The Asus ROG Ally might be the most widely anticipated handheld gaming PC since the Steam Deck. While there’s no shortage of other handhelds on the market these days, most come from small companies without major global retail or customer service and support networks.
Asus, meanwhile, has been a major player in the PC gaming space for years. And not only does the ROG Ally have more CPU and graphics processing power than the Steam Deck, but it’s pretty competitively priced. After going up for pre-order a little over a month ago, the ROG Ally is now available for $700 from Best Buy and Asus.com.
That’s the price for a model with an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor, which is a 9-30W chip with 8 Zen 4 CPU cores, 16 threads, and 12 RDNA 3 Compute Units. It’s basically a Ryzen 7 7840U without the dedicated AI hardware and with some custom tuning.
Asus also plans to offer a cheaper model in the future that has a less powerful Ryzen Z1 chip with 6 Zen 4 CPU cores and 4 RDNA 3 GPU compute units. But with an expected price tag of $600, it’s not clear to me why anybody would buy that model rather than spending $100 more on a model with significantly better graphics.
Both handhelds feature 7 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel displays with a 120 Hz refresh rate, 16GB of LPDDR5-6400 memory, 512GB of PCIe 4.0 NVMe solid state storage, and 40 Wh batteries.
Unlike the Steam Deck, which ships with the GNU/Linux-based SteamOS, the Asus ROG Ally ships with Windows 11… which is both a blessing and a curse according to early reviews.
On the one hand, the Windows software means that you don’t need to rely on any sort of compatibility layers to run games designed for Windows: most games should just work out of the box. On the other hand, Windows is an operating system that was designed for keyboard and mouse navigation (and, to a lesser degree, touchscreen input), while SteamOS was designed to be navigated using the Steam Deck’s game controllers.
The result is that it’s actually a lot easier to perform most gaming-related activities on a Steam Deck at this point. While it’s possible that Microsoft and/or Asus could improve the ROG Ally’s software experience over time, the same is true of Valve, which has already shown pretty impressive commitment to releasing regular software updates that bring improvements to the Steam Deck.
Anyway, it’s nice to see some competition in this space… particularly competitively priced competition from a company that already has a long track record of making, selling, and supporting gaming PCs.
|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
The ROG Ally also has a sort of secret weapon: a ROG XG Mobile connector that provides a high-speed data connection for Asus ROG XG Mobile graphics docks with up to an NVIDIA RTX 4090 GPU… so far. Theoretically this connector could also let you hook up a next-gen GPU in the future. But it’s also a proprietary connector that will only work with a handful of expensive eGPUs from Asus, so it’s unclear just how much of a selling point this truly is.