I love waking up early on the weekends and playing video games. It’s one of the most relaxing activities I engage in, to the extent, I often receive notifications from my fitness tracker to ask me if I’m taking a nap while I’m playing.
So, when the new generation of mobile, handheld gaming PCs first started proliferating last year, I was instantly onboard. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to play AAA games anywhere, any time.
The ROG Ally almost started life as an April Fools’ joke from Asus when the company tweeted the first bit information about it on April 1st, but after confirming the device was in fact “not an April fool’s joke”, the Ally was quick to come to market just 10 weeks later.
The obvious comparison to make with the ROG Ally would be the Steam Deck from Valve, the company behind the Steam game distribution platform. The Steam Deck has a similar form factor and was a runaway success in North America where they quickly sold out for months after the launch.
Ed: Check out our comparison
As with most tech these days, differentiating the various models of Steam Deck is done by storage capacity, with the entry-level unit offering 64GB of slower eMMC storage, which then requires you to pay extra for the 256GB or 512GB faster NVME storage options.
Asus has taken aim at the Steam Deck by massively undercutting it on price by offering the 512GB NVME option at the same price as the base model 64GB Steam Deck. Even though both have user-upgradeable storage options, there must be something said for having it ready to go out of the box.
Asus ROG Ally Quick Look
- AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor
- 16GB LPDDR5 memory
- 512 GB solid-state drive
- 7-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 120Hz IPS touch screen display
- Windows 11 Home
Setting up the Asus ROG Ally
When you open the box, you’re greeted by the impressive display that adorns the front of the ROG Ally flanked by a selection of buttons that would be familiar to anyone who has handled an Xbox controller. You quickly realise the scale of the Ally, and the fact that it’s ‘portable’; if you’re happy to awkwardly carry it around in your hands. It helps if you have space in a handbag, backpack or a pair of deep-pocketed cargo pants.
The rest of the contents are a 65W USB Type-C charger; a small plastic stand to keep the Ally vertical on a desk if you choose to plug a controller into it; and some paper manuals and documentation.
Setting up the Ally is as easy as setting up any other Windows 11 machine since that’s exactly what it is. Signing in with a Microsoft account and downloading all of the requisite game launchers with their logins is a time consuming first few hours with the device, but it’s not something that needs to be done very often and is easily offset by the excitement of having the power of a gaming PC in your hands.
One of the biggest problems you may find is having a decent internet connection everywhere you go, to connect to the myriad always-online services that exist these days.
Features and what stood out for me
Asus’ Armory Crate software handles most of the system settings for the Ally, including swapping between the three power profiles: Silent (10W), Performance (15W) and Turbo (25W). Silent mode is truly silent and great for any indie game, but once you graduate to something a bit more graphically intensive, you’re going to want to bump the power up a bit.
The standout issue that you’re going to encounter with the ROG Ally is battery life, because AAA titles require you to crank up the power modes, thus the battery life will be affected. On a play-through of 2018’s excellent God of War, I managed to get through more than half of the battery life in around two hours. The default settings the game started with necessitated that I use the Turbo power profile, but unless you’re the type of person who is happy to lower the quality settings, then you’re always going to be in a race against time to get to a charger.
If you do manage to keep close to the charger, you get to experience some buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rates with excellent viewing angles on the 7-inch display. The only complaint I can find with the display is that the morning sun on my breakfast date with the Ally was easily able to overpower the maximum brightness. I understand that cranking the brightness would only serve to kill the battery even quicker, but it’s still something to be noted if you’re hoping to game outdoors.
If you have access to a decent USB Type-C dongle, you can use the Ally as a gaming PC wherever you go. At the office, I had power, a full keyboard, mouse and external display running off a single cable to enjoy a bit of gaming on my lunch break. It’s a niche but really excellent use of the Ally that can only really be replicated with a gaming notebook which requires vastly more space to transport around with you.
You can buy it from Makro for R15 999
Recharged is an independent site that focuses on technology, electric vehicles, and the digital life by Nafisa Akabor. Drawing from her 16-year tech journalism career, expect news, reviews, how-tos, comparisons, and practical uses of tech that are easy to digest. email@example.com