- The ROG Ally is a powerful handheld gaming device PC running Windows 11 and is equipped with the custom AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU to power all your gameplays. This is the first time ASUS has introduced a handheld gaming PC.
- The ROG Ally has very powerful specifications for a compact handheld device. The ROG Ally has its pros and cons, but it’s definitely fun to play with, literally.
- We have spent the last two weeks playing games on the ROG Ally, and in this article we will share our thoughts on the good and bad sides of the ROG Ally.
The Asus ROG Ally is a handheld gaming PC that became very popular right after its launch. The handheld gaming PC market is still quite new and is slowly gaining traction as more and more devices like the ROG Ally, Steam Deck, and AYANEO Air 1S hit the market. This is primarily due to the powerful hardware, but there is more to a device than just the hardware.
The heart of the ROG Ally is the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU, which is said to be specifically designed for handheld gaming PCs. Is the performance enough to make the ROG Ally successful as a handheld gaming PC PC? That’s exactly what we tested on our review unit over the past two weeks. In this article, we will explain the good, the bad, and the interesting things about ROG Ally. Let’s start.
Table of Contents
Asus ROG Ally Review: Build and Design
The ROG Ally is not the best in terms of construction, but it is very well-designed. The ROG Ally is made mostly of polycarbonate, which makes it quite light at only 608g. Branding from ROG can be seen on the front and back. On the back is a vent in the shape of the ROG logo, and running down the center of the back is a vertically angled reflective strip that reflects different colors depending on the angle. The white color looks very good but gets dirty very easily, so you’ll need to take care of it a bit. You get a plastic stand that you can dock the ROG Ally to for hands-free gameplay with an external controller.
The front of the ROG Ally houses the controls, speakers, and display. On the top are all the inputs and outputs, the triggers, the shoulder buttons, and a couple of ventilation slots. On the back are two more buttons and a couple of vents for the fans. The ergonomics aren’t great, though, and your hands will tire quickly after just 30 minutes of gaming with the ROG Ally. There simply isn’t enough room on the back to hold the device properly, and two buttons stick out, making it harder to hold the device while trying not to press them.
Overall, the ROG Ally is well-made and has a good design, but it could have been a bit more comfortable in the hand for longer gaming sessions.
Asus ROG Ally Review: I/O and Connectivity
The ROG Ally has a controller layout similar to an XBOX controller. The buttons feel clicky and responsive. The triggers are a bit too easy to press; they should have offered more resistance. The shoulder buttons work as expected and provide good feedback. There are two additional buttons on the front, the left one opens the Command Center (where all the shortcuts and quick toggles are located), and the right one opens the Armoury Crate SE (a revamped version of the Armoury Crate application with additional features for the ROG Ally) application. All four function buttons are very easy to press. On the back are two more buttons that can be assigned in-game.
The thumb sticks are responsive and smooth but not so easy to press when you need the L3 and R3 functions in games. They have an RGB ring around the base that can be customized via the Armory Crate SE application. On the top is a power button with an integrated fingerprint sensor that is very fast when it works properly. There is also a row of volume buttons on the top.
Here are all the I/O available on the ROG Ally:
- 1x ROG XG Mobile interface (8PCI express lanes, can connect up to an RTX 4090 Mobile GPU).
- 1x USB Type-C combo port (with USB 3.2 Gen2x2, 20Gbps, DP 1.4 support).
- 1x 3.5mm Audio jack.
- 1x Micro SD slot (UHS-II, Micro SD 4.0).
In terms of connectivity, the ROG Ally supports WiFi 6E and Bluetooth v5.2. Both worked as expected, as we got the full 300 Mbps speed over our WLAN connection, and our Bluetooth controller showed no lags when used with the ROG Ally.
Asus ROG Ally Review: Display and Audio
The ROG Ally features a 7-inch FullHD display (IPS) that updates at 120 Hz and offers a 100% sRGB color gamut. It is a 10-point multi-touch display that offers great colors and contrast ratio. All the games we played on the ROG Ally looked vibrant and appealing. With a brightness of up to 500 nits, the display is bright enough to use outdoors. However, it is a glossy display that causes a lot of reflections when exposed to direct light. The display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and a layer of Gorilla Glass DXC. The viewing experience on the ROG Ally is pretty good. However, the biggest problem when using the touchscreen of the ROG Ally is that the touch points on the surface are so small that it is difficult to react with the fingers on the OS.
The ROG Ally is equipped with stereo front speakers and a 3.5mm audio jack. The speakers have a power of 1W and support Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res Audio. The output is loud and punchy and provides a good sound experience when you play games or watch media on the ROG Ally. The audio jack also has a very loud and clear output when connected to external headphones or speakers.
Overall, the ROG Ally is a very good device when it comes to the visual and audio experience. Since it comes with Windows 11, you can easily stream your favorite content and music just like a regular PC.
Asus ROG Ally Review: Software Experience
The ROG Ally runs Windows 11 with some tweaks from Asus to adapt it to a handheld device. To be honest, the software experience is not particularly good. Although Windows 11 offers touch support, it doesn’t really run well on the ROG Ally. We regularly face issues such as the fingerprint sensor not working, games crashing randomly, update pop-ups disrupting our gaming session by minimizing the game without warning, and many more such annoyances.
All of these problems, along with the thousands of special launchers and services running simultaneously while a game is launched, make it a very frustrating experience. We almost threw it away during the initial setup because setting up ROG Ally is anything but user-friendly.
Asus has added some features of their own to make things a bit easier for users. The command center provides all the necessary shortcuts, e.g., for power mode, Real-time Stats Monitor, on-screen keyboard, controller mode, volume and brightness settings, etc.
In the Armoury Crate application SE, you can find your entire game collection in one place, along with all game-related settings. You can customize performance metrics, RGB settings, game profiles, controllers, buttons, macros, etc. All of this can be edited via the Armoury Crate SE application. Otherwise, it’s a basic version of Windows 11 Home with all its pros and cons.
The USB Type-C port supports Display Port 1.4, so the ROG Ally can be connected to an external display to be used as a full-fledged Windows 11 PC. Overall, the software experience on the ROG Ally is not very good and is mostly annoying to use.
Asus ROG Ally Review: Performance
The ROG Ally is powered by the AMD Z1 Extreme APU along with AMD Radeon RDNA3 graphics. This is supported by 16GB of LPDDR5 dual-channel 6400MHz memory and a 512GB M.2 Gen4 SSD with speeds of up to 5000MB/s. The APU can be clocked with up to 5.10 GHz and has a maximum TDP of 30W.
There are essentially four power modes on the ROG Ally:
- On Battery – 10W (Silent), 15W (Performance), and 25W (Turbo)
- Plugged in – 30W (Turbo)
The ROG Ally just crushes the competition when it comes to raw power. Even on battery power, the 25W TDP mode can deliver 40-60 frames per second at medium settings for the most demanding titles, as long as the battery lasts (which, funnily enough, isn’t long). The best balance between performance and battery life is the 15-W TDP mode, which delivers decent frame rates and conserves the battery a bit better.
If you’re always near a power source and want to use the ROG Ally while it’s plugged in, you can increase the power to 30W TDP to get the best performance possible while the console blasts blistering hot air to the rear. Here are some benchmarks for the storage, CPU, and GPU of the ROG Ally for all your metric nerds.
All in all, the ROG Ally is probably one of the best devices if you want a powerful gaming device PC in the palm of your hand.
Asus ROG Ally Review: Battery and Thermals
The ROG Ally is equipped with a 40Wh cell and supports up to 65W of charging power. There is a 65W adapter in the package, which is not very portable but can charge the ROG Ally to 100% in about 2 hours. The ROG Ally also supports Power Delivery charging up to 65W. So you can use any Power Delivery charger with sufficient wattage to power the ROG Ally.
The battery life of the ROG Ally is not particularly good. When gaming with 15W TDP, it lasts about 2 hours. In FIFA 21, for example, it lasted for 4 games. At 25W TDP, the battery is drained in about 1 hour. The 10W TDP option does keep the battery alive a bit longer, but it does affect the performance of the ROG Ally. If you play less resource-intensive games, you should stick to the 10W and 15W TDP options to get the best battery life with reasonable performance. The ROG Ally is by no means a battery champion.
In terms of the thermals, the ROG Ally does get warm, but you don’t really feel the heat on your hands as it doesn’t spread in the entire body. The twin fans of the ROG Ally intelligently dissipate the heat away from your hands using the antigravity heat pipes. We found temperatures as high as 85 degrees Celsius when the unit was running in maximum 30-watt TDP mode. When gaming in 15-W TDP mode, temperatures ranged between 50 and 65 degrees Celsius. These are good values for such a compact case with so much power. Fan noise is present, and it is definitely noticeable when playing the speakers.
Related Read: ROG Ally vs Steam Deck – Which One is Better?
Asus ROG Ally Review: Verdict
The ROG Ally is a very powerful handheld gaming PC. Almost any new-age game is playable on the ROG Ally at decent frame rates. Performance takes a huge leap when you plug it in, and you get the best possible experience while holding this little device in your hand. But all that performance comes at the expense of stamina because once you start enjoying the game, battery anxiety will haunt you. And then there’s the poorly optimized Windows 11, which has even the gaming enthusiasts at PC terrified.
If you can put up with all the nuisances of the ROG Ally, it’s the best handheld gaming PC you can get right now. However, if you’re someone like us who expects and appreciates a complete experience from the devices they purchase, then you’re better off with a device like the Steam Deck. For the price of $799 or INR 69999, the ROG Ally is not a good value-for-money product for most, but for some, it can be a boon.
- Incredible performance
- Compact and portable size
- Good display and speakers
- Good thermal performance
- Poor battery life.
- Poor ergonomics for long durations
- Bad software experience
Build & Design
Display & Audio
The ROG Ally is a powerful handheld gaming PC with poor software optimization and poor battery life. Gaming on the ROG Ally is an enjoyable experience, but the software and battery life compromises do not make the ROG Ally a good value-for-money product for most consumers.