Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Asus ROG Ally and Handled Gaming in 2024

 Well! It's been eight months now since I got my Asus ROG Ally and I have had a lot of time to adjust to it, get it adjusted, and find a decent equilibrium. Of the various handhelds I own, this is the only one I tend to use anymore....with a caveat, that being that I spend about 75% of my time on the ROG Ally in docked mode these days. As a consequence, I am actually using the ROG Ally every single day now as a secondary docked desktop PC, and its handheld advantage arises during travel.

The ROG Ally on release needed some updates in firmware and Asus clearly had a problem with how they set up the heat dispersal to pass close to the Micro SD card location on the Ally. Many owners found an early problem with this, and I actually have simply decided not to use a Micro SD card with it after the thing almost cooked one of my cards. Instead, to expand the memory I picked up a M.2 SSD card and followed the instructions found across many online sources to clone the internal drive onto the new card, then swapped them out. Pro tip: cloning is the best and fastest way to do this, just make sure to find a good set of instructions online, Some vloggers opt to use the recovery feature on the Ally to restore the boot drive, and that is clearly a more laborious and time consuming process. Cloning was a piece of cake. 

So once I expanded the onboard memory to 2 TB I was able to properly load the ROG Ally with whatever I felt like. I then purchased the expanded multiport 60w power supply for the Ally, which served as an excellent second higher wattage power source, but it also includes a USB and HDMI port. I can now "dock" the Ally using this setup, connecting it to a display via HDMI and using the USB port to connect whatever else is needed. 

Here's my current setup:

Asus ROG Ally, sitting on a handy dock such as the recyclable one that comes with the Ally, with a 2 TB M.2 SSD to replace the original 512 GB card;

The 60w Dock with extra ports;

A wired mouse (only because I don't have a free bluetooth mouse right now) plugged in to the power supply;

A HDMI to mini HDMI cable, plugged into the 60w plugin, using a 16 inch portable 2K 120p screen with a sturdy mount I picked up on Amazon;

A decent bluetooth mini keyboard from Logi and an extra Xbox Series controller connected to bluetooth.

So yep, at this point my handled device is now essentially a decent budget gaming desktop that I can also disconnect and carry on the go. I'm actually typing this blog on the ROG Ally as we speak using the MX compact Logi keyboard connected wirelessly to it. When I am at home, I can and have enjoyed a lot of games on the ROG Ally on this setup with no issues, In fact, I primarily have games from my GOG collection and secondarily from Steam. Some of the games are simply better with a keyboard setup, so I have games like Guild Wars 2 as an example that work best this way (though I have worked on a GW2 controller setup in the ROG Armoury overlay). I maintain plenty of games on it that default to and work well with the ROG Ally handheld control scheme for the on the go moments. Since those are far less frequent than the stay-at-home time, this setup is working great for me.

Here's the interesting thing: this setup could work really well for just about anyone who wants a low-profile desktop with handheld option. It's probably not as cheap as purchasing a decent laptop (and I have a decent laptop) but it's a fun setup for just messing around. I can also use this setup with the Steam Deck exactly as-is, since the 60w power supply/dock works with it as well. I just happen to be a lot less interested in tinkering with the Steam Deck in Linux, and to be honest, most game content on Steam runs a bit better on the Asus ROG Ally on average. 

So what does this mean for the other portables I accrued over the last couple years? It means I have committed to not buying handhelds for at least 2024, that's for sure....but also, to be honest, I just don't need them at all except from a pure gadget/tech hobbyist perspective. Based on my setup today, I think that the ROG Ally works for exactly what I need in this market, and I no longer really need the Steam Deck or the Switch OLED. I can get nothing out of either of these devices that the ROG Ally isn't providing for already (except playing the Switch exclusives, I guess).

I feel slightly differently about the other two devices: the Backbone One for Apple, and the Switch Lite, both have a singular advantage over the rest, being their small profile and extreme portability still make them much easier to just throw in a bag or my pocket and go. The Backbone One advantage is that it, combined with my iPhone mini 13, is a very low profile gaming experience for odd moments and Apple's Arcade has a decent array of games. The downside is its still best for odd moments only, is still a bit awkward to carry and apply since you have to take a protective case off if you use one, and most of the games I enjoy on the iPhone are games I can play on the ROG Ally more efficiently.

That leaves the Switch Lite, which is insanely low profile and runs the full game lineup for Switch. This one generally ends up being my "grab and go for odd-moment gaming" because it fits in my pocket easily, and is quick to fire up. The ROG Ally is my "taking a trip" device as well as my "backup mini desktop" experience at home.

Anyway....long story short, these sorts of devices are numerous and can cater to the sort of special use case you imagine you may have. For me, I now realize I am not a hardcore "play in handheld mode" gamer but I like the ability to do so, and so for me the ROG Ally is the winner as I've been able to customize and kit it out to suit my needs, and I am more comfortable in Windows 11 than Linux. Meanwhile, Switch Lite remains my best "throw in the bag and play in the doctor's waiting room" experience. The rest of the devices are just a symptom of "gadget addiction" I need to work on.

No comments:

Post a Comment