The Asus ROG Ally might unseat the Steam Deck as my favorite gaming handheld. And that's saying a lot!
The Steam Deck was my favorite electronic device of 2022. As I said in my Steam Deck review, Valve’s handheld is the Nintendo Switch for adults due to its impressive performance. The fact you can play most of your Steam games on it out of the box is another big selling point.
But as much as I love the Steam Deck, I want to see gaming handhelds take things further. That’s what the ROG Ally seems to promise.
The ROG Ally is a Windows handheld powered by a new AMD APU. Like Valve’s machine, you'll be able to play games locally on the device. You can also connect it to the ROG XG Mobile external GPU for a graphical performance boost. Asus' handheld is smaller and lighter than the Steam Deck and reportedly runs quieter. All of these aspects are worth getting excited about.
Below, I’ll detail why I'm hyped about the Asus ROG Ally and how it might give the Steam Deck a run for its money.
ROG XG Mobile compatibility
One of ROG Ally’s potential secret weapons is the ability to connect to the ROG XG Mobile, which is an external GPU you can connect to the company’s Flow laptops. This could be a huge game-changer. It's arguably the most exciting aspect of the ROG Ally for a couple of reasons.
Based on the ROG Ally's reveal trailer, it seems the device will only have a single USB-C port. That’s somewhat disappointing, but if you pair the handheld with the XG Mobile, the lack of ports becomes a non-issue. The XG Mobile has an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, an Ethernet port, an SD card reader, three USB-C ports and a USB-C port. Connecting to this external GPU should give you all the ports you could need.
And of course, the XG Mobile should provide the ROG Ally with additional graphical processing power and improved performance thanks to the laptop RTX 4090 GPU the XG Mobile uses.
This aspect has me the most excited for what the ROG Ally is capable of when used with the XG Mobile. Unfortunately, the mobile GPU’s steep $1,999 asking price is a huge barrier to entry. Regardless, I appreciate that this option exists.
The promise of longer battery life
Battery life has always been an issue for premium handhelds. If you travel with a Switch or Steam Deck, you know those devices don’t last for very long — especially Valve’s handheld. Generally speaking, battery life on these two devices ranges between two to seven hours, depending on what you're playing. I want to see the ROG Ally top that.
Asus says its handheld uses the same ROG Intelligent Cooling technology utilized by the company’s laptops. This could presumably not only help the Ally run quiet but also prolong battery life, though it’s too early to say whether or not it will surpass the competition. But if the ROG Ally can deliver at least six reliable hours of battery life, that'd be fantastic.
The Steam Deck is one of the noisiest gaming machines I own. I almost always have to turn its volume up to drown out the loud fans... or plug in a pair of headphones. Thankfully, it seems the Asus ROG Ally won't have this issue.
YouTuber Dave2D, who went hands-on with the ROG Ally, said he almost didn't hear the handheld's fans, even when playing graphically-demanding games. According to his testing, the Steam Deck's fans reached 37 decibels on load while the ROG Ally reaches 20 decibels. The difference you can hear in the YouTube video is rather remarkable, and it suggests the ROG Ally really could be better than the Steam Deck in key ways.
There has been an explosion of gaming handhelds recently, with companies like Ayaneo and Logitech offering their own devices. I think that’s great, but I’ve ignored these machines since the Steam Deck currently satisfies my mobile gaming needs. Right now, it's the best handheld I've ever owned.
This could change if the Asus ROG Ally provides an overall better experience. If Asus' claims are true, we could get a handheld featuring a sharper display, longer battery life, and better performance than the Steam Deck.
I can't render a verdict until I've had extensive hands-on time with the Asus ROG Ally, but as things stand, it's the device I'm most eager to check out. Hopefully it launches sooner rather than later. If it delivers the goods, I may have a new favorite handheld.