ASUS Shares Benchmarks Comparing ROG Ally Z1 And Z1 Extreme Handheld Gaming Performance

rog ally with accessories
When we reviewed the ASUS ROG Ally, we talked at length about how the SoC inside the machine was crying out for a higher power limit and better cooling than the handheld PC could offer. Engaging Turbo mode and then plugging in the charger nets you a peak 30W power limit, yet the Ryzen Z1 Extreme inside the unit we received has to feed eight Zen 4 CPU cores as well as a huge 12-compute-unit RDNA 3 GPU on that power budget. The machine is near-constantly power limited.

Well, ASUS has just released a new version of the ROG Ally, but it's not a replacement for the other one. Instead, it's the long-awaited sibling that sports a Ryzen Z1 processor instead of the Z1 Extreme of the original recipe. Purchasing this one, you save a hundred bucks over the other model, and you still get the same gorgeous 1080p-at-120Hz IPS LCD, arguably the biggest feature the ROG Ally has over the Steam Deck.

phoenix2 annotated
Annotated AMD Phoenix 2 die shot by @BusAlexey on Txitter.

But what about performance? The "Phoenix 2"-based Ryzen Z1 chip drops two CPU cores from the Z1 Extreme, but that's not likely to matter much for games. The real concern is the slashed GPU; the Ryzen Z1 has just four RDNA 3 compute units compared to the Z1 Extreme's twelve. That's got to make a huge difference in performance, right? After all, four compute units is just 256 shaders; that's tiny, dual-issue support aside.

As it happens, four compute units seems to be plenty. We haven't gotten our hands on one of the Ryzen Z1 processors to test, but ASUS has released some benchmarks at 1080p and 720p that paint a pretty positive picture of performance for the Ryzen Z1, and also serve to bear out your author's earlier remarks about the power-limited nature of the Ryzen Z1 Extreme.

720p ryzen z1 benchmarks

ASUS' benchmarks are interesting because the company focused on relatively-recent and fairly-demanding AAA titles. That's because ASUS' narrative around the ROG Ally is that it is an "AAA monster", implying that it's in a different class of product than the Steam Deck. The reality is that neither machine is particularly suited to playing AAA games because they are handhelds. Running these intensely-demanding current games on them, while possible, absolutely annihilates your battery life.

1080p ryzen z1 benchmarks

Obviously, the cut-back GPU has a bigger effect in 1080p than in 720p, but the performance in these titles remains playable on the Ryzen Z1, at least by ASUS' numbers. These average FPS figures don't tell us anything about smoothness, but they're enough to give us an idea of what's possible when you're playing with the Ally in docked mode.

At the end of the article, ASUS goes over a list of changes that the company has made to the product since its launch way back in June. Can you believe it's been nearly 5 months? These mainly have to do with changes to the software for the system, like additional options to configure the gamepad controls, UI tweaks to ASUS' Armoury Crate and Command Center apps, and firmware optimizations to improve power efficiency and performance.

ASUS' list of feature updates to the ROG Ally since its June launch.

In our review of the original ROG Ally system, we actually tested a bundle of games at both the 9W "Silent" and 15W "Performance" presets, both of which are more suitable for handheld operation than the 25W Turbo mode (which becomes 30W when charging). We expect that ASUS is focusing on 30W performance because the speed of the new system at the 9W and 15W power limits is likely extremely similar or identical to that of the Ryzen Z1 extreme model. We also expect that the battery life is likely to be considerably better.

If you're looking for a gaming handheld and you just can't abide the Steam Deck's mediocre 60Hz LCD, the $599 ROG Ally could be a really good pick. We haven't tested it ourselves, so this isn't a blanket recommendation, but based on everything we've seen we think it's probably a better value than the $100-more-expensive Z1 Extreme version. You can grab one right now from Best Buy, but don't forget to pick up the case, too; it's not included like it is with the Steam Deck.