Replaced my PC with ROG Ally, here’s what surprised me.

Replaced my PC with ROG Ally, here's what surprised me.

Asus ROG Ally and XG Mobile: A Unique but Flawed Combination

Image Source: Digital Trends by Jacob Roach / ENBLE

Ever since Asus introduced the ROG Ally, it has been compared to the Steam Deck and other handheld devices. However, what sets the ROG Ally apart is its ability to go beyond the hardware inside the device. With Asus’ XG Mobile, the ROG Ally can transform from a handheld device into a full-fledged desktop. Sounds impressive, right? Well, in theory, it is. But in practice, there are some significant issues to consider.

A Failure of Software

Image Source: Digital Trends by Jacob Roach / ENBLE

Asus is attempting the impossible with the XG Mobile, and it shows. The XG Mobile is an external graphics card that provides more power and ports to devices like the ROG Ally through a single connector. It also keeps the ROG Ally charged while it’s plugged in, functioning like a supercharged laptop dock. However, there are some serious software issues that make the experience less than seamless.

Contrary to popular belief, the XG Mobile is not just a Nintendo Switch dock. Asus markets it as a plug-and-play solution, but that’s not entirely accurate. Connecting the XG Mobile requires more than just plugging in the connector; you need to prompt the device to switch to the external GPU. This process is supposed to happen automatically, but it often fails. Sometimes the prompt appears, other times it doesn’t, and sometimes you need to activate the XG Mobile multiple times for it to work.

Disconnecting the XG Mobile is also problematic. The supposed method for deactivation through the Armoury Crate utility fails to work. Instead, users have to manually run an application called “GPU Switch” buried in the Armoury Crate installation. These issues make it incredibly inconvenient and frustrating to connect and disconnect the XG Mobile.

Furthermore, failure to follow the GPU swapping procedure can result in blue screens. Armoury Crate may falsely notify users that it’s safe to disconnect when it’s not. Additionally, there have been instances where the ROG Ally claims the XG Mobile is connected, but nothing shows up on the external display. These software setbacks make the overall experience less reliable and more of a hassle.

A Closer Look at the XG Mobile

Image Source: Digital Trends by Jacob Roach / ENBLE

Once the XG Mobile is properly connected, the ROG Ally performs admirably. It essentially functions as a regular Windows PC. The XG Mobile comes with additional features, including Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0, an SD card reader, and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. The newer 2023 model even offers an RTX 4090 GPU and upgraded ports, including USB 3.2 Gen 2, USB-C, and HDMI 2.1. The handy kickstand built into the XG Mobile allows for a comfortable setup with peripherals like a keyboard, mouse, and external storage. Multiple monitors can also be connected, making it a potential one-cable solution.

Noise levels are acceptable, especially considering that these are laptop GPUs. However, while the XG Mobile handles thermal management relatively well, the ROG Ally itself can still generate significant heat and noise, especially when running demanding games. It’s worth noting that Asus has acknowledged thermal issues with the micro SD card slot on the ROG Ally.

In terms of performance, the XG Mobile provides a significant boost over the ROG Ally on its own. With the RTX 3080 model, gaming at medium settings on a 1080p display delivers impressive frame rates. The RTX 3080 XG Mobile can even handle ultra settings, providing around 90 fps in most games at 1080p and enabling ray tracing in titles like Cyberpunk 2077. The XG Mobile, in combination with the ROG Ally, proves to be a potent option for gaming.

What About the Price?

Image Source: Digital Trends by Jacob Roach / ENBLE

Despite its capabilities, the ROG Ally and XG Mobile combo come at a price that raises eyebrows. The ROG Ally costs around $700, while the XG Mobile is priced at $1,100. Comparatively, building a similarly powerful desktop for gaming would cost around $1,000, plus the price of the ROG Ally. In terms of cost-effectiveness, it’s clear that a desktop setup offers better value for money.

The biggest issue lies in the fact that you can build a powerful desktop and purchase the ROG Ally for around the same price as the ROG Ally and XG Mobile combo. While it may require game installations and file transfers, the convenience, cost-effectiveness, and overall experience of a desktop setup outweigh the advantages of the XG Mobile. The novelty of the XG Mobile’s plug-and-play capabilities alone isn’t enough to justify choosing it over a desktop.

In conclusion, the Asus ROG Ally and XG Mobile combination presents some intriguing possibilities, but it falls short due to its software limitations. While the XG Mobile enhances the ROG Ally’s performance and provides useful ports, its unreliable and cumbersome software implementation hampers the overall experience. When comparing the price and convenience to building a desktop, the ROG Ally and XG Mobile combo loses its appeal. Ultimately, users may find more satisfaction in using the ROG Ally as a portable device and relying on a separate desktop setup for their gaming needs.