Asus ROG Ally (Ryzen Z1) review: no man’s land | Digital Trends

    Asus ROG Ally (Ryzen Z1)
    MSRP $600.00

    “The ROG Ally with the Z1 is weaker than even the Steam Deck, leaving it without a clear audience.”


    Light and comfy to make use of

    Beautiful 1080p display screen


    Weak battery life

    Worse efficiency than the Steam Deck

    Windows 11 is a problem to make use of

    When I reviewed Asus’s ROG Ally earlier this yr, I used to be floored by its efficiency. The handheld debuted AMD’s Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip, which shot previous the Steam Deck and established Asus’ handheld as the brand new efficiency king.
    Now, now we have the bottom Z1 mannequin. It’s a stripped-down model of the chip we noticed earlier this yr, and it is available in cheaper than the Z1 Extreme mannequin ($600 as a substitute of $700). there’s much less energy, however the system nonetheless comes with the identical 512GB of storage, identical shared 16GB of LPDDR5 reminiscence, and identical stunning 1080p, 120Hz display screen. It’s simply the processor that’s totally different.
    And what a distinction that makes. The ROG Ally Z1 isn’t a catastrophe, but it surely’s a tool that doesn’t have any clear function. It’s a transparent step under the Z1 Extreme, and it loses in a head-to-head battle with the Steam Deck. It’s a tool that exists as a result of it could actually, and I’ve a tough time believing it caters to any particular viewers.

    Let’s discuss concerning the Ryzen Z1
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    You may assume that the Ryzen Z1 Extreme is a beefed-up model of the Ryzen Z1, however the line really strikes in the wrong way. The Z1 Extreme units the usual, and the Ryzen Z1 is massive step backward.
    For starters, the Ryzen Z1 solely comes with six Zen 4 CPU cores, in comparison with the eight accessible on the Z1 Extreme. The extra vital cutback is in GPU cores, although. The Ryzen Z1 has 4 RDNA 3 GPU cores, which is simply a 3rd of what the Ryzen Z1 Extreme presents.
    It’s an enormous step again, and that comes out within the efficiency of the ROG Ally Z1. There’s additionally a slight minimize to cache, from 8MB of L2 on the Z1 Extreme to 6MB of L2 on Z1. It’s not an enormous deal, however I did have to allocate extra of the shared 16GB of LPDDR5 reminiscence to get video games like Returnal to launch.
    The Ryzen Z1 is highly effective sufficient to run video games, but it surely’s a big step again from what the Z1 Extreme presents. It’s even a minimize in comparison with the Steam Deck. Valve’s handheld has twice as many graphics Compute Units (CUs). They’re utilizing an older structure, however the increased core depend means the Steam Deck edges out increased efficiency, as my testing reveals.
    By the numbers
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    The Steam Deck comparability is one of the best place to start out as a result of it units the stage for the ability you’ll be able to count on out of the ROG Ally Z1. As you’ll be able to see from my testing, Asus’ new handheld is behind the Steam Deck in each recreation I checked out. There are some minor variations, corresponding to in Horizon Zero Dawn, however in video games like Dying Light 2, the efficiency hole is the distinction between playable and unplayable.
    In equity to the brand new ROG All Z1, it’s technically cheaper than the Steam Deck. It comes with 512GB of storage, and also you’ll have to spend $650 for a Steam Deck with the identical quantity. However, you’ll be able to choose up a Steam Deck for as little as $400 with 64GB of storage and broaden it with a micro SD card — at the least there aren’t considerations about bricking your Micro SD card like there may be on the ROG Ally.
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    You can see the comparability with the Z1 Extreme mannequin above. Digging down, on the default 15-watt Performance mode, the ROG Ally Z1 is about 37% slower than the Z1 Extreme mannequin in 3DMark Time Spy, and a clear 30% slower in Fire Strike.
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    That’s not the worst of it, although. With the Turbo mode and each gadgets plugged in, providing 30 watts of energy, the Z1 Extreme clobbers the bottom Z1 mannequin. The ROG Ally Z1 finally ends up 51% slower in Time Spy and 42% slower in Fire Strike.
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    That’s an enormous hole between the Performance and Turbo modes, and that’s one thing I noticed throughout my assessments. You can see a breakdown of efficiency throughout the assorted modes within the ROG Ally Z1 above. There are some video games, corresponding to Strange Brigade, the place additional wattage helps. But typically, the distinction is just a few frames, all whereas draining your battery a lot sooner.

    That’s not the scaling we see with the Ryzen Z1 Extreme mannequin of the ROG Ally. In the Performance mode, you’ll be able to see the Ryzen Z1 is about 20% behind the Ryzen Z1 Extreme mannequin. Jump as much as the Turbo mode, nonetheless, and the Ryzen Z1 mannequin is 35% slower.
    Throughout my testing, it’s clear that the Ryzen Z1 model of the ROG Ally simply can’t reap the benefits of the extra energy. It’s hitting a tough wall, possible on account of its low core depend, and also you don’t have choices to enhance efficiency such as you do on the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme.
    The subjective expertise
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    The numbers are vital for comparability, however the actuality of gadgets just like the ROG Ally and Ayaneo 2S is that you just’ll have to fiddle with settings and upscaling to get playable efficiency. How does that have maintain up on the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1? It’s not nice.
    Let’s begin with the principle challenge: battery life. I didn’t expertise any main variations in battery life on the ROG Ally Z1 in comparison with the mannequin with the Z1 Extreme. That means you’ll be able to squeeze about 4 hours of life in low-lift indie video games, two hours in a giant AAA recreation with a cap at 30 frames per second (fps), and about an hour for those who shoot as much as Turbo mode and let the frames run wild.
    The challenge with battery life turned notably obvious after I was enjoying Sea of Stars. This 2D indie RPG can run for hours on a tool like a Steam Deck with out points, however the ROG Ally with the Z1 was half useless after 90 minutes of enjoying. Some of that could possibly be on account of Windows 11 operating within the background on the ROG Ally, but it surely primarily comes right down to the display screen.
    Just just like the Z1 Extreme mannequin, this model of the ROG Ally comes with a shiny 1080p display screen with a 120Hz refresh price. It’s simply as stunning as earlier than too, highlighting the beautiful pixel artwork in Sea of Stars. It’s only a large drain on the battery, even in a recreation that isn’t demanding like Sea of Stars. 
    It’s true that Asus supplies choices to preserve battery life: flip down the refresh price or run the show at a decrease decision. That defeats the aim of getting the ROG Ally for video games like Sea of Stars, although. If I would like to show down the decision and refresh price to get acceptable battery life, I’m simply going to play the sport on my Steam Deck. At least there I get entry to issues just like the Steam overlay and the power to place the system into relaxation mode.
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    What about one thing extra demanding, although? I performed via a number of hours of each Red Dead Redemption 2 and Lies of P. In Red Dead Redemption 2, I used to be lastly capable of get a steady 30 fps with Low settings, however I needed to butcher the picture with the built-in Radeon Super Resolution (RSR) to get there. It was playable, however the fixed flickering from the upscaling was distracting.
    Similarly, in Lies of P, I used to be solely capable of hit 60 fps with the sport’s Ultra Performance mode of FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and the Turbo mode on. Within 30 minutes, I had already drained half of the battery, and that was with the display screen brightness turned down.
    I additionally tried Starfield, however given the messy 720p picture high quality mixed with efficiency across the 15 fps mark, I couldn’t abdomen enjoying for lengthy.
    It’s exhausting to justify the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1. With the Z1 Extreme mannequin, you need to take care of getting round Windows 11 and low battery life in comparison with the Steam Deck, however you’re getting a way more succesful system when it comes to efficiency. With the bottom Ryzen Z1, the ROG Ally turns into barely slower than the Steam Deck, with all the identical quirks that maintain the ROG Ally again.
    Difficult to suggest
    Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
    I’ve a tough time recommending the ROG Ally Z1 to anybody. It doesn’t match any function that isn’t already crammed by the Steam Deck or the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme. If something, the $600 listing value looks like a option to push you towards the costlier $700 mannequin. It’s greater than price that upcharge.
    With the Steam Deck and ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, there are trade-offs. The Steam Deck isn’t as highly effective, but it surely’s far more steady, on high of being simpler to make use of and coming in at a lower cost. For my private use, that was sufficient for me to stay with the Steam Deck. The ROG Ally Z1 Extreme is costlier and cumbersome, however it could actually additionally play any recreation that runs on Windows, and with a better peak stage of efficiency. It even comes with some bonuses like the power to hook up the Asus ROG XG Mobile for desktop gaming.
    Unfortunately, there’s nothing tipping the scales in favor of the ROG Ally Z1. It makes the identical concessions because the mannequin with the Z1 Extreme with none of the upsides.

    Editors’ Recommendations

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