Hands-on with Asus ROG Ally X: Exploring My Brief Encounter with a Potential Challenger to the Steam Deck

Asus ROG Ally X showcased in a split-frame setup

We had the opportunity to experience the Asus ROG Ally X firsthandCredit: Kimberly Gedeon / / Allisa James

I cherish my Steam Deck OLED, yet the Asus ROG Ally X emerges as the gaming handheld that demands your attention at present.

Unveiled on Sunday, this fresh take on 2023’s ROG Ally is not merely a ROG Ally 2. While it lacks a significant boost in power or a striking new screen, Asus has implemented a series of minor yet crucial enhancements across the board.

Following a brief hands-on trial of the ROG Ally X, individuals contemplating entering the handheld gaming PC realm should seriously consider this $799 device.

Asus ROG Ally X: specifications and enhancements

Asus ROG Ally X held in a man's hands

To clarify once more, this is not a direct sequel to the ROG Ally. Those who purchased that gadget a year ago need not feel compelled to upgrade immediately. To illustrate, here are the fundamental specs of the Ally X, with variances highlighted:

  • 7-inch 1080p screen with a 120Hz refresh rate

  • AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor

  • AMD Radeon GPU

  • 24GB LPDDR5 onboard memory (increased from 16GB on ROG Ally)

  • Up to 1TB of SSD storage (up from 512GB on ROG Ally)

  • 3.5mm audio jack

  • MicroSD card reader

  • Two USB-C ports (up from one on ROG Ally)

Thus, on the surface, we are presented with a device featuring the same screen, CPU, and GPU as the current $699 model. Furthermore, it operates on Windows 11, akin to its predecessor.

Attendee holding the Asus ROG Ally X

This aspect is significant as it grants Asus an inherent advantage over the Steam Deck, a gadget running a customized Linux version — unless manually altered. The pre-installed Windows 11 provides users with broader access to games from platforms like the Epic Games Store and Xbox Game Pass. Conversely, Steam Deck users face more challenges in acquiring these.

However, if you assumed the upgrades were limited to increased RAM, storage, and an additional USB-C port, you would be mistaken. Asus revamped the motherboard to incorporate an M.2 2280 slot, facilitating user-driven storage upgrades. Most notably, the device now boasts an 80Wh battery, double the capacity of the previous ROG Ally.

Despite these enhancements, Asus managed to redesign the exterior, introducing a new black color scheme and slightly enhancing the button layout for improved ergonomics. The redesigned analog sticks are projected to have a longer lifespan (Asus asserts they can endure 5 million cycles), the rear buttons are smaller to minimize accidental presses during gameplay, and the analog sticks and face buttons are positioned at a slightly more comfortable angle for seamless transitions between them.

Asus ROG Ally X: Hands-on Experience

Man holding Asus ROG Ally X in bed while woman sleeps beside him

My brief hands-on encounter with the Ally X lacked an original ROG Ally for direct comparison. Nevertheless, even in a short span experimenting with the device, it became evident that this upgrade surpassed initial expectations.

Primarily, the new ergonomic button placements felt remarkably comfortable, irrespective of comparisons to the original design. Transitioning my thumbs from the sticks to the face buttons felt seamless, aided by the back grips providing a stable center of gravity. There was no sense of impending drops, and I never inadvertently triggered a back button, a mishap I’ve encountered with my Steam Deck.

Attendee holding the Asus ROG Ally X

Asus claims the ROG Ally X is only 0.15lbs heavier than its predecessor (totaling 1.49lbs) despite internal enhancements — a claim validated by the weight not posing a distraction, at least in the short term. One feature Asus touts about the Ally X, which couldn’t be thoroughly tested in a brief hands-on, is its improved thermals to reduce overheating risks during extended usage. This will be closely monitored as units are dispatched to customers later this year.

Regarding gaming performance, substantial deviations from the original ROG Ally (unchanged CPU and GPU) are not anticipated. While additional RAM theoretically enhances performance, detailed benchmarks are awaited for demanding AAA titles like Cyberpunk 2077. The sole game I tested was 2020’s Battletoads, a visually striking 2D beat-’em-up that appeared sharp, vibrant, and impressive on the ROG Ally X’s screen, running well above 60 FPS, as expected.

Asus ROG Ally X

Priced $100 higher than the current high-end ROG Ally, there’s limited justification for an immediate upgrade. Nonetheless, this exemplifies why early adoption can sometimes be disadvantageous. While not the ROG Ally 2, the Ally X embodies the potential the original version should have possessed. A series of thoughtful internal and external modifications position it favorably, particularly in a burgeoning handheld gaming PC market.

The inherent Windows inclusion is a significant selling point. Despite my affinity for the Steam Deck, this feature alone holds substantial appeal.

Evan Brooks

Hey there! I'm Evan Brooks, a tech journalist based in New York City. With a knack for distilling complex industry jargon into engaging narratives, I've… More »

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button