India’s handheld gaming console market has yet to reach its full potential. Notably, major players like Nintendo and Sony have not established an official presence in the country, and even the highly anticipated Steam Deck remains elusive for Indian gamers. Nevertheless, there is undeniable demand, evident from the availability of grey-market Nintendo Switch units, listings for niche Chinese manufacturers such as Ayaneo, and the presence of dedicated retro console enthusiasts in online forums. However, these groups remain relatively small when compared to the massive smartphone gaming community.
The Asus ROG brand has long been synonymous with top-notch gaming machines, offering aggressive and powerful laptops like the Strix Skar. Now, they have taken gaming to a whole new level with the introduction of the ROG Ally, a handheld gaming PC. Yes, you read that right – it’s a full-fledged PC running on Windows 11, equipped with a powerful Ryzen Z1 Extreme CPU. The ROG Ally’s compact form factor seems tailor-made for gaming, and it promises to revolutionize the world of mobile gaming.
But does it live up to the hype? Can it truly replace your traditional gaming PC? Let’s find out in this comprehensive review.
Asus ROG Ally price and availability in India
Globally, there exist two versions of the ROG Ally, distinguished solely by their SoC selection. The lower-end variant is powered by AMD’s latest Ryzen Z1, whereas the higher-end variant utilizes the more powerful Ryzen Z1 Extreme, delivering enhanced gaming performance. For the Indian market, Asus has chosen to introduce only the superior version, possibly to make a strong impact with its top-notch performance since price competition isn’t a concern at the moment. Priced at Rs. 69,990, you can buy it from Flipkart and Asus offline stores.
The ASUS ROG Ally is fueled by either an AMD Ryzen Z1 or Z1 Extreme processor, integrating both the CPU and GPU. The model I had the opportunity to review was equipped with the Extreme variant, along with 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. If you require additional space, there’s an option for expandable storage using a Micro SD card reader.
On the front, the device features a 7-inch full HD (1080p) IPS display, safeguarded by Gorilla Glass Victus, boasting a 120 Hz refresh rate and a peak brightness of 500 nits. Dual front-firing speakers deliver decent sound quality, and if you desire a more immersive audio experience, you can connect a dedicated gaming headset through the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Moreover, the device offers ports to connect to an external display and, being a Windows device, you can take full advantage of Xbox Game Pass and the Xbox ecosystem, including the ability to wirelessly connect a controller. Charging and connectivity are handled through the USB Type-C port.
All of these impressive features are packaged within a compact, matte white housing that bears a striking resemblance to the Nintendo Switch or the Steam Deck, both of which are not officially available in India.
Design & display
I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the ASUS ROG Ally’s design. Attention to detail is evident, from the well-balanced weight distribution to the convenient size that fits comfortably in hand. Despite its 11-inch width, the form factor is user-friendly and easy to adapt to. The textured diamond shape grip running along the device adds to the comfortable hold.
The gamepad layout is thoughtfully laid out, featuring two joysticks, an Xbox-style ABXY button array with a D-pad, and multiple triggers on the right, left, and bottom edges—all of which are fully configurable for optimal gaming performance. The signature ROG LED setup around the joystick adds character and can also be customized.
Conveniently placed dedicated buttons upfront include Asus’ armory crate, menu controls, and a full armory launch system button, all providing a satisfying tactile feel. The top of the device houses a power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor for quick and secure unlocking, alongside volume rockers and a USB Type-C charging port that can accommodate external peripherals.
Given its PC-like performance and graphics-intensive capabilities, the device features an efficient cooling system with visible vents, ensuring smooth operation during demanding tasks (further covered in the performance section). However, the absence of the Asus MIL-STD rating and IP rating raises concerns, as this device is intended for on-the-go use. Some level of protection would instill more confidence in users.
Another drawback in the ROG Ally’s design is the lack of a stand, which the Asus team explained was to maintain its weight. While understandable, it would be beneficial to address this in the next iteration.
Moving on to the display, the ROG Ally boasts a 7-inch 1080P touch-sensitive panel with a refreshing 120Hz rate. Asus has done an exceptional job with the display, offering optimal brightness and crisp video output, rivaling some of the best smartphone displays available. For a PC gamer, a top-notch display is crucial, and the ROG Ally delivers on this front.
Whether playing fast-paced CS:GO matches or immersing in cinematic cut-scenes of games like God of War, the screen projects everything clearly. Even having played God of War on a 4K TV, the display on the ROG Ally leaves nothing to be desired. The touch sensitivity and impressive response time further enhance the experience, allowing easy content navigation and scrubbing through videos. The display is equally convenient for browsing and streaming content from various platforms.
The audio setup provided here may be somewhat disappointing when compared to the impressive display, particularly for content viewing. While the front-firing speakers offer decent volume, they may lack a strong impact. However, this is not a major concern as they are well-suited for gaming purposes.
What stands out to me about the ROG Ally is its unapologetic focus on being a dedicated gaming PC. Unlike tablets or smartphones, it maintains its identity as a true PC while offering portability. Under the hood, it boasts an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip with Zen 4 architecture, manufactured on a 4-nanometer process. With its 8 cores, 16 threads, and clock speed reaching up to 5.1 GHz, it delivers the performance expected from a budget gaming PC. Complementing this power is 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Running on Windows 11, the ROG Ally ensures that any games that run on your regular PC will also run seamlessly on this handheld device. Demanding games like Dirt 5, Forza Horizon 5, and Crysis look stunning and perform smoothly on the Ally. While it may not reach the graphical heights and frame rates of a high-end gaming PC, reducing graphical settings allows it to handle AAA games with impressive smoothness. The visuals are remarkably realistic, akin to playing on a console with exceptional graphics and fidelity. This sets the ROG Ally apart from other handheld gaming machines.
Another impressive aspect is its efficient cooling system featuring dual fans, which keeps the device cool and virtually silent even during intensive tasks like running Far Cry 5. This thoughtful design ensures a comfortable and immersive gaming experience.
Windows 11 is a hit-and-miss
Powered by Windows 11, the ROG Ally adopts the familiar Windows interface, which can be a hit-or-miss for users. While it allows easy access to web browsing and major gaming services like Steam, Xbox Gaming Pass, and Epic Games, the practical challenge lies in the lack of a tailored user interface. This issue was also encountered with the Asus foldable laptop in a previous review. Despite the advantages of having a Windows-powered device, the Ally’s interface is disheartening for both gamers and handheld gaming enthusiasts.
Upon booting up the Ally, users encounter the Windows icon and login screen, followed by the Armoury Crate, a utility software known from Asus’ ROG laptops, albeit slightly modified for the Ally. On the right side of the display, the Armoury launcher system acts as a game launcher, providing access to all the games installed on the device and enabling downloads from major gaming libraries like Steam, Game Pass, and Epic Games. On the left side of the display, the Armoury Crate visual overlay presents the settings menu, game profiles, and more.
However, the Armoury Crate still requires significant optimization, feeling like an incomplete interface at present. It seems that Asus may have aimed to create a Switch-like interface but may have faced obstacles during development, possibly due to limited support from Microsoft or the interface not being ready. Despite this, some positive aspects of the Armoury Crate include the Gamepad mode and Desktop mode, allowing users to switch between a computer and a gaming handheld easily through the Command Center.
Microsoft needs to step forward and demonstrate how it plans to modify Windows for devices like the ROG Ally. While the Ally can run any PC game, a labelling system similar to Valve’s would be beneficial, offering users an idea of how well a game might perform on the system. This would improve the overall user experience and enhance the device’s appeal to the gaming community.
According to the company, Asus boasts a battery life of 6 hours for gaming and 11 hours for video playback. In actual usage, the device comes remarkably close to these claims, with the duration varying primarily based on the game and settings being used. During my testing, I found that gaming sessions averaged around two hours on the device, with a respectable HD setting. As for video playback, the battery lasted for approximately 8 hours when the brightness was maxed out. These results demonstrate a solid and reliable performance in terms of battery life.
The Asus ROG Ally marks a significant milestone as a miniaturized PC gaming device that fulfils the market’s long-awaited demand. Its compact form factor encapsulates almost everything a gamer requires, providing unparalleled convenience. Though some minor imperfections exist, they have no impact on the overall performance. Priced at ₹69,990, it qualifies as a luxury purchase, but for those with the budget, it proves to be a worthwhile investment.
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