Asus ROG Ally: A Switch-Like Handheld for PC Gaming video – CNET

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Asus ROG Ally: A Switch-Like Handheld for PC Gaming

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Speaker 1: It’s a great time to be a handheld gamer, especially if you wanna play portable PC games on the go. Right now, you’ve got not one, but two relatively good, relatively inexpensive options for doing full PC gaming in a handheld device. The latest one is the Asus Ally, and I’m gonna take a look at this and the sine deck and help you figure out which one you should get.

Speaker 1: The surprise Success of the Steam deck back in 2022 showed us that there’s [00:00:30] a big appetite for being able to play full PC games and a handheld device that kind of looks and feels a little bit like an Nintendo Switch. Now the next logical step from that is to take Steam Os, which was powering the steam deck and replace it with Windows 11, which gives you a lot more flexibility in where you’re gonna install and play games from a little bit more than a year later. Here comes the assu ally and it really does look and feel like a much more modern device, but it looks and feels a lot more polished. It’s a little bit lighter, but it feels much more ergonomic. But of course the biggest difference is this ships with [00:01:00] Windows 11, and that makes it a lot easier to access a larger portion of your game catalog, which is of course, what everyone is going to want to do with it right away.

Speaker 1: There are other reasons besides just the operating system and the design that you might say, oh, the Ally is better than the Steam deck. First of all, it’s got a better screen, it’s a higher resolution screen, full HD 1920 by 10 80, uh, whereas the screen on the steam deck was just, uh, 1200 by 800 and of course it’s got a higher refresh rate on that screen, [00:01:30] can get to 120 Hertz versus just 60 for the steam deck. That said, these are not high powered machines. They’re both running a and d cpu, GPU combos. It’s a little bit more advanced in the ally to be sure, but I found in playing games, I didn’t find anything that I would need 120 Hertz on the screen refresh rate for. So with all these advantages, a more flexible operating system, a better screen, a nicer design, uh, faster components inside, you might say, oh, well this is clearly better.

Speaker 1: I should get the ally not the steam deck. It’s not quite [00:02:00] a blowout like that. There are some areas where the steam deck, uh, still wins. Uh, first of them is price. The steam deck starts at 3 99, goes up to six 50 depending on how much storage you put in it. The ally, this slightly fancier version here, the extreme version is 6 99. It does have a more powerful, uh, processor. It does have the five 12 gigs of storage, same as the top end steam deck. There’s also gonna be a lower end version that I think is gonna be a hundred dollars cheaper and you lose some storage, but you also get a slower a MD [00:02:30] CPU GPU combo in it. Uh, and I think for the extra a hundred bucks that would probably trade up to the, you know, faster, more powerful version of this.

Speaker 1: Now, when I first started setting up the Ally, uh, it came with Steam and I think the Xbox, uh, game Pass PC version pre-installed it had icons for other game services, but clicking on them just sent me to their website so I could download the Epic game store, uh, app and I could download the, uh, good old games app and I installed those. It took a little while, uh, but I was able to get games [00:03:00] up and running on all of them. I was able to play the same games on the steam deck eventually, but I had to do a lot of, uh, Linux, uh, os workarounds to get those installed. And you can find tons of tutorials online about how to do that. Uh, I did appreciate on the Ally it was much more upfront about this and there’s even some, uh, menu overlays built right in, uh, from asus that help you navigate between the different places where you keep your games.

Speaker 1: That said, the combination of navigating Windows 11 and navigating the Asus overlay software can be a little confusing at [00:03:30] times. Uh, there’re actually four buttons, uh, two on each side of the screen. Uh, the one on the top on this side, on this side, they work kind of like the, uh, you know, the menu and view buttons on an Xbox controller. So in most games, you know what those do. Uh, on the bottom side here on the left is a button that is the command center and that gives you access to a bunch of system options. And then on this side, ACEs calls, its, its Armory creates software and that gives you access to see what games and apps you have installed. That said, there are a lot of things you may [00:04:00] need to do that are not necessarily easy to get to from these buttons or the control sticks and the DPA or the triggers. Fortunately, there’s kind of a secret menu of system commands. Uh, use one of the paddle buttons that are on the back, uh, kind of on the finger grips and you combine the paddle button with either the deep pad in different directions or the face keys. And then you get, um, some of the commands that you might be looking for, like show desktop is, uh, you know, left on the deep pad and the paddle.

Speaker 1: Now gameplay wise, I found my experience [00:04:30] with the Ally to be very similar to my experience with the Steam deck on Steam. I was able to play just about all the same games. One thing I was able to do on the Ally that was very difficult, if not impossible to do on the Steam deck, is actually play Minecraft. Uh, and that worked great. Uh, that is something that takes a lot of extra work to get running on a steam deck. Now, of course the Ally is very new, so new in fact that at the time I’m recording this, you can’t even buy it yet. Uh, so there’s a lot of those kind of early day compatibility issues just like there was with the Steam deck when that [00:05:00] was first released. I think that over time we’ll see even better performance from the assu ally Right now some games run better and some games frankly still run smoother on the Steam deck, even though it’s technically a less powerful system after having spent about a week with the Asus Ally. I think I can say that having Windows on it is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. Uh, obviously it’s easier to get to different game storefronts and have access to a wider variety of games, but you’re also dealing with Windows 11 using [00:05:30] a seven inch touchscreen and basically game panic controls and that ain’t great.

Speaker 1: But all in all, it is a more advanced device with a better design and with faster hardware. I wish it had those little thumb touch pans that the Steam Deck does. That’s really a game changer for me. But with faster hardware and a better design, I think with a couple of months of steady updates and additional support, I don’t see how the Asus Ally does not evolve pretty quickly into becoming your go-to portable PC gaming platform. To read our four review of the Asus Ally and [00:06:00] the Steam Deck and all the other content we have about these systems, you can check out some of the links below.

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