Mobile gaming has already conquered the world, everyone has a mobile phone, and there are billions of gamers on our planet. Nintendo made another breakthrough and took their wearable/mobile consoles to a new level, the Switch sells in copies comparable to the last generation consoles, and is far ahead in terms of mobility. Mr. Gabe Newell also dreams of the widespread distribution of mobile gaming devices, and even personally delivered his brainchild, Steam Deck, to some lucky ones at the start of deliveries.
Above, I mentioned those who have already mastered the mobile gaming segment and are some kind of force and significant unit, but information is popping up here and there that different brands want to enter this market and chop off part of it for themselves. Some are more successful, some are less successful, but everyone looks in this direction and understands that mobility is good, it means you can always be with the owner, which means he can always use this or that device.
On September 19, information appeared about the start of pre-orders for ASUS ROG Ally and I immediately asked if there was an option to get such a device and try it out. I have never owned a console like the Steam Deck, but I have a lot of experience using the Nintendo Switch, so I will compare the device through this prism.
Delivery set and appearance
ASUS ROG Ally comes in a rather large and heavy box, which is due to its size, the device is not small. The colors are white and gold, with the ROG logo everywhere. Inside, in addition to the device itself, there are connection instructions, a power supply and charging unit, and instructions combined with a warranty card, which describes all the mechanical controls of the console.
ROG Ally fits like a glove in your hands. Smooth edges, bevels, location of keys and buttons, everything is in its place. A person who is used to using a gamepad will find everything clear and accessible. What’s new is a pair of macro buttons on the back of the console and a power button with a built-in fingerprint scanner so that no one gets to the contents of your console.
The weight of the device is pleasantly burdensome, you won’t hold ROG Ally in the air for a long time, the console weighs more than 600 grams, which doesn’t seem like much, but with prolonged use your hands may get tired. You don’t need to hold it on outstretched arms; it fits comfortably on your knees if you are sitting in public transport or a car, but you usually don’t have to ride standing for a long time.
Operating system and software
The main software and shell of the device is ARMORY CRATE SE, which essentially covers 95% of the needs that may arise. Everything is done in the traditional ASUS style, and users will be offered three tabs with Device Settings, Game Library and other things, which are called Content here.
The console allows you to connect to your libraries in various gaming services, including Xbox, EA, Steam, Epic Games, GOG and Ubisoft. Basically you can log in to all your accounts and enjoy
ASUS ROG Ally comes immediately with the Windows 11 operating system, which, in my case, was immediately in Russian. I read a lot of negative reviews and complaints about the Chinese version of the operating system, but I didn’t have such a problem. The standard Windows system is both a big plus and a big minus of ROG Ally.
One of the advantages is that Windows supports all the software that we are used to seeing on our PC, and in fact, from a game console you get a small portable computer, with all the ensuing factors. And who said that a laptop computer cannot run emulators, such as the Nintendo Switch?
The console should give us joy of use and comfort. ASUS ROG Ally copes well with these tasks. The 7-inch touch screen displays excellent images in various games. It is comfortable to look at both in the light and in the dark. The brightness can be adjusted through the software, but since I am blind, I always turn it up to maximum everywhere. The touchscreen helps out in some places, especially when you have to work outside the ASUS shell, for example in the same Windows.
Mechanical elements, buttons, sticks, triggers work great. Some of the buttons can be calibrated through the built-in software for a more comfortable game, or you can leave everything as it is by default, and play normally. I didn’t see any problems in two weeks, and it’s hard to imagine that something could happen in such a short time. In terms of sound, the player has access to a wired output for a 3.5 mm jack or can connect any wireless headset, fortunately everything works the same on Windows .
Video and processor performance is at a good level, all games worked without lags at a resolution of 1920*1080, but of course not at maximum settings.
In all this positive experience, there are two nuances that must be mentioned and which cause inconvenience.
The battery will allow you to play comfortably for 90 minutes. And that’s it, then you need to plug in the charging wire somewhere, or carry some kind of large power bank with you. 90 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s not that much either. Nintendo has raised the bar to 4-6 hours of battery life, and everyone else is now nervously smoking on the sidelines.
Excessive processor power eats up battery life and does not affect performance. ASUS has already announced that they will release a version with a simpler processor, which will increase the battery life of the game by 30-40 percent.
512 gigabytes of fast memory with an SSD, which allows you to comfortably play a couple of games. But how can you get by with such a small amount of memory in 2023? The operating system takes up a lot of space, and you can also install a couple of games. I thought, okay, it uses a compact 512GB PCIe® 4.0 NVMe™ M.2 SSD (2230), I looked at a similar one for 2 TB, from 10k by the way, but oh well, I took it apart to see where it can be plugged in and… that’s it, eh it is not freely available anywhere.
I thought that a seasoned laptop manufacturer would provide the ability to quickly replace a small drive with a large one, but it simply doesn’t exist. Or you have to go deep into the guts of the device, but since this is a test sample, I didn’t do that.
Yes, we can say that the device has a slot for a microSD card, but what speed can it provide us? How much do they cost? A large card will be many times slower than a fast SSD with the same amount of memory.
The location of the only USB Type C port at the top of the console, which also serves as a connector for charging the device, is a rather controversial point. An even more controversial point is the presence of the ASUS ROG XGM port, which is used to connect an external docking station…. for playing on TV? For what?
And since we are already talking about a gaming device that is mobile, it would be nice to have on board a slot for a SIM card or at least an e-SIM, which would allow you to enjoy online not only within a radius of wifi networks, but also on the road.
For a person who has been able to play both on a keyboard and on a gamepad for a long time, I will say that gaming on ASUS ROG Ally is about the same as on a console, with the difference that the screen is smaller, otherwise everything is fine. I tried several games, Lies is P, The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077, Genshin Impact, everything is playable, interesting, calm. I didn’t notice any strange things, everything was exactly as it should be. In principle, when the device works as intended, it is difficult to write something here, it’s like telling about a car that it is moving. That’s how it should be. It’s comfortable to play, the games don’t slow down, everything works as intended both on consoles and on large computers.
- High quality 7 inch screen
- Windows operating system and, as a result, the ability to install any compatible software
- Convenient software from ASUS
- Convenient location of controls
- Battery lasts only 90 minutes of play
- SSD is only 512 GB, without the ability to quickly replace it with a larger analogue
- The cost of the device in Russia is about 80,000 rubles
Let’s summarize traditionally
ASUS ROG Ally is definitely an interesting gaming experience. This is more than just a mobile console, it’s just a mini-computer with all the pros and cons. A powerful device for gaming away from a PC, but with little battery life. Supports all major game publishers and gaming platforms and has a small amount of internal memory for games. ASUS are definitely going in the right direction, ASUS ROG Ally in the first version still has its drawbacks, but its advantages outweigh them.