Trust me, it hurt to write as much as it probably heard to hear, but it's true. The ROG Ally is a fantastic device- one that outshines the Steam Deck in so many ways. While I still love what Valve has done with the Steam Deck, and I believe it's the better choice for most, the ROG Ally is ultimately the device that I would rather own- at least me personally. If I had to recommend a device to someone else, it would depend on if they want a console-like seamless experience, or a PC like experience that Windows 11 offers. Let me get into the juicy reasons as to why the ROG Ally keeps a slot in my bag.
It's just more powerful
That's right. It's got more OOMPH. The power this little guy is packing constantly impresses. The Steam Deck, while impressive, always rides that line where it just slightly under-performs. When Docked, the Steam Deck really doesn't like to render games at 1080p or higher- at least the ones I was trying to play. For example, Street Fighter 6. I've been a big player of the game since it launched, and I was very disappointed when trying to get it to run at native 1080p on the TV. It just wouldn't do it. You had to play the game at a low-resolution, which impacted my overall experience quite a bit. And don't even get me started on World Tour.
The ROG Ally on the other hand, handles SF6 at 1080p no problem, with some decent graphics settings. The fact that it can boost while plugged in to a stable 30w (higher in short bursts) means that it is simply the better docked product. Considering that I'm using these hand-held gaming machines a docked-console a LOT, docked performance is key for me.
It's no secret that the Steam Deck's screen was the biggest disappointment regarding its launch. It wasn't really about the resolution, although it's not quite great. It was more about the overall image quality. It just didn't quite meet our expectations from what you can get out of displays in 2023. Considering that we are getting high refresh OLED VRR Displays all the time, it just wasn't cutting it. The Steam Deck does a lot with its display, like allowing you to switch screen refresh rates on the fly from the menu, or offering a very low-light mode for at night, or being 16:10 aspect ratio. Still, it's not the best part of the Steam Deck by far.
Then comes the ROG Ally, with it's beautiful bright display, running at a crisp 120hz, with VRR. There's a huge difference in clarity, sharpness, and color. It's unbelievable how much a difference it makes. Not to mention the touch screen, which performs worlds better than the one on the Steam Deck. It's a night and day difference.
Here's the big reason it's a shame that the Ally is my preferred choice. If you know me, you know I'm a big fan of Linux. I love it. It's got Free and Open Source roots, and it's the OS that feels right to use. You aren't getting assaulted by ads, and you're not running all sorts of telemetry. It's the superior choice for someone like me.
However, I have to admit that for PC gaming, Windows remains the dominant platform. It literally runs everything, since everything is made to run on it. While I admit that what Valve have done with SteamOS is groundbreaking, it's still no contest in game compatibility. I admit that if given the choice, I would run SteamOS over Windows 11. However, the ROG Ally is a Windows 11 focused device. It doesn't impede mobile usage as much as I had thought, and it's not as bad mobile as Windows once was...
Wow. I mean truly wow. The ROG Ally's speakers sound impressive. Not much more to say here- I mean they aren't Macbook levels of good, but the front-facing speakers on the ROG Ally are more than enough to satisfy. I find they have excellent surround as well, making you feel like you're surrounded by the audio.
Where the Steam Deck wins
Valve have done a lot with making the Steam Deck a console-like experience. It's something that is needed, as the skill-gap between a console gamer and a PC gamer is wider than I truly know. I'm somewhat of a tech expert, so I've lost touch with how difficult PC gaming can be for the average gamer. However, I do still see how convenient the Steam Deck makes PC gaming. It works just like a console, and that's a great thing. You can just play your games instead of messing around with your OS, and I respect it.
I'd still prefer to use SteamOS all things considered, but I would technically be losing out on the benefits of using Windows. There are pros and cons. I would gladly deal with those cons to be on Linux and SteamOS, but being honest, this is all subjective. I'm using Windows every day at my Desktop PC, and I can use it fine on the ROG Ally.
Ultimtately, the pros the ROG Ally offers can't be denied. I had hopes that I would return it, but after seeing the superior docked experience, the power advantage, and the screen, it became a no-brainer that the ROG Ally was the device to keep. It just does what I need it to better than the Steam Deck. I feel guilty, as I haven't owned the Steam Deck long enough where I felt like it was time to replace it. Dispite feeling bad about it, I can't deny the obvious upgraded experience the Ally offers.
The real question is, will the Ally be replaced in a year from now? Let's see what the next competitor looks like.