Portable gaming systems on Windows, which used to be mostly produced by Chinese companies that were practically unknown in our country (see, for example, one of our very first reviews – GPD WIN 3), have finally attracted the interest of major brands, as the success of Steam Deck seems to have convinced them of the prospects of this market. Today we are reviewing ASUS ROG Ally, a very interesting gaming system on Windows 11.
|IPS panel, 7″, 1920×1080, touchscreen
|AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Gen 4
|AMD RDNA 3
|16 GB LPDDR5
|512 Gb PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD
|Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) + Bluetooth 5.2
|1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C with DisplayPort 1.4 support, 1x UHS-II microSD card reader, 1x 3.5 mm combo, 1x ROG XG mobile interface
|Built-in stereo speakers and microphone
|28×11.1×2.12~3.24 cm, 608 g
|Recommended price in Ukraine
|32 999 UAH
Scope of delivery
The small box with the console contains only a charger, documentation, and a stand. The travel case is sold separately for UAH 1699.
All modern portable gaming systems look more or less the same, due to banal ergonomics, and ROG Ally is no exception. The device has a fairly large body made of white matte plastic, with a 7-inch screen in the center and traditional game controller controls on the sides.
If we compare ROG Ally with the most popular system of this plan, Steam Deck, then the ASUS device, despite the same screen size, has a slightly more compact body (28×11.1×3.2 cm vs. 30×11.7×4.9 cm) and lighter weight – 608 g vs. 669 g (640 g for the updated Steam Deck OLED).
The sides of the case have an ergonomic shape, very similar to the “horns” of gaming gamepads, with analog sticks and a digital D-Pad under the thumbs. The sticks are asymmetrical, just like on Xbox controllers. The four main buttons also have the familiar ABXY marking, but are colored differently than on the Microsoft platform. The rings around the buttons have RGB backlighting, which can be customized in a proprietary utility.
The speakers are located on the front panel – their grilles can be seen on both sides of the screen, under the butt and the “crossbar”. The inconspicuous white buttons at the top are again the traditional Xbox Menu and View, as well as the launcher of the “command center” and the Armory Crate SE utility. A dual microphone is hidden under two small holes above them.
In the upper corners, under the index fingers, you can find digital triggers and analog “bumpers,” and on the back, under the middle fingers, there are additional buttons for launching macros. The two groups of grilles between them are ventilation holes.
On the top edge, among the triggers, you can find the power button (with a built-in fingerprint scanner), volume control, power indicator, USB Type-C port (combined with DisplayPort), MicroSD card reader, mini-jack for a wired headset, and the ROG XG proprietary mobile interface. The latter is designed to connect a special mobile docking station – we once wrote about its 2022 model in a laptop review ASUS ROG Flow X16.
In general, the ergonomics of the case and the quality of the controls make a pleasant impression: all the main buttons are conveniently located, analog sticks and triggers respond quickly, and the degree of deflection is good. Of course, it will be more comfortable to play on a real pad, but for a portable system, the usability of ROG Ally is at a high level.
ASUS ROG Ally has a 7-inch IPS screen with an aspect ratio of 16:9, a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and a refresh rate of 120 Hz. The dot size is 0.0807 mm and the pixel density is 315 PPI. These are almost “smartphone” characteristics, the image looks dense and it is impossible to see individual pixels, even if you look at it closely.
The screen is covered by a protective glass that is much larger than it is, so when the device is turned off, it looks like the screen diagonal is much larger than it actually is – after turning it on, it becomes clear that it is surrounded by a rather large black frame. If ROG Ally’s body was black, this effect would not be noticeable, but with a white body, it is very striking.
For comparison, the simple Steam Deck IPS screen has the same diagonal, but a resolution of 1280×800 (16:10 aspect ratio) and a refresh rate of 60 Hz. The Deck OLED modification received an OLED screen, the diagonal became slightly larger – 7.4″, the resolution remained the same, and the refresh rate increased to 90 Hz.
The display brightness can be adjusted from 10 to 500 cd/m², so you can comfortably play on ROG Ally both in complete darkness and in a brightly lit room. By the way, there are no hardware buttons for adjusting the brightness on the case, you need to do it either through the “Command Center”, which is launched by a separate button to the left of the screen, or through the traditional Windows menu in the system tray.
The Armory Crate SE settings have the traditional GameVisual menu for ASUS gaming monitors, where you can select one of the video modes offered by the manufacturer. The Default mode is used by default, and we would recommend it as the main one.
The maximum static contrast ratio demonstrated by the screen was 1260:1, which is a very good result for an IPS panel. The color gamut is standard – 95% sRGB (74% Adobe RGB, 74% DCI-P3), the color temperature is slightly overestimated, up to ~7700K – this gives the image a slightly cooler tint.
The color reproduction accuracy is very high, with an average ΔE value of one (a significant deviation of one color in the diagram is not true and is explained by the peculiarities of the test colorimeter). As a reminder, it is believed that the average user is not able to notice the difference between the true color and the one displayed on the screen if this parameter does not exceed two or even three.
Other options in GameVisual (Vivid, RTS/RPG, Racing, Scenery, etc.) have their own settings for brightness, gamma, color temperature, etc. and can be used for specific tasks, but the Default mode offers very balanced image parameters and high color accuracy, which is not available in Vivid or Scenery modes, for example.
The gaming system is offered in two configurations that differ in processor modification. We got the ASUS ROG Ally Extreme 2023 (RC71L) for testing, a version with AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Zen 4 APU. This is a high-performance laptop processor that includes an 8-core CPU with HyperThreading support (can process up to 16 threads) operating at frequencies up to 5.1 GHz, and AMD RDNA 3 GPU (12 computing modules, up to 2.7 GHz).
There is also a slightly simpler version with an AMD Ryzen Z1 APU (6-core and 12-thread CPU with frequencies up to 4.9 GHz and AMD RDNA 3 GPU with 4 modules and frequencies up to 2.5 GHz). The thermal package of both versions is the same and can vary in the range of 10-30 watts. The recommended price of the Extreme version in Ukraine is 32,999 UAH, and the “regular” version is 29,999 UAH.
ROG Ally has 16 GB of LPDDR5 soldered on the board (6400 MT/s, dual-channel), 512 GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 SSD (2230). Wireless communication is handled by a Wi-Fi 6E (802.11ax) (triple-band) 2*2 + Bluetooth 5.2 module.
ASUS ROG Ally performance
Thanks to the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU, this compact system demonstrates the performance of a fairly powerful laptop in complex synthetic benchmarks and CPU performance tests. Given the full-fledged Windows 11 that ROG Ally runs on, this “console” can be used for work if you want – if you connect a mouse and keyboard via Bluetooth and display the image via USB Type-C on a large monitor.
As for the gaming benchmarks, the results are quite expectedly much more modest than those of gaming laptops – after all, it’s not worth comparing the performance of the powerful, but built-in AMD RDNA 3 video module with discrete graphics cards in laptops.
Here, ROG Ally should be compared to devices in its class – first of all, of course, with the Steam Deck. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to do a comparison test, but given that the Steam Deck uses an older AMD APU with a 4-core Zen 2 CPU (ROG Ally has a Zen 4) and RDNA 2 GPU, we can easily assume that the ROG Ally will be significantly faster at the same graphics settings. On the other hand, the higher performance may be offset by a higher resolution – ROG Ally has a Full HD screen, while Steam Deck has only a 1280×800 resolution.
By default, the system adjusts the overall performance by increasing or decreasing the heat package depending on whether it is running on mains or battery power. Thus, when operating from the mains, the system switches to Turbo mode (TDP 30 W), and from the battery – to Performance mode (15 W).
You can also change this parameter manually in the Armory Crate SE utility – in the Operating Mode menu, you can directly specify which mode the console should operate in. In addition to these two, there are also Silent (10 W), Windows (power consumption is controlled by standard system tools), and Manual – with manual adjustment of cooler speeds and TDP under different load durations.
Using the multicore test in the Cinebench R23 benchmark, we checked the performance of the system in three main operating modes and what the temperature and CPU frequencies were at the end of the 10-minute test.
|Рейтинг Cinebench R23
|TDP value, W
|CPU frequency, GHz
|CPU temperature, °С
It should be noted that according to the mode settings, ROG Ally starts operating at higher frequencies and with a larger heat package, but when it “detects” that the load is not short-term, the heat package is reduced to the limits for long-term loads. This is clearly visible in the AIDA64 stress test graphs.
AIDA64 System Stability Test, Performance Mode:
AIDA64 System Stability Test, Turbo Mode:
We tested the system’s performance in several games, including not very old and “light” projects – in the native resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, with medium and low graphics settings, and with standard mains and battery operation.
The difference in graphics, even between low and medium graphics settings on a 7-inch screen, is almost invisible, so you shouldn’t crank the graphics to the maximum, as you would on a gaming desktop, on ROG Ally – it’s better to focus on a high frame rate, especially considering that the screen has a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
Another option to increase the number of frames per second is to reduce the resolution to 1280×720; in this case, the image clarity on ROG Ally will be approximately the same as on Steam Deck.
As you can see from the diagrams, when switching to battery power, you can get about the same performance as from the mains if you switch from medium to low graphics settings. Provided, of course, that you don’t want to manually change the mode to Turbo, where the battery life will be much lower.
We should also note that Cyberpunk 2077 has a special Steam Deck mode, in which the game benchmark showed an average frame rate of 49 fps when running on the network and 40 fps when running on battery power. This is quite a decent result for Full HD (and higher than even at normal low settings), and the visual quality of the graphics remained at a fairly high level.
ASUS ROG Ally runs on standard Windows 11. Of course, touch input is fully supported, and you can control the cursor instead of the mouse using the right stick (the left stick duplicates the D-Pad and acts as a replacement for the keyboard arrows).
On a 7-inch screen, the Windows interface, quite expectedly, is not very convenient to use, so ASUS has introduced its own gaming shell – a special version of the traditional Armory Crate SE utility.
It collects stores and installed games on the home screen in the form of tiles – by default, only Steam (which runs in Steam Deck mode) and Xbox are represented here. Downloaded games automatically appear on the home screen, but other stores (for example, Ubisoft Connect) must be added manually.
By the way, it’s worth noting that the availability of other stores, and primarily access to Xbox Game Pass, is a big advantage of the system over Steam Deck, where you have to install Windows to use it. By the way, the Xbox Windows client has just recently received a special compact mode for small screens, as if specifically for this system.
For each game, you can customize your own control settings (reassign buttons, change the settings of analog controls, vibration, and gyroscopes), as well as create individual profiles for both battery and network operation, GameVisual video modes, and RGB backlighting of the rings around the joints.
Here you can also find the usual driver updates and typical system settings, as well as the Command Center settings and the configuration of two device modes – “desktop mode” and “gamepad mode”.
ASUS ROG Ally is equipped with a 40 Wh battery. It’s enough for long video playback – in the corresponding PCMark 10 benchmark test, the device lasted 8 hours (9 hours in idle mode with the screen on). But the situation with games is worse: with a brightness of 120 cd/m² (a typical value for a desktop monitor in a lighted room) and in Performance mode, the device is able to work autonomously for less than 2 hours. Therefore, for “heavy” games and long gaming sessions, it is better not to go far from the outlet.