This is ASUS’ ROG Ally, a Steam Deck competitor

ASUS is venturing into the portable gaming console market with its new offering, the ROG Ally. With this device, Asus is seeking to tap into the increasing demand for portable x86-based game consoles, inspired by the popular Steam Deck system and the game developers’ enthusiasm to optimize their titles for low-power PCs.

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The recent announcement is a teaser for what Asus has in store. The company has not revealed detailed specifications, pricing, or a release date yet, but it is confident enough in the product to showcase a prototype and create buzz ahead of a proper release later this year.

At the core of the ROG Ally is a custom AMD system-on-chip (SoC) featuring Zen 4 general-purpose cores and an RDNA 3-based integrated GPU. The SoC is made by TSMC on one of its N4 process technologies (4nm-class), but the specific configuration is unknown. It is unclear whether the ROG Ally uses a semi-custom configuration of one of AMD’s Phoenix APUs or a custom-designed SoC exclusive to the console.

One of the unique features of the ROG Ally is a proprietary connector that is divided into two parts: one part transmits PCIe 3.0 x8 data, while the other part is a USB-C connector responsible for transmitting power and USB data. This connector can attach an external Asus ROG XG Mobile dock with an external GPU (up to GeForce RTX 4090 Laptop GPU) and external display connectors, effectively transforming the portable game console into a higher-performance desktop gaming system. This is one of the major features Asus is counting on to differentiate its ROG Ally from other portable game consoles.

The custom APU will be used to drive a 7-inch Full-HD (1080p) display that offers a maximum brightness of up to 500 nits and a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. This high-performance display may seem excessive for a battery-powered device, but YouTuber Dave2D, who had an early look at the console, says that the built-in GPU can take advantage of a higher refresh rate.

The Asus ROG Ally console uses soldered-down LPDDR5 memory, an M.2-2230 NVMe SSD, a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapter, a MicroSD card slot, a USB Type-C port for charging and display output, and a TRRS audio connector for headsets.

In terms of software, the Asus ROG Ally runs Microsoft’s Windows 11 operating system and is compatible with all contemporary games developed for the Windows platform, including those available from Steam, Epic Games Store, and Xbox Game Pass. This is a significant advantage over Valve’s Steam Deck, which runs a custom version of Linux and is not compatible with all games. However, getting desktop Windows to work well with handheld computers has historically presented its own set of challenges.

According to Dave2D, the Steam Deck still has an edge over the ROG Ally when it comes to ergonomics. However, the Asus portable game console is quieter and can run cooler when working in a 15W mode.

The ROG Ally looks impressive from a hardware standpoint, but its software is still in the early stages of development. Asus has not disclosed the final specifications of the game console and only gave it to a couple of YouTubers for testing. The company says that the price of the ROG Ally console will be competitive, but this is a vague statement. If it performs twice as fast as Valve’s Steam Deck ($699) and is priced roughly 50% higher (say $999 – $1099), one might consider its price competitive. Asus plans to release the unit globally.