Asus, known for its thriving Republic of Gamers (ROG) range in gaming laptops and desktops, has boldly stepped into the handheld gaming market with its newest release—the ASUS ROG Ally. In this review, I take a look at the device to see how it measures up.
Design and display
The ASUS ROG Ally, though made of plastic, feels firm and well-built. If you’ve used gamepads already, you’ll find that this design fits quite well in your hands with grooves and fine textures on the side. For a 7-inch handheld device with full-sized gamepads, it’s quite portable at 608 grams. The heft is barely noticeable both when I pop it in my backpack bag or hold it for long session of play. The display features a 120 Hz screen with Freesync for stutter-free visuals and can output resolution up to Full HD (1920x1080). Brightness levels are sufficient with a peak brightness of 500 nits. The touch display features Corning Gorilla Glass Victus which helps weather day-to-day usage, and the Corning Gorilla Glass DXC helps with cutting down reflection outdoors and improved scratch resistance.
The Ally’s gamepad-style controllers on each side feel like standalone controllers. There are two rubber analog thumbsticks, ABXY buttons, D-Pad, 4 triggers and two assignable grip buttonsbelow the handheld. Made of plastic, these buttons feel strong enough, and are placed right where gamers would be used to these buttons. The controls also provide satisfactory haptic feedback while gaming.
The Ally packs are pre-loaded with Windows 11 Home, which takes an eyeroll-worthy 15 minutes to run through the initial setup process. After booting, I am greeted by the familiar standard Windows experience on a 7-inch tablet screen, which does take some getting used to. The device is packed with Armory Crate SE, which lets me view all the games I install, and also access platforms like Steam and Xbox. This is also where I could tweak the control modes like Gamepad Mode and Desktop mode, which is ideal for general browsing. You can also control the LED lights around the GamePad through AuraSync.
At times, the navigational experience in Windows 11 was frustrating. I found it hard to open games and apps on the small display. Even while minimising or closing current apps, the mouse pointer would randomly move as I pushed the thumbsticks. While the button placements are ergonomic, I ended up customising the trigger buttons for each game before I could play the games like a true hand-held console, or a true-blue gaming PC with mouse and keyboard.
The sound from the Ally was decent for a handheld console, audible across the room. However, there’s a 3.5 mm jack for those looking to plug in. In terms of connectivity, it features the ROG XG mobile port and a USB Type-C combo-port with DisplayPort 1.4 support. With the right set of dongles, one can convert the Ally into a nifty mini-PC setup along with a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor. The only component that can be upgraded is storage via a MicroSD card slot and a removable PCIE Gen 4 SSD.
The ROG Ally features AMD’s Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor along with 16 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB storage. The performance was on par with a mid-range gaming laptop with games rendering smoothly at medium to high graphics.
The display supports 120Hz and was a joy to play fast-paced action titles such as SD Gundam Battle Alliance, which ran at a steady 60 FPS and Hitman 3 which rendered 45-60 FPS on high graphics settings. The one spot of bother while gaming is that the device gets uncomfortably hot during extended sessions, especially near the left and right triggers where the exhaust vents are located.
The battery on the ROG Ally was average at best. The battery life of the Ally varies depending on the TDP setting. At the 25W performance setting, I was able to play games for 45 minutes to an hour. At the 15 Watt setting, I could play games for an hour and 30 minutes. And at the 10 Watt silent setting, I was able to play for almost 2 hours.
The 40 WHr battery charged in under an hour using the supplied 65-Watt USB-C PD charger, which is similar to the ones Asus ships along with their Ultrabooks. The presence of fast charging makes up for the average battery life. However, for the best graphics quality, the device still needs to be plugged in.
The ASUS ROG Ally is an impressive offering in the handheld gaming console space, especially considering the more popular Nintendo Switch and Valve SteamDeck are not officially being sold in India at the moment. At its price-point, the ASUS ROG Ally makes for a great mini-computing package that can let you game on the move with great graphics, good sound and a portable form factor that one can slip into their backpack for extended gaming sessions away from home.