It’s been almost a year and a half since Valve’s portable answer to PC gaming with the Steam Deck was released. Still unavailable in audiences like New Zealand and here in Australia, many of us are feeling left in the dust, looking for fixes in this new market. Enter the freshly announced ASUS ROG Ally. After attending a hands-on preview event for the device, the potential is incredibly exciting.
The ASUS ROG Ally leaves a good first visual impression, coming in a sleek white with comfortable grips, subtle vent detailing and RGB lights that go underneath the twin thumbsticks. It’s decently bigger than the Nintendo Switch but somehow doesn’t feel all that heavier with its 608g weight. Quickly, I found my hands easing into a comfortable fashion. Already, I’m confident this is a device that (battery permitting) will be fitting for long play hours.
Adaptability is at the forefront of the ROG Ally’s advertising. One of the offerings in this regard is the ability to play games from just about any PC gaming library. Games from both Steam and Game Pass were my fixings in this hands-on, though someone seated near me took a step even further, playing games in-browser on itch.io. As someone constantly guilty about their backlog on less visited platforms like Epic Games, having all this collation in one place while being away from a desktop feels like a world of potential.
Performance too is incredibly viable. I’m not going to pretend that you’re getting peak, unclocked results for AAA games all within this small device. Still, playing games such as the incredibly picturesque Hitman 3, traipsing around detailed and busy environments still saw around the high 40s-50 frames per second. The gorgeous but admittedly less intensive Hollow Knight ran unclocked, feeling as good as it does anywhere else.
Though not available at launch, the ASUS ROG Ally can be inserted onto a dock to be charged while connected to a TV. Sync up a couple of controllers and this quickly becomes a fun impromptu means of playing games with others on the couch. For a more serious high-fidelity performance experience, going one step further and connecting via a higher-end external GPU device can wield 4k resolution gaming along with ray tracing.
Seeing this in motion and checking out Halo Infinite on a flashy monitor in this context, I wasn’t exactly mindblown by the results. However, I easily and constantly forgot about the humble but beefy ROG Ally doing all the heavy lifting tucked away to the side of the desk.
“Very easily can I envision this being my ultimate handheld device.”
Very easily can I envision this being my ultimate handheld device. As someone that likes to keep their options open but with little mess, it is perfectly fitting that Windows 11 comes pre-installed with the device. Though there are a few question marks around it that remain. For the sake of other types of audiences, just how flexible can the ROG Ally be?
If one’s looking for an even further console feeling, can they opt into removing Windows 11 and instead use Steam OS? Even Linux? Will older Steam games that also have their own launcher struggle to boot seamlessly and awkwardly, much like their desktop counterparts? How exactly can this experience be smoothened out for the player?
Though there look to be plenty of ways to fine-tune your gaming experience such as performance vs turbo modes of console play and the ability to get live fps information, navigating these built-in menus can be a little clunky and confusing.
Similarly, suspending, reopening and closing games isn’t the most seamless. Present too still is the occasional annoying PC experience of a game launching in windowed mode or in the incorrect resolution. Correcting this is more painful than it is on a desktop.
Games on the ROG Ally must be closed natively within their own instance, and I really wish there was an option to do so with the installed Armoury Crate deck. When I can view each and every app at my disposal in this deck, I wish I could also more efficiently be reminded which of these are currently open and let me close them. This could’ve saved me from the growing pains of accidentally having more than one instance of the same game open at any one time.
At the end of the day, none of these issues are new in the space and are in fact par for the course when you’re this closely emulating the PC gaming experience. While I do at times wish it was already more efficient, these are issues that are both mostly easy and worth overcoming.
This is by no means a Steam Deck killer, but even without getting truly intimate with the device it’s a promising portable PC gaming device with bountiful potential. It’s sleek and comfortable by design and undoubtedly will be a certified backlog killer. I’ll have a full review of the ASUS ROG Ally in the coming weeks once I’ve spent more quality time with it.
The ASUS ROG Ally releases worldwide on June 13. Preorders within Australia are available now with the device running you $1299. Is that a cost gamers will be willing to make the plunge for? We’ll soon find out.