Techno Blender
Digitally Yours.

Asus ROG Ally Review: The Start of Something New?

0 60


India isn’t seen as a huge market for handheld gaming consoles. Nintendo doesn’t have an official presence here at all, Sony never really promoted the PS Vita, and there’s no hope of the Steam Deck coming in anytime soon. There clearly is some demand, evidenced by the easy availability of grey-market Nintendo Switch units, online listings for niche Chinese manufacturers such as Ayaneo, and even small yet vocal crowds of retro console enthusiasts in forums online. However, they’re a microscopic niche compared to smartphone gamers here, with PUBG/BGMI becoming a cultural phenomenon and even casual titles making enormous money. Over 500 million Indians are estimated to play games on their smartphones; double what the figure was just five years ago. That’s incredible in terms of sheer market potential.

But what games are these people playing, how much are they willing to spend, and how does the hardware and software fit into their lives? Is there space for a dedicated portable gaming device in the Indian market? And can the new Asus ROG Ally, which costs more than some entry-level gaming laptops, fill it? After spending some time with the device, and some conversations with Asus, here’s what I think.

Asus ROG Ally price in India

Internationally, there are two variants of the ROG Ally, and the only difference is the choice of SoC – AMD’s new Ryzen Z1 powers the lower-end one, while the more capable Ryzen Z1 Extreme can deliver better performance in games. Asus has brought only the higher-end version to India, at least for now. This makes sense, because it isn’t competing with anything on price and you might as well make a good impression with the best possible performance. It costs Rs. 69,990 which isn’t bad considering the specifications.

You don’t get very much in the box – just a fairly oversized charger and a power cable. It’s particularly disappointing that there’s no case, since this is by nature a portable device. Asus does sell a case which has compartments for microSD cards and can function as a stand, but that’s an added cost. Third-party alternatives should be available soon.

The ROG Ally’s 7-inch screen is just the right size for comfortable gaming

 

Asus ROG Ally: What it is and who it’s for

Appearance aside, the ROG Ally is much closer to a full-fledged computer than a handheld console. It has a standard processor with an integrated GPU, and all the components you’d expect except a keyboard and trackpad. It boots up just like a PC and runs Windows 11 Home. This is its greatest strength, because it can run pretty much any PC game including plenty of free ones – but also its greatest weakness, because you’re using software and hardware in ways they might not have originally been designed for. We’ll get into this in much more detail soon.

You can run almost any PC game, and most recent ones actually work surprisingly well. Asus isn’t interested in creating its own ecosystem to compete with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, so there’s no custom hardware or software and no tie to a specific game store. You can download anything from the Internet, including through the Steam, Epic, EA, etc stores. You can install any company’s launcher, use cloud or subscription services, and even hook up an external drive via USB to copy files over. That also opens up a huge world of free games (and ones obtained in less-than-ethical ways). Besides, titles usually cost far less on PC than they do on consoles, and older games are often heavily discounted.

But then there’s that Rs. 69,990 price – if you’re a mobile gamer looking to get to the next level, you probably want a gaming laptop. The ROG Ally isn’t a replacement or alternative, unless you have extreme space constraints plus a computer that you already use for non-gaming tasks.

asus rog ally front buttons rog ally

The buttons and sticks on the ROG Ally are modelled on Microsoft’s Xbox controller layout

 

Asus imagines that people will use the ROG Ally not only as a handheld, but also docked with a TV. You could even pick up one of the company’s XG Mobile external GPUs, which start at around Rs. 80,000 in India and go up to Rs. 1,82,990 for a GeForce RTX 4090) to turn the ROG Ally into a full gaming setup with up to a 4K monitor or TV.

Other than price and size, two big considerations are battery life and performance while running on battery power, which we’ll test soon. Another thing to remember is that a lot of PC games require always-on or periodic Internet connectivity, so the ROG Ally might not be all that suited for those who want to play games on a long flight or while commuting.

And then there are non-gaming use cases too – you definitely won’t want to browse the Web or type office documents on the tiny 7-inch touchscreen, but it’s better than a phone for watching movies on. Plus, a cheap USB dock and some peripherals could make the ROG Ally quite versatile in many situations.

The ROG Ally seems to be something you’d have in addition to a more traditional gaming setup – a bit of an indulgence, maybe for a student who wants to keep it hidden in a dorm, a frequent traveler, or a very committed couch potato. It’s hard to imagine choosing the Ally instead of a similarly priced laptop. Hopefully in the future, prices will go down and devices like this will make up a new, more affordable tier of gaming PCs.

asus rog ally rear upright ndtv rog ally

You get a simple stand in the box, but a carry case would have been much more appreciated

 

Asus ROG Ally design and capabilities

Physically, the ROG Ally is a little bigger than the Nintendo Switch and quite a lot smaller than the Steam Deck. The general layout of buttons and controls is deliberately modelled on an Xbox controller, to make gaming on Windows as seamless as using Microsoft’s own hardware. Asus says it focused a huge amount of engineering effort on keeping weight down, and the final 608g was achieved through some very creative structural work as well as paying attention to every little detail, down to the design of the fan blades and every last hardware choice.

It’s comfortable to hold, and the weight is fine. My index fingers sat naturally on the triggers and my ring fingers found the macro paddles on the back. The front-firing speakers aren’t obstructed by a user’s palms at all, and sound is surprisingly rich and clear. There are also stereo mics with noise cancelling. A fingerprint sensor is integrated into the power button on the top.

Of course, front and centre we have the 7-inch full-HD display. I think Asus got the size and proportions right – I never had to hold the ROG Ally too close to my face. Viewing angles aren’t the greatest and colours are fine, but don’t pop especially. That said, Windows 11 was clearly not designed for this screen size, and some text elements can be hard to read. Text input is the most painful, particularly during the Windows 11 setup process. The virtual keyboard can take up half the screen when docked, and cover what you’re trying to do when floating. I found myself using a stylus rather than trying to finger-pick letters, and it felt like typing on an old-school PDA at times. You can use the macro paddles on the rear to trigger several common Windows functions, but that requires memorising them.

There are two small buttons on either side of the screen – you might recognise the Menu and View buttons if you’re an Xbox user, and that’s exactly what they’re for in games. There’s also a button for Asus’ custom control panel on the left, and an Armoury Crate software shortcut on the right.

asus rog ally top upright ndtv rog ally

The power and volume buttons as well as all ports are on the top of the ROG Ally

 

The ABXY buttons are colour-coded but in a very muted palette. Button quality is decent; not much different from a console controller. The trigger buttons use Hall effect sensors and allow for analogue control based on how far you press them. Asus hasn’t announced plans for swappable buttons, triggers and sticks like you might find on some high-end console controllers. There’s also a 6-axis gyro sensor and vibrators in each grip, which some but not all games can take advantage of.

Asus has shown many design prototypes it experimented with before settling on this design. Overall, it’s pretty plain. It doesn’t scream “gamer” with any sharp lines or bright accents but you do get a bit of RGB flair around the analogue sticks and a reflective strip on the back. The diagonal slash matches the current ROG series aesthetic. The company says it has gone with textures that work well for grip and allowing sweat on your palms to evaporate. The Ally is only available in white, and I hope the plastic doesn’t get discoloured after long months of gaming with sweaty palms.

Build quality feels pretty good – even with vigorous button mashing and the inevitable bending and twisting that happens when caught up in the action of a game, the ROG Ally never felt delicate or cheap. The display uses Gorilla Glass Victus with an anti-reflective coating. There’s no IP rating because the active cooling requires open air vents, although Asus says they are filtered to prevent dust ingress. One negative is that the ports and slot on the top aren’t protected; a rubber flap would have been appreciated.

asus rog ally macro rear ndtv rog ally

The paddles on the rear let you trigger macros when pressed in combination with other buttons

 

Asus ROG Ally specifications and software

At the heart of the ROG Ally is the new AMD Ryzen Z1 series of SoCs. These are slightly trimmed versions of the Ryzen 7040 series chips, codenamed “Phoenix” and originally designed for premium ultralight laptops. They’re based on the current Zen 4 CPU and RDNA 3 GPU architectures. The Ryzen Z1, which we won’t see in India yet, features six CPU cores and four GPU compute units, while the Ryzen Z1 Extreme steps up to eight CPU cores and 12 GPU units. Maximum boost clock speeds are 4.9GHz and 5.1GHz respectively, Both have 9-30W TDP ranges.

That’s a surprising amount of power and explains the need for a dual-fan cooling system. What we have here is essentially an entire laptop’s worth of hardware packed into a thick rectangle rather than a clamshell. It’s surprising that AMD is marketing both these chips as explicitly optimised for handheld gaming, since they could power various types of miniature PCs.

Back to the ROG Ally though, we also have 16GB of LPDDR5 memory which is of course soldered and not upgradeable. The SSD is a 512GB PCIe 4.0 unit and is socketed, though the smaller M.2 2230 form factor isn’t very easily available. Asus says ROG Ally owners are free to perform an upgrade, but it will void their warranty so it’s best to have trained service centre staff do it.

Asus went with a 7-inch, full-HD 120Hz “IPS level” display. It supports AMD Freesync Premium, brightness is rated at 500nits and colour reproduction is 100 percent sRGB. The battery capacity is 40Wh which is understandable for a handheld. You get a 65W USB-PD charging brick, which is surprisingly bulky and seems to be the same one that the company ships with some of its laptops. There’s no mention of quick charging.

asus rog ally software config ndtv rog ally

Asus’ Armoury Crate SE software lets you tweak the controller inputs and set system-wide options

 

You get just one USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-C port for charging and connecting peripherals such as a portable SSD. It can also be used for an external display over DisplayPort 1.4. This port is part of Asus’ proprietary XG Mobile Interface, which essentially lets you route PCIe lanes externally. The XG Mobile docks, initially designed for the ultra-compact ROG Flow laptop series, give you a huge boost in GPU power and multiple additional ports including Ethernet, USB, and multiple display outputs. There’s also Wi-Fi 6E (which isn’t technically licensed to work in India) and Bluetooth 5.2.

The ROG Ally also has a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. Asus states that you can install almost any game onto a microSD card and it will only be marginally slower than using the SSD, which in theory would be a great way to carry more games and content around with you. Unfortunately recent reports have confirmed that microSD cards are prone to failure due to the slot’s proximity to a hot air vent.

One big challenge for Asus was making the Windows 11 UI manageable on such a small screen, and so the Armoury Crate SE software acts as a launcher, with your games front and centre. It also has a bunch of options for customising everything from the analogue stick responsiveness to Aura Sync lighting and checking for firmware updates. You can use it to launch individual games as well as storefronts such as Steam and the Xbox app if you have a Game Pass subscription.

The Command Centre overlay can be called up within games, and gives you big, touch-friendly buttons. You can control brightness and volume, but more importantly toggle between performance modes (30/25W, 15W and 10W), change game profiles, and pull up useful tools. You can fully customise its layout and add shortcuts for the Windows desktop, on-screen keyboard, and task manager. For power users, there are controls letting you cap screen resolution and refresh rate on the fly, toggle an FPS limiter and use AMD Radeon Software features such as Radeon Image Sharpening and Radeon Super Resolution upscaling.

asus rog ally software overlay ndtv rog ally

You can pull up this panel at any time to change system performance parameters

 

Asus ROG Ally usage and performance

There are loads of system settings you can tweak, and so performance can be tricky to measure. I noticed that the 30W Turbo mode was only available when using the ROG Ally with its bundled 65W charger – the TDP was capped at 25W when on battery power and even when using a third-party 61W adapter. More interestingly, plugging in a USB Type-C dock and routing power through that also limited the Ally to 25W. This was a bit of a surprise, and you’ll probably encounter this too, since most docks don’t specify their passthrough power ratings.

Speaking of docks, I found mine to be indispensable when setting up the ROG Ally and performing general tasks in Windows. A fast wired Internet connection really helped when downloading 100GB+ games. In fact, I had to daisy-chain two hubs because I needed at least one USB port for an external SSD and one each for a keyboard and mouse, plus pass-through power. Wireless peripherals will take some of this load off but the Ally really needs at least one more USB port – it is after all a full Windows PC. If you’re planning to use a desktop monitor or TV, output resolution and refresh rate might also depend on the chain of docks and cables or adapters you use.

The 30W mode is what you should be using for gaming when plugged in. This unlocks the Ryzen Z1 Extreme’s full performance, and also reveals one of its biggest limitations. You can’t use the full potential of the ROG Ally unless it’s plugged in to a power source – this is normal for laptops, but a bit frustrating for a handheld.

asus rog ally power ndtv rog ally

The supplied power brick is quite large by today’s standards

 

Battery life is also greatly affected when the higher power modes are enabled. As you’ll see from the benchmark test and game performance scores below, you can get decent enough performance in heavy games at 30/25W but 15W is more sensible for battery-powered gaming. FPS numbers drop drastically and disproportionately at the 10W setting, so this is only really advisable when you’re doing things like watching videos or running non-game software.

You can expect 1-2 hours of gaming at reasonable settings, using the 15W mode. This of course depends on which game you choose, but that still isn’t a lot. Asus rates video playback time at 6 hours using the 10W mode. Our graphics-heavy Battery Eater Pro test ran for 2 hours, 23 minutes at 10W. This won’t get you through a long road trip but most plane seats have power outlets these days so that’s at least one possibility. Charging isn’t particularly quick – I noted a 20 percent battery level after 10 minutes of charging when completely switched off.

All games and tests were run at the 25W setting to gauge maximum performance under ordinary conditions, except where noted. Starting with general performance tests, the ROG Ally scored 6,886 points in the synthetic PCMark benchmark’s standard run, and 6,891 points in its Extended run. Geekbench 6 managed a single-core score of 2,521 and a multi-core score of 11,570. Cinebench R23 is another popular standardised test, and it completed its render workload with 1,761 points with a single active thread and 14,108 points with all threads active.

asus rog ally docks ndtv rog ally

The ROG Ally should have had at least one more USB Type-C port for charging while peripherals are plugged in

 

The POVRay render test finished its default benchmark in just 52 seconds. The browser-based Webxprt 4, Basemark Web, and Jetstream 2 tests returned scores of 282, 1969.65, and 273.372 respectively. Compressing our standard 3.24GB folder of assorted files with 7-zip took 1 minute, 28 seconds and transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 using Handbrake took 41 seconds.

At 25W, all these scores are roughly on par with or better than what you can expect from the recently launched 15-inch MacBook Air, although Apple’s M2 SoC only needs passive cooling. The ROG Ally also handily beats a current-gen Windows-based ultraportable, the LG Gram 14 (14Z90Q), with its low-power Intel Core i7-1260P processor. Most of that is down to AMD’s beefy integrated GPU.

For the sake of comparison, I ran some tests again in the 10W mode. Geekbench 6 scores dropped to 1,840 and 6,869 for the single- and multi-core tests respectively. 7zip took 2 minutes, 29 seconds for the exact same compression task, and video transcoding took 1 minute, 35 seconds.

Of course graphics and gaming test results are what everyone’s been waiting for. The trusty 3DMark posted scores of 1,477 in 3DMark’s Port Royal ray tracing benchmark, 3,138 in the DX12 Time Spy test, and 7,203 in the legacy Fire Strike test. That’s far better than what we’ve seen from laptops such as the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G with its entry-level GeForce MX550 GPU, and slots in neatly below the mainstream GeForce RTX 3050, as seen in the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Pro X.

asus rog ally desktop ndtv rog ally

You can set up a desktop with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but it doesn’t seem practical for gaming

 

The Unigine Superposition test managed a score of 5,004 with a 37.43fps average at the 25W setting, and that came down to 3,958 points with an average of 29.6fps at 10W. Both runs used the 1080p Medium preset. The difference in absolute values as well as overall consistency shows how performance scales down when trying to save power. Gears Tactics has a fairly intense built-in benchmark which managed a 53.5fps average at 25W but only an unplayable 16.5fps average at 10W, also using the same 1920×1080 resolution and High quality preset.

We have some more in-game benchmarks lined up, since these let us compare performance across devices and platforms under identical conditions. GTA V is now quite old but still popular, and a great example of what I’d like to play on a portable console. While it was fun, graphics quality was not great. Even at 1280×720 resolution, most graphics quality variables were disabled or set to Low by default. The built-in benchmark averaged 30.24fps with the minimum dropping to just 11.44fps.

Other games fared considerably better. The classic Rise of the Tomb Raider ran fairly well at 1080p using its Medium preset. The benchmark average was 41fps which is good enough. Far Cry 5 is another of our regular benchmark tests, and this title managed an average of 43fps at 1080 using its High preset. You might encounter stutters and slowdowns in intense sequences in-game, but there’s no doubt that they’re playable and enjoyable.

Doom Eternal looks great and is incredibly fast-paced, but is also known to be forgiving when it comes to hardware. Using its on-screen diagnostic counter, I was able to test the ROG Ally at three different power settings across a level that included navigating some simple passages followed by a major fight sequence. When plugged in and running at its 30W Turbo setting, I was able to play at 50-70fps and there was no issue other than fan noise. The 15W mode took performance down to about 45fps which was also fine – this is what you should expect when playing on battery power. However, the game ran at an excruciating 20fps and fight sequences were impossible, when I tried the 10W mode. The resolution was set to 1080p throughout, and the quality setting was Ultra.

asus rog ally slime ndtv rog ally

Casual games run well on battery power and are fun to play on the ROG Ally

 

Superhot is not as graphically intense but seems well suited to the form factor of the ROG Ally. Using the game’s High preset and the console’s 30W setting, I was comfortable with the 100fps or so that Asus’ overlay showed. at Sadly, that dropped to just about 30fps at 15W.

And what about casual games? I did manage to have fun with simple titles such as Portal 2, Slime Rancher, and Rayman Legends. These ran poorly at the 10W setting but seemed to be manageable at 15W. Games such as these are designed to work with a controller, and detected the ROG Ally’s hardware as a standard input device, letting me tweak button assignments in-game. Many PC games these days are console ports anyway, so the UI and controls just worked. Civilization VI felt too constrained on the tiny screen and controls were quite painful – I can’t imagine spending much time with simulation or strategy titles on this device.

For games that don’t just work with a controller, Armoury Crate SE can be used to create per-game profiles and manually map keyboard or mouse inputs to the Ally’s buttons and sticks. This isn’t always smooth, since using an analogue stick is very different to using a mouse. I tried one fairly old game, Mirror’s Edge, in order to gauge the controller experience here because I had enjoyed it very much on an Xbox 360, but it crashed on launch and just refused to run. 

Beyond that, many casual Windows games are designed either for mouse-and-keyboard input or a touchscreen, and I found that Bloons TD6, Mini Motorways, and games of that sort worked best with touch input, ignoring the controller hardware altogether. The touchscreen isn’t very responsive, and these games really don’t do justice to the ROG Ally’s hardware, but if you have a portable computer then why not!

The ROG Ally’s fans are not exactly quiet when running games at the 30W setting. The sound isn’t too distracting but it is noticeable. Hot air rushes out the vents, thankfully away from your hands though.

asus rog ally size ndtv rog ally

Asus says it had to do a lot of work to achieve the final size and weight of the ROG Ally

 

Verdict

The Asus ROG Ally is a fascinating product. It’s genuinely new and fresh, and there’s clearly a market for it. However, I’m not quite sure it’s ready for mainstream adoption, and those who are immediately drawn to the concept should really consider a few key points about how and where they will end up using it. First of all, this isn’t a traditional handheld console – it’s a mini PC with a screen and a physically integrated controller. It doesn’t have its own ecosystem of games that just work, a game store, or a seamless UI. PC games won’t all run smoothly and working with Windows 11 can be annoying.

Moreover, the sheer number of variables you have to deal with manually can be daunting for casual gamers. You have to know what power profile is active, you can change the screen resolution and refresh rate, and I just didn’t have time to get into what’s possible with Radeon Super Resolution upscaling. During the review period, there weren’t many times that I actually saw any benefit in plugging the ROG Ally into a TV or using it at a desk with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. I also don’t think an XG Mobile dock with a much more powerful GPU would be good enough value for money, for the use I got out of it.

PC games might expect always-on Internet access, so gaming on the go can be tricky. Adding a cellular data modem would have compromised battery life further, so it’s understandable that Asus didn’t implement that. The problem is there are places you can’t even tether, such as on a plane, which is exactly where you’d want a portable gaming machine to work.

asus rog ally trigger ndtv rog ally

You get the convenience of a fingerprint sensor and of course programmable RGB lighting effects

 

Battery life is very limited and you only get the best performance when plugged into a power source that can deliver 65W. For that reason I found myself using the ROG Ally most often when lounging at home. In that sense, it’s nice to have but it’s definitely an indulgence. If this is the main use case, rather than gaming while outdoors or traveling, I’d prioritise buying a gaming laptop and a capable smartphone before spending money on this device.

I’m surprised that other manufacturers haven’t yet announced their own versions of the same thing, but I can’t say whether that’s because AMD’s Ryzen Z1 series isn’t widely available to OEMs, they were caught off guard and need more R&D time, or they’re choosing to wait and watch. Asus is clearly confident enough to launch the ROG Ally worldwide – and has created quite a lot of resources including guides on its website to help you optimise game settings and get familiar with it. I’m fascinated to see whether this will end up as a one-off, like many of Asus’ most inventive products, or whether we’ve just seen the birth of a whole new market. As for the Ryzen Z1 series SoCs, I’d love to see them in a variety of compact form factors beyond handheld gaming consoles.

Unlike the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, the ROG Ally is officially available in India. Just the fact that you will get authorised support for it makes spending Rs. 70,000 seem palatable, but you have to know exactly what you’re getting into. This isn’t a simple game console that you can just pull out of your bag to kill time with wherever you are. It also isn’t a low-cost gaming PC. It’s more of a plaything for enthusiasts who already have good PCs and who will find joy in the device itself, not just the games they play on it.

Asus ROG Ally
Price: Rs. 69,990

Pros

  • Innovative and unique
  • Powerful hardware
  • Reasonable weight, good build quality
  • Runs a wide variety of PC games

Cons

  • Very limited battery life
  • Only one USB port
  • Windows UI is hard to use
  • Carry case not included

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4
  • Display: 3.5
  • Software: 3.5
  • Performance: 5
  • Battery life: 3
  • Value for Money: 4
  • Overall: 3.5


India isn’t seen as a huge market for handheld gaming consoles. Nintendo doesn’t have an official presence here at all, Sony never really promoted the PS Vita, and there’s no hope of the Steam Deck coming in anytime soon. There clearly is some demand, evidenced by the easy availability of grey-market Nintendo Switch units, online listings for niche Chinese manufacturers such as Ayaneo, and even small yet vocal crowds of retro console enthusiasts in forums online. However, they’re a microscopic niche compared to smartphone gamers here, with PUBG/BGMI becoming a cultural phenomenon and even casual titles making enormous money. Over 500 million Indians are estimated to play games on their smartphones; double what the figure was just five years ago. That’s incredible in terms of sheer market potential.

But what games are these people playing, how much are they willing to spend, and how does the hardware and software fit into their lives? Is there space for a dedicated portable gaming device in the Indian market? And can the new Asus ROG Ally, which costs more than some entry-level gaming laptops, fill it? After spending some time with the device, and some conversations with Asus, here’s what I think.

Asus ROG Ally price in India

Internationally, there are two variants of the ROG Ally, and the only difference is the choice of SoC – AMD’s new Ryzen Z1 powers the lower-end one, while the more capable Ryzen Z1 Extreme can deliver better performance in games. Asus has brought only the higher-end version to India, at least for now. This makes sense, because it isn’t competing with anything on price and you might as well make a good impression with the best possible performance. It costs Rs. 69,990 which isn’t bad considering the specifications.

You don’t get very much in the box – just a fairly oversized charger and a power cable. It’s particularly disappointing that there’s no case, since this is by nature a portable device. Asus does sell a case which has compartments for microSD cards and can function as a stand, but that’s an added cost. Third-party alternatives should be available soon.

asus rog ally front upright ndtv rog ally

The ROG Ally’s 7-inch screen is just the right size for comfortable gaming

 

Asus ROG Ally: What it is and who it’s for

Appearance aside, the ROG Ally is much closer to a full-fledged computer than a handheld console. It has a standard processor with an integrated GPU, and all the components you’d expect except a keyboard and trackpad. It boots up just like a PC and runs Windows 11 Home. This is its greatest strength, because it can run pretty much any PC game including plenty of free ones – but also its greatest weakness, because you’re using software and hardware in ways they might not have originally been designed for. We’ll get into this in much more detail soon.

You can run almost any PC game, and most recent ones actually work surprisingly well. Asus isn’t interested in creating its own ecosystem to compete with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, so there’s no custom hardware or software and no tie to a specific game store. You can download anything from the Internet, including through the Steam, Epic, EA, etc stores. You can install any company’s launcher, use cloud or subscription services, and even hook up an external drive via USB to copy files over. That also opens up a huge world of free games (and ones obtained in less-than-ethical ways). Besides, titles usually cost far less on PC than they do on consoles, and older games are often heavily discounted.

But then there’s that Rs. 69,990 price – if you’re a mobile gamer looking to get to the next level, you probably want a gaming laptop. The ROG Ally isn’t a replacement or alternative, unless you have extreme space constraints plus a computer that you already use for non-gaming tasks.

asus rog ally front buttons rog ally

The buttons and sticks on the ROG Ally are modelled on Microsoft’s Xbox controller layout

 

Asus imagines that people will use the ROG Ally not only as a handheld, but also docked with a TV. You could even pick up one of the company’s XG Mobile external GPUs, which start at around Rs. 80,000 in India and go up to Rs. 1,82,990 for a GeForce RTX 4090) to turn the ROG Ally into a full gaming setup with up to a 4K monitor or TV.

Other than price and size, two big considerations are battery life and performance while running on battery power, which we’ll test soon. Another thing to remember is that a lot of PC games require always-on or periodic Internet connectivity, so the ROG Ally might not be all that suited for those who want to play games on a long flight or while commuting.

And then there are non-gaming use cases too – you definitely won’t want to browse the Web or type office documents on the tiny 7-inch touchscreen, but it’s better than a phone for watching movies on. Plus, a cheap USB dock and some peripherals could make the ROG Ally quite versatile in many situations.

The ROG Ally seems to be something you’d have in addition to a more traditional gaming setup – a bit of an indulgence, maybe for a student who wants to keep it hidden in a dorm, a frequent traveler, or a very committed couch potato. It’s hard to imagine choosing the Ally instead of a similarly priced laptop. Hopefully in the future, prices will go down and devices like this will make up a new, more affordable tier of gaming PCs.

asus rog ally rear upright ndtv rog ally

You get a simple stand in the box, but a carry case would have been much more appreciated

 

Asus ROG Ally design and capabilities

Physically, the ROG Ally is a little bigger than the Nintendo Switch and quite a lot smaller than the Steam Deck. The general layout of buttons and controls is deliberately modelled on an Xbox controller, to make gaming on Windows as seamless as using Microsoft’s own hardware. Asus says it focused a huge amount of engineering effort on keeping weight down, and the final 608g was achieved through some very creative structural work as well as paying attention to every little detail, down to the design of the fan blades and every last hardware choice.

It’s comfortable to hold, and the weight is fine. My index fingers sat naturally on the triggers and my ring fingers found the macro paddles on the back. The front-firing speakers aren’t obstructed by a user’s palms at all, and sound is surprisingly rich and clear. There are also stereo mics with noise cancelling. A fingerprint sensor is integrated into the power button on the top.

Of course, front and centre we have the 7-inch full-HD display. I think Asus got the size and proportions right – I never had to hold the ROG Ally too close to my face. Viewing angles aren’t the greatest and colours are fine, but don’t pop especially. That said, Windows 11 was clearly not designed for this screen size, and some text elements can be hard to read. Text input is the most painful, particularly during the Windows 11 setup process. The virtual keyboard can take up half the screen when docked, and cover what you’re trying to do when floating. I found myself using a stylus rather than trying to finger-pick letters, and it felt like typing on an old-school PDA at times. You can use the macro paddles on the rear to trigger several common Windows functions, but that requires memorising them.

There are two small buttons on either side of the screen – you might recognise the Menu and View buttons if you’re an Xbox user, and that’s exactly what they’re for in games. There’s also a button for Asus’ custom control panel on the left, and an Armoury Crate software shortcut on the right.

asus rog ally top upright ndtv rog ally

The power and volume buttons as well as all ports are on the top of the ROG Ally

 

The ABXY buttons are colour-coded but in a very muted palette. Button quality is decent; not much different from a console controller. The trigger buttons use Hall effect sensors and allow for analogue control based on how far you press them. Asus hasn’t announced plans for swappable buttons, triggers and sticks like you might find on some high-end console controllers. There’s also a 6-axis gyro sensor and vibrators in each grip, which some but not all games can take advantage of.

Asus has shown many design prototypes it experimented with before settling on this design. Overall, it’s pretty plain. It doesn’t scream “gamer” with any sharp lines or bright accents but you do get a bit of RGB flair around the analogue sticks and a reflective strip on the back. The diagonal slash matches the current ROG series aesthetic. The company says it has gone with textures that work well for grip and allowing sweat on your palms to evaporate. The Ally is only available in white, and I hope the plastic doesn’t get discoloured after long months of gaming with sweaty palms.

Build quality feels pretty good – even with vigorous button mashing and the inevitable bending and twisting that happens when caught up in the action of a game, the ROG Ally never felt delicate or cheap. The display uses Gorilla Glass Victus with an anti-reflective coating. There’s no IP rating because the active cooling requires open air vents, although Asus says they are filtered to prevent dust ingress. One negative is that the ports and slot on the top aren’t protected; a rubber flap would have been appreciated.

asus rog ally macro rear ndtv rog ally

The paddles on the rear let you trigger macros when pressed in combination with other buttons

 

Asus ROG Ally specifications and software

At the heart of the ROG Ally is the new AMD Ryzen Z1 series of SoCs. These are slightly trimmed versions of the Ryzen 7040 series chips, codenamed “Phoenix” and originally designed for premium ultralight laptops. They’re based on the current Zen 4 CPU and RDNA 3 GPU architectures. The Ryzen Z1, which we won’t see in India yet, features six CPU cores and four GPU compute units, while the Ryzen Z1 Extreme steps up to eight CPU cores and 12 GPU units. Maximum boost clock speeds are 4.9GHz and 5.1GHz respectively, Both have 9-30W TDP ranges.

That’s a surprising amount of power and explains the need for a dual-fan cooling system. What we have here is essentially an entire laptop’s worth of hardware packed into a thick rectangle rather than a clamshell. It’s surprising that AMD is marketing both these chips as explicitly optimised for handheld gaming, since they could power various types of miniature PCs.

Back to the ROG Ally though, we also have 16GB of LPDDR5 memory which is of course soldered and not upgradeable. The SSD is a 512GB PCIe 4.0 unit and is socketed, though the smaller M.2 2230 form factor isn’t very easily available. Asus says ROG Ally owners are free to perform an upgrade, but it will void their warranty so it’s best to have trained service centre staff do it.

Asus went with a 7-inch, full-HD 120Hz “IPS level” display. It supports AMD Freesync Premium, brightness is rated at 500nits and colour reproduction is 100 percent sRGB. The battery capacity is 40Wh which is understandable for a handheld. You get a 65W USB-PD charging brick, which is surprisingly bulky and seems to be the same one that the company ships with some of its laptops. There’s no mention of quick charging.

asus rog ally software config ndtv rog ally

Asus’ Armoury Crate SE software lets you tweak the controller inputs and set system-wide options

 

You get just one USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-C port for charging and connecting peripherals such as a portable SSD. It can also be used for an external display over DisplayPort 1.4. This port is part of Asus’ proprietary XG Mobile Interface, which essentially lets you route PCIe lanes externally. The XG Mobile docks, initially designed for the ultra-compact ROG Flow laptop series, give you a huge boost in GPU power and multiple additional ports including Ethernet, USB, and multiple display outputs. There’s also Wi-Fi 6E (which isn’t technically licensed to work in India) and Bluetooth 5.2.

The ROG Ally also has a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot. Asus states that you can install almost any game onto a microSD card and it will only be marginally slower than using the SSD, which in theory would be a great way to carry more games and content around with you. Unfortunately recent reports have confirmed that microSD cards are prone to failure due to the slot’s proximity to a hot air vent.

One big challenge for Asus was making the Windows 11 UI manageable on such a small screen, and so the Armoury Crate SE software acts as a launcher, with your games front and centre. It also has a bunch of options for customising everything from the analogue stick responsiveness to Aura Sync lighting and checking for firmware updates. You can use it to launch individual games as well as storefronts such as Steam and the Xbox app if you have a Game Pass subscription.

The Command Centre overlay can be called up within games, and gives you big, touch-friendly buttons. You can control brightness and volume, but more importantly toggle between performance modes (30/25W, 15W and 10W), change game profiles, and pull up useful tools. You can fully customise its layout and add shortcuts for the Windows desktop, on-screen keyboard, and task manager. For power users, there are controls letting you cap screen resolution and refresh rate on the fly, toggle an FPS limiter and use AMD Radeon Software features such as Radeon Image Sharpening and Radeon Super Resolution upscaling.

asus rog ally software overlay ndtv rog ally

You can pull up this panel at any time to change system performance parameters

 

Asus ROG Ally usage and performance

There are loads of system settings you can tweak, and so performance can be tricky to measure. I noticed that the 30W Turbo mode was only available when using the ROG Ally with its bundled 65W charger – the TDP was capped at 25W when on battery power and even when using a third-party 61W adapter. More interestingly, plugging in a USB Type-C dock and routing power through that also limited the Ally to 25W. This was a bit of a surprise, and you’ll probably encounter this too, since most docks don’t specify their passthrough power ratings.

Speaking of docks, I found mine to be indispensable when setting up the ROG Ally and performing general tasks in Windows. A fast wired Internet connection really helped when downloading 100GB+ games. In fact, I had to daisy-chain two hubs because I needed at least one USB port for an external SSD and one each for a keyboard and mouse, plus pass-through power. Wireless peripherals will take some of this load off but the Ally really needs at least one more USB port – it is after all a full Windows PC. If you’re planning to use a desktop monitor or TV, output resolution and refresh rate might also depend on the chain of docks and cables or adapters you use.

The 30W mode is what you should be using for gaming when plugged in. This unlocks the Ryzen Z1 Extreme’s full performance, and also reveals one of its biggest limitations. You can’t use the full potential of the ROG Ally unless it’s plugged in to a power source – this is normal for laptops, but a bit frustrating for a handheld.

asus rog ally power ndtv rog ally

The supplied power brick is quite large by today’s standards

 

Battery life is also greatly affected when the higher power modes are enabled. As you’ll see from the benchmark test and game performance scores below, you can get decent enough performance in heavy games at 30/25W but 15W is more sensible for battery-powered gaming. FPS numbers drop drastically and disproportionately at the 10W setting, so this is only really advisable when you’re doing things like watching videos or running non-game software.

You can expect 1-2 hours of gaming at reasonable settings, using the 15W mode. This of course depends on which game you choose, but that still isn’t a lot. Asus rates video playback time at 6 hours using the 10W mode. Our graphics-heavy Battery Eater Pro test ran for 2 hours, 23 minutes at 10W. This won’t get you through a long road trip but most plane seats have power outlets these days so that’s at least one possibility. Charging isn’t particularly quick – I noted a 20 percent battery level after 10 minutes of charging when completely switched off.

All games and tests were run at the 25W setting to gauge maximum performance under ordinary conditions, except where noted. Starting with general performance tests, the ROG Ally scored 6,886 points in the synthetic PCMark benchmark’s standard run, and 6,891 points in its Extended run. Geekbench 6 managed a single-core score of 2,521 and a multi-core score of 11,570. Cinebench R23 is another popular standardised test, and it completed its render workload with 1,761 points with a single active thread and 14,108 points with all threads active.

asus rog ally docks ndtv rog ally

The ROG Ally should have had at least one more USB Type-C port for charging while peripherals are plugged in

 

The POVRay render test finished its default benchmark in just 52 seconds. The browser-based Webxprt 4, Basemark Web, and Jetstream 2 tests returned scores of 282, 1969.65, and 273.372 respectively. Compressing our standard 3.24GB folder of assorted files with 7-zip took 1 minute, 28 seconds and transcoding a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265 using Handbrake took 41 seconds.

At 25W, all these scores are roughly on par with or better than what you can expect from the recently launched 15-inch MacBook Air, although Apple’s M2 SoC only needs passive cooling. The ROG Ally also handily beats a current-gen Windows-based ultraportable, the LG Gram 14 (14Z90Q), with its low-power Intel Core i7-1260P processor. Most of that is down to AMD’s beefy integrated GPU.

For the sake of comparison, I ran some tests again in the 10W mode. Geekbench 6 scores dropped to 1,840 and 6,869 for the single- and multi-core tests respectively. 7zip took 2 minutes, 29 seconds for the exact same compression task, and video transcoding took 1 minute, 35 seconds.

Of course graphics and gaming test results are what everyone’s been waiting for. The trusty 3DMark posted scores of 1,477 in 3DMark’s Port Royal ray tracing benchmark, 3,138 in the DX12 Time Spy test, and 7,203 in the legacy Fire Strike test. That’s far better than what we’ve seen from laptops such as the Xiaomi Notebook Pro 120G with its entry-level GeForce MX550 GPU, and slots in neatly below the mainstream GeForce RTX 3050, as seen in the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Pro X.

asus rog ally desktop ndtv rog ally

You can set up a desktop with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, but it doesn’t seem practical for gaming

 

The Unigine Superposition test managed a score of 5,004 with a 37.43fps average at the 25W setting, and that came down to 3,958 points with an average of 29.6fps at 10W. Both runs used the 1080p Medium preset. The difference in absolute values as well as overall consistency shows how performance scales down when trying to save power. Gears Tactics has a fairly intense built-in benchmark which managed a 53.5fps average at 25W but only an unplayable 16.5fps average at 10W, also using the same 1920×1080 resolution and High quality preset.

We have some more in-game benchmarks lined up, since these let us compare performance across devices and platforms under identical conditions. GTA V is now quite old but still popular, and a great example of what I’d like to play on a portable console. While it was fun, graphics quality was not great. Even at 1280×720 resolution, most graphics quality variables were disabled or set to Low by default. The built-in benchmark averaged 30.24fps with the minimum dropping to just 11.44fps.

Other games fared considerably better. The classic Rise of the Tomb Raider ran fairly well at 1080p using its Medium preset. The benchmark average was 41fps which is good enough. Far Cry 5 is another of our regular benchmark tests, and this title managed an average of 43fps at 1080 using its High preset. You might encounter stutters and slowdowns in intense sequences in-game, but there’s no doubt that they’re playable and enjoyable.

Doom Eternal looks great and is incredibly fast-paced, but is also known to be forgiving when it comes to hardware. Using its on-screen diagnostic counter, I was able to test the ROG Ally at three different power settings across a level that included navigating some simple passages followed by a major fight sequence. When plugged in and running at its 30W Turbo setting, I was able to play at 50-70fps and there was no issue other than fan noise. The 15W mode took performance down to about 45fps which was also fine – this is what you should expect when playing on battery power. However, the game ran at an excruciating 20fps and fight sequences were impossible, when I tried the 10W mode. The resolution was set to 1080p throughout, and the quality setting was Ultra.

asus rog ally slime ndtv rog ally

Casual games run well on battery power and are fun to play on the ROG Ally

 

Superhot is not as graphically intense but seems well suited to the form factor of the ROG Ally. Using the game’s High preset and the console’s 30W setting, I was comfortable with the 100fps or so that Asus’ overlay showed. at Sadly, that dropped to just about 30fps at 15W.

And what about casual games? I did manage to have fun with simple titles such as Portal 2, Slime Rancher, and Rayman Legends. These ran poorly at the 10W setting but seemed to be manageable at 15W. Games such as these are designed to work with a controller, and detected the ROG Ally’s hardware as a standard input device, letting me tweak button assignments in-game. Many PC games these days are console ports anyway, so the UI and controls just worked. Civilization VI felt too constrained on the tiny screen and controls were quite painful – I can’t imagine spending much time with simulation or strategy titles on this device.

For games that don’t just work with a controller, Armoury Crate SE can be used to create per-game profiles and manually map keyboard or mouse inputs to the Ally’s buttons and sticks. This isn’t always smooth, since using an analogue stick is very different to using a mouse. I tried one fairly old game, Mirror’s Edge, in order to gauge the controller experience here because I had enjoyed it very much on an Xbox 360, but it crashed on launch and just refused to run. 

Beyond that, many casual Windows games are designed either for mouse-and-keyboard input or a touchscreen, and I found that Bloons TD6, Mini Motorways, and games of that sort worked best with touch input, ignoring the controller hardware altogether. The touchscreen isn’t very responsive, and these games really don’t do justice to the ROG Ally’s hardware, but if you have a portable computer then why not!

The ROG Ally’s fans are not exactly quiet when running games at the 30W setting. The sound isn’t too distracting but it is noticeable. Hot air rushes out the vents, thankfully away from your hands though.

asus rog ally size ndtv rog ally

Asus says it had to do a lot of work to achieve the final size and weight of the ROG Ally

 

Verdict

The Asus ROG Ally is a fascinating product. It’s genuinely new and fresh, and there’s clearly a market for it. However, I’m not quite sure it’s ready for mainstream adoption, and those who are immediately drawn to the concept should really consider a few key points about how and where they will end up using it. First of all, this isn’t a traditional handheld console – it’s a mini PC with a screen and a physically integrated controller. It doesn’t have its own ecosystem of games that just work, a game store, or a seamless UI. PC games won’t all run smoothly and working with Windows 11 can be annoying.

Moreover, the sheer number of variables you have to deal with manually can be daunting for casual gamers. You have to know what power profile is active, you can change the screen resolution and refresh rate, and I just didn’t have time to get into what’s possible with Radeon Super Resolution upscaling. During the review period, there weren’t many times that I actually saw any benefit in plugging the ROG Ally into a TV or using it at a desk with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. I also don’t think an XG Mobile dock with a much more powerful GPU would be good enough value for money, for the use I got out of it.

PC games might expect always-on Internet access, so gaming on the go can be tricky. Adding a cellular data modem would have compromised battery life further, so it’s understandable that Asus didn’t implement that. The problem is there are places you can’t even tether, such as on a plane, which is exactly where you’d want a portable gaming machine to work.

asus rog ally trigger ndtv rog ally

You get the convenience of a fingerprint sensor and of course programmable RGB lighting effects

 

Battery life is very limited and you only get the best performance when plugged into a power source that can deliver 65W. For that reason I found myself using the ROG Ally most often when lounging at home. In that sense, it’s nice to have but it’s definitely an indulgence. If this is the main use case, rather than gaming while outdoors or traveling, I’d prioritise buying a gaming laptop and a capable smartphone before spending money on this device.

I’m surprised that other manufacturers haven’t yet announced their own versions of the same thing, but I can’t say whether that’s because AMD’s Ryzen Z1 series isn’t widely available to OEMs, they were caught off guard and need more R&D time, or they’re choosing to wait and watch. Asus is clearly confident enough to launch the ROG Ally worldwide – and has created quite a lot of resources including guides on its website to help you optimise game settings and get familiar with it. I’m fascinated to see whether this will end up as a one-off, like many of Asus’ most inventive products, or whether we’ve just seen the birth of a whole new market. As for the Ryzen Z1 series SoCs, I’d love to see them in a variety of compact form factors beyond handheld gaming consoles.

Unlike the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck, the ROG Ally is officially available in India. Just the fact that you will get authorised support for it makes spending Rs. 70,000 seem palatable, but you have to know exactly what you’re getting into. This isn’t a simple game console that you can just pull out of your bag to kill time with wherever you are. It also isn’t a low-cost gaming PC. It’s more of a plaything for enthusiasts who already have good PCs and who will find joy in the device itself, not just the games they play on it.

Asus ROG Ally
Price: Rs. 69,990

Pros

  • Innovative and unique
  • Powerful hardware
  • Reasonable weight, good build quality
  • Runs a wide variety of PC games

Cons

  • Very limited battery life
  • Only one USB port
  • Windows UI is hard to use
  • Carry case not included

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4
  • Display: 3.5
  • Software: 3.5
  • Performance: 5
  • Battery life: 3
  • Value for Money: 4
  • Overall: 3.5

FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Techno Blender is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a comment