Dave2D was one of the early reviewers who got their hands on the ROG Ally consoles. He quickly noticed an issue with the console’s performance, particularly when compared to Valve’s Steam Deck at lower CPU power targets. The ROG Ally utilizes AMD Ryzen Z1 APUs, which are not entirely custom chips but rather derived from the Ryzen 7040U series. ASUS and AMD collaborated to implement a new voltage/frequency curve for the Z1 series, aiming for improved power efficiency at lower TDPs, similar to what Deck’s AMD Vang Gogh custom APU was designed for. Despite these modifications, the Ally still faced difficulties in competing with the Deck when operating at lower TDPs.
The handheld gaming console from Valve utilizes the AMD Van Gogh APU, which has a quad-core Zen2 architecture. This means it has half the number of CPU cores and four fewer GPU clusters compared to the ROG Ally, which is based on an older RDNA2 architecture. Despite these limitations, the Deck performed admirably when compared to the ROG Ally in 9W and 15W gaming scenarios, and in certain cases, it even outperformed the Ally, showcasing its speed advantage.
ASUS recently launched a new firmware specifically designed for the ROG Ally console, which is compatible only with the latest GPU drivers. This firmware update delivers a significant enhancement in low-power gaming performance, aligning perfectly with the console’s intended design purpose.
According to Dave, the new firmware update has finally brought the ROG Ally console on par with the AYANEO 2S, the latest console based on the Ryzen 7 7840U Phoenix APU, which is essentially a standard version of the Ryzen Z1. The boost provided by the new firmware is represented by a green bar, while the original firmware is denoted by a yellow bar. In 720p gaming, the boost ranges from 15% to 20%. As a result, the Ally now matches the speed of the AYANEO 2S, making both “Phoenix” consoles clear winners compared to the Steam Deck at those power targets.
However, the Steam Deck still holds an advantage in ultra-low power scenarios. Its custom APU was specifically designed to perform even at 3W, though this mode is recommended for light 2D isometric games only. Even at 9W, the Steam Deck outperforms the ROG Ally in all tested games. That being said, if one’s priority isn’t high-fidelity gaming with ray tracing, the Steam Deck remains a better and more cost-effective choice.
Regrettably, there is a lack of information regarding the performance of the non-Extreme variant of the Ryzen Z1, as ASUS has not provided any review samples for this particular model, which is scheduled to launch in the later part of the third quarter. However, the Z1-Extreme model is set to be released on June 13th, so it is recommended to prioritize performing the firmware update as soon as possible.