It’s here – and as promised by manufacturer Asus – sooner than expected. The Asus ROG Ally has arrived just over a year since the Steam Deck added a new dimension to PC gaming: portability. No longer the domain of the bedroom or office, it’s now possible to play your game library anywhere and not just your old titles, but also the latest epics of the trilogy…to an extent. The Steam Deck struggles with the latest, most demanding games, but the Asus ROG Ally not only delivers the hardware spec improvements we’d love to see added to the Deck — it adds anything up to 71 percent in gaming performance. So what’s the point?
At the heart of the Ally is AMD’s latest mobile CPU — dubbed the Z1 Extreme. This appears to be a modified rendering of the Silicon Phoenix flagship, specifically the Ryzen 7 7840U. The number of CPU cores doubles against the Steam Deck and the frequencies increase exponentially, with the use of the latest Zen4 architecture. Meanwhile, the GPU has 50 percent more compute units, an architectural upgrade over RDNA 3 and – again – a lot more overclocking. 16GB of LPDDR5 over a 128-bit memory interface completes the base specification. At this point, it’s not entirely clear how the Z1 Extreme differs from the 7840U because those spec points are very similar, right down to the new 4nm processor node – another advantage versus the Deck’s 7nm design.
In the specs table below, you’ll notice that I’ve also included specs from a similar new mobile device – the AyaNeo Air Plus. I added this to the mix because it’s based on the 6nm Ryzen 7 6800U, AMD’s latest generation flagship: think of it as an iterative step up from a custom AMD Van Gogh APU on deck. It is built from the same building blocks as the deck but benefits from a much larger CPU and GPU. We’ll see how AMD’s new flagship compares to the old later in the review, but you’ll notice that the basic setup is quite similar to the Z1 Extreme.
|Asus ROG ally||Ayanyu Air Plus||steam surface|
|main processor||AMD Z1 Extreme||AMD Ryzen 7 6800U||Custom AMD “Van Gogh”|
|CPU||Zen4, 8 cores, 16 threads, 5.0GHz max||Zen3+, octa cores, 16 threads, 4.7GHz max||Zen2, four cores, eight threads, 3.6GHz max|
|GPU||RDNA 3, 12 Computing Units, 2.6GHz Max||RDNA 2, 12 compute units, max 2.2GHz||RDNA 2, 8 Compute Units, 1.6GHz Max|
|GPU compute peak||8.60TF||3.38TF||1.64TF|
|memory||16 GB LPDDR5 6400MT/s||16 GB LPDDR5 6400MT/s||16 GB LPDDR5 5500MT / s|
|an offer||1920 x 1080 – 120 Hz IPS with VRR||1920 x 1080 – 60 Hz IPS||1200 x 800 – 60 Hz IPS|
|battery||40 watts per hour||46.2WHr||40 watts per hour|
|default operating system||Windows 11 operating system||Windows 11 operating system||SteamOS|
|I/O||One USB-C port, MicroSD, headphone jack, PCIe extender port||Three USB-C, MicroSD, headphone jack||One USB-C port, MicroSD, headphone jack|
When you open the box, there isn’t much to wrap Ally into. The laptop itself is just under the cover unprotected (which is a touch unsettling) while directly under it are paperwork, a 65W power supply, and a power cable. Asus has also provided a separate charger that also doubles as a USB hub and features HDMI 2.0 output, but it will be a separate purchase for users – it’s a bit strange to have a video output and USB on a plug, but there it is. I recommend using a more traditional USB-C hub instead.
The portable design itself is remarkably good. Ally is easy to hold with textured grips, Xbox-like face buttons, stick pad and D-pad along with familiar clicky shoulder buttons and triggers. On the back are a pair of “paddle” shaped buttons, while RGB accents are also in effect around the sticks.
I/O consists of the power and volume buttons, one USB-C slot, a micro-SD slot, and a 3.5mm stereo jack for headphones. There’s also a PCIe interface for connecting Asus’ line of mobile GPUs up to the RTX 4090, at which point Ally’s iGPU is swapped out in favor of the external processor. This frees up the CPU to take full advantage of its memory bandwidth and power budget, and no longer needs to compete with the resources onboard the Radeon 780M on board. IO does the job, but I would have welcomed an extra USB-C port or two (the AyaNeo 2 has three!).
There are two more hardware design elements that I want to commend. First of all, the screen is excellent – bright, with excellent color reproduction. It’s a 1080p panel running at 120Hz and supporting FreeSync technology. The adaptive sync range appears to be from 48Hz to 120Hz, with VRR completely disabled if you switch the board to 60Hz…so don’t do that. Although aiming for 40fps takes you outside the VRR window, switching to normal v-sync will still work for smooth gameplay as that 40fps splits exactly into the 120Hz output.
Another interesting point is that screen tearing with v-sync off appears in the usual horizontal manner. Mobile devices like the Steam Deck and AyaNeo devices (and almost certainly the Nintendo Switch) actually use reorientated mobile displays, so screen tearing moves from left to right in a way that feels worse than usual – which may explain why the Steam Deck and Switch all play games. With v-sync enabled.
The second typical point to highlight is the cooling arrangement. You’ll hear a lot about the Ally’s cooler design—dual fans, zero-gravity thermal system, tilted dynamic bearings, and ultra-tiny 0.1mm fins—but the truth is, these are the quietest gaming laptops I’ve ever tested. It’s more of a trade-off than the Steam Deck in both 15W and 25W turbo performance. The fans only really ramp up in the main turbo mode at 30W, but even then, it’s still relatively quiet overall.
From a generic hardware design, Ally does almost everything enthusiasts want from a Steam Deck — the cold snap and sub-par screen are comprehensively addressed by premium solutions. However, Windows is still portable — and SteamOS on the Deck has shown that a custom front end can be a game-changer. Moreover, Windows has not yet acquired a suitably functional design. Battery life can be a challenge on deck — but it’s even more so on a Windows machine and the Asus ROG Ally doesn’t quite crack that, as we’ll find out on the next page.
Asus ROG Ally vs Steam Deck review
- Introduction, hardware, specifications [This Page]
- Software, power patterns, and battery life
- Game benchmarks: Control, Forza Horizon 5, God of War
- Game benchmarks: Cyberpunk 2077, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Returnal, Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition
- Great specs and performance, poor battery life and bugs: Digital Foundry’s verdict
Manage your cookie settings
#Asus #ROG #Ally #Steam #Deck #powerful #technology #deliver #gamechanging #mobile #device