An Effective Substitute for Steam Decks.

After the June 2023 release of the highly anticipated ASUS ROG Ally Z1 Extreme PC gaming handheld, the company has since introduced the ASUS ROG Ally Z1, a somewhat less expensive variant of the device. The word "Extreme" at the end of the ...

Nov 2, 2023 - 01:00
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An Effective Substitute for Steam Decks.

After the June 2023 release of the highly anticipated ASUS ROG Ally Z1 Extreme PC gaming handheld, the company has since introduced the ASUS ROG Ally Z1, a somewhat less expensive variant of the device. The word "Extreme" at the end of the names appears to be the only distinction between them, but there have been some significant hardware changes that are important to note.

I'll start off this review by expressing my admiration for what ASUS is doing with the ROG Ally Z1 series. What Valve has been doing with the Steam Deck is something else that has me smitten. I want to compare the two from the perspective of the user with this review. While a device's specifications on paper can provide some insight into its capabilities, the real test of a device's performance is how it works for you in everyday gaming situations.

the information and cost.

The specifications are significant when comparing this handheld to other models, even though I won't spend too much time on them in my review.

With 512GB of internal storage, 16GB of LPDDR5 memory, and a 7-inch screen capable of 120Hz with full HD 1080P resolution, the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 is listed for $599.99. AMD's Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor powers the ROG Ally Z1, providing six Zen 4 CPU cores and four RDNA 3 GPU cores.

These represent significant reductions over the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, and a side-by-side comparison of the two devices makes this clear.

Games with less demands are intended for the ROG Ally Z1.

Please understand that the ROG Ally Z1 is a good gaming device despite what may appear to be a bad opinion of its specs. The performance is going to be comparable to, if not slightly less than, what the Steam Deck offers, but it's more than capable of running independent games. It can also run some AAA titles. Naturally, on any computer system, some games run better than others, and the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 makes this very clear—some titles that function fairly well on the Steam Deck do not translate to the Z1. Starfield was a major offender, as I was unable to get it to run on the Z1 at speeds higher than 15-20 frames per second. (To provide some further context, I've played the same game sections on the Steam Deck; it works okay but isn't flawless. ( ).

Given that these handhelds lack the power of full-sized desktop computers or gaming laptops, it is inevitable that glitches will occur when loading a large AAA game onto one of these devices. Red Dead Redemption 2 ran at a consistent 30 frames per second after some setting adjustments, while other games performed better on the ROG Ally Z1.

Though it's to be expected, independent games like Dinkum and Hades function well but require far less processing power than triple-A titles. It wasn't that big of a deal that the ROG Ally Z1 didn't surpass my Steam Deck because I usually use it for independent games anyway.

In terms of performance, the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 won't break any records. But it works well enough that there isn't really anything to be unhappy about. Although it could be improved, desktop-caliber mobile gaming is still a few years away from happening with handheld devices like these.

Running Windows 11, the ROG Ally Z1 is a user-friendly device.

A complete copy of Windows 11 is installed on this device. The ASUS Armory Crate software is layered on top of it, allowing you to access various applications and games through a user-friendly interface.

The Ally Z1's many joysticks and buttons made it easy to navigate around the device, and it's definitely noteworthy that Windows 11 can be easily navigated on a handheld device. However, there are some drawbacks to the inclusion of Windows 11 here if you don't like the added complexity of having a full-fledged operating system on your handheld.

For example, installing some apps forces you to exit the Armory Crate window and use Windows 11 directly. Additionally, if you are unfamiliar with Windows 11, navigating around can be a little challenging due to the numerous locations you must visit in order to change various settings.

After that, though, installing and starting games is a fairly simple process. Changing settings and trying to get better gaming performance is easy with Armory Crate and other shortcuts that ASUS put on the handheld device. Additionally, I enjoyed being able to quickly switch between the various services I wanted to use by connecting to Steam and Xbox.

Furthermore, practically anything can be installed because you're running Windows 11. It doesn't matter if it is Steam Deck certified or if it supports the Linux-based operating system used by Steam Deck. Additionally, sideloading apps is simpler on the ROG Ally Z1 than it is on the Steam Deck, even though I personally like Valve's SteamOS better.

extended assistance.

If you aren't sure something will last for a long time, it's difficult to justify spending this much on it. Although it isn't incredibly powerful for a handheld, the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 is a good choice for people who wish to enter the handheld market without depending on Valve's Steam Deck.

But, given ASUS's historical difficulties keeping up with software support, there have long been worries about how the ROG Ally Z1 support will proceed. With the Ally Z1 and Z1 Extreme, hopefully that won't be the case, and the company's handheld products are off to a great start. I'm confident that the Z1 will become an even better choice for portable gamers if it can keep providing significant updates in the future.

Although AAA performance is currently lacking, similar performance problems were also present with the Steam Deck when it was originally released. Updates for the device's software can also significantly impact certain issues that are limited to its hardware.

It's not the greatest handheld device available—the ASUS ROG Ally Z1. However, it is something to think about if you want the whole Windows 11 experience on your portable device along with support for the Xbox and Steam marketplaces.


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