Rog Ally gaming marks Asus’s in the handheld gaming market, ready to take on heavyweights like the Steam Deck, the Switch, and other portable boredom busters.
Equipped with a remarkably powerful custom AMD Ryzen chipset, a stunning 120 Hz display, and a sleek user interface designed specifically for gaming, the Rog Ally aims to make its mark. In this review, I’ll unbox the Rog Ally give you a detailed tour, and share my impressions after a week of extensive use. Let’s find out if it truly stands as a worthy competitor to the Steam Deck.
Also Read: BenQ X3000i Gaming Projector Review
Inside this rather large box, let’s uncover what treasures await us. First and foremost, we have the Asus Rog Ally itself, a formidable gaming device. Alongside it, we find a power adapter and a plug to keep the device juiced up. And that’s about it—aside from the warranty, of course. The contents of the Asus Rog Ally box are pretty straightforward, focusing on delivering the essentials needed to embark on your gaming adventures.
Asus Rog Ally Design
The Asus Rog Ally showcases an angular and boxy design that might not appear particularly comfortable to grip at first glance. However, Asus went through numerous design iterations to ensure a refined feel. The corners have been carefully cut off to avoid any discomfort when holding the device during gameplay. Despite its size, the buttons are conveniently placed and easy to access. Although I would have preferred slightly more tactile face buttons, during testing, I did encounter a slight stickiness with the B button on the first day, which fortunately resolved itself and hasn’t recurred since.
While I’m not usually drawn to RGB lighting on gaming devices, I must admit that the illuminated thumbsticks on the Rog Ally have an attractive aesthetic. By default, the colors cycle, creating a mesmerizing effect. Flipping the device to its back, you’ll notice textured grips that provide a tactile surface, ensuring a secure hold even with sweaty hands. True to Asus’s gaming style, one of the vents is shaped like the Rog logo.
Unfortunately, there are some stickers on the device that detract from its aesthetics. However, with a quick polish and removal of those stickers, most of the unsightly residue can be eliminated. The Rog Ally is available only in white, which I personally prefer over the stark and serious black of the Steam Deck. However, it’s worth noting that white surfaces tend to show scratches, scuffs, and nicks more easily. Therefore, I would highly recommend using a case and applying a screen protector, even though the device is equipped with Gorilla Glass Victus, which, based on my experience with smartphones, can still be prone to scratches.
Asus Rog Ally Ports
the ports and buttons available on the Rog Ally. They are conveniently located on the top of the device. Starting with the ports, you’ll find a USB Type-C port for charging, a headphone jack for audio connectivity, and a Micro SD memory card slot for expandable storage. Additionally, there is a PCIe port for connecting external peripherals like an e-GPU.
On the top, you’ll also find the volume buttons and the power button. Interestingly, similar to other gaming handhelds such as the Ayanios, the power button on the Rog Ally incorporates a built-in fingerprint sensor. This eliminates the need for dealing with pins or passwords during the device’s boot-up process. Simply tap your finger to the sensor, and you’re good to go. It’s a convenient feature that enhances the overall user experience.
Asus ROG Gaming Charger Dock
If you’re looking to expand the port options on your Rog Ally, there’s an option to purchase the Rog Game and Charger Dock. This dock supports various plug types, although removing the pins can be a bit tricky without fingernails. However, if you’re using the British plug, you can simply fold the pins in and attach the UK heads without any hassle.
The Rog Game and Charger Dock not only provides a 65-watt charge to keep your Asus Rog Ally fully powered but also offers additional ports. It includes a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI 2.0 port, allowing you to connect and use compatible peripherals or external devices with ease.
Asus Rog Ally Display
Asus’s display on the Rog Ally is a 7-inch IPS panel, similar to the Steam Deck. It doesn’t offer the same deep blacks and contrast as OLED displays like the Switch, but for an IPS panel, it performs well. You can still make out the details in games like Eternal without any issues, and the colors can be vibrant when needed. The viewing angles are also good.
The Rog Ally stands out from its competitors in a few aspects. Firstly, it offers 1080p Full HD visuals, while the Steam Deck has a regular HD resolution of 1280×800. Additionally, the Rog Ally’s screen can reach a brightness of around 500 nits, which is more powerful than many rival devices that typically max out at 350-400 nits. This means you can comfortably play games outdoors, whether you’re on a train, bus, or simply enjoying the outdoors. However, if you’re playing a game with a dark scene and there’s glare, it’s advisable to find some shade, as squinting and visibility issues may arise. The display has an anti-glare coating (dxc chords) that helps reduce direct glare, but it has its limitations.
Another advantage of the Rog Ally is its maximum refresh rate of 120Hz, which surpasses the 60Hz limit found in many other devices I’ve personally tested, including the Steam Deck, Yanni O2, and 1XPlayer 2. While most recent AAA titles rarely exceed 60 frames per second, games like Doom Eternal will offer a beautifully fluid gameplay experience on the Rog Ally. The device also features AMD FreeSync support, ensuring dynamic scaling of the refresh rate without any screen tearing or visual issues.
Audio and Haptics
The Asus Rog Ally features a pair of front-firing stereo speakers, which sets it apart from many rivals like the Ayanios, whose speakers are bottom-firing. When you crank up the volume on the Rog Ally, the speakers deliver a powerful sound that can be quite impressive. The clarity remains strong, and you can experience a kind of stereo effect. However, for a truly immersive audio experience, using a pair of headphones is recommended. The Rog Ally includes a headphone jack, and I personally didn’t encounter any issues when using Bluetooth headphones for wireless streaming. The device also supports high-resolution audio and offers Dolby Atmos for enhanced sound quality.
As for the haptics, they aren’t particularly strong. In all honesty, they are about as powerful as a gerbil’s fart, and they may even be noisier than the fans. While they do provide some rumble feedback, they are not on par with the haptic feedback you would find in devices like the DualShock controller.
As for the Asus Rog Ally’s operating system, it runs Windows 11, unlike the Steam Deck, which has its own Linux-based custom OS. However, Asus has added several gaming features to enhance its usability in handheld form. One notable feature is the Rog Armory Crate. You can use the thumbsticks to navigate the cursor on the screen, but using the touchscreen is often faster.
The Armory Crate scans your SSD and microSD memory card (if inserted) and automatically detects any games installed on them. This provides a neat and organized way to view all the games on your Rog Ally without having to load individual services like Steam, Game Pass, or Epic Games separately. One of the best features of Armory Crate is the ability to create a game profile for each title. You can choose between Gamepad mode, keyboard and mouse mapping mode, or desktop mode, depending on the type of game. Most modern games support Gamepad mode, but for classics or heavily mouse-driven games like point-and-click adventures, the keyboard and mouse mapping mode is recommended. However, note that this mode may not work perfectly in all games, such as Hexen 2, where it’s not possible to move and attack simultaneously.
Additionally, you can customize and map individual buttons to specific actions. For example, you can map the left trigger button to perform various functions like bringing up the virtual keyboard or muting the microphone. Sensitivity settings for thumbsticks and triggers can be adjusted as well. The haptics can be fully controlled, and in the system configuration, you can change performance modes, including silent, performance, turbo, and manual modes. Display settings also offer various presets and options to adjust brightness, color profiles, and more.
The Armory Crate also includes general settings for the Rog Ally, allowing you to configure network and Bluetooth settings, create system defaults, and customize RGB lighting. You can also access the command center for further editing. Under the content tab, you’ll find game platforms, where you can access popular gaming platforms such as Steam and Galaxy to download their respective apps. Steam, for instance, starts in Big Picture Mode, similar to the Steam Deck’s interface, and you can easily navigate the Steam store, access your library, and install games.
Overall, the Rog Ally provides a range of settings and features through the Rog Armory Crate, allowing you to personalize your gaming experience, optimize performance, and access various game platforms and libraries.
We’ve loaded up a game, and at any point, you can access the Command Center by tapping this button. This gives you quick access to various settings without having to exit the game and go back into the Armory Crate. With a simple tap, you can change the performance mode to silent, performance, or turbo. You can also adjust the controls, swap between 720p and 1080p resolutions, set an FPS limiter, and switch the refresh rate between 60Hz and 120Hz. Additionally, you can quickly adjust the screen brightness as needed, and there’s a real-time readout of CPU activity, current frame rate, and other information.
Furthermore, in the Armory Crate, you have the option to fully customize the Command Center, so you can prioritize the settings that matter most to you. Unfortunately, it seems that my Rog Ally has run out of battery power.
The Asus Rog Ally is available in two different configurations for performance. The first option is equipped with a custom-made 4-nanometer AMD Ryzen Z1 processor based on Zen 4 architecture, offering six cores and 12 threads. The second option is the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme, which provides more power with N4 cores and 16 threads. For this review, I had the opportunity to test the extreme model sent by Asus. Both versions feature AMD Radeon 780m graphics, but the extreme version appears to have triple the compute units, making it the preferred choice for playing AAA titles. Additionally, if you plan to game at home, you have the option to connect an external GPU to further enhance the device’s power.
In terms of performance, the Asus Rog Ally proves to be a strong contender against other handheld devices such as the Yanni O2 and the One X Player 2. In benchmark tests, the Rog Ally achieved a very respectable score of 3190 in 3DMark Time Spy on the ultra-performance mode, running at full HD resolution while plugged in with the included adapter. Even in true handheld mode, without being plugged in, it still delivered a commendable score of 3067. These scores are a significant improvement over the Yanni O2 and the One X Player 2, which typically scored in the high 2000s.
In the Returnal benchmark, set to the ultra-performance mode with low graphic settings and full HD resolution, the Rog Ally achieved an average frame rate of 25 frames per second, although it occasionally dropped as low as 2 frames per second. The frame rate mostly hovered around the range of 20 to 30 FPS. I also attempted to lower the resolution to 720p to see if it would improve the performance, but the results were generally similar and sometimes slightly lower than at full HD resolution.
Playing Returnal on the Asus Rog Ally isn’t an enjoyable experience. The frame rate judders occur frequently, even on the lowest graphic settings and 720p resolution. The game becomes practically unplayable when multiple enemies appear on the screen. Even with minimal enemies, the gameplay isn’t smooth. Additionally, I encountered a few issues during my testing. The game crashed to the desktop on a couple of occasions, and there was a controller disconnected message at one point. However, this issue resolved itself and only happened once. Unfortunately, Returnal is not a viable option on the Rog Ally, or similar handheld devices like the Steam Deck. These devices simply cannot handle the game’s demands.
Uncharted 4 And Atomic Heart
I had a much better experience with Uncharted 4 on the Asus Rog Ally. I played the game at full HD resolution and increased the graphics settings to a high level. While there were occasional frame rate drops, particularly during cutscenes or when a level first loaded, the overall frame rate remained stable. Even during intense action sequences, the frame rate held up well. This is when I truly began to appreciate the Rogue Ally and enjoy the game. The controls were highly responsive, and the display was stunning, especially considering it’s a non-AMOLED panel.
Another resource-intensive title I tried was Atomic Heart on Game Pass. I played it at full HD resolution with lower graphics settings, and it worked flawlessly. I experienced consistently smooth frame rates, unlike some other handheld devices such as the Ayani Aware Plus.
Forza 5 and Doom Eternal
after a few attempts, I managed to get Forza 5 running. I ran the benchmark at full HD resolution with low graphics settings, and it achieved an average frame rate of around 70 frames per second.
When it comes to slightly older games like Doom Eternal, you can play them with graphics maxed out without any issues. I played Doom Eternal at full HD resolution with the ultra nightmare settings, and the frame rates remained consistently smooth. I had the fan set to turbo mode, and the device stayed quiet without overheating or experiencing any performance degradation.
The level of performance achieved by the Asus Rog Ally is undoubtedly supported by its clever cooling system. The device is equipped with , and even when they’re working hard, they remain almost whisper quiet, producing around 20 decibels of noise. This is a significant improvement over competitors like the Yanni or two and the One X player 2, which have louder and more noticeable fans.
On the Rog Ally, you’ll only really notice the fans if you have the volume turned all the way down and you’re in a completely silent room. During my 15-minute gaming session with Returnal, the Rog Ally started to heat up a bit, but the fans remained at their quietest level, barely audible even if you press your ear to the back of the device. The vents are positioned away from the user, further reducing any noise.
While the Rog Ally can get warm, especially after extended gaming sessions or when playing intensive games, the areas where you actually grip the device stay cool. This means you can comfortably play for long periods without worrying about discomfort. I didn’t notice any throttling during my testing.
Asus Rog Ally Specs
As for storage, the Rog Ally is equipped with 512GB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. While it may not offer as much storage as some of its rivals, it’s still sufficient to install several games. Additionally, the device supports removable storage through microSD cards, providing expandable storage options.
The Rog Ally also features Wi-Fi 6E support, allowing for fast and reliable wireless connections. As long as your home network can handle it, you can download games quickly and enjoy seamless online gameplay. The device’s co
Unfortunately, the Rog Ally is very similar to a lot of its big rivals in terms of battery life. When playing anything in turbo performance mode, you can see the battery percentage drop in real-time. You’ll be lucky to get an hour of play out of this device. However, if you lower the performance mode and play less intensive titles, you can squeeze a couple of hours out of it. Nevertheless, it falls slightly below what I get from the Steam Deck.
Anyway, that concludes my full early one-week review of the Asus Rog Ally. It’s certainly a strong competitor to devices like the Steam Deck, especially if you enjoy using a variety of games and services. The upgraded display is a standout feature, with a bright 120Hz full HD panel. I also appreciate the Armory Crate and the improved UI, which is a step up from the messy and buggy Ayanios interface.
In terms of performance, it’s fantastic, although not quite enough to play titles like Returnal. However, it handles most AAA titles well, and older games run like a dream. If only they could somehow extend the battery life to last five or six hours while playing these games, that would be a game-changer.
That’s my take on the Asus Rog Ally. What do you think? Are you tempted to place a pre-order, or maybe you already have? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.