ROG Ally Teardown: Hot Hardware Held Back

ROG Ally Teardown: Hot Hardware Held Back

It's missing what the Steam Deck has: stellar software.

The ROG Ally, the hotly anticipated rival to the Steam Deck, hit store shelves this past month. With a slew of impressive statistics in what is essentially a laptop in disguise, I was expecting the ROG Ally to hit the ground running. It hit the ground alright, broke both legs, and is now limping to the nearest software QA department to get patched up. Take a look at our hardware teardown, and then I’ll explain a bit more.

I spent two hours on the handheld right out of the box, most of that was setup and updates. I spent another 30 minutes or so downloading both Skyrim and GTA V—neither of which launched. I gave up trying to get it to work as a gaming handheld shortly after. Others swear up and down that theirs worked straight away, but many more have the same gripes we have. 

I’ll say this for the Ally, it’s a brilliant bit of hardware that I’m already planning on modding to bits. But, it falls short as a gaming handheld, the one thing it’s supposed to excel at. The system’s just buggy as all get-out. In its current state, it would have appealed to a nerdy me 20 years ago. The guy who had hours every day to muck about with a broken system, scouring forums to find workarounds, reinstalling Windows 11, and sitting through update after update, only to be greeted by games that won’t launch, sending me on yet another round of forums and workarounds and updates.

But 38 year old me with kids? I just don’t have that kind of time. And it’s a shame too because the hardware speaks for itself, the performance is staggering when compared to the Deck. It’s the software experience that really lets everything down. Fearing that I’d just gotten crotchety and impatient in my old age, I went as far as giving the console to a colleague of mine that’s at least 10 years my junior and guess what? He had the same problems during setup—though he did get as far as getting Elden Ring to launch (most of the time). After our teardown, I offered him the device to play with before I inevitably broke it started modding it and his response was “if I take that home I’ll end up throwing it against a wall”. 

Credit to the Ally: assuming he did throw it at the wall, I would feel pretty confident in being able to fix it. The internals are beautifully modular, and well laid out, with priority given to the accessibility of critical components like the battery and the SSD. 

Internals of the Asus ROG Ally
The angry eyes on those fans match my frustration pretty well, actually.

Repairable, that is, assuming I could get my hands on the spare parts. ASUS has not committed to providing replacement parts to the general public which is a missed opportunity in my opinion. Considering how well-designed and repair friendly the interior of this thing is, they could have easily gone toe to toe with Valve on spare parts, an initiative that has been wildly successful and extremely well received by the gaming community as a whole.

It’s not too late of course. I’m holding out hope for those replacement parts. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need them real soon and so will others, especially once software patches start rolling out. A first impression is a lasting one, but there’s a lot that ASUS can do to stick this fumbled landing. With a more user-friendly system and long-lived hardware, we may yet have a winner in our hands.

Want some in-depth chip ID? Check out the community-made ROG Ally motherboard identification guide.