Until now, handheld gaming devices had two main contenders -- the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck. Now a new entrant has emerged in Asus ROG Ally. The Ally makes a compelling case in the segment with its lightweight design, powerful performance, and Windows support. However, has ROG bit more than it can chew? We used the ROG Ally for a week and here is what we found.
The Asus ROG Ally comes packed in a rather chunky box, which includes charging cable and instruction manual.
The Asus ROG Ally is lightweight and weighs 608 grams. It fits well in hand, and even first-time users of handheld gaming devices may feel comfortable using it.
In terms of gaming controls, the device comes with a familiar fit and feel with a joy-stick, the ABXY buttons array, and the dedicated button to bring up the Armoury launcher on the right side of the device. On the left you get the D-pad, the view button, and the analog stick. And though the device does not get a touchpad the available array of buttons should suffice for most users.
(For top technology news of the day, subscribe to our tech newsletter Today’s Cache)
The buttons on the Ally feel sturdy and well put together, and we did not face any problems when using the device for extended periods of time.
The power button which doubles as a fingerprint sensor, volume rocker and the connectivity ports, which include the 3.5 mm audio jack, USB type-C combo port, Gen 2 Display port and microSD card reader, are all located at the top. The device does not come with a stand, with the back getting two assignable grip buttons.
Overall, Asus has done a good job of designing an appealing and sturdy device that strikes a good balance between usability and panache expected from an ROG.
While the software in a gaming console may not be an important aspect, the ROG Ally stands out with its Windows software. To be precise, the Ally is a full-blown PC shrunk down to fit in your hands. As such, all the games available for PCs will be compatible with the Ally, making it a portable gaming PC.
During setup, users are greeted with a familiar Windows interface, once the device is setup, users can set up the Armoury Crate, Asus’ utility software. The software allows users to setup and change game profiles and other game settings. The software also comes in handy when using the device in the Desktop mode which can be accessed from the Command Center.
Users can make use of Steam, Xbox Gaming Pass, and others to access their portfolios. However, being a Windows PC, the interface lacks accessibility, and ease of use for a handheld. Additionally, the use of Windows also creates problems in gameplay. During gaming sessions, the games’ window is often unable to make use of the full screen, which can be annoying when playing immersive RPG games.
The software then is a mixed bag, while the use of Windows increases the appeal for different users, the lack of optimisation can be a turnoff for hardcore gamers looking for a seamless gaming experience.
We used the ROG Ally to play titles including Call of Duty, The Witcher, Far Cry and PUBG, and the device was able to handle them exceptionally well. The handheld was able to maintain decent frame rates even after prolonged use. The 7-inch 1080p, 16:9 display with its 120Hz refresh rate was a pleasure to use.
The only chink in an otherwise great performance for the handheld was that the display can get quiet hot after extended use. And while the internal fans are capable of ensuring that the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip, supported by 16GB LPDDR5 RAM, is able to maintain performance, the hot air coming from the top of the device can get uncomfortable. Especially when the device is used with the power cable plugged in, which is quite often due to its average battery performance.
The 40Whrs, 4-cell lithium-ion battery was able to last between 1-1:45 min in our testing while playing AAA games. Even with casual games the device did not last more than 2 hours during our testing. Quick charging makes up for the lack of a good battery performance, however it still limits the appeal of the Ally as a portable gaming device.
Haptics and sound
For gamers, haptic feedback and sound quality are an important aspect of immersive gameplay. And Ally does a good job in both aspects, the haptic feedback while gaming is more than adequate. Sound quality is good for a small device. The inbuilt speakers provide well rounded and clear sound quality, however volume could have been better.
The Asus ROG Ally, being a new entrant in the handheld gaming devices market does a good job of getting the basics right. The device is capable and is a promising start for ROG in the segment. It does have shortcomings like limited battery life and lack of software optimisation, but these are not enough to overlook the Ally as a serious contender in the handheld gaming market that promises to have a bright future.
The ROG Ally is priced at ₹69,900