The Asus ROG Ally sounds like a dream. A 7-inch Windows gaming handheld computer that can run all your PC games. More powerful than Valve's Steam Deck, and available in more markets, including Singapore. Where do I sign up? But as they say, the devil is in the details. And while the Ally certainly lives up to expectations in some areas, it also fails to deliver in others, notably battery stamina, and offers a somewhat buggy and clunky user experience.
- 7-inch Full-HD, 120Hz IPS touchscreen
- AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor with 16GB memory and 512GB SSD
- ROG XG Mobile Interface and USB Type-C combo port, microSD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack
- 40 watt-hour battery
First up, the good stuff. The ROG Ally is definitely handy enough. At 608g, it's slightly lighter than the Steam Deck (669g). You get the usual controls: A/B/X/Y buttons, shoulder triggers, directional pad, analog thumbsticks, as well as rear paddles. They feel tactile enough. There are also four shortcut buttons. Two mimic the Xbox's View and Menu buttons, while the other two bring up Asus' Armoury Crate and Command Center. The display is a 1080p, 120Hz (FreeSync compatible) IPS touchscreen that's clearly superior to the Steam Deck's 720p 60Hz screen. The Ally feels mostly cool — except around the top edge where the vents are located — even when the internal temperatures reach 80 degrees Celsius and higher. The fans, too, operate quietly. You likely won't hear them, especially with the loud front-facing speakers that really help with the immersion.
The ugly side of the ROG Ally shows up at the start. Setting up Windows 11 and your games is frustrating. Icons are tiny on the 7-inch touchscreen, and the virtual keyboard often gets in the way. So save yourself a headache and connect a keyboard and mouse. The Ally only has a USB-C port (for charging and data) so you'll need a USB hub. There are three power modes (9W Silent, 15W Performance and 25W Turbo). You'll often be switching between them to optimise the performance or battery life, depending on the game, and the length of your gaming session. For AAA games, you're probably end up playing at 720p, and even then you won't get close to 120fps. Running AAA games at a higher resolution or a higher power mode will drain the battery in no time.
On battery, the Ally lasts 3hr 33min for video playback at maximum screen brightness. Depending on the settings, I usually got around one to slightly over two hours of gaming. Performance-wise, the Ally will run AAA games like Far Cry 6 and Wo Long at around 40 to 50fps during combat at 720p in Performance mode. You get a slight performance boost with Turbo mode, but the hit to battery life is significant. Less demanding titles like Hades and Vampire Survivor run at close to 120fps at 1080p, even in Silent mode. A real-time monitor overlay shows key information including the CPU/GPU utilisation, temperature, power draw, and battery status. This tool can be enabled using the Command Center, which has shortcuts like switching between 720p and 1080p. But this resolution switch doesn't work for all games, so you have to change it in the video settings.
This isn't the only example of the ROG Ally's inconsistent user experience. For instance, the gamepad controls sometimes don't work for in-game menus, and I had to use the touchscreen. Asus' Armoury Crate tries to present a more console-like feel. But it often gets interrupted by Windows notifications. Overall, the Ally feels like a Windows laptop, with bloat like Microsoft 365, rather than a gaming handheld. If you don't mind fiddling with settings, the Ally may be right up your alley. But if you just want to dive into games, it's not quite there yet. Hopefully, Asus can improve the user experience with firmware updates. The ROG Ally (S$999) is up for pre-order at the Asus Store, with actual availability from June 30.
Note: Review unit provided by Asus.
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