If you see an article headline with the phrase “Steam Deck Competitor” or “Steam Deck Killer,” you know for a fact that article was made for clickbait purposes (much like my cruel April Fool’s prank with the Deck 2).

And we all figured the ASUS ROG Ally was a hoax when it was revealed on April 1st. To be honest, even though LTT and Dave2D have both got their hands on it, the whole thing still seems unreal to me.

What We Know

So, in case you hadn’t been caught up on the specs of this so-called “Steam Deck competitor,” here’s a brief overview of what we know so far:

  • 7", 7ms, 1080p, 120 Hz panel, with a brightness of 500 nits
  • custom Ryzen APU with Zen 4 and RDNA 3, though no other details have been given
  • a port is provided on top of the device for connecting an external GPU. Not using Thunderbolt but it does have PCIe gen 3 x 8
  • supposedly it’s double the performance of the Deck, although I would assume that’s only when an eGPU is connected
  • 608 grams in weight
  • dual-fan setup; apparently it’s much more quiet than the Deck
  • powered by Windows 11, with what appears to be a gamepad-oriented interface called the “Command Center” when the appropriate button is pressed, allowing you to customize the refresh rate, emulate a mouse, and more
  • uses M.2 2230 for storage
  • two back buttons
  • according to LTT, it’s not as comfortable to hold as the Deck
  • analog sticks have RGB rings, but are not hall effect
  • the D-pad is “solidly okay”
  • NVMe and analog sticks can be easily replaced
  • volume rocker, MicroSD card slot, USB-C, and fingerprint sensor are all on top

What We Don’t

Notice, however, what isn’t mentioned:

  • price. No, of course they’re not going to reveal the price just yet, but that’s the one key thing that every gamer is going to want to know firsthand
  • battery capacity, although LTT did mention it’s “competitive” to the Deck’s
  • amount of RAM, whether it’s using DDR4 or DDR5, or the speed
  • NVMe capacity, brand, or speed
  • whether the triggers are analog
  • whether there is built-in haptic feedback

ROG Ally PCB Image credit: Dave2D

Also, notice the fact the handheld doesn’t have trackpads. It doesn’t have four back buttons. No one has mentioned whether the thumbsticks are capacitive or not. No one mentions whether it has a gyro. What about customizing the TDP limit or GPU clock speeds? Is that even possible without having to resort to a third-party app in desktop mode?

And I can’t help but laugh at the battery. Let’s assume it’s 40 Wh – or maybe be generous and say it’s 50 Wh. No way in hell this thing could last longer than 20 minutes playing a game at full 1080p resolution with a framerate higher than 60 FPS. 500 nits might be brighter than the 400 nits on the Deck, but that’s another huge chunk of your battery gone if you crank the brightness all the way up. Plug in an external GPU while you’re at it, and watch that battery gauge drain like a box truck driving around town.

Add to the fact this handheld is coming with Windows out of the box. All that spyware, all those unnecessary processes running in the background, consuming even more unnecessary battery. A desktop interface that wasn’t designed with a gamepad in mind. Sure, you can finally play those pesky games with EAC that don’t work on Deck, but is it really worth sacrificing Linux just to play PUBG? Gardiner Bryant explains this whole mess a lot better than I can.

Best Buy Sign-Up: A Needle to Gauge Interest

As The Phawx brings out in his video, sure, you can sign up for reservations at Best Buy, an actual brick and motor store where you can pick it up, if the device ever becomes a reality. But I think the email sign-up is more so just a “survey” in the sense Best Buy and ASUS are gauging the level of interest in the device. The more signups they get, the more units they can produce, and the more units they produce, the less expensive the device will be. Notice we don’t even have a date as to when reservations will become available, nevermind when the product itself will actually be on that Best Buy shelf.

Best Buy page for Ally

If they don’t get enough sign-ups, well, that’s probably the queue for ASUS to nip the bud and not make it at all.

Price, Price, and Price

I’m going back again to that price. I’m sure you’re aware of companies like Aya Neo, GPD, OneXPlayer, etc. who sell their handhelds at a number that’s a good two or even three times the price of the base model Deck. That’s a price that most people are not willing to pay. I did a poll over on Mastodon. 38% of voters believe the price will be anywhere from $700-$1000. 36% speculate more than $1000. Only 11% believe the price will be less than $500.

If it’s around $650-ish, and not anything higher, well, there might very well be competition here, at least as far as price goes. But you also have to consider, this is using Windows; ASUS probably won’t provide any support for users who decide to use Linux. The higher resolution, brightness, and refresh rate are just going to be a gas guzzler, and the fact they haven’t revealed any details on the battery is highly suspicious to me. And why not offer 2280 support for drives? That in of itself could have had an edge over the Deck, since 2230s tend to be a bit more pricey than the longer counterparts.

Ally Command Center Image credit: LTT

Look, I’m all for competition. I think it’s great for someone to step into the fray, particularly a company that’s able to mass-produce these devices at a competitive price, and perhaps have some better performance to boot. And the Ally might be the closest thing we’re ever going to get. But I just don’t see it happening. Especially when so many details are vague.

Maybe this is just an extended April Fool’s prank.

What are your thoughts though? Do you think the Ally will actually be produced for the general market? Can it actually serve as the closest competitive offer to the Deck?

Cover image credit: Dave2D