Asus has unwrapped a device which could be the successor to the widely praised and popular Steam Deck from Valve. The Asus ROG Ally appears to check many things that would be on a Steam Deck 2 wish-list; a more powerful custom APU, better screen, quieter running, and Windows in the place of SteamOS. However, Asus perversely chose to launch the device on April Fool’s day, a time when companies often "launch" joke products.
Despite the timing of the launch, it now looks certain that the ROG Ally is a real product, aiming to be only the second major branded device in this niche. And it is largely thanks to Asus being a major name that the ROG Ally features a fresh slice of custom silicon from AMD, which will be key to its success.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Asus ROG Ally||Steam Deck|
|CPU||AMD Zen 4 SoC built on TSMC 4nm||Custom Zen 2 "Van Gogh," 4 cores, 8 threads, 2.4 - 3.5 GHz|
|GPU||RDNA 3 GPU||8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0 - 1.6 GHz|
|Storage||512GB NVMe SSD (in photos)||64 eMMC, 256GB / 512GB NVMe SSD|
|Connectivity||Unknown (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth assumed)||Dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Ports||USB - C, Asus XG Mobile external GPU connector. Headphone, UHS-III micro SD, Fingerprint Sensor||USB Type-C with DisplayPort, 3.5 mm headphone jack, microSD card reader (UHS-I)|
|Battery||Comparable with Steam Deck||40 WHr|
|Display||7-inch 16:9 display||7-inch 16:10 display|
|Dimensions||280 x 113 x 39 mm||298 x 117 x 50.5 mm|
|Price||Unknown||$399 to $649|
On Monday, YouTuber Dave2D published his video overview of the Asus ROG Ally. He said he’s had hands-on time with the device (about a week so far), and said that claims Asus made about the ROG Ally delivering double Steam Deck performance seem to be “legit.”
Of course, the ROG Ally’s performance is largely thanks to the SoC inside. The YouTuber said that the new custom AMD SoC is built on TSMC 4nm, and offers a mix of Zen 4 CPU and RDNA 3 GPU cores. Sadly, more precise SoC specs weren’t divulged. Inside the Steam Deck is an AMD Aerith SoC with a 4C / 8T (Zen 2) CPU and an 8 CUs (RDNA 2) GPU.
With more power, you might expect a noisier cooling system. However, Dave2D was surprised by the quiet performance of the ROG Ally. In other words, the Asus device is surprisingly quiet and its noise profile is starkly different to the Steam Deck. A noise level of 20 dB has been quoted for the ROG Ally, but this has yet to be independently verified.
A portable’s screen is very important in providing entertainment on the go, and the Asus screen is said to be an improvement over its rival in several important ways. With the ROG Ally, users should enjoy brighter, better colors, higher resolution (1080p, 16:9), and more fluid visuals at up to 120Hz. Importantly for the ROG Ally, Dave2D says games comfortably hit the higher frame rates on the more powerful hardware, making better use of the display and its fast refresh rates. As a reminder, the Steam Deck has an 800p screen with 16:10 aspect ratio, and it maxes out at a rather pedestrian 60 Hz.
Pondering over the controls, the YouTuber reckoned that the buttons, sticks, paddles and ergonomics of the ROG Ally seem OK, with no obvious errors, but it lacks the capacitive touch pads of the Steam Deck.
Located across the top are a selection of controls and I/O, which include a headphone jack, microSD card slot, volume rocker, and fingerprint sensor. There is also the Asus XG Mobile external GPU connector (supporting up to an RTX 4090), which has the USB-C charging port within. The included USB C charger also features a USB 3 port and HDMI output, useful for quickly connecting the ROG Ally to a larger display,
Battery life for the ROG Ally is said to be currently similar to the Steam Deck on the pre-production sample. Commenting upon the device, once prized open, Dave2D said that it looks serviceable, and should be easy to upgrade or repair.
The Asus ROG Ally runs Windows 11 as its main OS. The Windows UI is a bit fiddly on a small screen like this, but the plan appears to be that gamers will navigate a big gaming thumbnail view via Asus Armory Crate. Not everyone has a good opinion of this Asus accessory software, also used to tune its PC peripherals, components and laptops.
Some good news is that the Asus ROG Ally is said to be a global release. If you can get Asus products in your country, the ROG Ally is likely to be available too. That’s better than some other Steam Deck wannabes we have seen.
After multiple requests Asus wouldn’t reveal pricing, except to say that the ROG Ally would be “very competitive.” The Best Buy tie-up should also mean Asus intends this to be a volume product. Dave2D thinks that the ROG Ally will not compete with the Steam Deck’s $399 starting price point, but will still be an attractive option at $600 or $650.
The product itself is intriguing though, 1080p and a 120hz screen is compelling especially considering it is Windows based which I assume it would mean much more freedom than having to use SteamOS. The 4090 part is a total marketing point as it defeats the purpose of a handheld gaming device. The rumours are that it will launch early summer, so let's see how it will turn out, the pricing is the most important thing however.
I'm assuming that connection is so that you can dock it, ala the Nintendo Switch, to use it on your TV via the more powerful GPU.
Also, the fan controller ROG app on my Asus laptop power throttles games, or something, until I force fan control back to Windows.
Asus doesn't have good enough software to compete with Steam, in any way. Asus's software is not as bad as Razer, but it's still really bad. (Razer is up to requiring 6-processes and close to 512MB memory usage just to turn my mouse LEDs from "rainbow vomit" to static purple).
Also, the Steam Deck is completely embarrassing to use and not a device worth copying, but that is a separate issue.
While the pricing, performance, and size of the Steam Deck are important features, there's one thing that Asus cannot dream to compete on -- software support. I'd rather have a Steam Deck and know there are dedicated, internal developers at Valve contributing to the OS and drivers than buy something from Asus with nebulous development support.
I do think Asus did a good job with this gaming handheld. Good design, good specs, and likely good performance. That's not enough for the high price they're going to demand.
1º Add a beautiful, high res screen that massively cuts battery life. Plus the integrated GPU won't be able to run games at native resolution unless they're 3 years old at least or lowering a lot of the graphic settings. The external GPU would help but likely will need an external screen, so not much of a point.
2º Windows 11 with a custom launcher. Custom launcher sucks, and Windows 11 is not designed to be managed from a controller. It is doable, but is not the same experience as SteamOS
3º Price. Pursuing the latest SoCs and quality screens invariably gives a high price. GPD, Ayaneo...all launched a "Deck killer" that is twice or thrice the price.
Steam Deck works because it is cheap and easy to use, no need to fiddle with settings if you don't want. Sure, not every game works, but most do. Proton is surprisingly solid.
I love Asus but Armoury Crate is an issue. It is by far the biggest complaint on Asus Products. I am not impressed that I have to Use Armoury Crate to install drivers on my Asus Mothboards. ( I foolishly thought I could download the drivers and install them by hand during New Builds, I didn't realize that was not an option). I hope they take a good look at Armoury Crate and doing new builds.
Having a Steam Deck and a gaming desktop myself, I really cannot see the trade off of more power and less battery being worth it. I love the Steam Deck for Indie games where I can get 3-7 hours of on the go gameplay because to me that is what it is for, gaming on the go, but having a proper desktop or powerful gaming laptop to play newer or more graphically intensive titles for longer sessions is a must imo.
Until efficiency is ratcheted up a few degrees more power is unattractive to me in this formfactor.
Also the symmetrical joysticks on the SD are just the best feeling I have had with a controller. Why aren't any other handhelds copying that layout?