for a laptop with that graphics processor and the Ally’s CPU/RAM would actually be a good price and these portables are normally more expensive than comparable laptops.
That said, according to Asus’ own webpage, the GC32 has 4 USB A ports and no USB-C. It also only claims to have 10gbps for all the USB ports together. Now this might be because the promotional material was made for the Flow and not the Ally so it was probably working with USB 3.2 and not USB 4, but who knows if the current hardware can take advantage of the difference or if they’ll be upgrading it (such as to have 3 USB-A and one USB-C as stated in the slide or if that’s reserved for the 4090 version).