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Asus ROG Ally vs. Steam Deck: Which should you buy?

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If you want a handheld gaming PC, there are only two valid options. In theory, the choice should be simple.

You can pick up Valve’s Steam Deck, which established this entire hardware niche last spring, or its first legitimate challenger, Asus’s ROG affiliate, which is hitting stores this summer. It’s a battle between an established industry leader and a sleeker, more powerful and slightly more expensive upstart.

Trouble is, both the Steam Deck and the Ally are excellent handhelds. There is no clear winner. Making a choice depends on what you need from these expensive portable PCs. The ROG Companion Z1 Extreme will be available for sale worldwide on June 13th for $699.99, and pre-orders should be live now.

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When I reviewed the Steam Deck, I called it “my favorite video game console.” A year and a change later, I’m even more certain of that belief. I’d wager I spent more than half my time last year gaming with it, whether on my couch, at the airport, or at the cafe down the street. However, for all its greatness, Steam Deck remains the first draft. The device is big, battery life is short, and a handful of its boldest design choices (it runs on Linux and has a console-like user interface) double as its biggest handicap (it uses Windows out of the box). doesn’t run out, making everything outside of Steam a headache and worst a non-starter).

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A lake in the mountains in Forza Horizon 5, running on the Asus ROG Companion gaming handheld, lying on a blue-gray rug, photographed from above

Photo: Chris Plante / Play Gamez

That’s where the Asus ROG Companion comes in handy. It’s a bizarre Steam deck, often struggling with what Steam decks can’t do, but what Steam decks can do. First and foremost, it comes with Windows right out of the box, like some funky shaped gaming laptop. Anything built for Windows – basically 99% of software – works here. Want to download games from Xbox Game Pass, Epic Games Store, GOG, or Go for it! Want to access decades’ worth of emulation software? This is good. Want to plug a USB-C dongle into a gaming handheld, then connect a monitor, mouse, and keyboard so you can use it as the craziest little work PC you can? You’re my kind of weirdo – go ahead and be yourself!

And yet, like the Steam deck, the options that elevate ROG Ally sometimes bite it at the knees. not cooperative Like a gaming PC; This Is a gaming pc. And Windows 11 isn’t designed to navigate personal computing like the Nintendo Switch equivalent.

All of this is to say that neither ROG Ally nor Steam Deck is without its faults, and neither of those faults are deal-breakers. So, in my humble opinion, the best way to choose is to focus on the positives.

Which one does more of what you want?

A rainy street scene with Forza Horizon 5 playing on the Asus ROG Allie gaming handheld, with the device lying on an olive green cloth in a close-up overhead photo to the right.

Photo: Chris Plante / Play Gamez

You should buy the Asus ROG Companion if: You want the best on paper

On paper, Ally bests the Steam deck in almost every way, though rarely by an adequate measure.

Ally is lighter and more powerful. The Asus fits an AMD Ryzen Z1 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD. It has a clever thermal system that keeps the hardware relatively cool when I run demanding modern games on it, like resident Evil 4 Remake. AMD’s graphics-boosting tech, Radeon Super Resolution (RSR) and FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), can be triggered from the overlay. This made a noticeable difference in performance in demanding AAA games such as forza horizon 5,

The 1080p 120Hz display has a higher resolution and twice the refresh rate of the Steam Deck’s screen. It’s worth noting that the Ally uses an IPS panel instead of the better OLED technology in the latest Switch model. But it certainly appears brighter than any other handheld that includes an OLED switch. In my office, with the lights off, I felt like I was cradling an industrial-strength flashlight.

Ally owners will have the option of funneling even more graphical power through the device by connecting an XG Mobile external GPU. I haven’t had a chance to try this for myself, but our sister site, The Verge, has written about Asus’ use of plug-in graphics cards in the past. For those who don’t want the bulk of a gaming PC but feel constrained by the power limitations of a portable, this is a promising (albeit pricey) third option.

You should buy the Asus ROG Companion if: You have a massive collection of PC games outside of Steam

That’s why the Ally will have a permanent spot on my desk for the foreseeable future. I’ve watched countless YouTube tutorials on how to play non-Steam games on my Steam deck. Reader, I’m a slacker, and the results show it.

By comparison, Ally makes PC gaming (not just Steam gaming) a breeze. Everything just works. if you have Commander: No regrets On the origin of EA, final fantasy 7 remake on the Epic Games Store, and a few hundred games you downloaded from via Humble Bundle, then wow – we have similar gaming tastes! And like me, you’ll have no trouble sliding into each of them within minutes of opening the Companion and connecting it to Wi-Fi.

Even with games on Steam, there is a matter of ally superiority. Steam Deck translates games designed for Windows via Proton. While this works for most games, it doesn’t work for every game. With Companion, any game that runs on Windows (and has met the minimum specifications by the Companion hardware) should work.

Close-up of the Asus ROG Alley gaming handheld's left grip lying on olive green fabric

Photo: Chris Plante / Play Gamez

You should buy the Asus ROG Ally if: You want something more portable, or you like it gamercore aesthetical

The Ally is lighter and smaller than the Steam Deck. It is not noticeable in the hands – it is not He Very lightweight – but makes a big difference when tossing the gizmo in a bag. And it definitely looks more discreet in public places.

I tested the aide in a coffee shop and then a brewery, and in both places I felt like someone was playing a slightly sharp edge switch. I didn’t see anyone confused. Nobody asked me about hardware. The aide blends in, especially if you turn off the RGB lighting coming out of the joystick. This is in stark contrast to my experience with the Steam Deck, which is so large and bulky that strangers on airplanes regularly look at me with eyes reserved for tax collectors and dog haters.

You should buy the Asus ROG Companion if: You want the entirety of the tinkering freedom that comes with Windows

That’s certainly not me, but describes many of my peers at Play Gamez, who like (if not more than) setting up their gaming hardware to actually play games. The Asus ROG Companion is a gaming PC through and through, and while that fact is responsible for my occasional headaches, the Freedom will be a boon for those who want to push the boundaries of what can be done with portable gaming hardware. Are. All mods and development tools made for Windows PC should fit comfortably on the Aide.

Is this the same kind of tinkering that is done by Linux on Steam Deck? It isn’t, but I have to believe that anyone who loves Linux has already made up their mind.

The game library screen of the Asus ROG Ally gaming handheld, viewed from above, lying on a gray cloth

Photo: Chris Plante / Play Gamez

You should buy the Steam Deck if: You want a console-like experience

As I said, the ally is really a handheld gaming console running Windows – which is not something Windows was designed for. To solve for the obvious navigation pain points, the Companion Armory comes with Crate SE installed, a user interface meant to compete with Steam’s operating system.

If the Armory Crate SE worked, you’d be able to use the D-pad and a fussy touchscreen to just move around the menus of games or streaming apps or whatever else you want without ever having to mess through the Windows desktop. Will be able to click firmly. Unfortunately, in my first few days with Ally, this was not often the experience. Navigating the Armory Crate SE (and through it, the entire companion device) frustrated me, ruining my time between games.

Is it impossible to learn the messy system of Armory Crate? no way. Am I slowly getting comfortable controlling Windows with the touchscreen? Yes, it’s only been a few days. But let me be clear: If you’re switching to something like the ROG Companion, say, you’ll discover the true meaning of the words that await all newcomers to the world of PC gaming: “trial and error.”

You Should Buy Steam Deck If: You Want An Instantly Supportive Community

Steam Deck has a one year headstart on Ally in terms of user support. At launch, it took me hours to get the emulator, Epic Games Store, and Xbox Game Pass running on Steam Deck via Linux. Now, user-built devices have turned these constraints into minor speed bumps. The Steam Deck community shows a real love for the hardware, the kind we usually see from the homebrew, jailbreaking, and (surprising here) Linux communities.

If Asus is able to wow retailers like Best Buy and Amazon with the handheld, the Ally could have a bigger community sooner than later. It may be the first mainstream PC handheld. But with the Switch still on the rise and a new Zelda game about to launch, how many people are there who want to spend that much money on a high-end gaming handheld and haven’t already bought a Steam Deck?

This is an honest question. I really don’t know.

You should buy the Steam Deck if: Comfortable ergonomics are a premium

The allies are a bit lighter than the Steam deck, which sounds positive! But the Steam Deck’s heavy handles better recreate the feel of an Xbox controller. The Ally is similar to the slightly more comfortable Switch, with gentle curves on the front and back to give your hands some grip, though not enough to really settle into your palms. The sleeker design also pushes the ventilation upwards, similar to the Steam Deck, near the volume and power buttons. Which is nice, in that it doesn’t spit hot air out the back and into your lap. But I found the heat to be more noticeable with the Ally. Although air still flows away from the device, it’s like you’re presenting a small (and relatively quiet) space heater to the world.

You should buy the Steam Deck if: Price matters

Although the ally is in many ways more powerful than the Steam deck, it is correspondingly more expensive. The price of Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme is $699.99. The Steam Deck is available in three models ranging from $399 to $649.

What to buy: Asus ROG Ally or Steam Deck?

The command center of the Asus ROG Alley gaming handheld, in a close-up overhead photo on the left side of the device

Photo: Chris Plante / Play Gamez

I felt that after the review, I would inevitably return to Steam Deck out of habit. But for now, it rests in my bedside table. I’ve swapped mine octopath traveler 2 The playthrough, Ally’s lightweight build and bright screen make this device a perfect match for long, late-night tours of the fantasy world.

To you, dear reader: There’s no slam-dunk option. But there is no air ball either. In fact, both handhelds are great. Whether I regularly carry around a Steam deck or a ROG Companion, I’ll be happy with my choice. And I think you will be too. Having decades of video games on a device I can put in my backpack and still have room for my laptop and water bottle — it feels like magic.

The Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme will be released on June 13 for $699.99. This review was done with a retail unit provided by Asus. Vox Media is an affiliated partnership. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find Additional information about Play Gamez’s ethics policy here,

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