Asus ROG Ally RC 71L review: Spendy, but decent, PC gaming on the go

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Jason R. Rich

When it comes to handheld gaming, the industry leader is Nintendo, with its Nintendo Switch OLED model. But if you’re PC gamer who can’t sit still, you usually have to invest in an expensive gaming laptop. Now you can get your hands on the new Asus ROG Ally RC 71L handheld gaming system. It runs Windows 11 Home and supports services like Stream and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. 

The folks at Asus recently sent me a higher-end Asus Ally RC 71L to review, so I decided to take this gaming system for a spin. I wanted to see if it really could provide an enjoyable PC gaming experience on a seven-inch touchscreen, and with integrated controls and built-in speakers. If you’re in a hurry (and a lot of mobile gamers sure are), and you’re already set on buying one, here’s your link:

Asus ROG Ally: At a glance

Asus ROG Ally Review

Jason R. Rich

Console type: Handheld | Operating system: Windows 11 | CPU: AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme Processor | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | Display size: 7-inches (touchscreen) | Display type: IPS | Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels | Aspect ratio: 16:9 | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Response time: 7ms | Max. brightness: 500 nits | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Speakers: Two (Dolby Atmos support) | Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 | Ports: USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio jack, ROG XG Mobile Interface, microSD card reader | RGB lighting: Aura Sync | Dimensions: 11.02 x 4.37 x 0.83 inches | Weight: 1.34 pounds

The entire thing can be held in two hands. But it’s far from pocket-sized. To carry it, you’ll need a padded case (sold separately), to provide protection inside a backpack. Just be mindful of the two joystick controllers that could easily get damaged in transit.

That said, it’s that larger size that gives you access to a seven-inch touchscreen and a variety of large buttons, triggers and joysticks. The system also has built-in speakers and a microphone, but I recommend using it with wireless headphones or earbuds, or a gaming headset. On the top of the device, you’ll find a 3.5mm audio jack.

I liked the color-changing, Aura Sync RGB light rings surrounding the joysticks. And when it comes to communication, the Ally supports Wi-Fi 6E as well as Bluetooth 5.2. Since the system relies on wireless internet, having Wi-Fi 6E support is essential.

The best things about the Ally is that it runs a full version of Windows 11 Home and relies on a powerful CPU and GPU. This allows for a smooth gaming experience, even when playing action-oriented and graphic-intensive AAA games.

Is the Asus ROG Ally worth it?

For a casual gamer, the Nintendo Switch is probably the way to go, unless there are specific Windows PC games you really want to get your hands on, and you want to play those games on the go. For serious gamers, the Ally offers a nice on-the-go gaming diversion, but isn’t designed for competition. 

That leaves moderate gamers — people who want to experience their favorite PC games away from a computer, who are willing to forego a mouse and keyboard, and who love games enough to pay a premium. You’ll also need a case and perhaps the ROG gaming charger dock to connect the Ally to a TV or monitor. If you fall into this category, the Ally is a great gaming option that’s in the same $500+ price range as the Steam Deck OLED (512GB) and Lenovo Legion Go.

Asus ROG Ally: First impressions

As someone accustomed to the Nintendo Switch OLED, the larger size and weight of the Ally took a bit of getting used to. Both systems offer a seven-inch touchscreen display, buy the body of the Ally is noticeably larger and a bit heavier. On the plus side, the size of the buttons, triggers and joysticks are larger on the Ally. This provides easier control when gaming, especially for someone with adult-size hands.

Asus ROG Ally Review
The Asus ROG Ally (top) and the Nintendo Switch OLED Model (bottom) are shown here.

Jason R. Rich

Right out of the box, the system comes with the Steam and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate apps preinstalled. If you already have an account with one of these services, simply sign in, download a game and start playing. However, the system offers a bunch of customizable options which you can manage at anytime by tapping on the Settings menu button. Beyond gaming, as a Windows device, the Ally run a wide range of other applications — including video streaming apps and the Microsoft Edge web browser. While it could, technically, run Microsoft Word or Excel, Ally is not designed for work.

 If you’re already familiar with Windows, navigating around the system is a breeze. And if you’re a frequent user of Steam or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, interaction with either of these services is equally intuitive. When needed, a virtual keyboard pops up on the display.

Asus ROG Ally Review

Jason R. Rich

The Ally’s speakers are decent, but if you want real spatial audio, you’ll want wireless headphones. It took less than 30 seconds to pair my Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) earbuds with the Ally. 

During setup, I had to update Windows and other preinstalled content. After that, I launched Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and got into the action.

The device is more suitable for someone with adult-size hands but is otherwise intuitive. Along the top of the system, you’ll find the main power button, physical volume up and down buttons, one USB Type-C port, the ROG XR Mobile interface port, a microSD memory card slot and a 3.5mm audio jack. Also on the left and right side are left and right trigger and bumper buttons. Many games rely heavily on these.

One nice feature is a fingerprint sensor built into the power button. It can be used to unlock the device or approve online purchases. 

Asus ROG Ally Review
On the top of the Ally is where you’ll find all of its ports.

Jason R. Rich

Meanwhile, on the back side of the Ally are two micro buttons and two rather large air vents. 

Asus ROG Ally Review
The bottom of the Ally handheld gaming system has two programmable Macro buttons and two large air vents.

Jason R. Rich

The gaming controls are at your fingertips

Along with the seven-inch touchscreen, you get access to two nicely sized analog joysticks (thumb controlled), A B X Y buttons, a D-pad, left and right analog triggers, left and right bumpers, view, menu and command-center buttons and two assignable grip buttons. The system also has a six-axis gyro to sense movement during gameplay. These controls allow you to interact with most (but not all) PC games that you’d normally use a mouse and keyboard to control.

Asus ROG Ally Review
The A, B, X and Y buttons and one joystick are on the right side of the Ally.

Jason R. Rich

For me, the larger size of the buttons, triggers and joysticks provided easier access to essential controls (and better precision) when playing games, compared to the Nintendo Switch OLED Model.

Asus ROG Ally Review
The left side of the Ally has a D-pad and a joystick.

Jason R. Rich

Using an external wireless controller

If you prefer a different controller, that’s no problem. The wireless ROG Raikiri Pro controller ($150) can be paired with the system, but the ROG also works with an Xbox wireless controllers. If you want to connect the Ally to a standard TV or monitor, you’ll need the optional ROG gaming charger dock ($65). And if you want to transform this system into a high-end gaming desktop, add the ROG XG mobile eGPU docking station. It allows you to connect multiple displays, a keyboard and a mouse and adds an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU. But be warned: It will set you back another $2,000 (no, that’s not a typo). 

If your plan is to connect the Ally to a TV or monitor often, I’d recommend a custom gaming laptop (like the ROG Zephyrus gaming laptop or ROG Strix gaming laptop). You’ll get more value for your money and enjoy more robust gaming experiences with fewer compromises.

Internal storage is expandable

Integrated into the Ally is 512GB of internal storage, which is certainly decent. But you can expand storage using an optional microSD memory card. The memory card plugs into the card slot on top of the system. If your plan is primarily to play cloud-based games, expanding the Ally’s storage probably won’t be necessary. 

Asus ROG Ally Review
A microSD memory card can be inserted into the Ally to increase its storage capacity.

Jason R. Rich

But what about battery life?

The Ally comes with a basic wall charger that plugs into the system’s USB Type-C port. For extended gaming sessions, you can play with the system plugged in, but you might find the 6-foot-5-inch power cord a bit annoying. That leaves relying on the Ally’s rechargeable battery. This is one thing about the Ally that could really use some improvement.

Asus ROG Ally Review

Jason R. Rich

Based on the game you’re playing, the Ally’s battery life varies greatly. Best case scenario — if you don’t maximize the display’s brightness and use wireless headphones or earbuds instead of the integrated speakers — you’ll get between three and four hours of gameplay per charge from the Ally’s four-cell Li-ion battery, which is not swappable.

Asus ROG Ally RC71L: Gaming experience

Not every Windows PC game is suited for a handheld gaming system. Sure, the Ally compensates for a lack keyboard and mouse with its touchscreen, buttons, joysticks and triggers, but this setup can dramatically hinder some gaming experiences.

Asus ROG Ally Review

Jason R. Rich

The Ally does a really nice job with most action, adventure and RPG-style games; any games that could be found in an arcade; or game titles available on popular consoles. One of the most frustrating experiences was figuring out the controls for specific games.

Ultimately, the experience offered by the Ally varies greatly — some games adapt to the handheld system, while others suffer without access to a mouse and keyboard.

Asus ROG Ally handheld gaming system: The good and bad

There’s a lot to like about this system — but it does have a few drawbacks. 

10 things I like about the Asus ROG Ally

  • The system runs Windows 11 and most PC games.
  • You get a seven-inch touchscreen with 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate and a maximum brightness of 500 nits. The screen supports 100% coverage of the sRGB color space, so whatever is being displayed will look authentic — the way developers intended.
  • The integrated Asus Aura Sync RGB lighting adds to the visual aesthetic.
  • Access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Steam, Epic, GOG and other services is easy. All offer access to plenty of AAA game titles.
  • The touchscreen is very responsive and provides a straightforward way to interact with Windows, apps and games. However, when an app relies on small on-screen buttons or menus using very small text, tapping on the right thing can sometimes be a challenge.
  • The size of the buttons, triggers and joysticks make interacting with games easier, especially for someone with adult-size hands.
  • The Ally displays high-action content smoothly and offers a really good response time.
  • The preinstalled ROG Armoury SE app makes it easy to access games and manage settings in one place. The app also allows gamers to customize key maps and adjust the system’s Aura Sync lighting.
  • A three-month trial subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is included.
  • The display does a nice job minimizing glare, even when playing in a well-lit room. The screen is, however, susceptible to fingerprint smudges, so keep a micro fiber cleaning cloth handy.

Six things I don’t like about the Asus ROG Ally

  • The system is a bit larger, thicker and heavier than the Nintendo Switch OLED.
  • Battery life is pretty short — only between three and four hours, depending on the games being played and the system hardware and resources being utilized.
  • The system’s water-repelling PU fabric storage case is sold separately. This is an accessory I recommend to protect your investment when you take the Ally on the go.
  • To connect the Ally to a TV or monitor, the ROG gaming charger dock is required and sold separately.
  • You’ll need to set some games to a lower graphics setting.
  • The handheld system’s audio quality improves dramatically when you use it with headphones

Asus ROG Ally: Final thoughts…

Compared to the Nintendo Switch OLED Model, the higher-end Asus ROG Ally system is considerably more expensive. But, when you consider it runs the same PC games as a gaming laptop that would cost more than $700, Ally offers good value for the money, not to mention really good overall performance.

That said, I would have liked to see more consistency in how well games adapt to the Ally. For some games, the Ally offers an impressive experience — but that’s not the case across the board. Not all AAA PC games were designed for the smaller touchscreen or the onboard control system Ally offers. 

If you’re willing to invest just a bit more, depending on the games you’re looking to play and the experiences you want, it might make more sense to purchase a lightweight gaming laptop.

Our in-house gamers are constantly publishing reviews, game roundups and details on where to find the best deals on gaming systems. Be sure to check out our coverage of the best PS5 games of 2024, the best PS5 hard drives for 2024, the best Nintendo Switch games for 2024, the best gaming keyboards for 2024, the best gaming headsets for PC gamers, plus our full reviews of “Super Mario Bros. Wonder” and “Super Mario RPG.”

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