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ASUS ROG Ally review: Windows 11 handheld gaming machine

Dive into a captivating gaming experience with the ASUS ROG Ally, a powerful handheld companion boasting powerful hardware and a mix of exciting features, making it a notable standout in the handheld gaming arena.

The handheld gaming narrative has been richly textured, and recent years have seen a bold evolution in this domain. It was the Nintendo Switch that arguably rekindled a mass love affair with handheld gaming, blending the charm of portable gaming with the allure of mainstream titles. Following this trend, Steam Deck emerged on the scene, carving a niche for those seeking a PC gaming experience on the go. Not to be outdone, Lenovo introduced the Legion Go, further stirring the competitive spirits in the handheld gaming market. 

Amidst these pioneering gadgets, ASUS unveils its latest ROG Ally, aiming not merely to join the ranks but to bring a unique essence to the handheld gaming spectrum.

The ROG Ally ventures beyond being a compact gaming device; it’s about delivering a robust and versatile gaming experience irrespective of the setting. Whether nestled on a comfy couch at home or amidst a bustling commute, the ROG Ally is poised to provide an uninterrupted gaming experience. It’s not solely the high-end specs that accord it a place in the spotlight; it’s the thoughtful design that caters to real-world gaming scenarios. Be it engaging in a fierce battle in a high-octane game or delving into puzzles in an indie title, the ROG Ally is crafted to enhance these experiences, making gaming on the go more enjoyable and less of a hassle.

The evolution of handheld gaming is not just a narrative of better graphics or faster processors; it’s about how these devices fit into our daily lives. The ROG Ally encapsulates the aspiration of delivering a superior gaming experience on the go while ensuring the journey remains enjoyable. 

All-white sleek design

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The ASUS ROG Ally makes a striking first impression with its all-white polycarbonate housing. It offers a sleek contrast to other bulkier, all-black handheld gaming devices like the Valve’s Steam Deck. The device is adorned with ASUS’ hallmark Republic of Gamers (ROG) logo, etched into the large vent on the back panel. This feature is accentuated by a thin, glossy holographic strip that adds a futuristic feel to the device.

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The device’s front is dominated by a 7-inch touchscreen flanked by an array of buttons and analogue sticks. Each stick is encircled by eye-catching RGB lighting, which adds a playful touch, albeit one that can sometimes distract during gameplay. The D-pad and other control buttons are designed with a shiny black finish, offering a tactile experience that feels both firm and responsive. 

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The Ally is not just about looks; it’s also designed for comfort and usability. The curved handles at the back are covered in ASUS’ exclusive micro-triangle texture, offering a comfortable, anti-slip grip. This design feature makes extended gameplay sessions less tiring, especially given the device’s balanced weight of 608 grams. Additionally, the Ally features a pair of glossy bumpers and triggers at the top, textured for a non-slip experience, that add to the device’s ergonomic design.

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The ASUS ROG Ally doesn’t skimp on ports and connectivity options, ensuring you’re well-equipped for various gaming scenarios. At the top of the device, you’ll find an array of useful ports, including a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C for fast data transfer and charging, as well as DisplayPort 1.4 support for connecting to external displays. Also featured are a UHS-II MicroSD card slot for expandable storage and a 3.5mm combo audio jack for those who prefer a wired audio experience. These ports not only make the device versatile but also future-proof, catering to both casual gamers and those who wish to expand their gaming setup with external peripherals. With these options, the ROG Ally ensures you’re connected, whether gaming on the go or settling in for an extended session at home.

A window to gaming worlds

The ASUS ROG Ally comes equipped with a Full HD 120Hz high-refresh rate display, a feature that promises not merely to showcase the game but to immerse you in it. The 120Hz refresh rate is a game-changer, particularly in fast-paced gaming scenarios where every frame counts. It ensures a smooth transition between frames, rendering a fluid visual output that keeps you glued to the action. Coupled with AMD FreeSync Premium technology, the display dynamically adjusts its refresh rate to match the frame rate of the game, eliminating screen tearing and ensuring a buttery smooth gameplay experience. The richness of colours and the clarity of visuals are bound to enhance your gaming escapades, making every game not just a visual treat but a holistic experience.

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But the ROG Ally’s display isn’t just about the technicalities; it’s about the practical impact on your gaming experience. Whether you are navigating through lush forests in a visually rich RPG or engaging in intense firefights in a first-person shooter, the display’s resolution and refresh rate ensure that the visuals remain sharp and the action fluid. Furthermore, the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus adds a layer of durability, ensuring that your device can withstand the rigours of daily use without losing its aesthetic appeal. 

Harnessing the power of ROG Ally

At the core of the ASUS ROG Ally lies the robust AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor, a powerhouse that promises to fuel your gaming adventures with unparalleled speed and efficiency. This powerful processor, coupled with 16GB RAM and a lightning-fast 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD, forms a triumvirate of performance that aims to obliterate lag and provide a seamless gaming experience. This configuration is not just about numbers; it’s about delivering a performance that can keep pace with your gaming prowess, ensuring that the device responds to your commands with precision.

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The real strength of a gaming device is often tested in the most graphics-intensive scenarios. With the ROG Ally, you’re not just getting a device capable of running mainstream titles; you’re getting a gadget ready to dive into the demanding realms of AAA titles. The embedded AMD Radeon Navi3 Graphics is the magic wand here, rendering graphics with ease that enhances the visual appeal of your gaming adventures. Whether the detailed landscapes in “Monster Hunter Rise” or the high-speed action in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II”, the ROG Ally is crafted to deliver a visual spectacle without breaking a sweat.

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Finally, the thermals. The ROG Ally employs the all-new Zero Gravity thermal system alongside a dual fan design to keep the device cool, even during intense gaming sessions. Thermal efficiency is not just about keeping the device cool; it’s about preserving the performance integrity of the ROG Ally, ensuring that thermal throttling remains a tale of the past. The dual fan design is engineered to operate quietly, ensuring that the only sounds you hear are of your in-game actions, not the whirring of fans. The ROG Ally’s performance narrative is one of power, precision, and efficiency, embodying a design ready to cater to the modern gamer’s demands.

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The audio experience is a pivotal gaming aspect, and the ASUS ROG Ally doesn’t skimp on it. The device has Dolby Atmos Dual Front-Firing Smart Amp Speakers engineered to deliver a robust and immersive audio experience. Dolby Atmos technology is known for rendering a three-dimensional sound experience, placing you in the middle of the action. Whether it’s the rustling of leaves as you navigate through a dense forest or the roaring engines in a high-speed chase, the audio output is crisp, clear, and richly detailed.

During our tests, the audio dynamics of the ROG Ally were tested with demanding titles like “Monster Hunter Rise” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.” In the lush and dangerous landscapes of “Monster Hunter Rise,” the chirping of birds and the eerie whispers of the forest were delivered with a crisp and clear resonance by the Dolby Atmos Dual Front-Firing Smart Amp Speakers. Transitioning to the high-octane battlefields of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II,” the cacophony of explosions, gunfire, and in-game communications were robust and well-defined, enhancing the intensity and urgency of the battle royale experience. The front-firing speakers ensured that the audio output remained consistent and immersive, whether the device was held in hand or placed on a surface. The ROG Ally’s audio system proves to be a formidable ally, elevating the auditory experience to match the visual spectacle of these expansive gaming worlds.

Windows 11 OS with Armoury Crate

Unlike the Steam Deck, which operates on Linux with a Proton emulation layer and SteamOS in a handheld-friendly mode, the ROG Ally is powered by a bona fide Windows 11 Home. This isn’t a watered-down iteration but the full-fledged Windows experience, a nod to the widespread familiarity and ease of use that Windows brings to the table, eliminating the learning curve for the vast majority who have never dabbled in Linux.

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The real charm unfolds when you delve into the versatility the Windows ecosystem introduces to the ROG Ally. If a program runs on Windows, it seamlessly operates on the ROG Ally. This is a significant advantage for those eyeing the ROG Ally as a potential PC substitute and a colossal win for gamers. The ease of accessing, installing, and running any Windows-based application, including a native version of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass and various game stores, simplifies the journey to diving into new PC games. Unlike the somewhat convoluted process of setting up specific software or game launchers on the Steam Deck, the ROG Ally offers a straightforward, out-of-the-box solution. This feature shines especially when the device is sold in retail stores by a notable PC maker like ASUS, aiming for a broader market appeal.

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ASUS also has added its suite of software to enrich the user experience. A button unveils the ASUS Command Center, a handy overlay menu that allows you to tweak the brightness, frame-rate limit, and resolution, among other settings. Key toggles like the Operating Mode and Control Mode are instrumental in navigating Windows, switching between gamepad and desktop modes, and adapting to your current usage scenario. Further enriching the experience is the Armoury Crate software, accessed via a dedicated button, which amalgamates your game libraries from various platforms like Steam, Game Pass, Ubisoft Connect, and GOG into a unified library, presenting them in an easily navigable interface. This thoughtful software integration not only simplifies navigation but augments the ROG Ally’s appeal as a go-to handheld gaming device.

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The verdict: ASUS ROG Ally

The ROG Ally by ASUS is not just a gaming device; it’s a companion for gamers on the move. Its robust hardware, paired with a range of exciting features, makes it a standout in the handheld gaming market. The asking price of S$999 might initially raise eyebrows, but a deep dive into its capabilities and the mix of features it brings to the table justifies the investment. However, it has its caveats; the battery life falls on the shorter side, which might pose a concern for those long gaming marathons. 

Yet, the inclusion of a three-month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a delightful addition, expanding the gaming frontier for enthusiasts to delve into a vast spectrum of games. This subtle blend of robust performance, coupled with a generous gaming subscription, somewhat mitigates the battery life shortfall, making the ROG Ally a compelling contender for those seeking a potent gaming companion on the go.

Tech Edition has partnerships that involve sponsored content. While this financial support helps us with daily operations, it doesn't affect the integrity of our reviews. We remain committed to delivering honest and insightful content to our readers.

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Vincent Wee
Vincent Wee
As a managing editor at Tech Edition, Vincent brings a whirlwind of marketing expertise and data wizardry to the table. When he's not conjuring up digital magic, catch him geeking out over anime or levelling up on his Nintendo Switch!

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