ASUS ROG Ally review: Beast mode


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ASUS has unleashed the beast. The ASUS ROG Ally is a robust handheld system packed with enough power to lead the graphics war in the PC handheld gaming space.

No battle can be won without the right equipment. The ASUS ROG Ally’s new AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme packs 8 cores / 16 threads, 12 AMD RDNA 3 compute units, 24MB cache, and Zen 4 architecture. The result is up to 8.6 teraflops of power to render graphics previously seen only in plugged in gaming laptops.

The 7-inch 16:9 display is sharp at 1920 x 1080p resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, and up to 500 nits of brightness. The display can revert to 720p and 60Hz to increase frame rate fidelity and battery life.

Despite all the power, the ASUS ROG Ally weighs only 608g (1.34 pounds). The control scheme, which includes dual analog sticks, a directional pad, four-button array, standard triggers, analog triggers, and two additional buttons on the rear, is comfortable to access at all times. The analog sticks are a bit looser compared to other controllers, but there was no issue with aim or dead zones in fast-paced shooter titles.

The final hardware package rounds out with a headphone jack, microSD card slot, USB-C input, and option to plug in the external ROG XG Mobile GPU.

The handheld can be set to three power modes – 10W Silent Mode, 15W Performance, and 25W Turbo Mode. A 30W Turbo Mode is unlocked when plugged to the wall for maximum performance.

No matter which mode is chosen, the fan system is quiet and keeps the entire unit cool and calm in intense gaming sessions.

Gaming tests exceeded expectations. AAA PC titles like Forza Horizon 5, Resident Evil 2, and Resident Evil 3 maintained 60FPS at 1080p and 70 to 100FPS in 720p. In addition to high frame rates, the texture quality was crisp and clear even in low to medium settings. Frame rates for select titles can be similar to Valve Inc.’s Steam Deck, but the Ally will punch above in texture quality.

Another unexpected winner is the two-speaker sound system, which boasts the most impressive audio heard in a gaming handheld to date. From bullets to explosions to drifting, the hardware sports an exceptionally robust sound experience.

That level of graphics power can ultimately result in fast battery drain. For graphics heavy games running in 15W Performance Mode, users can expect about 1 hour 40 minutes of play, while the 25W Turbo Mode will shrink that down to about 1 hour. Fortunately, the included 65W charger can quick charge the ASUS ROG Ally to 50 percent in about 30 minutes.

A major drawback to the ASUS ROG Ally is the initial setup. The Windows 11-based OS offers the flexibility to play any software from PC Game Pass to Steam, but the Windows updates, ASUS BIOS and driver updates, restarts, and crashes are enough to leave even veteran PC owners frustrated.

The included Armory Crate SE software is a hub to add game shortcuts, customized game profiles, and settings adjustments. But the effort is minimal and lacks the cohesion from rival platforms.

However, once turbulence has cleared, this machine flies. From its powerful processor to the vibrant display to the hefty sound system, the architecture can work in harmony to deliver some of the best handheld gaming on the market.

The ASUS ROG Ally sells at $699.99.

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