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Asus’ Steam Deck rival, the ROG Ally, is no joke

There’s more to this handheld PC than an April Fool’s lark

Asus have confirmed that the ROG Ally, a Steam Deck-esque handheld PC announced on April Fool’s Day, is in fact a real device that’s in production right now. There’s no price or release date info as of yet, but it sounds like it will be more of a premium alternative, aiming to beat the Deck on specs like APU power and display performance.

According to YouTuber Dave2D, whom Asus provided with a early engineering unit, the ROG Ally will be equipped with an AMD Zen 4/RDNA 3 chip - allowing for "comfortably" higher framerates than the Steam Deck - as well as a 120Hz, 1920x1080 screen. It will also run Windows 11, so should sidestep the game compatibility issues that the Deck’s Linux-based SteamOS still faces. Here’s the Asus hype vid, which be warned, has the tacky air of an April Fool’s joke even if it wasn’t one:

Watch on YouTube

Dave2D also claims the ROG Ally’s cooling fans are a lot quieter than the Steam Deck’s, and that it weighs 608g: a good deal lighter than Valve’s 669g handheld. He also successfully hooks it up to an external GPU device, the ROG XG Mobile, though it’s not clear if the ROG Ally will work with non-Asus GPU enclosures as well. Even without one, Asus reckon its newer internals are about twice as powerful as the Steam Deck’s.

Putting aside the deep, burning tedium of April Fool’s stunts, it’s pretty interesting that a big PC hardware player like Asus is getting into handheld PCs. Evidently the Steam Deck’s success has tempted others in a way that more niche handheld brands like Ayaneo never did. And a stronger APU would address one concern I recently put to the Steam Deck’s creators: that it may struggle to run the more graphically intensive games of the future.

At the same time, good questions remain about the ROG Ally’s longevity, affordability, and position among your existing PC kit. Regarding battery life, Zen 4 is a more efficient architecture than the Deck APU’s Zen 2, but the combination of higher horsepower and a faster screen refresh rate still sounds like an endurance problem that Asus will need to solve. If battery life is much shorter than that of the Deck, which can already conk out in 90 minutes on some games, it will be undermining its own portability cred.

The Asus ROG Ally handheld gaming PC showing its library screen.

Asus will need to be shrewd with the pricing as well. Higher specs, as well as the fact that ROG is the company’s premium gaming brand, suggest the ROG Ally won’t be anywhere near as affordable as the Deck. While this won’t necessarily doom it, a lofty price could put it too close to desktop hardware. Put it this way: I like my Steam Deck as an inexpensive tool for playing games away from my main rig, but if I was being asked to drop upwards of (random figure alert) £800, I’d be wondering that wouldn’t be better invested in a graphics card or 4K gaming monitor upgrade instead.

Still, nowt wrong with some healthy competition. I’ll be keeping an eye on the ROG Ally for sure, albeit in the hope that future announcements are made without the clown outfit.

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