ROG Handheld Arrives – Brief Review

In the past, we used to criticize knock-off products, calling them “knock-offs.”

But now, it’s no longer a knock-off! Behold the ROG extravaganza!

Just powered down. Overall, it’s quite impressive.

Let’s start with the specs:

CPU: AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Zen 4
CPU Frequency: 2.8GHz
Screen: 7-inch IPS Touchscreen
Resolution: 1920×1080, 120Hz Refresh Rate
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Memory: 16GB LPDDR5 Memory
Audio: Dual Speakers with Dolby Atmos Support
Security: Fingerprint Scanner
I/O: USB-C (top), Headphone Jack, MicroSD Expansion Slot, ASUS PCIe Interface
Battery: 40WHrs
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2

Talking about the screen quality, it undoubtedly outperforms domestic devices, boasting 120Hz with AMD’s adaptive refresh. Although it might not push games to the highest settings, it’s sufficient for browsing and light gaming.

Next, the speakers are impressive, supporting Dolby Atmos (surround sound akin to Huawei tablets but not quite Samsung-level). The audio quality matches that of regular domestic smartphone speakers—don’t underestimate it, it’s better than most domestic Windows laptops’ speakers.

Appearance-wise, the materials are average, but it’s lightweight. The craftsmanship is good, with uniform gaps.

The feel is much better than the Nintendo Switch, with well-placed rear buttons that are not easily accidentally pressed. Quite practical.

In terms of performance, there’s a bit of an issue with power release—the CPU frequency runs too high, which firmware updates should likely fix. On plug-in, it can go up to 50W, reaching 93 degrees, and the exhaust vent can be hot enough to burn. Fan controls can’t be adjusted through the interface at the moment. However, the fan noise is indeed minimal, even at 93 degrees.

The Wi-Fi signal is strong, surpassing my desktop PC’s omnidirectional antenna by fully reaching 105MB up and down, whereas the desktop mostly hits around 90MB.

Today, I only played “Elysium,” 1080p at medium settings with FSR balance. On plug-in, I got around 47 to 53 frames. Even while stripping down, I achieved about 45 frames. So, the performance is there, but the temperature goes off the charts. Later, I switched to 720p, locked at 45 frames, which it maintained at around 58 degrees with a total power consumption of 18 to 20W. That power consumption range is decent.

Online, there were various complaints about the on-screen keyboard, but I found a solution. The device has three modes of control: automatic, desktop, and controller. Auto mode had some issues with some login screens on Epic Games, but switching to desktop mode solved the problem. If desktop controls don’t work, switch to controller mode; I haven’t encountered a situation where the on-screen keyboard was completely disabled.

Kudos to ROG’s software quality; it’s well-designed and more practical than domestic offerings.

The official plug-in performance mode hits a max of 50W for 10 seconds, 40W for 2 minutes, and then maintains 30W. Fan speed is set at 50% at 100 degrees. This setting is ludicrous considering the temperature’s already hit 93 degrees.

I set it manually to 35, second highest to 32, and stable at 30. Fan speed is set at 100% at 90 degrees, 80% at 80 degrees, and 70% at 70 degrees. At full 30W power, the temperature is around 69 degrees. This showcases the cooling advantage, 10 degrees cooler than Max2 at 30W.

For 15W, I also use manual mode: max at 18, second highest at 16, stable at 15. Fan settings: over 60 degrees, 50% fan speed; above 50 degrees, 30% fan speed. Most of the time, the temperature hovers around 57 degrees. Officially, at 15W, it mostly stays at 68 degrees, with fan speed at 20%.

Lastly, let’s talk about battery life. In official quiet mode, at 50 volume and 10% brightness, while browsing and watching Bilibili, it lasts about 4 hours and has 10% battery remaining.

In my personally set 15W manual mode, emulating a PS3, it can last around 1 hour and 50 minutes, with 15% battery left. For 30W, I always keep it plugged in.

Now, let’s discuss some differences between the ROG Ally and Steam Deck in actual use:

  1. Operating System: The most significant difference lies in the operating system. The Asus ROG Ally runs on Android, allowing users to access numerous Android games and applications from the Google Play Store. Steam Deck runs SteamOS, a Linux-based OS primarily designed to run PC games from the Steam library.
  2. Game Library: The game library is also a crucial distinction. Asus ROG Ally can access a wide range of Android games and apps, both free and paid. In contrast, Steam Deck can access the extensive Steam game library, including a variety of PC games, from AAA titles to indie games.
  3. Game Compatibility: Since Asus ROG Ally uses the Android system, it supports games and apps specifically developed for the Android platform. However, not all PC games can run on this device. In comparison, Steam Deck is designed to run PC games from the Steam library, offering higher compatibility with various PC games.
  4. Input Controls: Both devices come with physical input controllers. Asus ROG Ally employs a dedicated game controller layout, including a D-pad, joysticks, and shoulder buttons—similar to traditional gaming console controllers. Steam Deck also features a similar layout, with joysticks, D-pad, buttons, and triggers, providing a familiar gaming experience for PC gamers.
  5. Connectivity Options: The two devices offer different connectivity options. Asus ROG Ally provides Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, allowing internet access, device pairing, and wireless controller use. Steam Deck also offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, along with a USB-C port for connecting to external displays or accessories.
  6. Game Streaming: Asus ROG Ally supports game streaming services like Google Stadia, enabling cloud-based game streaming. Steam Deck, as a PC gaming device, supports PC game streaming services, such as Steam Remote Play.

In summary, Asus ROG Ally and Steam Deck offer different gaming experiences in terms of operating system, game library, compatibility, input controls, and connectivity options. The choice between the two depends on personal preferences, desired game libraries, and preferred gaming ecosystems.