Hands-On with the Asus ROG Ally X: A 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 love my Steam Deck OLED, but the Asus ROG Ally X emerges as the premier gaming handheld that demands your attention at present.

Unveiled on Sunday, this fresh rendition of the 2023 ROG Ally stands distinct from a mere ROG Ally 2. While it doesn’t boast 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 gadget.

Asus ROG Ally X: specifications and enhancements

Asus ROG Ally X held in a man's hands

To clarify once more, this isn’t a direct sequel to the ROG Ally. Those who purchased that device a year ago need not feel compelled to upgrade immediately. To elucidate, 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 the ROG Ally)

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

  • 3.5mm audio jack

  • MicroSD card reader

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

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

Attendee holding the Asus ROG Ally X

This aspect is crucial as it furnishes Asus with an inherent advantage over the Steam Deck, which runs a customized Linux version — unless manually altered. The pre-installed Windows 11 grants users 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 offerings.

However, if you assumed the upgrades solely encompassed additional RAM, storage, and an extra USB-C port, you’d be mistaken. Asus revamped the motherboard to incorporate an M.2 2280 slot, facilitating user-friendly storage upgrades. Notably, the device now houses 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 boast increased durability (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 ergonomic angle, enhancing comfort during transitions.

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. Nonetheless, 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 between the sticks and face buttons felt seamless, aided by the back grips that provided a stable center of gravity. I never felt at risk of dropping it, and I avoided accidentally pressing any rear buttons, 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 I can verify, at least in the short term. One aspect Asus pledges 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 a focal point as units are dispatched to customers later this year.

Regarding gaming performance, significant deviations from the original ROG Ally shouldn’t be anticipated (given the unchanged CPU and GPU). While additional RAM theoretically enhances performance, detailed benchmarks are required 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 crisp, 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 immediate upgrades to the Ally X from its predecessor. Nonetheless, this exemplifies why early adoption can sometimes be unwise. While not the ROG Ally 2, the Ally X embodies the device the original version aspired to be. Thoughtful internal and external enhancements bestow genuine potential, 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

Evan is a seasoned reporter with an insatiable curiosity for the latest gadgets and breakthroughs in science and tech.

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