One of my favourite tech products ever is the PSP. I remember as a kid, having the original model, and being able to get a pretty decent PlayStation experience on the move. But we've come a long way since then.
Nowadays, hardcore gaming setups look more like a console from the Starship Enterprise draped in RGB lighting. They're powerful computing monsters with copious amounts of power for running CPU- and GPU-intensive games without losing quality.
Now, with the Asus ROG Ally, that kind of power is distilled into a handheld package. Of course, it's not the first time we've seen this kind of thing. The Nintendo Switch is an incredibly popular handheld gaming device, while the Steam Deck was the first attempt at a portable device capable of full-on PC gaming.
The ROG Ally, though, looks set to dominate the field. It packs a mean spec sheet, which dwarfs the competition – my colleague quipped that it makes the Steam Deck look like a calculator. I've had the pleasure of using the Ally for the last 24 hours, and this is what I think so far.
Asus ROG Ally: Price and Release Date
The Asus ROG Ally was officially unveiled on the 11th of May 2023, after several weeks of information being released. The device was available to pre-order straight away on the ROG site, with Currys also carrying the device in the UK. Their pre-order window doesn't begin until the 16th of May, though.
The Asus ROG Ally is priced at £699 in the UK.
Asus ROG Ally: Design
First things first, this is a gorgeous device. It really effectively balances looking gamer-centric with generally looking sleek and impressive. It's also been well engineered to feel comfortable in use, and I can report that it's paid off. The sculpted ends feel great in the hand, and it's lightweight enough to never cause fatigue on longer sessions.
It is big though – much larger than I expected. That's to be expected when you've got a whopping 7-inch display, though. It's certainly not cumbersome, either.
The control layout features a left and right joystick, with Xbox style ABXY buttons on the right and a D-pad on the left. There are bumpers and triggers on the left and right, too, with a extra bumper on each side on the back of the device. The screen is also fully touchscreen, if you have any games that work in that format.
Asus ROG Ally: Performance
First impressions of the ROG Ally are strong. After what felt like an eternity downloading a handful of titles to test it with, I jumped into a few favourites to see how it held up.
I kicked things off with a session on Football Manager. Okay, it's not the most exciting or intensive game for this kind of platform, but it's the one I'm most familiar with. General impressions were good. It's a little clunky trying to play without a mouse and keyboard, but it's nothing that a quick remap couldn't fix.
In Desktop mode, the right joystick is used to move the cursor and pressing the joystick acts as a left click. I mapped the other joystick to right click, and added scrolling on the D-pad, with a bumper to press the space bar. All of the remapping was effortless on the device menu.
Next up, I pulled up Grand Theft Auto V. This was much more intensive than the previous title, and I braced myself for a less than stellar experience. To my surprise, though, it was faultless.
No drop-outs or lagging were found here, with a consistent frame rate that made the whole thing feel like I was playing on a PS5 or a proper PC setup. Haptics also made this game feel great, with realistic vibrations feeding back what was happening on screen.
In fact, the only slight niggle was on the software side. The device offers both Controller and Desktop modes for gaming, allowing you to either use the joysticks and ABXY buttons or the cursor, depending on which was more suited to your title of choice.
When playing this game, the system struggled with cutscenes, changing between the two control modes and leaving you unable to move your character after the scene ends. It's a quick fix, but it's still annoying, and something that can hopefully be rectified or improved in a software patch.
Asus ROG Ally: Early Verdict
As mentioned earlier, I've only had the pleasure of 24 hours in the ROG Ally's company, so I haven't yet been able to dive into the full scope of its capabilities. But my early impression is a positive one.
Overall, the system is fully capable of playing intensive titles with a proper console-esque experience. That's no mean feat, and something that should definitely be praised.
It's comfortable, easy to use and fully immersive, too. Expect a fuller review in the coming days, once I've had a chance to really dig into it.