Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Here are all the major changes ROG Ally X makes over the original

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Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Computex 2024 logo.

This story is part of our coverage of Computex, the world’s biggest computing conference.

Asus made a splash in the portable gaming PC market with the ROG Ally. Although not without flaws, the console presented an alternative to Valve’s Steam Deck for those who wanted something more powerful and didn’t mind the extra expense. It’s no wonder that Asus chose to follow up on its success a mere year later, introducing the ROG Ally X at Computex 2024.

Contents

  • Specs
  • Pricing and availability
  • Design and battery
  • Performance
  • Worth the wait

The Asus ROG Ally X is a strong contender in a match against some of the best gaming handhelds, including Asus’ own last-gen version with the Z1 Extreme chip. It brings some improvements, but it’s not a full redesign — think of it as an ROG Ally 1.5. But is it worth the extra expense, and should you upgrade? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make the right choice.

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Specs

 
Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme
Asus ROG Ally X

APU
AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme
AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme

Memory
16GB LPDDR5-6400
24GB LPDDR5-7500

Storage
512GB Gen 4×4 NVMe SSD, micro SD slot UHS-II
up to 1TB M.2 2280 NVMe PCIe Gen 4 SSD

Screen
7-inch, 1920 x 1080, 120Hz, 500 nits, IPS, 7ms, 10-point touch
No changes

Speakers
2x 1W speakers, Dolby Atmos, and Hi-Res Audio support
 No changes

Ports
1x ROG XG Mobile, 1x USB-C (USB 3.2 and DP 1.4 support), 1x 3.5mm audio, 1x micro SD slot
1x USB-C (USB 3.2 Gen 2 and DP 1.4), 1x USB 4, 1x 3.5mm audio, 1x micro SD slot

Battery capacity
40Wh
80Wh

Dimensions (LxWxH)
11.04 x 4.38 x 0.84 inches
11.02 x 4.37 x 0.97 inches

Weight
1.34 pounds (608 grams)
1.49 pounds (675 grams)

Price
$700
$800

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Although the spec sheet for the ROG Ally X delivers some changes, the heart of the console remains the same — as can be expected from something that Asus itself dubs “not a redesign.” The AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU, with its eight cores, 16 threads, 24MB of cache, and 12 RDNA 3 cores, has proven time and time again that it’s a force to be reckoned with. Of course, if we compare it to the Asus ROG Ally Z1 (not Extreme), it’s a whole different story; but now, with the ROG Ally X in the picture, that model makes even less sense to buy. Asus is also said to have changed the motherboard in the new model.

The major spec changes include a boost to the memory. The ROG Ally X now serves up 24GB of RAM instead of 16GB, and as the APU utilizes that for both system memory and VRAM, it could prove to be a major improvement. The maximum RAM frequency has also gone up, from 6400MT/s to 7500MT/s.

The new ROG Ally X also doubles battery capacity and expands the SSD, not just up to 1TB but also up to an M.2 2280 variant, meaning that storage upgrades should get significantly easier — and the handheld itself can support up to 8TB of storage. Lastly, Asus heard the outcry of its customers and replaced the ROG XG mobile port with a USB 4 instead. This change lets you use an external GPU if you should wish to, and that’s pulling the ROG Ally X into a whole different category.

Pricing and availability

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

When the Asus ROG Ally (Z1 Extreme) hit the shelves on June 13, 2023, it was initially priced at $700. The not-so-extreme version followed on September 18, 2023, with a $600 price tag. Since then, both models have gone on sale many times over. While the initial pricing held strong, those sales are the best windows of opportunity for those who want to buy an ROG Ally handheld.

Meanwhile, the ROG Ally X was the topic of conversation for a few months before it finally made an appearance at Computex 2024 on June 2, with preorders opening on that same day. The console will arrive sometime in July with a recommended list price (MSRP) of $800.

Design and battery

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The design shows us that Asus did, indeed, do more than just a slight refresh along the lines of the Steam Deck OLED. The difference is visible at first glance, as the redesigned chassis now comes in black; the other adjustments are more subtle. In the new Asus ROG Ally X, you’ll find slightly deeper handles, a more rounded overall shape, and a slight change to the arrangement of the buttons and the sticks, adding a slant to the triggers to make them easier to use. The macro buttons on the back have gotten smaller, which, as Asus claims, should help you avoid accidental presses.

Asus has also replaced the joysticks on the ROG Ally X with something rated for much higher reliability; Asus promises a 5 million cycle lifespan here. It also improved the D-pad, adding more-precise eight-direction input. There’s also been a change in the placement of rumble motors, and while the speakers stayed the same, the sound chamber got bigger.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the old model to the updated version lies in the battery life. Asus effectively doubled battery capacity, bringing it up to 80 watt-hours, all the while barely making a dent in the weight of the device, which has gone up to just under 1.5 pounds. Although the company hasn’t shared any claims on the impact on battery life, we expect it to have gotten significantly better.

Adding things like battery capacity, a larger SSD, and more memory would have meant that the handheld should’ve gotten bigger — but that isn’t really the case. Sure, the weight went up by a tiny bit, but Asus claims to have distributed it right around where you hold the console to make the impact negligible.

To keep the weight similar, Asus had to swap out the fans for new ones that are 23% smaller than those in the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme. However, through the use of 50% thinner fan blades, Asus still promises to deliver improved airflow. Another design change lies in the use of new tunnels that direct air up and out toward an extra exhaust vent, which, according to Asus, should provide 24% more air volume both to the internals and to the touchscreen, lowering temps by up to 6 degrees Celsius.

That’s not all, because Asus is also changing up the utility that the ROG Ally runs on top of Windows, but this applies to both the Ally and the Ally X. In Armoury Crate 1.5, we’ll be seeing a redesigned interface, the ability to uninstall games directly from the Crate, and even the addition of AMD’s Fluid Motion Frames.

Performance

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Asus has yet to release the official performance figures for the ROG Ally X, and we won’t know its true performance until we test it ourselves. All we can do right now is make an educated guess based on the way the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme performs in tests we’ve already carried out. As can be seen on the above chart, the Asus ROG Ally Z1 Extreme was outperformed by the Ayaneo 2S in our tests. Some of the gaps are wider than others, such as in Returnal, while Strange Brigade is basically a tie.

The Ayaneo 2S console, while imperfect, had something that the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme did not: copious amounts of RAM. Up to 64GB of it, to be exact. This can contribute to higher performance, but it probably won’t bring the ROG Ally X to that same level just yet. However, we’ll most likely see a performance improvement thanks to the faster memory and larger memory capacity.

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

As with any gaming handheld, the ROG Ally and the ROG Ally X are both limited by their battery life. To that end, the ROG Ally X might deliver an unexpected boost in performance by simply letting you game on Turbo mode for a longer period of time. In our tests, the Z1 Extreme version produced vastly different results when running on Turbo, Performance, and Silent modes. With double the battery capacity, the new ROG Ally X should let you play on high settings without forcing you to care for battery life as much.

We’ll know more about the exact performance figures once we’ve had the chance to test the new ROG Ally X for ourselves.

Worth the wait

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Should you splurge and buy the new Asus ROG Ally X? For an extra $100, you’re getting improved battery life, more memory, a more upgradeable SSD with higher capacities, better ports, and some design changes that could contribute to quality of life. Overall, it sounds like a pretty good deal — but it’s hard to say just how much of an improvement you’ll get out of the new console.

There’ll be an improvement, that’s for sure. Asus clearly listened to the feedback and tried to improve the things that weren’t quite perfect in the original ROG Ally. Let us hope that it may even have fixed the problem of frying microSD cards. However, with all the changes, the ROG Ally X is still a similar device. It won’t suddenly double your frame rates in Cyberpunk 2077, but it should make your gameplay more enjoyable, not to mention longer-lasting thanks to the new battery.

Whether you want to spend the extra $100 — which is most likely going to be more than worth it — or not, hold off making a purchase until the ROG Ally X appears in stores. Chances are that the price of the Z1 Extreme model might drop as a result, and if that price gap grows wider, it will make a much better deal.

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