ASUS ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Which gaming handheld is better?

Valves's Steam Deck caused a big splash when it was announced a couple of years ago as a handheld device that would allow owners to access their Steam library of video games. But now, Asus' ROG Ally has stepped forward as a new handheld challenger with the ability to access any storefront (easily), not just focused on Steam. Thanks to the information revealed during the ROG Ally launch event, it's looking like it will likely dominate the PC gaming handheld space over the Steam Deck as long as it can nail some performance claims. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Specs

Before diving further into the differences and similarities between the ROG Ally and the Steam Deck, let's take a look at the cold hard specs. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck. (Image credit: Windows Central)
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Header Cell - Column 0 ROG AllySteam Deck
Price$699 | ($599 version ships in Q3)$399 | $529 | $649
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme | AMD Ryzen Z1 Semi-custom AMD APU code-name "Aerith" (TSMC 7nm)
CPU Zen 4 architecture, 8-core /16-threads, 24MB total cache, up to 5.10Ghz boostCustom Zen 2 "Van Gogh." 4 cores, 8 threads, 2.4-3.5 GHz
GPU12 RDNA3 CUs, up to 2.7GHz, 8.6 TFLOP, default 4GB RAM capacity8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0 - 1.6 GHz
StorageUp to 512GB PCle 4.0 SSD64GB eMMC | 256GB NVMe SSD | 512GB NVME SSD
Memory16GB LPDDR5 on board (6400MT/s dual channel)16 GB LPDDR5 @ 5500 MT/s over 4x 32-bit memory channels = 88GB/s total bandwidth
OSWindows 11 HomeSteam OS 3.0
Display7-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 IPS-level touchscreen, 500nits, 100% of sRGB, 120Hz7-inch touchscreen, 1280 x 800 (16:10), 60 Hz, IPS, Anti-glare etched glass 120 Hz
Ports1x USB-C port, 1x PCIe port, 1x microSD card slot, 1x headphone jack1x USB-C port, 1x headphone jack, 1x microSD card slot
HapticsHD haptics, Gyro: 6-Axis IMU
Dimensions11.0 x 4.4 x 0.5 inches (279 x 111.8 x 12.7mm)11.73 x 4.6 x 1.93 inches (298 x 117 x 49 mm)
Weight1.3 lbs (590 grams)1.47 lbs (669 grams)
Battery life8 hours (Asus estimates)2 - 8 hours (claimed) / 83 mins - 7 hours (actual)

Now that you've had a moment to compare the official specs let's dive into what these specs mean for you.  

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Price

Asus ROG Ally handheld with game library on screen. (Image credit: Asus ROG)

There are two versions of the ROG Ally coming this year. The more powerful version with an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor will cost $699 and ships in June while the slightly less powerful version that simply has an AMD Ryzen Z1 processor will ship in Q3 2023 and will cost $599. This makes it so that the most expensive ROG Ally is about $50 more than the priciest Steam Deck version, which sells for $649. That's pretty expensive but is also well priced when you see what components the ROG Ally uses.

The Steam Deck comes in three pricing options. (Image credit: Windows Central / Valve)

The nice thing about Valve's handheld is that there are three different versions at various prices ($399, $529, and $649) so people can purchase the handheld at the price point they are comfortable with.  One of the biggest differences between each price point is how much storage the Steam Deck has as well as how it's provided. The priciest 512GB SSD Steam Deck matches that of the most powerful ROG Ally 512GB SSD. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Performance

ROG Ally play modes: Handheld, docked to TV, and docked to monitor. (Image credit: Asus ROG)

As of the last prototype, Asus has claimed that at 15W (performance mode) the ROG Ally is up to 50% faster than the Steam Deck and at 35W it is double the performance. It's hard to say if these features will remain the same for the final product. 

Not to mention, we need to actually perform our own testing to verify if these claims are true. However, if the ROG Ally does meet these claims, then it is going to be one powerful gaming device that should operate at a different level to the Steam Deck. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Display

Both the Steam Deck and the ROG Ally have a 7-inch touchscreen. However, the ROG Ally is far more stunning to look upon thanks to offering 1080p resolution on a standard 16:9 panel compared to the Steam Deck's 1280 x 800p on a more awkward for gaming 16:10 ratio. This results in imagery looking extremely crisp and clear on ROG Ally's 7-inch display, whereas some visuals can look muddy and pixelated on the Steam Deck's panel. 

The ROG Ally's panel can reach up to ~500 nits for amazing brightness with 7 milliseconds pixel response times while running at either 60Hz or 120Hz. This is truly remarkable as that makes this handheld operate at the same level as a high-end gaming laptop display.

The ROG Ally's panel can reach up to ~500 nits for amazing brightness with 7 milliseconds pixel response times while running at either 60Hz or 120Hz.

The Steam Deck, on the other hand, only reaches up to ~400 nits (more than the Nintendo Switch OLED's ~343 nits, but unremarkable) and while we don't know what the millisecond pixel response time is it's likely slower than the ROG Ally. Additionally, the Steam Deck's display can only go as high as a 60Hz refresh rate, which makes it so that games don't look nearly as crisp or smooth on this handheld as they will on the ROG Ally.

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Buttons and joysticks

Based on information shared by those who have gotten to use the ROG Ally thus far, it sounds like the Steam Deck and the ROG Ally's controls feel about the same for the most part. On both devices, the A,B,X,Y, and D-Pad layout are similar to that of an Xbox controller. However, the Steam Deck also has trackpads on either side of the screen that allow for better, mouse-like control, which can be very helpful for playing some of the best PC games. This could mean that certain game interfaces are easier to interact with on Steam Deck. 

As far as joysticks go, the ROG Ally's are offset like on an Xbox controller while the Steam Deck's are at the same height. I cannot say which joystick positioning is better since this is really just a matter of preference. Unfortunately, it looks like neither the ROG Ally nor the Steam Deck's joysticks feature Hall effect sensors. This means that you cannot fully eliminate deadzones and so drift might still occur on both devices, which could prove to be very frustrating. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Compatible games & Operating system

Hogwarts Legacy on Steam Deck.  (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / Windows Central)

The Steam Deck runs on its own unique operating system (OS), SteamOS version 3, which is based on Arch Linux and was specifically intended to only access a user's Steam library. However, since it is based on Linux, not all games from the Steam Library are immediately available to play on Steam Deck. Players must wait and hope that developers take the time to make games Steam Deck compatible, but some games will likely never get the sorely longed-for compatibility checkmark. 

Linux is a very useful OS and one that offers plenty of customization possibilities to those who know how to work with it. However, it also has some limitations that prevent it from easily being able to play certain games. This has resulted in many people hacking the Steam Deck and putting Windows 11 on it so they can access Game Pass for PC, NVIDIA GeForce Now, Epic Games Store, or get around certain anti-cheat systems to play their favorite games.

Meanwhile, the ROG Ally uses the far more widely used Windows 11, which means it will be able to interact with far more video game storefronts and programs right out of the box. It should even be able to play Steam games including those that aren't Steam Deck compatible, which makes it a far more appealing choice between the two handhelds, even for strict Steam gamers.

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Battery life

Composite mockup of the ASUS ROG Ally running Windows 11 in a desktop environment (Image credit: ASUS | Windows Central)

It's hard to say exactly how the ROG Ally and Steam Deck measure up when it comes to battery life until we get Asus' handheld and perform our own tests. After all, Valve claimed that the Steam Deck would run for two to eight hours depending on brightness levels, other settings, and the intensity of a game being played. However, further user testing proved that some games wore the Steam Deck out even faster making it poop out in just 83 minutes, which isn't a lot of time at all. 

Asus estimates that the ROG Ally can last up to eight hours. However, it's hard to know if this will be accurate considering that having a higher refresh rate, brighter settings, and faster pixel response times can cause the battery to wear out faster than the Steam Deck which already struggles with battery life. Who knows. Perhaps Asus has found a way to get around these battery issues with a smarter overall design. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Hand comfort

Steam Deck being held in the air. (Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

The biggest problem with the Steam Deck and other handheld PC gaming devices is that they've all tended to be bulky, somewhat heavy, and awkward to hold. The Steam Deck itself is a thicc boi that I personally have to rest on a table (or another surface) while playing, otherwise, my pinky fingers go numb. 

Meanwhile, the ROG Ally is slightly thinner and a bit smaller. The grips on the back combined with the slanted area on the front where your palms rest are also specifically designed around resting the ROG Ally on a table in front of you and angling it up at your face. This might make it a little more awkward to actually hold up in front of you, but it might make for a more comfortable playing experience when used as intended. I mean, I basically always resort to resting my handhelds on a table (or on my stomach when playing in bed), so it makes sense to design a handheld around this positioning. 

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Accessories

ASUS ROG ALLY connected to the XG Mobile eGPU. (Image credit: ASUS)

So far, a number of Steam Deck accessories have launched such as docks for playing on TV and monitors, carrying cases to keep the handheld safe in transit, protective cases to guard against bumps, and more. There are also a number of third-party offerings, which makes it a bit easier to locate the Steam Deck peripherals you need without always having to shell out a ton of money. 

(Image credit: Asus ROG)

Asus has already explained that the ROG Ally can be made even more powerful when connected to the ROG XG Mobile line of eGPUs, expensive external GPUs. The GC32 version features an AMD Radeon RX 6850M XT and sells for $799, while the GC33 utilizes NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 and costs $1,999. 

When connected, it provides more ports for the ROG Ally to connect to, allows games to be shown on a monitor or TV, and can significantly boost the ROG Ally's performance. ROG also produces various gaming accessories like monitors, controllers, and more. We expect to see an official ROG Ally carrying case announced soon. Additionally, dbrand has already revealed an ROG Ally screen protector, which makes it seem likely that there will be plenty of other third-party accessories as well. 

Other than that, we're a bit too far ahead to really dive into ROG Ally accessories, but if it is successful (which is looking likely) third-party companies will undoubtedly release additional accessories for Asus' handheld.

ROG Ally vs Steam Deck: Which should I buy?

ROG Ally handheld play.  (Image credit: Asus ROG)

We still need to run the ROG Ally through some testing before we can have a final opinion of it. However, if this handheld does prove to run more smoothly than the Steam Deck while offering decent battery life then there is no question that it will be the better handheld between the two. 

The Steam Deck was the first real PC gaming handheld to successfully take off, however, it is more limited due to its Linux OS that can't run all games from your Steam Library. It also has performance issues and only features an 850p display, which is rather lacking by today's standards. 

Meanwhile, since the ROG Ally runs Windows 11, it should be able to play just about any game or service including Steam Deck games (even those that aren't Steam Deck compatible). It also has a display that can support higher resolution and supposedly the inner hardware should run games more smoothly.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's gaming editors with a focus on Xbox and PC gaming. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of game guides, previews, features, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market.