Don't get me wrong. The ROG Ally, Asus' new handheld gaming PC, is a portable masterpiece that could snatch the Steam Deck's lunch money. The Taiwan-based company, known for rolling out innovative dual-display gaming gems like the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED, has always been avant-garde when it comes to gaming hardware — the ROG Ally is no different.
Asus claims that it worked tirelessly to test the ROG Ally's ergonomics, weight and software to deliver a worthy Steam Deck rival — and it shows. For example, Asus was well aware that one of the main complaints about the Steam Deck is its weight (it's 669 grams).
However, after running some tests, Asus discovered that 600 grams is the sweet spot for a handheld gaming PC, so it managed to get the weight down to 608 grams — close enough! Asus' behind-the-scenes testing paid off; the ROG Ally is seemingly lightweight enough for hours-long gaming. Plus, it fits the contours and grooves of my hands like I was born with it.
Still, I did catch a few things that me side eye the ROG Ally. It's early days, though, so keep in mind that these supposed concerns may be addressed in the near future. Plus, I spent less than an hour with Asus' handheld PC, so there's a good chance my opinion may change when I have more time with it.
1. The ROG Ally runs too hot
The Laptop Mag team got the opportunity to preview the ROG Ally at a press-only event and we noticed something peculiar after playing Forza Horizon 4 with one of the showcased units.
After just five minutes of running the game, the ROG Ally's chassis got alarmingly warm. Now, it wasn't scorching in that it would burn our fingers off, but it was hot enough that it would illicit a sweat or two from your hands. I understand that this is expected from the ROG Ally considering that it's packed with powerful internals, including the AMD Ryzen Z1 series processor with RDNA 3 graphics. But perhaps some clever engineering is needed to ensure that the grips remain cool while other parts of the chassis — areas that are far away from one's fingers — are free to run hot.
Cooling has always been a major thorn in the gaming hardware industry's side. Accomplishing such a feat is easier said than done, but I'd argue that the Steam Deck can stay relatively cool for a longer period of time compared to the ROG Ally. Plus, I don't know how the engineers did it, but the grips stay quite temperate while the heat escapes in all the right places.
It's worth noting that we played Forza Horizon 5 on Turbo Mode, which means that the ROG Ally was maxing out its performance capabilities. However, even when we switched to Quiet Mode, the ROG Ally's chassis was still quite hot. I'd still need to give the ROG Ally more time to see how it performs on Quiet Mode, but for now, my first impressions are the Steam Deck's cooling is slightly better than its Asus' counterpart.
2. The Windows 11 taskbar kept popping up
The Asus ROG Ally runs on Windows 11, and while previewing it, the handheld gaming PC wouldn't let me forget it.
I'm not sure what button we were accidentally pressing, but while playing Forza, we noticed that the Windows 11 taskbar kept popping up periodically. Now, it didn't affect gameplay or anything, but it was slightly distracting and somewhat irksome. Perhaps this is just an "us" issue in that our fingers kept slipping into some no-no button (we couldn't replicate the issue in the short time we had it), but we can't wait to review it thoroughly to see if this is a persistent software issue.
The taskbar popping up out of nowhere, like a gopher sticking its head out of an underground hole, has been a source of irritation for me while playing PC games from the Microsoft Store on Windows 10. Let's hope the ROG Ally doesn't inherit this bothersome feature, too.
3. The Asus ROG Ally only comes in white
I understand why Asus opted to roll out a white ROG Ally. After all, if it produced a black variant, it would look too close to its Valve enemy. Personally, I dig the frosty-white design with the buttons sporting a slick black coating — the ROG Ally is, indeed, an attractive handheld gaming PC.
However, I value practicality and longevity over beauty. That being said, I was concerned when an Asus PR rep told me that the ROG Ally only comes in white. After all, white is less likely to hide all the tell-tale stains and grease I leave behind while I snack and game.
Although I'm saddened that the ROG Ally doesn't come in black, there is good news. Asus PR rep told me that the ROG Ally is swathed with reinforced ABS polycarbonate mix. As such, the ROG Ally should do a good job at keeping oils, moisture, and stains at bay — within reason, of course. (Don't dip it in salsa and expect a miracle here.)
Don't let my three concerns color your opinion just yet. This is just a preview. As mentioned, as I get more time with the Asus ROG Ally, these foibles, save for the handheld PC only being available in white, may no longer be present in the near future.
Overall, I'm excited the masses' critical response the Asus ROG Ally — I suspect it will be largely positive. The Steam Deck better watch its back! Unlike the 800p, 60Hz panel on Valve's popular handheld PC, the Ally features a 1080p, 120Hz display. And yes, you can definitely tell the difference. The Ally, which is also brighter than the Steam Deck, is quite visual treat.
The ROG Ally can be configured with up to 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. You can sign up for notifications on when you can pre-order Asus' brand spankin' new handheld PC here.
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Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!