The Asus ROG Ally is a handheld gaming PC that’s been generating a lot of buzz since it was announced at the start of the month. Powered by AMD’s new Z1 series processors, it’s expected to deliver up to twice the performance Valve’s Steam Deck, while supporting most Windows games (since it will ship with Windows rather than a Linux-based operating system like SteamOS).
But it remains to be seen whether the ROG Ally will deliver the same bang for the buck as the Steam Deck, because Asus hasn’t revealed how much it’ll cost yet. We won’t have to wait long for answers though: AMD says Asus will officially launch the ROG Ally on May 11th, when we’ll learn more about the pricing, configuration options, and availability. But we don’t have to wait to find out what’s under the hood, because Asus has already revealed most of the handheld’s key specs.
|ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme)||ROG Ally (Z1)|
1920 x 1080 pixels
30 – 120 Hz
|Processor||AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme||AMD Ryzen Z1|
|CPU||8 x Zen 4 CPU cores / 16 threads||6 x Zen 4 CPU cores / 12 threads|
|Graphics||12 x RDNA 3 Compute Units||4 x RDNA 3 compute units|
|TDP||15 – 30W|
|Cooling||Dual fans (quiet)|
|RAM||Up to 16GB|
|Storage||Up to 512GB|
PCIe Gen 4 SSD
|Audio||Stereo front-facing speakers|
Dolby Atmos sound
|Ports||Asus XG Mobile adapter (with USB-C port)|
microSD card reader
Hall Effect triggers
Two rear buttons
The little computer has a 7 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS LCD touchscreen display with support for up to a 120 Hz screen refresh rate and up to 500 nits brightness. Folks who’ve seen it say it’s one of the best-looking, brightest, most fluid displays available on any handheld gaming PC to date.
Asus says the system supports up to 16GB of LPDDR5 dual channel memory and up to 512GB of PCIe Gen 4 solid state storage, although it’s unclear how much of each will be available on entry-level models.
And the company will offer two different processor options: the base model will have an AMD Ryzen Z1 chip with 6 Zen 3 CPU cores and 4 RDNA 3 GPU compute units, while higher-priced models will have a Z1 Extreme chip with 8 CPU cores and 12 GPU units for significantly better graphics performance.
Again, it’s unclear how much each model will cost: Asus has said that the starting price for the ROG Ally will be competitive with a top-of-the-line Steam Deck (which sells for $649), but now that we know that there will be multiple configuration options, that suggests that the ROG Ally could start at around $650 to $700 and go much higher if you want a model with the best possible performance.
That means that while it’s hard to resist comparing the system to the Steam Deck, it might make more sense to compare it with handhelds from other companies like AYA, GPD, and One Netbook. Those machines regularly hit prices exceeding $1,000 while delivering better-than-Steam Deck specs… but less customer service and support.
That’s an area where Asus really has a chance to stand out from the crowd. Valve can afford to sell the Steam Deck at or below the cost of manufacturing because the company makes money when people buy games from the Steam Store. Asus doesn’t have a game store and needs to make its hardware profitable. But the company has a much longer history of making and supporting gaming hardware for worldwide customers than the small, mostly Chinese companies that are currently operating in this space.
Of course, Asus also needs to make hardware that’s reasonably competitive on pricing… and which offers performance and functionality that makes the device fun to use. And that’s where a few of the other things we’ve learned about the ROG Ally come into play.
For example, it has stereo front-facing speakers that are said to sound pretty good for such a small device, dual fans that are said to be so quiet you barely notice them, and game controllers that are fairly comfortable to use, if not necessarily featuring the latest, best technology (the analog triggers have hall sensor, but the joysticks use potentiometers which are known to be more susceptible to drifting over time).
One of the other things that sets the ROG Ally apart is its XG Mobile docking port. Part of that port is a USB-C connector that you can use for charging, data, or video output. But you can also use the XG Mobile port to connect a ROG XG Mobile graphics dock to use the handheld with up to an NVIDIA RTX 4090 discrete graphics cards.
In other words, use this little computer in handheld mode and you can play many games just about anywhere. Plug in the graphics dock and it effectively turns into a desktop gaming rig that should be able to handle most games or other tasks that you can throw at it.
The dock also gives you more ports, including HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, and USB connectors.
Aside from pricing, one thing that we still don’t know is just what kind of battery life this thing will get. Asus says that when the Ryzen Z1 chips are operating at 15 watts, it should get roughly the same battery life as a Steam Deck (which hits around 2 hours of gameplay at 15 watts). But since the Z1 series chips can use up to 30 watts in turbo mode, that means you might get as little as 1 hour of gaming time when pushing the handheld to its limits.
I suppose you could always keep a USB power bank handy for extended gaming sessions. And if you’re worried about battery degradation over time, the battery is said to be user-replaceable, although it’s a non-standard battery, which means you’ll need to buy replacements from Asus (unless third-party models start to appear in the future).
Another thing to keep in mind is that one of the ROG Ally’s advantages could also represent a pain point for some users: it runs Windows. That means that in addition to Steam games, you can use it for games from Epic, EA Origin, GOG, or other sources. But it also means that the user interface was largely designed for keyboard and mouse input or, to a lesser extend, touch input.
The ROG Ally does have a touchscreen, but it lacks a built-in mouse or keyboard. So Asus allows you to use the game controllers as a virtual mouse. This should work automatically when you’re not playing games, but you can also use the Asus Armory Crate SE app to toggle between joystick modes.
Armory Crate SE is also where you’ll adjust most other settings to tweak performance, change the color of the RGB lights beneath the joysticks, and make other changes. It’s similar to the Armory Crate software Asus ships with other gaming PCs, but the new SE version also includes a game launcher that’s designed to make it a bit easier to navigate your library of games across multiple stores when using this handheld device.
It’s not quite as console-like an experience as using SteamOS on the Steam Deck. The basic Windows 11 user interface still includes a desktop, taskbar, and Start menu. But once you fire up Armory Crate it should give you a bit more of a console-like experience when you want it. And when you close it you can think of the ROG Ally as not only a handheld gaming device, but a full-fledged handheld PC.
Update: Asus shared some pictures of early handheld gaming PC prototypes with PC Gamer, and Engadget Chinese got a look at them in person at an event in China.
The company says it’s been working on ideas for about five years before settling on a design that seemed suitable for handheld gaming (and before mobile processors capable of delivering decent performance and acceptable battery life in this form factor were a thing).
While the company says it would eventually have released the ROG Ally even if Valve’s Steam Deck hadn’t shaken up the market in the past year or two, the success of the Steam Deck did help encourage Asus to accelerated its timeline.
If they plan on making the entry model “competitive with a top-of-the-line Steam Deck”, then why are the RAM and Storage listed as “up to” 16gb RAM and 512gb storage?
Even the base model Steam Deck has 16gb RAM, and the top of the line Steam Deck has 512gb. How could it be competitive with the top of the line Steam Deck if the entry level model has less than that?
I hope that turns out to be wrong. I will totally pay $650 for the base model if it has 16gb RAM and 512gb Storage.
If the battery truly is replaceable, and with a dock I could hook up a monitor, keyboard and mouse, I might try this.
The 8 core Ryzen might just be about as powerful as my 6 core Ryzen in my older gaming laptop.
To think that something this small has the power of a desktop computer is freaking amazing.
Computers have really come a long way, and fast.
I forgot to say, but, I wonder if you could put linux on this?
One would hope so since it’s going to feel a little slow after a year running Windon’t…
I expect one of the first things we’ll see is someone porting HoloISO and ChimeraOS to it.
The CPU is x86 arch after all so installing any Linux on it will straightforward. The issue though is if AMD or Asus will provide working OpenGL/Vulkan drivers for Linux to use for the more high end games to make it worthwhile to install.
If you are aiming for a Linux desktop, wouldn’t it make sense to just buy the Steam Deck. Linux runs right out of the box and can start gaming with no fuss, instead of wasting time trying to get it up and running correctly on another device that likely will never receive the Linux support from the company.