The last few years in portable gaming have been led by the Nintendo Switch, with the Steam Deck more recently offering access to PC level gaming on the go. The latest entry is the ASUS ROG ALLY which launches in Australia on June 13th.
The product of years of development, the ROG ALLY is the first of their portable gaming devices that will let you experience AAA gaming ‘on a long trip, commuting, or just chilling in
Launching this month for $1,299, the ROG ALLY offers the potential for AAA gaming on the go. There’s other options, but ASUS ROG Is one of the biggest names to enter the space and with their pedigree in gaming on the go with laptops, there’s a lot of promise here.
I was able to use the ASUS ROG ALLY for the last 2 weeks and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
I love the design of the ALLY. It sits comfortably in your hands and the lightweight plastic has good texture to it for grip. It’s got the look and feel of an ROG gaming device but it feels well put together.
When you first pick up the ROG ALLY it’s surprisingly light though at 608 grams, lighter than the Steam Deck’s 669grams but more than the Switch at 398 grams and Switch OLED at 420 grams. The ROG ALLY also offers one of the better displays with a 7” 1080p resolution display capable of up to 120Hz refresh rate with 7ms response.
The display can go up to 500 nits which works well in brighter conditions, though the glossy Gorilla Glass Victus shows reflections (and fingerprints) quite well.
The touchscreen is very responsive however there’s elements of Windows 11 which are still needing a bit of polish when it comes to all touch navigation. That said you can get around, there’s just a few bumps.
The design of the controls is intuitive with the console sitting comfortably in your hands and your thumbs easily resting on the offset thumbsticks. There’s easily reachable ABXY buttons on the right, and a D-Pad on the left.
The ABXY buttons have a flat-dome design to make them easy to hit and they’re made from liquid silicone rubber which means they’re quiet. They have a decent spring back and feel good when you’re playing.
There’s also the left and right triggers and bumpers at the top of the ROG ALLY, easily reachable and the texture on the triggers makes it easy to use in-game.
There’s controls for the ROG ALLY beside the display, View and Command Centre on the left, and Armoury Crate shortcut and Menu button on the right. These provide access to controls for the ALLY itself while in-game, including access to Armoury Crate to tweak performance quickly when you need to.
Also able to be programmed within Armoury Crate are the two Macro buttons on the rear that you can customise different macro controls for in different games
The dual front-firing speakers on the ROG ALLY are fantastic and have been placed in a way that your hands never obscure them. The include tuning from Dolby Atmos for a ‘surround sound-like experience’ and the ROG Smart Amp technology gives a distortion free experience even at higher volumes.
There’s also AI Noise Cancellation so if you want to play online with a headset you can get a clear conversation.
If you check the ROG ALLY out in person you will of course note the RGB lighting surrounding the thumbsticks. You can configure these through the Armoury Crate software which lets you configure Aura Sync settings.
There are some physical controls on the ROG ALLY, a fingerprint sensor enabled power button and volume rocker on the top, next to the XGMobile port which is a proprietary port that also includes a standard USB-C connector for powering the device. The XG Mobile port allows you to connect the XG Mobile eGPU with up to NVIDIA RTX 4090 graphics which is a massive power boost for gaming.
That USB-C Connector really expands the options when it comes to playing on the ROG ALLY. With a handy monitor or TV and USB-C hub with HDMI out you can turn this into a real console. I connected using a wireless keyboard and mouse and had a great time playing Sons of the Forest on the TV.
ASUS said at launch that they will be launching a HDMI dock for the ALLy, so it’d be worth checking it out when it arrives.
Hardware wise there’s an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU with RDNA 3 graphics technology with 16GB of 6400MHz LPDDR5 DRAM powering the ROG ALLY. At the launch ASUS Australia said that an AMD Ryzen Z1 model is coming, however pricing and dates haven’t been announced for Australia.
There’s also a 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD on-board for storage which ASUS says can be easily upgraded at a later date. There’s also a microSD card slot on the top for expanding more storage, with ASUS recommending you use a UHS-II one for faster access.
The setup is surprisingly good for mobile gaming. Having installed all Steam, GOG Galaxy, Epic and the Xbox launchers I jumped into gaming across a load of different games.
There are three modes that affect performance on the ROG ALLY, all of which are easily accessible from the Command Centre. You can choose between Turbo (25W), Performance (15W) or Silent (10W) modes, with the amount of power you choose to throw at the system affecting your frame rate.
I was able to hit up to 49fps on games like Sons of the Forest, 50fps in Cyberpunk 2077, 53fps in Fortnite in Turbo mode. Performance mode offered up 21fps in Sons of the Forest, 34fps in Cyberpunk 2077 and 34fps in Fortnite. While Silent mode is technically an option, the reality is you’re looking around 10-11fps and it’s essentially unplayable.
Turbo and Performance modes are the best, though ramping up to Turbo mode does mean you get shorter battery life – but it’s worth it for that additional frame-rate.
You can always attach the power supply if you can find a powerpoint on the move, or plug in a powerbank to the ROG ALLY. I plugged in my Anker 737 power bank and was able to get quite a decent session out of the ALLY with just the single cable.
Where the ROG ALLY could really shine is if you attach the XG Mobile, ASUS’ eGPU module which includes an NVIDIA RTX4090 GPU inside. It’s not a cheap option, but it’s there if you want.
Of course ramping up the power means you get more heat and the ROG team have designed around this quite well with the exhaust for heat dissipation aimed up through the top of the unit and away from you. Until I looked for it I wasn’t aware of any heat and there is some, but unless someone is standing directly in front of you while playing the heat exhaust shouldn’t be noticeable.
Of course you want to see the benchmarks and here’s what happened with 3DMark
Battery and Charging
The ROG ALLY comes with a 40WHrs, 4S1P, 4-cell Li-ion battery with a 65W USB Type-C AC Adapter included in the box.
In terms of battery life you get around one to two hours of use depending on which mode you’re in. My preference for Turbo mode did mean I ran the battery down fairly quickly in around an hour, but got around an hour and a half in Performance mode. I was able to find a powerpoint where I could, and was then happily able to sit playing for longer periods.
Charging on the 65W charger is fairly decent, going from fully flat to full in around two hours, but you can pick up almost 50% charge in just 30 minutes if you need to get just a little more gaming in.
The ROG ALLY runs Windows 11 which offers the benefit that you can run any application that runs on Windows.
As I mentioned above there are some rough spots using Windows purely with touch, touch targets are still too small, especially on a 7” display and the on-screen keyboard just fails to load on occasion but they’re really niggles in the broad scheme of things and with some patience it works.
There’s not actually a lot of apps installed on the ROG ALLY, there’s the Dolby Access software, Microsoft Office Trial and Xbox gaming as you’d expect, but not a lot else – including no Norton or McAfee anti-virus software to nag you.
The major additions to the ROG ALLY software load appear to be the AMD CPU software which gives you a lot of information and settings for the Z1 Extreme processor, but also gives you a launcher for games.
The alternative is the Armoury Crate software which is a staple of ASUS laptops and of course it’s running the core of the ROG ALLY.
First thing when I launched the ROG ALLY, I installed Chrome then installed all the game stores like Steam, GOG Galaxy, Epic Game Store and installed all my games. A tip for Pro’s is you can install the major gaming app stores through the Armoury Crate software – D’oh!
Once games are installed, the Armoury Crate software then acts as an excellent launcher for all your games and apps. The large icons make for easy touch targets, or you can use the thumbsticks to navigate.
The Armoury Crate software gives you an excellent way to tune your experience with the option to tune the ROG ALLY, including editing GPU settngs and tuning a manual performance mode.
You can also configure the controls in the Armoury Crate software, getting rid of dead zones and size of joysticks on a game by game basis.
Overall the Armoury Crate software is the star of the show on the ROG ALLY, though it’s not perfect it does offer a good launcher for accessing games, settings and apps as you need them.
Should you buy it?
The ROG ALLY really does offer the option of AAA gaming on the go. The frame-rates aren’t quite up to 60fps, but the overall experience is good.
There is of course the battery life which could be better, but if you have access to a power outlet you can game almost anywhere.
The big advantage of the ROG ALLY is that it runs Windows 11 and can therefore run all the games or apps you want. I’ve picked up many games across Steam, EPIC and GOG over the years and I have an active Xbox GamePass PC subscription which allows the ROG ALLY to be a really agnostic gaming machine when it comes to where you get your titles.
For me, the ROG ALLY it’s going to be reluctantly returned to ASUS, but it’s definitely on my Christmas list. If you want something for playing your AAA games on the go without having to invest in a full gaming laptop, then the ROG ALLY is definitely for you.