ROG Ally Is My New (Imperfect) Travel Buddy

ROG Ally Is My New (Imperfect) Travel Buddy

The ROG Ally is Asus’ entry into the burgeoning handheld gaming PC market, and I love that that’s a thing in 2023. As someone who travels a lot for work, I’ve been curious about whether it would be the right device to scratch my gaming itch while on the road.

Here’s how I fared on a recent trip to the US with the ROG Ally.

On the plane

I had so many plans for all the serious games I was going to play on the plane. I was going to play some Gears, and maybe do some Forza Motorsport 7 in anticipation of the new Forza Motorsport later this year. I was going to play The Sims 4 in full goblin mode like I used to, taking full advantage of the new grunge stuff pack. However, when my body reached the point of the flight where it doesn’t know what time it is, or where it is, or even why it is, all I wanted to play was Stardew Valley.

The ROG Ally may as well have been designed specifically for Stardew Valley. It’s the perfect game for a device like this. Using the combination of controller-style inputs and a touch screen, it’s really easy to play and get lost in the world. I used to try to play Stardew on my phone on long flights, and that’s certainly a cheaper option, but the screen isn’t quite big enough, and the tiny touch controls can be really frustratingly imprecise, leading to a lot of wasted in-game time and energy. The Ally’s 7-inch screen is just right, and it was really an ideal experience, aside from a couple of battery and control niggles I’ll expand on more in those sections.

In the hotel

A ROG ally in a suitcase

When you’re jetlagged out of your gourd in a strange city and can’t sleep, there are probably better things to do than boot up Fortnite on bad hotel wi-fi, and yet that’s the choice that I made, and I regret nothing.

The graphics were good and clean, the game loaded quickly, and generally, it felt like I was playing on my heavy gaming laptop that I’d left at home. On default settings, it played like a dream. Probably ten times better than the experience on Switch. The Switch is a wonderful console for Switch games, but playing Fortnite on it is a massive downgrade from the ROG Ally experience.

I took full advantage of being able to leave the Ally plugged into power when I was in the hotel room, and it played really well. Having the power cord plug into the top of the Ally instead of the bottom just made sense, and it didn’t get in the way at all. Fortnite is a game designed for controllers, so it felt natural and good, especially thanks to the back paddles, which I configured to be L3 and R3.

Well, while I say that the controls were good, there were multiple exceptions. There were many times when my palm would accidentally brush the screen, and I’d lose the use of the right stick until I tapped the screen again, and it took me a while to work out that that’s what was happening. That part really sucked. There was one match I 100% would have won, had I been able to turn around quickly, and I am sticking to that version of events.


The Ally is a bit of an awkward size. It’s small enough to fit easily into a bag, and maybe a large cargo pants pocket, but it also too large to fit into any of the standard padded pockets in laptop backpacks, and it feels a bit plasticky. I am constantly terrified that it’s going to break in my bag or slide off my plane seat and smash.

It doesn’t feel fragile, per se, but it does feel like it wouldn’t survive much. You really, really need a case with it if you’re going to use it as a portable device. Given that being a portable device is its raison d’être, I’m a bit disappointed that it didn’t come with a case in the box. There’s no way you can take this around without a case, Asus should just include a case.

Aside from that, the weight is just about right, and I don’t think it could get much thinner without making it uncomfortable for my hands. It might be a bit big for those with smaller hands, but it fits mine just right.

Battery Life

Yeah, look, the battery life is not great. On Stardew Valley I got 2 hours and 34 minutes on a single charge, and on Fortnite I got 1 hour 37 minutes (yes, I did use a stopwatch). That’s enough to get you through a commute to work, or a decent car trip, but it did not get me from Melbourne to San Francisco.

However, I’m not mad at it. A gaming laptop wouldn’t get me much more than that, either, and they’re bloody massive. I always travel with three power banks, anyway (small Quad Lock one for my phone, the one that came with my July suitcase, and a massive 27,000mAh Cygnett one that I use to charge my laptop). That big Cygnett one will give you roughly a full extra charge, which will get you further. It’s not a perfect solution, but it works and it’s easy.


Close up of a ROG Ally in a suitcase

As mentioned above, the way the sticks and buttons are flush with the screen means that it’s really easy to accidentally touch the screen, which sometimes will render one or more sticks inactive, which causes problems. This will hopefully be remedied on the gen 2 device, or it’ll be something that you adjust to with time. I’ve probably spent 15+ hours playing with it so far and I’m starting to do it a bit less, but I haven’t stopped completely.

It’s also a bit too easy to press the back paddles by accident, which causes shortcuts to trigger if you’re pressing another button, which again takes you out of the game for a moment, and I hate that.

Plus, the ABXY buttons are still really stiff and don’t feel satisfying to press, and the A sometimes gets stuck. Is it a manufacturing problem? Did the previous reviewer drop crumbs in there? Who can say. But it can be frustrating.

I don’t really play a lot of games that rely on keyboard and mouse, so reading Zach’s review on Gizmodo will give you deeper insight into that experience.

Verdict: Is the ROG Ally good for travel?

Look, it’s not perfect. But I really liked it a lot and I want one. The battery issue can be overcome. Some of the control issues were frustrating, and if I was ultra-competitive and always had to be the best who ever lived at all times, that would have broken the experience for me, though I’m sure I will adjust with time.

But for some Fortnite in the hotel, or Stardew Valley on the plane, it’s exactly what I’ve been needing and wanting from a portable games console. I think it’ll work well for commuters, too, particularly if you can charge at work. This is close enough to the device I’ve been hoping for that I’m happy to overlook the imperfections.

When The ROG Ally is released on Tuesday June 13, I’m going to seriously consider saving my pennies for one, because it makes a fantastic travel companion.


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