This is genuinely the most lust-worthy product on our test bench this year. The Asus ROG Ally is, in equal measure, a fantastic handheld gaming PC and an aspirational device. Like the early days of VR gaming, the PC handheld is trying to shimmy another category in the gaming segment. The Dell Alienware Concept UFO sparked the idea and the Steam Deck executed it. There’s a sense of hesitation from every brand to gauge the interest of such a category. The tech and research on it cannot be tossed into industrial use if consumers turn the other way (case and point: VR headsets). So as risky as it is, Asus ROG has managed to finally make a gaming handheld and launch it officially in India with a warranty and all.
Asus ROG Ally in-depth review
An ally worth saving up for
With that monologue out of the way, let’s answer all the burning questions. Oh, and this is a long review so grab a cuppa. First up, the Asus ROG Ally is much faster and more capable than the Steam Deck. From a pure performance and longevity perspective, it makes sense to opt for the Ally over the Steam Deck simply because you can run games at a higher frame rate, graphics and resolution on the Ally. It comes at a crippling cost of battery life and an empty bank balance but we’ll get to that in a bit.
As for the Windows performance, the Steam client in Big Picture mode opens as if it’s on a Steam Deck. It’s very smooth and polished and everything can be controlled with the Xbox input layout that is available to you on the ROG Ally. Every other client like Ubisoft Connect, Battle Net, Xbox app, Epic Games and others will need the sweet touch of your fingers to register an input or you can use the right analogue stick to control the mouse pointer and the right shoulder buttons act as left and right mouse clicks.
It’s a proper Windows 11 PC which means you have more freedom and access here than the Steam Deck. Asus has also added three supporting software to make sure Windows 11 doesn’t throw a curveball at your happy gaming time (which it inevitably will). The Armoury Crate SE, the Command Center and MyAsus app are like your Powerpuff Girls that protect you from Windows 11’s Mojo Jojo-esque villainy.
Armoury Crate SE
The Armoury Crate SE is essentially for all things customisation. It gives you full control over your console and every button on it. Every button on the Ally can be remapped for Gamepad mode (for gaming) and Desktop Mode (for interacting with Windows).
The Hall Effect triggers can be readjusted as well. You can make the triggers work like a mouse click by reducing the length needed to activate. Additionally, you can even create dead zones for the thumbsticks. All these customizations can be done per game too. I assigned a preset to Spider-Man where the game runs at the highest power setting with full vibration. Meanwhile in Apex Legends, a custom preset gives me snappier aim movement by pre-adjusting dead zones in the right thumbstick. There’s a remarkable amount of depth in this one app alone and it’s presented in toddler terms for everyone to understand and use.
However, you can’t combine keys into macros for the Xbox controller layout. Meaning, in Spider-Man Miles Morales, I cannot assign the M1 key to execute a Y+B combo to perform a finisher in the game without doing thumb gymnastics. Combining keys is only available for keyboard input which means macros are pretty limited to Windows functions. Regardless, Asus has clearly put in the effort to make the Ally work as a console without needing a custom OS and it’s commendable.
The Command Center is pretty much like an overlay that gives you virtual hotkeys for adjusting gaming parameters on the fly. You can adjust the power consumption, brightness, volume, and Operating mode (how many Watts it’s running on), go to Desktop, show the keyboard, change control modes and check FPS and performance metrics. It’s simple and intuitive and covers all the shortcomings of not having a physical keyboard. Both Armoury Crate SE and Command Center get dedicated buttons so you don’t have to go hunting inside Windows for anything.
Lastly, the MyAsus app will look familiar if you’ve used any Asus laptop (gaming or otherwise). It pretty much tells you which drivers need to be updated and does the tedious work for you. These three apps pretty much solidify Asus ROG Ally’s appeal. You know you’re in safe hands because even if Windows 11 is messing up, these three apps will let you fix driver issues, controller issues and any game performance issues you might come across.
Take this with a pinch of salt but all these apps do tend to bug out when you’re coming out of a hibernation state. It’s not perfect but it’s rapidly improved since launch day and if you’re a PC gamer, buggy apps are not news to you. It’s not going to be as seamless as the Steam Deck’s software or even the Nintendo Switch. It’s trying to get Windows 11 to run on a handheld and that’s a herculean task.
Now that Windows 11 is tamed, let’s talk about the real performance of the Asus ROG Ally.
This is mighty brilliant. The AMD Z1 Extreme processor is truly capable of jaw-dropping gaming performance for a dinky handheld! The integrated graphic card has 4GB of memory set aside but from the Armoury Crate SE, you can push that to 8GB. Although that will eat into the 16GB (LPDDR5 6400Mhz) RAM.
Spider-Man Miles Morales runs at a whopping 45+ FPS on high settings and AMD FSR 2.1 set to Quality. This particular game runs with almost no issues on the Asus ROG Ally. Again, the thing is running on High settings which is mighty impressive for a handheld.
Diablo IV runs at 60FPS with medium settings and reflections turned off. The sheer horsepower in this AMD chip is mindboggling, and not to mention the smart folks at Asus plonked a LPDDR5 6400Mhz RAM in here too to speed things up.
When we asked Asus India if they cooked a secret sauce with AMD to get this level of performance, Arnold Su, the Vice President, Consumer & Gaming PC, System Business Group, Asus India said that “The hardware and features integrated to the console are done via multiple levels of research and testing. We collaborated with AMD and built the Z1 Extreme CPU that features 8 cores and 16 threads, ensuring optimum performance without sacrificing battery life. This has been customised and designed specially for handheld devices, keeping its form factor, thermal envelope and use cases in mind.”
That’s pretty much corporate speak for ‘we took the best chip from AMD and put it here’. It’s a smarter move in my opinion because then Asus can focus on providing software support to polish the Windows experience.
Moving on. The Last of US Part 1 Remake runs at 45FPS with low settings and AMD upscaling. Playing something so demanding on a handheld is remarkable in itself but doing so for an hour is quite commendable too. Although, this particular game can cook the internals faster than a microwave. However, all of that heat is systematically pushed away from you and you will not feel anything on your hands.
We tried a few indies as well. The award-winning Hades runs at full 120FPS if you go to Turbo mode (25W). You can even get up to 90FPS in Performance mode (15W) to push the battery life to more than an hour and a half. F.I.S.T is another indie which runs remarkably well at 45+ FPS. It’s an Nvidia-optimised title and still runs smoothly on the ROG Ally. SpongeBob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake is a platformer which runs at solid 60FPS at high settings. Loopmancer is a bit bothersome but with AMD FSR you can squeeze out a few extra frames.
The modern classics like The Witcher 3 run at 45FPS again with medium settings. Forza Horizon 5 is in the similar range as well and Apex Legends too. The display also has FreeSync Premium so you’ll never find screen tearing here. This dinky handheld doesn’t restrict your fingers to touch only indies, it’s ashamedly powerful and ashamedly power-hungry to run proper big-budget games. I love that!
Design and display
The Asus ROG Ally is smaller and lighter than the Steam Deck and has a Full HD display with a 120Hz refresh rate. We’ve spent 6 hours in Hades alone on this device in the name of testing thanks to that refresh rate (don’t tell my boss). It’s an IPS panel with a touchscreen and 500 nits of brightness so the colours are bright, vivid and punchy. The blacks are also surprisingly controlled. The darker scenes in The Last of Us Part I look deep and haunting as intended. The whole thing is also protected by Gorilla Glass Victus (to reduce scratches) and Gorilla Glass DXC (to reduce reflections).
At just 608g, the Asus ROG Ally is lighter than a Nutella jar and the Steam Deck too. It’s also got these angled corners which burrow into your palm and provide tremendous grip. It’s also textured around the areas at the back where your fingers grip the console, which is quite similar to the PlayStation DualSense controller. It even borrows a similar shade of eggshell white from the Japanese console king.
The shoulder buttons are quite clicky and have a textured surface for better grip as well. The face buttons and the D-Pad are nice too and very similar to the PS5 DualSense’s mushiness. The Xbox controller still has the most clicky face buttons to date. The thumbsticks also feel adequate. It’s not got the same level of resistance as a proper joystick like the PS5 DualSense or the Xbox Series S|X controller. It’s a bit loose in that regard but nothing too alarming.
We asked Asus India about the cost of replacing the thumbsticks and battery and they said, ‘‘Regarding battery replacement, we offer competitive pricing for our customers in India. Our aim is to ensure that the cost remains accessible and reasonable while maintaining the highest standards of quality. Similarly, for thumbstick replacement, we understand the importance of offering a range of options to meet our customers’ requirements. We strive to provide both cost-effective solutions and premium choices to cater to diverse preferences. The cost for replacing thumbsticks will also depend on what part has been damaged. It could range between ₹25 up to ₹2000 excluding taxes.’’
The short answer is that Asus India still doesn’t know the exact cost of replacing the Asus ROG Ally’s battery after a few years and the thumbsticks will cost you roughly around ₹2000. But if you’re scratching your head over the DIY-esque appeal of the Steam Deck over the Asus ROG Ally, the Deck sounds a lot safer as of now. The colossal community and the sheer amount of third-party accessories and parts available for the Steam Deck make it very compelling within the gaming community.
That said, you can easily open up the Asus ROG Ally yourself and replace whatever you want but it will void the warranty. Asus tells us that you can bring your own storage card and hand it over to the authorised service centre and they will replace the part for you if you don’t want to buy the card from Asus and also avoid any mishaps during the process by doing it yourself.
The smarter way would be to plonk in a UHS-II Micro SD 4.0 card in the MicroSD card slot on the Ally. It’s quick and painless. Asus hasn’t put any protection on the card slot but having an SD card slot is a big deal nonetheless. There is also a headphone jack which you’ll be using a lot since the speakers are hit-and-miss. Any start-up after hibernation in 9W, the speakers start to crackle for a few minutes. It’s an irregular occurrence in our review unit, but it’s there. When it works, it’s decent. Nothing to write home about.
You also get a ROG XG Mobile interface (8PCI express lanes) and a USB Type-C combo port (with USB 3.2 Gen2x2, 20Gbps, DP 1.4 support). This unique combo port works with Asus’ proprietary XG Mobile GPUs. It falls under Asus’ Flow series computers and you can buy an external GPU from Asus and connect it to the Ally. It allows the Ally to run games using a desktop GPU and deliver desktop-quality gaming. These GPUs will cost you as much as the Ally itself so it’s more of an optional upgrade path rather than an absolute purchase for most of us.
The USB Type-C next to it can fast charge using the bundled 65W PD adapter. We tried charging the Ally using third-party 65W chargers while simultaneously playing on it as well and for some reason, it doesn’t detect non-PD chargers but it charges the device. We connected a 120W iQOO charger and Windows doesn’t show that the battery status as charging even though Ally is accepting power. Hence, the ROG Ally will not go into 30W Turbo mode if it’s not connected to its own power brick. This is quite upsetting because now you have to be careful as to which power brick and powerbank you can use for the ROG Ally to accept it and run games on 30W Turbo mode.
If Asus had put a 100W charger things would’ve been better because you’ll spend a lot of time charging this thing now. You can even connect a dock to the Type-C port and use it as a dock. It will also let you connect the Ally to a monitor, keyboard and mouse or a TV with a dongle.
The power button also has an embedded fingerprint scanner which works 9 out of 10 times. It may ask for the password when you boot it after a long hibernation (say overnight).
Finally! The battery life. It’s… power-hungry. No matter how you look at it, the Asus ROG Ally will last you an hour on blockbuster titles like Spider-Man and maybe an hour and a half on indies. We tried charging the Asus ROG Ally using a 100W power bank while gaming but just like the power brick, this too doesn’t charge if you’re in a game. We suspect it’s because the Asus ROG Ally supports pass-through charging which means if you’re connected to the charger, the Ally will not charge but run on the power source directly. It protects the battery and extends the battery lifecycle. We don’t know how to turn this off though. Maybe an update in the future can give that option. Anyways, the best way to approach this is to play it in bursts and then charge it to go for second servings. On long flights, a fast-charging power bank is absolutely necessary here.
The Asus ROG Ally is the first gaming PC handheld from Asus and it completely hits it out of the park. It’s powerful, lightweight and ergonomic. Although the battery life is the only drawback, it’s to be expected from a device that is trying to put fancy PC games on your palms. Even compared to Steam Deck, the battery life isn’t all that miserable. It’s almost similar in that sense.
The two fans at the back that keep this thing cool work effortlessly and without any sound. You may have to crank them up while playing very demanding games to keep the thermals from crashing the game. It’s a drawback of the form factor and not the console.
If you’re looking to play PC games on the go, the Asus ROG Ally is the best place to do so. It will also arrive in India in batches so keep an eye out for Flipkart and Asus India social media for announcements when fresh stock is available. Maybe gift us one too.
Putting quality PC games in your hands, the Ally is a great handheld gaming PC
|CPU:||AMD Z1 Extreme 4nm processor Zen 4 with 8 cores & 16 threads 24M cache|
|GPU:||Integrated AMD Radeon RDNA3 Graphics 4GB VRAM capacity|
|Display:||Full HD (1920 x 1080), 120 Hz, 7 ms, 500 nits IPS-panel with 100% sRGB, FreeSync Premium, Gorilla Glass Victus and Gorilla Glass DXC, 10-point Touchscreen Gyro support|
|Memory:||16GB (LPDDR5 6400Mhz) dual channel LPDDR5 8GBx2 on board|
|Storage:||512GB M.2 2230 NVMe Gen4x4 SSD, UHS-II SD card slot|
|I/O:||1x ROG XG Mobile interface (8PCI express lanes) and 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)|
|Audio:||2 x 1W speakers with smart amp technology Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res Audio, AI Noise Cancellation|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth:||WiFi 6E (802.11ax) / Bluetooth v5.2|
|Adapter:||65W PD adapter, supports pass through charging Output: 20V DC, 3.25A, 65W|