A Portable Windows Game Console with Custom Zen 4 + RDNA 3 APU

asus rog ally

Asus has begun teasing its own portable game console, the ROG Ally, which the company is positioning as a high-end offering for the handheld PC gaming market. With its ROG Ally, Asus is certainly trying to join in on the rise of portable x86-based game consoles, which have been inspired by the Steam Deck system and further stimulated by game developers’ enthusiasm to optimize their titles for these portable low-power PCs.

This weeks reveal, which included a questionably timed April Fool’s joke that was, in, fact, not a joke, is less of an announcement and more of a teaser on what Asus is working on. As such, Asus hasn’t revealed much in the way of detailed specifications, let alone a release date or pricing. None the less, the company feels confident enough in the product at this point that they’re showing off a prototype to whet gamers appetites ahead of what’s presumably a proper release later this year.

Starting at the heart of Asus’s handheld console, CPU and GPU are corner stones of every gaming system. So for its ROG Ally Asus picked up what they are calling a custom AMD system-on-chip featuring Zen 4 general purpose cores as well as an RDNA 3-based integrated GPU. The SoC is made by TSMC on one of its N4 process technologies (4nm-class), though its configuration is unknown and we have no idea whether ROG Ally uses what’s just a semi-custom configuration of one of AMD’s Phoenix APUs, or if indeed uses a truly custom-designed SoC with certain perks exclusive for the console. 

(Image credit: Dave2D)

The Asus ROG Ally comes with a proprietary connector which is divided into two part: one part transmits PCIe 3.0 x8 data, while the other part is a USB-C connector responsible for transmitting power and USB data. That connector, in turn, can be used to attach an external Asus ROG XG Mobile dock with an external GPU (up to GeForce RTX 4090 Laptop GPU) and external display connectors, essentially transforming the portable game console into a higher performance desktop gaming system. While most portable game consoles can work with external displays and some can even attach an external GPU (albeit with some tricks), enabling this capability by default is one of the major features Asus is counting on to differentiate its ROG Ally.

(Image credit: Dave2D)

(Image credit: Dave2D)

The Alloy’s custom APU, in turn, will be used to drive a 7-inch Full-HD (1080p) display, which offers a maximum brightness up to 500 nits brightness as well as an up to 120 Hz refresh rate. The inclusion of such a high performance display on a battery-constrained device is certainly an interesting choice, and while at first blush it sounds like it may be overkill, YouTuber Dave2D, who was one of only two people to get an early look at the console, says that the built-in GPU can indeed take advantage of a higher refresh rate.

As far as other hardware peculiarities are concerned, the Asus ROG Ally console uses soldered-down (presumably) LPDDR5 memory, an M.2-2230 NVMe SSD, a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapter, a MicroSD card slot, a USB Type-C port for charging and display output, and a TRRS audio connector for headsets. 

(Image credit: Dave2D)

(Image credit: Dave2D)

When it comes to software, Asus ROG Ally runs Microsoft’s Windows 11 operating system and should be compatible with all contemporary games developed for the Windows platform, including those available from Steam, Epic Games Store, and Xbox Game Pass. This is of course a significant trump that the Asus ROG Ally has over Valve’s Steam Deck, which runs a custom version of Linux and is not compatible with all games – but getting desktop Windows to play nicely with handheld computers has also historically come with its own set of challenges.

With all of that said, Steam Deck still has an edge over ROG Ally when it comes to ergonomics, according to Dave2D. Yet, the Asus portable game console is quieter and can run cooler when working in a 15W mode.

(Image credit: Dave2D)

(Image credit: Dave2D)

The Asus ROG Ally game console certainly looks impressive from hardware standpoint. Meanwhile, its software is in the early stages of development, according to the Dave2D, which suggests that this one is not going to be available shortly. This is perhaps why Asus decided not to disclose final specifications of the game console and only gave it to two YouTubers for a test run.

Asus reportedly says that the price of the ROG Ally console will be competitive, though this is a pretty vague statement as if it performs two times faster than Valve’s Steam Deck ($699) and is priced roughly 50% higher (say $999 – $1099), one may say that as its price performance ratio is so good, its price is competitive. Meanwhile, good news is that Asus will release its unit globally.

In any case, Asus’s attempt to enter the market of portable gaming console looks inspiring from hardware standpoint (i.e., on paper). It remains to be seen how comfortable it is to use the console, as well as how much it ends up costing and just how long the high-specced device can be used on the go.

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