ASUS ROG Ally review: A game console with Windows operating system?

Can you design and edit video on a game console? I think it's possible with ASUS ROG Ally...
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ASUS ROG Ally review: A game console with Windows operating system? - W3Tekno
Our Verdict
Reasons To Buy
  • Light
  • Portable
  • Capable work and gaming machine
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • Poor battery life
  • Requires a separate dock
  • Windows is fiddly on a touchscreen
  • Steam Deck paved the way for the now very popular handheld gaming PC. They're also great for those who prefer to shoot with cameras rather than hand-cannons, as we've seen in reviews of many gaming laptops on our site.

    But the ASUS ROG Ally is not a laptop. It's a portable device with a screen and controller similar to a Steam Deck or Switch. It has a 7-inch touchscreen with 1080p resolution, but it can be docked and connected to a large display like any other desktop PC (even those that support external GPU).

    ASUS ROG Ally

    Ally's intended use may be gaming, but it runs the full version of Windows 11 on some very good laptop hardware, so a double life as a photo or video editing workstation as well as competing among the best gaming consoles is out of the question.

    Key Specs
    APU:AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
    RAM:16GB
    Storage:512GB SSD
    Screen:7in 1080p HDR 120Hz IPS touchscreen
    Connectivity:1x USB-C, 1x ROG XG Mobile, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
    Battery life:up to 3hrs
    Dimensions:28.0 x 11.1 x 2.12cm
    Weight:608g

    Design And Build

    ASUS ROG Ally

    We almost immediately lost control of the ROG Ally after a six-year-old neighbor opened the box to reveal what he thought was a Nintendo Switch. But this isn't a Switch; instead, it's a full Windows PC with all of Nintendo's powerful devices and a design reminiscent of Steam Deck.

    White plastic makes up the body, and there are black sticks, a D-pad and face buttons. There are also some bright RGB lights that can be turned off to conserve power (and my sanity). The front of the device is complemented by two speakers, four additional buttons that function as Start and Select and can launch Asus apps within Windows, and a finger grip area. On the back are the trigger and bumper buttons, volume rocker, power button with fingerprint reader, headphone jack, Micro SD card reader and docking port with USB-C port for charging.

    It can be a little hard to spot at first as it's slightly indented from the black and white shell, but once you recognize it, you'll be able to hit the charging target consistently.

    Two extra buttons are cleverly placed underneath so you can press them with your fingers while holding the device. There are ridges on the sides of the entire case that you can grab to keep your thumbs on the sticks, just like on a gamepad. It's not overly heavy and is comfortable to grip.

    Included in the box is a cheap vacuum-formed piece of white plastic that acts as a stand. It keeps Ally in an upright posture and prevents it from tipping over, so it functions, but given the high level of construction elsewhere, it doesn't look out of place.

    Features

    ASUS ROG Ally

    When Ally is running, the screen is what will catch your attention the most. It's beautiful, one of the most beautiful things we've ever seen on a portable device. It has a delicate touch sensitivity and is crisp, colorful and bright. Esports gamers will also value the 120Hz refresh rate, even if they have to give up some detail to achieve that kind of frame rate.

    But Windows 11 has many limitations, such as the double-tap requirement and the inability to select text, which prevented it from being completely at home on a touchscreen tablet. We had to attach a Bluetooth mouse to select a line of text, which interfered with the on-screen keyboard we had to use to paste the content in the appropriate place. Controls in games we launched through Steam and the touchscreen didn't register at times, especially when we woke up from sleep mode. The touch sensitivity is responsive and the iPad operating system is not that accurate and colorful. Esports players will also value the 120Hz refresh rate, even if they have to give up some details to achieve that kind of frame rate.

    There's a reason why Valve chose a customized Linux app for Steam Deck, and Asus has made an effort to solve or at least mitigate the problem with its Armoury Crate software, which, besides having a silly name, acts as a sort of additional layer on top of the OS, launching games and accessing settings. It's generally successful in this regard, allowing you to control the handset's performance to extend battery life or boost performance depending on your mood.

    Other ingenious OS changes include a swipe gesture that reveals the Windows taskbar, which has been hidden to make the most of the small screen. There are also other programs that can help. For example, Steam's Big Picture mode, created for Steam Deck, makes a lot of sense when moving around with controllers and even launching games with the click of a button.

    Benchmark scoring
    Cinebench R23:Multi-core: 2,494; Single-core: 817
    Geekbench 6:CPU Multi-core: 10,902; Single-core: 2,329; GPU: 31,346
    PCMark 10:4,053
    Battery life:3hrs (silent), 1.5hrs (performance), 1hr (turbo)
    Handbrake:5m 4s

    Performance

    ASUS ROG Ally

    Ally's Geekbench 6 benchmark scores are comparable to those of the M2 MacBook Air, and the Z1 Extreme outperforms the well-known Ryzen 7 6800U in the same tests (the Handbrake result is shown above and lasted half as long as the Huawei Matebook X Pro), suggesting it has the potential to run serious applications rather than games. On medium settings and at around 60 frames per second, games like Horizon Zero Dawn ran smoothly on this normally fast laptop. AMD's FSR boost technology helps here, and the change is barely noticeable.

    The Ally doesn't get hot to the touch, which is an important feature for a portable device. This is probably due to the dual cooling fans coming out of the front of the machine.

    Next up is the battery. The Ally's thinness and low weight take a toll on battery life, and if you're working hard you'll only get 90 minutes out of it. It's also a bit picky about the charger you use. Even with the battery at 99%, the BIOS update wouldn't load until we removed the 20W tablet charger we were using to power the device and plugged in the charger that came in the box.

    You can choose from several different power settings to control battery life. The longest-lasting mode is silent mode, which consumes 10W of electricity. When you plug Ally in, Turbo mode, which requires 25W and runs the CPU at full throttle, kicks in instantly and boosts it to 15W.

    It also keeps getting better and better. While we were using it, Ally received upgrades to its software, firmware and BIOS in addition to the regular Windows 11 patches. So it's possible that future quality of life upgrades will improve battery efficiency.

    Should I buy ASUS ROG ALLY?

    ROG Ally is a nice-looking piece of equipment with premium components inside, so it's easy to be drawn to it. It's tempting to have a complete Windows desktop PC as well as a portable device that can be worn while in bed or lounging on the couch.

    While it won't be able to handle the kind of workloads you'd expect from the best portable workstations, it's a good computer for creative work and it's fascinating that it can function as both a work and entertainment machine. For the price, you get a pretty good computer, a little more expensive than the most powerful Steam Deck, and when combined with a dock, it's a neat little desktop. However, you need to be serious about gaming to consider choosing this over a laptop.

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