ASUS ROG ALLIE (RYZEN Z1)
Management systems renewal project $600.00
“The ROG Ally with Z1 is even weaker than the Steam Deck, leaving it without a clear audience.”
Light and comfortable to use
Beautiful 1080p screen
Poor battery life
Worse performance than Steam Deck
Windows 11 is a hassle to use
When I reviewed Asus’ ROG Ally earlier this year, I was blown away by its performance. The laptop debuted with AMD’s Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip, which surpassed the Steam Deck and proved that Asus’ laptop is the new king of performance.
Now, we have the base Z1 model. It’s a stripped-down version of the chip we saw earlier this year, and comes in at a cheaper price than the Z1 Extreme ($600 instead of $700). There’s less power, but the device still comes with the same 512GB of storage, the same 16GB of shared LPDDR5 memory, and the same beautiful 1080p 120Hz display. It’s just the processor is different.
And what a difference it makes. The ROG Ally Z1 isn’t a disaster, but it’s a device with no clear purpose. It’s a clear step below the Z1 Extreme, and it loses out in a head-to-head battle with the Steam Deck. It’s a device that exists because it can, and I find it hard to believe that it caters to any specific audience.
Let’s talk about the Ryzen Z1
You might assume that the Ryzen Z1 Extreme is a beefed-up version of the Ryzen Z1, but the line is actually moving in the opposite direction. The Z1 Extreme sets the standard, and the Ryzen Z1 is a huge step backwards.
For starters, the Ryzen Z1 comes with just six Zen 4 CPU cores, compared to the eight available in the Z1 Extreme. However, the most significant reduction is in the GPU cores. The Ryzen Z1 has four RDNA 3 GPU cores, which is only a third of what the Ryzen Z1 Extreme offers.
It’s a big step back, and it shows in the performance of the ROG Ally Z1. There’s also a slight cut in cache, from 8MB of L2 on the Z1 Extreme to 6MB of L2 on the Z1. It’s not a big deal, but I needed to allocate more of the 16GB of shared LPDDR5 memory to get through games like… Returning To launch.
The Ryzen Z1 is powerful enough to run games, but it’s a big step back from what the Z1 Extreme offers. It’s even a cut compared to the Steam Deck. Valve’s handheld has twice as many graphics compute units (CUs). They use an older architecture, but the higher core count means The Steam Deck has higher performance, as my testing showed.
The Steam Deck comparison is the best place to start because it sets the stage for the power you can expect from the ROG Ally Z1. As you can see from my testing, the new Asus laptop falls behind the Steam Deck in every game I looked at. There are some minor differences, as in Horizon Zero DawnBut in games like deathlight 2, The performance gap is the difference between playable and unplayable.
In fairness to the new ROG All Z1, it is Technically Cheaper than Steam Deck. It comes with 512GB of storage, and you’ll need to spend $650 to buy a Steam Deck for the same amount. However, you can get a Steam Deck for at least $400 with 64GB of storage and expand it with a micro SD card — at least there are no worries about blocking your Micro SD card like There on ROG Ally.
You can see the comparison with the Z1 Extreme model above. Digging deeper, in the default 15W performance mode, the ROG Ally Z1 is approximately 37% slower than the Z1 Extreme model in 3DMark Time Spy, and 30% slower in Fire Strike.
That’s not the worst of it, though. With Turbo mode and both devices connected, delivering 30 watts of power, the Z1 Extreme outperforms the base Z1 model. ROG Ally Z1 becomes 51% slower in Time Spy and 42% slower in Fire Strike.
That’s a big gap between performance and turbo modes, and it’s something I saw during my testing. You can see a breakdown of performance across different modes on the ROG Ally Z1 above. There are some games like strange brigade, That’s where the extra wattage helps. But in most cases, the difference is just a few frames, all while draining the battery much faster.
That’s not the measurement we see with ROG Ally’s Ryzen Z1 Extreme model. In Performance mode, you can see that the Ryzen Z1 is about 20% behind the Ryzen Z1 Extreme model. Go into Turbo mode, however, and the Ryzen Z1 model is 35% slower.
Throughout my testing, it was clear that the Ryzen Z1 version of the ROG Ally couldn’t take advantage of the extra power. It hits a hard wall, likely due to the low core count, and you don’t have options to improve performance like you do with the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme.
Numbers are important to compare, but the reality of devices like the ROG Ally and The Ayaneo 2S is that you will need to fiddle with settings and upgrade to get playable performance. How does this experience hold up with the ROG Ally with Ryzen Z1? It’s not great.
Let’s start with the main issue: battery life. I didn’t experience any major differences in battery life on the ROG Ally Z1 compared to the model with the Z1 Extreme. This means you can get about four hours of life in low-leverage indie games, two hours in a big AAA game at a maximum of 30 frames per second (fps), and about an hour if you record in Turbo mode and let the frames run wild.
The battery life issue became especially evident when I was gaming Sea of stars. A 2D indie RPG can be played for hours on a machine like the Steam Deck without issues, but the ROG Ally with the Z1 was half-dead after 90 minutes of play. Some of that may be due to Windows 11 running in the background on the ROG Ally, but it’s mainly to do with the display.
Just like the Z1 Extreme model, this version of the ROG Ally comes with a bright 1080p display with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s just as beautiful as before too, highlighting its gorgeous pixel art Sea of stars. It’s just a massive battery drain, even in a game that doesn’t require one Sea of stars.
It’s true that Asus offers options to conserve battery life: lower the refresh rate or run the screen at a lower resolution. This defeats the purpose of having the ROG Ally for games like sea of stars, althoug. If I needed to lower the resolution and refresh rate to get acceptable battery life, I’d play the game on my Steam Deck. At least I have access to things like the Steam overlay and the ability to put the device in rest mode.
How about something more demanding? I played through a few hours of both Red Dead Redemption 2 And P lies. in red dead redemption 2, I was finally able to get a stable rate of 30fps at low settings, but I had to crop the image using the built-in Radeon Supersolution (RSR) resolution to get there. It was operable, but the constant flashing caused by the upgrade was distracting.
Likewise, in P lies, I was only able to reach 60fps with the game’s Ultra Performance mode of FidelityFX Supersolution (FSR) and Turbo mode turned on. Within 30 minutes, I had already drained half the battery power, and that was with the screen brightness low.
I tried too starfield, But given the messy 720p image quality as well as the around 15fps performance, I couldn’t stand to play for long.
It’s hard to justify the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1. With the Z1 Extreme model, you have to deal with Windows 11 and lower battery life compared to the Steam Deck, but you get a more capable device in terms of performance. With the Ryzen Z1 base, the ROG Ally is a bit slower than the Steam Deck, with all the same quirks that hold the ROG Ally back.
It’s hard to recommend
I have a hard time recommending the ROG Ally Z1 to anyone. It doesn’t fit any role that isn’t already filled by the Steam Deck or ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme. If anything, the $600 list price feels like a way to push you toward the more expensive $700 model. It’s more than worth the extra cost.
With the Steam Deck and the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, there are trade-offs. The Steam Deck isn’t as powerful, but it’s more stable, as well as being easier to use and coming at a lower price. For my personal use, that was enough for me Stick with steam surface. The ROG Ally Z1 Extreme is more expensive and cumbersome, but it can also run any Windows game, with a higher level of performance. It even comes with some bonuses like the ability to connect the Asus ROG XG Mobile for desktop gaming.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing to tip the scales in the ROG Ally Z1’s favor. It offers the same compromises as the Z1 Extreme without any of the upsides.
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