ASUS Admits ROG Ally's SD Card Reader Can Buckle Under Thermal Stress

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We've still got our ASUS ROG Ally handheld system, and we're still using it on occasion to play a game while standing in the kitchen waiting on food or while covered up in cats on the living room floor. Something we've run into a couple of times is that the microSD card, where many of our games are stored, will stop appearing to the device, requiring a system reboot and re-insertion of the card.

We chalked the issue up to our unit being a pre-release model, but it turns out, plenty of purchasers of retail units have plowed into the same issue on their ROG Ally systems, too. Several users have posted on the official ASUS ROG forums that their ROG Ally's microSD card reader has either quit working or in fact killed the SD cards installed into the system.

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The MicroSD card slot is directly above one of the heat exhaust vents while you're playing.

Now, ASUS has acknowledged the issue, and it's exactly what users feared: a hardware problem. However, the issue doesn't lie with the ROG Ally's SD card reader, exactly, but rather with its placement in the system. The microSD slot on the ROG Ally rests directly above one of the exhaust vents for the system's cooling hardware. Under a sustained load, the top of the system gets extremely hot, and that likely includes the microSD slot.

If you aren't aware, flash memory doesn't really like high temperatures, but the cooling policy on the ROG Ally is extremely conservative. We talked about this in our review; the fans barely spin up, even on 35W docked mode, and the machine rides the ragged edge of its thermal limits with the SoC cranking along at 95°C. Assuming the cooling hardware is doing its job, that means you've got close-to-95°C air blowing right past the microSD reader.

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In a post on those same forums, ASUS says that it has confirmed that "under certain thermal stress conditions, the SD card reader may malfunction." The post continues, saying that ASUS will release an update that "further fine-tunes the default and minimum fan speeds on the device" to avoid this issue. Finally, ASUS ROG community manager MasterC says that if you're having issues with your microSD card reader, that you should send the unit in to ASUS for inspection and repairs.

That's all well and good, and we do applaud ASUS for offering to fix the issue, but we wonder how noisy the system will become. The problem doesn't only affect people running the machine in the full 35W "Turbo" mode; one user posts that his flash card reader has become inoperable despite only ever running the system in the 15W "Performance" mode.

hankmaclovin microsd failed rog ally post

Furthermore, other users have remarked that the system outright killed their SD cards. We'd be pretty sour if ours died, given the high price of the fast Samsung MicroSD PRO Plus card we've been using. The solution in the near-term seems to be using an external (USB) microSD card reader, but hopefully ASUS' firmware fan fix can resolve the problem when it comes out.