What do we want? A handheld device for our Xbox games! When do we want it? Uh… twenty years ago. Of course, we thought our dreams were finally coming true last year when the Steam Deck launched. However, Valve very quickly put a Linux-shaped damper on that. And yes, we know we can install Windows 11 on the Steam Deck (which we have), but we’re going to be honest… we kinda don’t want to use it that way. And we certainly don’t want to be tied to the internet in order to enjoy Xbox games on the go.

So, just as we “Xbox folk” were coming to terms with a life spent indoors, we heard about the Steam Deck’s newest competitor: the ASUS ROG Ally. Haven’t heard of it? Let us fill you in. The ASUS ROG Ally is a handheld gaming PC running Windows 11, and - this is the best bit - it’s an officially licensed, third-party, PC Game Pass console with enough power to run most AAA titles. The second best bit is that the kind folks at ASUS sent us one to try out ahead of its launch, and boy, did we have a time.

Do we finally have a device to fill the Xbox handheld void in our hearts? Let’s find out…

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Out of the Box:

There’s no immediate wow factor when unboxing the ROG Ally. It arrives neatly and minimally presented in a box separated into three sections: one for information booklets, one for the charging block and kettle lead, and one for the device itself. Inside the lid - which could very easily be missed - is a thick cardboard dock.

Despite its simplicity, what ASUS has delivered is a fully recyclable package from the inside out. For a sector often critiqued for its unnecessary and excessive production of “stuff”, we found its design both refreshing and thoughtful. However, as a millennial, this reviewer will undoubtedly hoard the box and its components to satisfy the voice in my head telling me that I will “definitely need it someday”.


In one corner weighing in at 668g, we have the Steam Deck. And in the other corner, brand-new to the ring and weighing in at 608g, we have the ASUS ROG Ally. Ding ding ding! But seriously, these guys might be in the same weight class, but we can confirm after prolonged periods of gaming, 60g really does make all the difference.

So, how is it to hold? The ROG Ally is skinnier than you might expect, with lower corners that curve inwards, helping it to rest at the base of your palms. Its polycarbonate chassis is comfortable enough, feeling both premium and deliberate. There’s no rattling or movement from within the casing either, except during intentional haptic feedback vibration - which was a pleasant surprise! Something we really loved from an Xbox standpoint is how reminiscent the button and analogue stick configuration is of an Xbox controller. The D-Pad and flat dome ABXY buttons are comfortable and it made playing our favourite games easy. Prominent Series X|S View and Menu buttons further confirm the ROG Ally’s position as the third-party Xbox handheld device.

Still, it’s not without its gripes: the front bumpers feel slightly awkward to reach, and the grips are a bit shallow. There are comfier handheld devices out there, but for its size, it’s much more manageable than the Steam Deck - especially for those with smaller hands. That said, we're not entirely sold on the choice of colour - we worry what Doritos fingers might do to a white handheld console over time.

Now we know what to expect when it’s in our hands, but what’s the screen like? The ROG Ally’s 7’’ IPS touchscreen panel is the same size as the Steam Deck, but where Valve’s 800 x 1280 screen underwhelms, ASUS has packed a 120hz full HD 1080 x 1920 panel which instantly elevates the handheld experience. Coated by Gorilla Glass Victus and DXC, the image quality is sublime: deep, vibrant and easily viewable outdoors. What’s most impressive is a max brightness of 500 nits, compared to 400 nits offered by the Steam Deck. But with great reward comes great sacrifice: a high refresh rate will drain a 40Wh battery fairly quickly, so if you’re looking to extend your play time, the option to adjust your refresh rate between 120hz and 60hz is easily accessible.

Feel? Check. Screen? Check. What about sound? The ROG Ally’s Dolby Atmos speakers are genuinely impressive. Audio is handled by dual front-facing 1W speakers located on the lower end of the hand grips. The range and rich texture deliver far beyond what we have come to expect of handheld consoles. At 40% volume the ROG Ally did a good job of accidentally convincing us we were listening at 100% - we had to double check. Seriously, we’re taking this thing to a rave! We can even use it to drown out the sounds of our extended families telling us we should stop playing games to “get a real job”. Take that, Uncle Derek!

And finally, for the other bits: an immediately distinctive feature is the customisable light rings around both joysticks. By default they’re a soothing rainbow gradient - reminiscent of gummy worms - but can be set to static, breathing, strobing, and many more - you can also turn them off entirely. Dual intakes line the top of the device alongside a 3.5mm input jack, Micro SD card slot (the unit we’re reviewing has 512GB SSD built-in space), volume buttons, power button (also featuring a pretty cool fingerprint reader), and a USB Type-C and unique PCIe connector combo. The PCIe interface can connect the ROG Ally to an XG Mobile external GPU - providing extra power all thanks to an RTX 4090 Laptop GPU (we’d say more but we weren’t provided one for this review).

The ROG Ally’s thermal solution is pretty impressive too. According to ASUS, the embedded dual fan system outputs around 20dB in performance mode, and we believe it! We hardly heard anything when chainsawing grubs in Performance mode. Their position leaves little to be desired, however. Sitting almost exactly where your fingertips rest, our reviewer had a serious case of clammy hands after the Ally expelled some of that heat. Note: in Turbo mode, internal temperatures can hit up to 80c. Toasty!


The ASUS ROG Ally is a Windows 11 device (hoorah!). Fundamentally, it’s a gaming PC dressed up as a handheld console. We’re happy that it satisfies all of our Xbox gaming needs. But of course, you can run most clients, games, and programs you’d normally boot up on your desktop or laptop as well. The unit we were sent to review is powered by an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme chipset featuring 8 cores,16 threads and 16GB of RAM, which is pretty decent for a handheld device.

The Ally features four built-in operating modes (including "Windows"), but we’ll just focus on the three gaming modes: Performance, Turbo, and Silent. Having so many options is great, but it can also be quite overwhelming. So, let’s break it down…

  • Turbo mode maximises power to the CPU and GPU. You can expect high frame rates, graphic fidelity, and peak optimisation. Ideal for: high performance gaming sessions.
  • Next up is Performance mode. A balancing act between performance, temperature, and fan dB levels, providing the most well-rounded experience. Ideal for: longer gaming sessions on the go.
  • And lastly, Silent mode which limits CPU and GPU power, keeping noise levels to a minimum - sometimes turning the dual fan system off altogether. Ideal for: movies, cloud-based services, and light gaming.

To put this into perspective: we booted Gears 5’s campaign to compare the three modes. Silent mode provided us with 15-25 FPS. Performance mode achieved a modest 45-80 FPS, whilst Turbo hit a near consistent 55-90 FPS.

If none of these suit your needs, you can also manually configure your own.

Let's also talk about the "Command Center". We love that you’re only ever one button away from a pile of customisable options, ranging from operating modes, input controls, the ability to monitor real-time data, an FPS limiter, and much more. We particularly loved being able to switch between mouse, keyboard and gamepad controls quickly. After testing out Total War: Warhammer III and assigning hotkeys to the macro bumpers on the back of the console, we found it to be playable, although slightly laborious (continuously clicking the right analogue stick whilst moving it in a direction in order to select our army is tricky, OK?!).

We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention that we did experience a few Command Center crashes whilst testing out the device. But overall (when it worked), it made for really easy performance and battery management.

The ROG Ally’s "Armoury Crate" application streamlines digital storefronts like Xbox (PC) Game Pass, Steam, GOG and the Epic Games Launcher so you can quickly access your library of titles. Whether you installed Gears 5 via the Xbox app (more on that in a second), Warhammer 40K: Darktide through Steam, or Cyberpunk 2077 from the Epic Games Launcher, you’ll find every game and application in one place.

The Xbox application is responsive, well-integrated and super easy to navigate thanks to the Ally’s 7” touchscreen panel. We actually didn’t encounter any issues when installing 10 of our favourite PC Game Pass titles. To add to that, Xbox’s Play Anywhere feature has never felt more at home than it does with the ASUS ROG Ally. Gone are the days of battling over the TV when the handheld equivalent is just as - if not more - visually pleasing. Shifting between screens is easier than ever.

What we're sure will have the Steam Deck quaking in its boots is there’s nothing stopping you from running Steam in Big Picture Mode - emulating SteamOS without being limited by it. And as we just alluded to, Xbox (PC) Game Pass titles feel great on the Ally. We still have the option to play games through Xbox Cloud Gaming, but installing titles straight to the NVMe 512GB SSD allows us to play our favourite Xbox games on the go without having to worry about a stable internet connection. As a reviewer who lives in a remote part of the UK, this matters! BRB, playing Quantum Break in the middle of my local moorland.

The Specs

ASUS ROG Ally - AMD Ryzen Z1 Version (Price $599)

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen Z1 Processor Zen 4/ 6 cores & 12 threads (22M cache), CPU Clock: up to 4.90 GHz 4nm
  • GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics RDNA3 & 4G RAM capacity / 2.8 TFlops 4 CU Clock 2.5GHz
  • Screen: 7’’ Full HD 1920 x 1080 120hz IPS-Panel, Freesync Premium, Gorilla Glass Victus/DXC 10-point Touchscreen with Gyro support. 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Memory: 16GB Dual channel LPDDR5 8GBx2 on board memory
  • Audio: 2 x1W speakers with smart amp technology, Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res Audio, AI Noise Cancellation
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: WiFi 6E (802.11ax) / Bluetooth v5.2
  • Storage: M.2 NVMe 2230 Gen4x4 SSD 256GB
  • Battery: 40Wh
  • Dimensions: 280.44 * 111.18 * 21.22mm 608g

ASUS ROG Ally - AMD Z1 Extreme Version (Price $699)

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor Zen 4/ 8 cores & 16 threads (24M cache) CPU Clock: up to 5.10 GHz 4nm, TDP 9-30 watts
  • GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics RDNA3 & 4G RAM / 8.6 TFlops 12 CU Clock 2.7GHz
  • Screen: 7’’ Full HD 1920 x 1080 120hz IPS-Panel, Freesync Premium, Gorilla Glass Victus/DXC 10-point Touchscreen with Gyro support. 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Memory: 16GB Dual channel LPDDR5 8GBx2 on board memory
  • Audio: 2 x1W speakers with smart amp technology, Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res Audio, AI Noise Cancellation
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: WiFi 6E (802.11ax) / Bluetooth v5.2
  • Storage: M.2 NVMe 2230 Gen4x4 SSD 512GB
  • Battery: 40Wh
  • Dimensions: 280.44 * 111.18 * 21.22mm 608g

ASUS sent us the ROG Ally Extreme unit, but as you can see above, there is also a base configuration unit. At the time of writing this review, we haven’t had any confirmation as to how much either device will cost. We only know that they will be less than $1,000.

(Update: The prices for the ASUS Rog Ally have now been confirmed as $599 and $699 respectively).

We anticipate that they’ll fall in the higher price bracket as both models run brand-new AMD processors from the Ryzen Z1 series, designed specifically for Windows-powered handheld devices. Both Ryzen Z1 and Z1 Extreme chipsets feature AMD’s Zen 4 CPU cores and RDNA 3 graphics.

Their processors are impressive, too. The Ryzen Z1 features six cores and twelve threads while the Z1 Extreme adds extra punch with eight cores and sixteen threads. The final difference between the two is the size of their retrospective NVMe SSDs. The Base ROG Ally rocks a modest 256GB SSD while the Extreme variant houses a roomy 512GB SSD. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a more powerful handheld than the Steam Deck, it seems like both ROG Ally variations will do the job - but keep in mind that we've only tested one of them.


From our experience with the ROG Ally Extreme, major AAA Games are mostly playable at a high graphics preset if that’s your priority. The battery in both configurations is 40Wh, which may fare better in the base model because the Ryzen Z1 Extreme is a power-hungry chipset.

Assuming you have a stable internet connection, you could offset the ROG Ally’s hefty chip by letting Xbox Cloud Gaming do some of the heavy lifting and shifting the console into Silent mode. This will give you around 3-5 hours of gaming time.

Running a game like Gears 5 natively at full whack (in Turbo mode) will drain the battery within an hour, making it a less than ideal option for on-the-go gaming.

If you’re up for toggling a few screen and power settings before shifting the Ally into Performance mode, we think you can expect to enjoy around 2-4 hours' worth of native game time.

ASUS ROG Ally Review: The Verdict

Image: Craig Reid / Pure Xbox

If the fight was based solely around sheer gaming power, the ASUS ROG Ally would have the Steam Deck in a figure-four leg lock.

The Ally’s design is comfortable, accomplished, and striking with an overall premium feel to it. The Armoury Crate and Command Center bring a clear ease of access to offset the often clunky Windows 11 OS, whilst still providing users with a wealth of incredible titles to choose from.

The ROG Ally’s conscious mirroring of an Xbox controller configuration and integration of PC Game Pass are so welcome. At long last, Xbox players have a third-party handheld device that really delivers. And we're gonna be real: its Dolby Atmos speakers and 120hz IPS panel are truly sensational. We'd go as far as saying it provides the best viewing experience of any handheld console we've ever played, by far.

…But. We’ve got to talk about its battery life. For all its strengths, users may feel somewhat discouraged from embracing all the ASUS ROG Ally has to offer through fear of draining the battery too quickly. It’s undoubtedly the best way to experience AAA games in the palm of your hand, but only if you’re happy anchoring yourself to a plug socket at regular intervals.

If you’re looking for a handheld console to take on roadtrips, holidays or camping, we’re not convinced the battery would see you through a single night, even in Silent mode. However, if you’re regularly fighting your family for use of the TV, want to play through lunch breaks, on long haul flights, or in any other situation where you can access a power outlet, the ASUS ROG Ally truly is an impressive piece of kit that we feel is, without a doubt, the best handheld console on the market for gamers whose digital library favours Microsoft.

Interested in the ASUS ROG Ally as an Xbox handheld? Let us know down in the comments below.