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A cheaper ROG Ally is coming, but you shouldn’t wait for it

Asus has finally given its hotly anticipated ROG Ally a price and release date (you can read my full thoughts on the device in our Asus ROG Ally review). The flagship model, the one I reviewed, arrives on June 13 for $700. But a cheaper model is on the way for only $600 later in the year.

It rarely pays to be an early adopter, so you might be tempted to wait for the cheaper model. I wouldn’t hold out for it, though. The base model comes with the Ryzen Z1 processor, not the Z1 Extreme, and it’s looking far less powerful.

Performance for the AMD Z1 processor.
AMD

The above chart from AMD shows a relative idea of how much weaker the Ryzen Z1 is. Sure, it can hold up decently in a game like DOTA 2 or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but it’s around half as powerful in Red Dead Redemption 2 and even worse in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. 

But the most important thing is that no one has actually tested the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1. Those benchmarks above were run in a sample device, not the final ROG Ally that will be shipped. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ROG Ally with the Ryzen Z1 underperform compared to the older Steam Deck.

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As you can see in my ROG Ally versus Steam Deck comparison, the ROG Ally is a clear winner. But it’s not as far ahead as its theoretical power would suggest, especially if you want to get any decent battery life out of the device.

Asus ROG Ally with the Windows lock screen.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

My worry with the base Ryzen Z1 model is that you’ll have to sacrifice performance or battery life to get anything nearing the Steam Deck, especially considering that it comes with the same 1080p screen as the ROG Ally with the Z1 Extreme processor.

The main reason why is that the Ryzen Z1 fits into the same power range as the Z1 Extreme: 9 watts up to 30W. It comes withjust six Zen 4 cores instead of eight like the Z1 Extreme has, and a measly four RDNA 3 cores instead of the 12 the Z1 Extreme has access to. That hindered graphics power shows up in AMD’s benchmarks, and I suspect they’ll only be exaggerated once the Ryzen Z1 is properly inside the ROG Ally.

For now, that’s just speculation. The ROG Ally with the base Ryzen Z1 is coming in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, pre-orders for the model with the Z1 Extreme are live at Best Buy. If you’re planning on picking up the ROG Ally, this is a rare case where I wouldn’t recommend waiting for the cheaper model. It’s looking like a different class of device entirely.

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Jacob Roach
Lead Reporter, PC Hardware
Jacob Roach is the lead reporter for PC hardware at Digital Trends. In addition to covering the latest PC components, from…
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