Asus recently revealed more details about its ROG Ally handheld gaming PC in a preview event, where it left us suitably impressed. We also now know the Australian pricing and release date, which has us extremely excited.
There’s an Ally-shaped gap in the local market, with no sign of Valve launching its Steam Deck in Australia anytime soon. Valve and Australia have a complicated relationship, falling afoul of the ACCC over refusing to provide refunds a decade ago. You can import a Steam Deck via sites like Amazon and Kogan, although you run the risk of no local support if something goes wrong.
Another device the ROG Ally runs parallel to is the Ayaneo series of handheld gaming PC hardware. Several local retailers stock the competing Ayaneo devices, but scattershot availability and expensive pricing mean it’s not really a like-for-like Steam Deck alternative. The Steam Deck’s relative affordability and performance are what make it a tantalising package for gamers.
Regardless of what other brands are doing, the Asus ROG Ally looks fantastic on paper. We’ve got more details about what to expect from the device, including some juicy specs.
Asus ROG Ally: what we know so far
As part of the preview event, Asus discussed the origins of its portable games machine. Fresh off unveiling its powerful 2023 gaming laptop lineup, a company spokesperson explained that the ROG Ally is the next step in its hardware innovation mission. After five years of development and hundreds of prototypes, the Ally is the end result.
Asus set out to achieve several goals with the Windows 11-compatible ROG Ally: have intuitive controls, generate a strong audiovisual experience, power high-end graphics, and include multiple game software platforms. Without going hands-on with the device, it’s difficult to assess how well it ticks each box, but the initial impressions show promise.
Asus ROG Ally design
Many of the design considerations position the ROG Ally as a comfortable device to play games on. Supporting a 7-inch screen, it has textured slip-resistant grips, curved sides and shoulder buttons for easy handling, and programmable rear macro keys. One of the biggest debates surrounding game controllers is the positioning of the control sticks. Here, Asus opted for the Xbox-inspired asymmetrical sticks, where one is positioned higher than the other.
On the scales, the ROG Ally weighs 608 grams, making it lighter than the 669-gram Steam Deck. For comparison, an OLED Nintendo Switch weighs approximately 420 grams with its Joy-Cons attached, while the petite Nintendo Switch Lite model weighs just 275 grams. Meanwhile, a standalone DualSense Edge controller weighs 325 grams.
Display and audio
One of the most important elements of the ROG Ally is its screen. It houses a 7-inch 16:9 ratio display supporting 1080p resolution at a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. Other display specs include a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a 100% sRGB colour gamut, and a 7ms response time.
With a peak brightness of 500 nits, you should be able to comfortably game outside. Made to reduce reflections, the screen uses Gorilla Glass with a Corning DXC coating intended to give you better outdoor visibility. For audio, the Ally produces virtual 5.1.2 surround sound while supporting Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res audio.
When asked for more details about the ROG Ally’s display, the Asus spokesperson explained that the team didn’t use OLED technology because they wanted to focus on the fast 120Hz refresh rate. OLED monitors with high refresh rates are a fairly new technology and cost a lot of money, which is likely another deciding factor.
Internals: processor, graphics, connectivity and storage
On the inside, the ROG Ally wields the newly-announced AMD Ryzen Z1 Series APU designed specifically for handheld PC gaming devices. It uses AMD’s Zen 4 architecture and provides RDNA 3 graphics, supporting technology like raytracing and AI acceleration.
Although specific launch details aren’t yet available, it looks like there will be two main options to choose from. At a base level, the standard AMD Ryzen Z1 chip includes six cores and 12 threads, four AMD RDNA 3 compute units, and a 22MB cache. If you want more performance, and likely a bigger budget, the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme bumps the core count to 8 with 16 threads, 12 AMD RDNA 3 compute units, and a 24MB cache. Plus, the Ally includes 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, which is reasonable for a portable device.
You can also use the ROG Ally as a portable desktop games machine by plugging it into a monitor along with a keyboard and mouse. Plus, it’s compatible with the ROG XG Mobile external GPU adapter.
Also inside the handheld device are twin fans meant to run quietly so as to not interfere with your experience. As part of its thermal control system designed to work no matter what angle you hold the Ally at, the fans reportedly run at 20dB in performance mode.
For storing all your games, the ROG Ally comes with up to 512GB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage. Fortunately, with how big modern game installs are, you can increase this using Micro SD cards. You shouldn’t have much problem installing games, either, because the Ally supports Wi-Fi 6E for faster download speeds. If your internet plan accommodates it, that is.
One of the biggest drawcards of the ROG Ally is its platform-agnostic approach. Running on Windows 11 supported by Armoury Crate SE, a special version of ASUS’ games software, compatibility is a strength. Whether you have games on Steam, Epic Games Store, Xbox Game Pass, or another popular PC client, you can access just about everything on the Ally. You can even unlock the device and access your Windows 11 account using fingerprint unlock.
Another feature of the Armoury Crate SE software is customisation. Here, you can tweak settings on the fly, including frame limits, plus hardware options like haptic feedback and control stick dead zones.
To keep your Ally safe, there will be a travel case with storage space and an in-built stand available. Or, if you want some game-specific portable headphones, Asus also mentioned the ROG Cetra True Wireless earbuds. These buds also have active noise cancellation and a reported 27-hour battery life.
One handy accessory that could give the ROG Ally a similar level of versatility to the Nintendo Switch is the ROG Gaming Charger Dock. It’s a small dongle that supports PD 3.0 fast charging, HDMI 2.0 connectivity, and comes with a USB-C cable to connect the Ally to external displays. If you’re interested in such a device, you likely already have game controllers in abundance, but the ROG Raikiri Pro controller is an option that takes full advantage of the Armoury Crate software if customisability is a deciding factor.
Asus ROG Ally release date and price
At the time of the hands-off preview event, an Asus spokesperson mentioned that it will not cost more than US$1,000 (roughly AU$1,500). Now, we know that the Z1 Extreme version of the Ally costs $1,299 in Australia through the Asus store and JB Hi-Fi, and launches on 13 June 2023. For comparison, the base Z1 version costs US$599 overseas, and US$699 for the Z1 Extreme model. Also looking internationally, various models of the Steam Deck cost between US$399 (AU$600) and US$649 (AU$980).
As is usually the case, it’s not a direct reflection of the exchange rate, with taxes and the cost of bringing the Ally to Australia likely factored in. It’s not too bad, however, considering that importers sell Steam Decks in Australia for around $1,350 depending on the model. When you factor in that the Ally has more modern hardware, it’s a pretty reasonable deal.
We’ll have more details and impressions on the Asus ROG Ally soon. Some of the GadgetGuy team recently attended a hands-on session and liked what they saw, which bodes well ahead of the 13 June launch.