Asus wasn’t joking: the ROG Ally gaming handheld is real, and I’m pumped

Well, it’s confirmed: Asus really wasn’t joking when it said it was making a handheld gaming PC on April Fools Day. The Asus ROG Ally is an AMD-powered handheld that looks set to take on Valve’s Steam Deck – with some seriously impressive specs.

Asus claims that the AMD APU powering the ROG Ally is the fastest chip yet, and packs support for connecting to Asus’ own XG Mobile external GPU – letting you hook up an RTX 4090 for potentially unbelievable performance.

The APU is a custom-designed 4nm Zen 4 chip with an RDNA 3 iGPU, which is practically guaranteed to deliver superior performance to the Zen 2+/RDNA 2 APU found in the Steam Deck. This will likely make the XG Mobile a bit redundant; why you’d need to connect a crazy-powerful $1,999 GPU, I can’t fathom. The ROG Ally will use the same ‘ROG Intelligent Cooling’ found in Asus’s Republic of Gamers laptops.

The rest of the specs look set to blow the Steam Deck away, too: the Ally shares the same 7-inch screen size, but it packs a higher 1080p resolution over the Deck’s 1280 x 800 and doubles the refresh rate at 120Hz. Asus also claims the maximum brightness is 25% better than the Steam Deck’s. We also know (from the Canadian Asus website, which strangely is the only region with any info on the Ally) that it’ll run Windows 11.

We don’t know anything about how the battery life will measure up yet, but we do know that the ROG Ally will be a bit smaller and lighter than the Steam Deck, weighing in at 1.3 pounds (about 0.59kg). It doesn’t have the Deck’s fancy touchpad controls, instead opting for a layout that almost perfectly matches the Nintendo Switch.

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The Steam Deck is great, but it’s time for something new

I’m massively happy to see this. Why? Because we’ve seen a whole bunch of Steam Deck imitators so far – like the solid AyaNeo 2 – but this is the first product I’ve looked at and thought “that’s not an imitator – that’s a competitor.

In fact, the ROG Ally could be more than just that: it could be the Steam Deck killer. Just off the specs that have been revealed so far (via a pair of videos from two YouTubers who were given exclusive early access), it should absolutely wreck the Deck in raw performance and graphical fidelity.

I’m amped – for two reasons. First of all, because I’m (hopefully) gonna be reviewing this bad boy, and I just can’t wait to get my hands on it. But secondly, because this will hopefully set a new bar for the performance of gaming handhelds – the Steam Deck is now more than a year old, while the hardware powering the Nintendo Switch is even older.

It’s time for new hardware! And AMD is proving that we don’t need expensive discrete graphics cards: APUs could really be the future of gaming, and this is the proving ground for that technology. In short, I’m hoping that Valve and Nintendo are taking notes.

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