Asus ROG Ally vs. Steam Deck: here’s how they compare

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It’s been a fewer months since I primitively wrote my Asus ROG Ally review, and nan instrumentality has changed drastically successful that time. It’s still a compelling instrumentality that easy thumps nan Steam Deck successful earthy performance, but a slew of unusual updates has near nan ROG Ally successful a unusual spot compared to nan Steam Deck.

For those who don’t person a handheld gaming PC, nan ROG Ally still wins complete nan Steam Deck. However, arsenic you tin publication successful our Steam Deck review, Valve’s handheld still continues to beryllium a unit successful nan evolving world of gaming handhelds contempt its aging hardware.

It’s each a matter of price

A Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, and Nintendo Switch OLED beryllium connected a table.Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

Price was nan main constituent successful mobility for nan ROG Ally, particularly against nan aggressively-priced Steam Deck. But it’s clear Asus was fresh to occurrence backmost astatine Valve’s handheld pinch arsenic fierce pricing.

The ROG Ally pinch nan Z1 Extreme costs $700. It’s presently disposable from Best Buy exclusively, and though I was worried it would waste retired immediately, it’s still successful banal for database price. A cheaper exemplary sporting nan Ryzen Z1 is group to get later successful nan year, priced astatine $600.

The Steam Deck is arsenic inexpensive arsenic $400, but that’s only pinch 64GB of slow storage. To get 512GB, which is what nan ROG Ally pinch nan Z1 Extreme has, you’ll request to walk $650. A constituent successful nan Steam Deck’s favor, however, is that Valve is now offering refurbished Steam Decks that trim nan value arsenic debased arsenic $320.

There will decidedly beryllium much to nan speech pinch pricing erstwhile nan Ryzen Z1 exemplary is available, but for nan flagship designs, nan Steam Deck and ROG Ally are arsenic matched. The Steam Deck is simply a hairsbreadth cheaper, but arsenic I’ll excavation into, nan ROG Ally much than justifies a $50 value hike.

Some funny specs

Z1 processor for nan Asus ROG Ally.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The ROG Ally looks pretty, that’s for sure, but it’s really nan underlying hardware that makes Asus’ handheld exciting. The ROG Ally is powered by AMD’s Z1 Series processors, which are civilization APUs leveraging Zen 4 CPU cores and RDNA 3 GPU cores. AMD has 2 of these Z1 processors available, though, and they’re very different.

The Ryzen Z1 comes pinch six Zen 4 cores and 4 RDNA 3 cores for a full of up to 2.8 TFLOPS of theoretical performance. The Ryzen Z1 Extreme, by contrast, comes pinch 8 Zen 4 cores and a monolithic 12 RDNA 3 cores. That enables overmuch higher capacity — up to 8.6 TFLOPs, according to AMD.

The ROG Ally was nan first instrumentality to debut nan Z1 Extreme, but location are competitors now. Lenovo’s upcoming Legion Go packs a Z1 Extreme, and nan Ayaneo 2S uses a Ryzen 7 7840U, which is simply a rebranded type of nan Z1 Extreme.

Asus has models pinch nan Z1 Extreme and guidelines Z1 available, but for now, each we person is nan Z1 Extreme version.

iFixit's Steam Deck teardown shows you tin easy region nan thumb sticks.Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

By comparison, nan Steam Deck is packing overmuch weaker hardware. Regardless of nan exemplary you choose, you’re getting 4 Zen 2 cores and 8 RDNA 2 cores, which connection up to 1.6 TFLOPs of theoretical performance. The Steam Deck’s APU besides tops retired astatine 15 watts, while nan ROG Ally tin spell up to 30W successful its Turbo mode.

There’s a large quality betwixt nan APUs, but nan Steam Deck and ROG Ally person immoderate specs successful communal arsenic well. Both devices travel pinch 16GB of LPDDR5 memory, and they some see a Micro SD paper slot for retention description . They besides some support USB-C for charging and travel pinch a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Micro SD paper is simply a constituent of contention. Asus has confirmed that nan ROG Ally tin cause nan Micro SD paper to fail nether definite thermal conditions. We’ve tally 1 for months without issue, but it’s still an ongoing problem.

A clear capacity champ

Performance betwixt nan Asus ROG Ally and Steam Deck.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s nary mobility — nan ROG Ally is faster than nan Steam Deck. In an apples-to-apples comparison pinch nan aforesaid solution and APU wattage, nan ROG Ally is upwards of 50% faster than nan Steam Deck. It’s important to statement that nan ROG Ally tin standard higher, too. The Steam Deck tops retired astatine 15W, but nan ROG Ally tin spell up to 30W successful its Turbo mode pinch nan charger plugged in.

It was clear from nan commencement that nan ROG Ally would beryllium faster, but it comes pinch a higher-resolution screen, arsenic well. At 1080p, nan ROG Ally starts to slip. It’s still a awesome performer, though, particularly erstwhile it tin tally nan astir demanding games disposable coming astatine Medium settings while maintaining adjacent to 30 frames per 2nd (fps).

Performance for nan Asus ROG Ally.Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

Since release, Asus has released a number of updates for nan ROG Ally, and they haven’t improved performance. In fact, capacity has regressed. As you tin spot successful our retesting of nan instrumentality successful July, it slips a spot successful nan comparison to nan Steam Deck.

Asus ROG Ally capacity compared to nan Steam Deck.Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

It’s still faster, for sure, but it’s disconcerting to spot nan ROG Ally gaffe successful capacity astatine nan whim of a BIOS update. This update was, apparently, meant to amended capacity arsenic well. The erstwhile 1 was moreover slower.

Thankfully, there’s immoderate room to amended your capacity pinch different capacity modes and upscaling. That’s existent for some nan ROG Ally and nan Steam Deck; nan ROG Ally tin conscionable spell higher. You tin tally its APU betwixt 7W and 30W, while nan Steam Deck only operates betwixt 5W and 15W.

I wouldn’t urge moving nan ROG Ally astatine a afloat 30W, but it’s bully to person nan action if you’re adjacent to a charger and want a footwear successful performance. Turbo mode isn’t applicable connected nan go, though. It will termination your artillery quickly.

The Steam Deck and ROG Ally are beautiful adjacent successful wide artillery life. At nan default Performance mode connected nan ROG Ally and nan Steam Deck astatine afloat tilt, you tin get astir 2 hours of a demanding AAA game. Turbo mode connected nan ROG Ally is overmuch worse — successful my testing, nan instrumentality died successful nether an hour.

Overall, though, nan ROG Ally feels for illustration a quality upgrade complete nan Steam Deck, not a capacity upgrade. It’s faster and much efficient, but you’ll chiefly beryllium moving games pinch amended ocular value astatine a higher solution while getting akin capacity and artillery life.

There’s besides a constituent to beryllium made present astir really you would usage a handheld gaming device. Assuming it’s not your only gaming platform, nan Steam Deck tin make much sense, moreover if it’s little powerful. That’s a large logic why I switched back to utilizing my Steam Deck aft respective months pinch nan ROG Ally.

Windows 11 isn’t a done deal

Asus ROG Ally pinch nan Windows fastener screen.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

One of nan astir important differences betwixt nan ROG Ally and Steam Deck is nan operating system. The Steam Deck uses Valve’s civilization SteamOS, while nan ROG Ally will leverage Windows 11.

There are pros and cons nary matter which measurement you look. For nan Steam Deck, SteamOS provides an easy-to-use, streamlined interface for handheld gaming. It surely helps that it’s tied into nan largest distribution web for PC games, arsenic well, allowing you to easy shop for caller titles.

It has myriad problems, though. For starters, SteamOS is still remarkably buggy. For my ain Steam Deck, I person to time off Wi-Fi turned disconnected erstwhile I’m distant from nan charger because nan handheld will occasionally get confused and deliberation it’s retired of battery, moreover pinch a afloat charge. These types of idiosyncrasies are rampant successful SteamOS.

For astir people, nan biggest quality is that SteamOS is built connected Linux. That intends you’re locked retired of playing rather a fewer games, including those pinch anti-cheat package and games connected different marketplaces (such arsenic nan Xbox app). Windows 11 solves that problem for nan ROG Ally, allowing you to play games successful different storefronts and titles that usage anti-cheat package like Destiny 2. 

Returnal moving connected nan Steam Deck.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There are immoderate downsides to Windows 11, though. The first is that it’s a desktop operating system, not a handheld gaming one. Instead, Asus’ Armoury Crate runs connected apical of Windows. It allows you to do things for illustration motorboat games — it hooks into nan EA app, Xbox app, Ubisoft Connect, GOG Galaxy, Epic Games Store, and Steam — and configure settings connected nan device. But it’s not a one-stop shop.

You person to spell to nan desktop to instal your games, and thing that uses a launcher (such as Cyberpunk 2077) will propulsion you backmost to nan desktop, arsenic well. Thankfully, nan ROG Ally supports 2 controller modes done Armoury Crate, truthful you tin quickly switch betwixt desktop mode and gaming mode. The exertion allows you to hindrance keyboard and rodent commands to buttons, and moreover connect shortcuts and actions for illustration opening nan Task Manager.

The Steam Deck has usability problems, but those chiefly travel down to unusual bugs. The ROG Ally has those issues inherently, and it feels much for illustration a handheld laptop than a handheld console. The Steam Deck wins here, for sure, but location are usability problems regardless.

Fit and finish

Turbo mode connected nan Asus ROG Ally.Image utilized pinch support by copyright holder

One area wherever nan Steam Deck shoots up of nan ROG Ally is nan feel. It’s large and bulky, but Valve makes bully usage of that abstraction pinch value thumbsticks and buttons, arsenic good arsenic trackpads that tin beryllium adjuvant successful games that require a batch of precision.

The ROG Ally doesn’t person trackpads, but nan existent problem is that its buttons don’t consciousness arsenic good. The thumbsticks are a small cheap, and nan D-pad feels terrible. It’s not arsenic bad arsenic a Joy-Con connected a Nintendo Switch, but nan ROG Ally decidedly feels for illustration a $30 knock-off controller.

However, nan ROG Ally is much comfortable to hold. It’s somewhat lighter but overmuch smaller. I’m overmuch much comfortable pulling retired nan ROG Ally connected a level complete nan Steam Deck; it doesn’t consciousness astir arsenic unruly.

The ROG Ally is simply a winner

Cyberpunk 2077 moving connected nan Asus ROG Ally.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The ROG Ally comes pinch its ain problems. It doesn’t instantly lick each nan issues of nan Steam Deck. But for $50 more, Asus is offering acceptable artillery life, amended performance, much crippled support done Xbox Game Pass, and a overmuch nicer screen.

That whitethorn alteration erstwhile we get nan Ryzen Z1 model, depending connected some its capacity and really that stacks up to its $600 price. For nan flagship models astatine least, nan ROG Ally handily thumps nan Steam Deck assuming you don’t mind dealing pinch immoderate quirks.

However, you shouldn’t ditch your Steam Deck for it. The Steam Deck, particularly now that nan ROG Ally has seen immoderate unsmooth updates, still continues to impressment pinch its stability. The ROG Ally is nan instrumentality to prime if you don’t already person a handheld gaming PC, but it’s not capable to warrant upgrading if you already person a Steam Deck.

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