Asus ROG Ally Z1 Review

The Rise of Handheld Gaming PCs

Handheld gaming PCs have become incredibly popular in recent years, thanks to advancements in technology and the growing demand for portable gaming experiences. One notable device in this space is the Asus ROG Ally Z1, which offers a more affordable option for gamers who want to access their PC games on the go.

Although the Asus ROG Ally Z1 may not be as powerful as its Z1 Extreme counterpart, it still presents a compelling choice with its sleek design and reasonable price tag. While high-performance computing may be limited due to its lightweight and portable nature, the device excels at playing indie games, much like the popular Steam Deck.

Design and Features of the Asus ROG Ally Z1

Compared to the Steam Deck, the Asus ROG Ally boasts a more appealing and modern aesthetic. Its lightweight design, weighing just 608g (21.4oz), makes it comfortable to hold and use. The device’s ergonomic design ensures a better grip, especially for users with smaller hands. The absence of haptic pads, present on the Steam Deck, is compensated by the placement of the right thumbstick, which resembles the Xbox Series X controller. This positioning alleviates the strain on users’ wrists during lengthy gaming sessions and enhances overall comfort.

The Asus ROG Ally also features a visually striking design, with its white colorway and RGB accents around the joysticks and power button. While RGB lighting can be a divisive feature, it adds a distinctive charm to the device, particularly when gaming in low-light conditions. Users have the flexibility to customize or disable the lighting through the ROG logo button.

Regarding controls, the Asus ROG Ally includes standard Xbox-inspired face buttons, along with menu buttons like Options, View, and a special button that launches the Asus ROG Armoury Crate. This software serves as a game launcher, streamlining the gaming experience on the device. Additionally, an array of other options, including power controls, control mode selection, onscreen keyboard activation, and desktop display, can be accessed through a dedicated button.

One noteworthy aspect of the Asus ROG Ally Z1 is its operating system, which runs on a standard Windows 11 install with Asus software enhancements for improved usability. While Windows 11 performs well on touchscreens, the small screen size of the device increases the chances of misclicks and requires some adjustment. It is advisable to connect a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for initial setup, but with proper patience and familiarity, the Windows touch UI can serve its purpose.

Additional buttons, marked as ‘M1’ and ‘M2’, are located on the back of the controller. These buttons can be programmed for various functions and provide convenient hotkey combinations. For example, holding both back paddles and pressing down on the D-pad brings up the Windows Task Manager, enabling users to manage frozen programs or games without restarting the device.

The Potential of 1080p Gaming On The Go

The Asus ROG Ally Z1 comes equipped with a 7-inch Full HD (FHD) display, a notable improvement over the Steam Deck’s 800p display. The device’s display is a remarkable IPS panel with a brightness rating of 500 nits and the ability to reproduce 100% of the sRGB color spectrum. With its vibrant and immersive visuals, the ROG Ally provides an exceptional gaming experience, especially in colorful indie games like Hades and Ruiner.

However, it is essential to consider the device’s limitations when attempting to play more demanding games like Cyberpunk 2077. The increased resolution of the display may lead to performance issues, including muddy textures and aliasing, especially when the game is scaled down to 800p or 720p. Despite this drawback, the Asus ROG Ally Z1 offers a promising glimpse into the future of portable gaming.