Considering the date on the calendar and the lack of a price or other details, my first response to Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) surprise-announcing a handheld gaming machine was that this must be an April Fools’ Day prank.

Still, this Asus ROG Ally launch video was just a little too good to simply shake off — the link to Best Buy and the use of real games like High on Life, Moving Out, and WRC Generations seemed unusual for a prank, and now we know why. After waiting a couple of days, Asus has confirmed it is a real device (well, as real as a product can be without a launch date, detailed specs, or price) and says gamers can sign up with Best Buy for details on when preorders will start.

According to Asus, the Windows 11-powered ROG Ally has a customized Ryzen APU from AMD inside, like the Aerith SOC inside Valve’s Steam Deck, and Asus claims it is the fastest one from AMD yet.

While Valve’s Steam Deck has been the most successful attempt to make PC gaming a truly portable experience, there are plenty of competitors, like the Ayaneo 2 or other Switch-like machines from GPD and OneXPlayer. However, in our experience, they’ve relied on an AMD 6800U chipset instead of a custom design and generally lack the right combination of horsepower and efficiency that we want to see from handheld gaming machines.

Dave2D comparison of the Asus ROG Ally screen vs. Valve’s Steam Deck. Image: Dave2D (YouTube)

A hands-on video by Dave2D confirms global launch plans from Asus as well as a few more specs, like that it’s smaller, lighter, and flatter than Valve’s gaming machine — 608g / 280mm x 113mm x 39mm for the Ally versus 669g / 298mm x 117mm x 50.5mm for the Steam Deck.

The ROG Ally has a seven-inch 16:9 display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 500 nits of brightness, and a 120HZ refresh rate, compared to the Steam Deck specs, which are listed as a seven-inch 16:10 display at 1280 x 800 resolution, 400 nits of brightness, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The chip inside uses the AMD’s Zen 4 architecture with the powerful RDNA 3 graphics tech seen in recent GPUs.

Another hands-on video from Linus Tech Tips is a little longer, showing even more angles of the device and the software customizations Asus has set up on its prototype unit. As Dave2D noted, there’s a fingerprint sensor along the top, and Linus mentioned it could be used for switching between multiple accounts.

He also said the prototype was much quieter than the sometimes noisy Steam Deck, measuring at about 20dB compared to the Deck’s 37dB on load, with a dual-fan system that sucks in air from the back and vents it out at the top. He also noted the SSD and joysticks appeared to be easily replaceable.

Having a few more pixels, a higher refresh rate, and a more powerful processor sounds good, but it could also tax the battery while gaming on the go, and Windows 11 is a question mark in comparison to SteamOS for efficiency. So far, Dave2D said details on the battery were unavailable, as was any information on pricing other than that it will be competitive.

The ROG Ally also has the visible standard setup of dual analog sticks, a left-mounted D-pad, and four face buttons, plus a few smaller buttons around the screen to access menus and settings. Going beyond the Steam Deck dock, it even advertises the opportunity to “experience Ally’s full potential” by plugging in the ROG XG Mobile eGPU the company offers for use with its gaming laptops while streaming your games to a TV.

More than anything, the machine featured in the video looked fully designed and ready to roll out as a high-powered entry into the portable gaming market. It was certainly more realistic than what Asus posted on April Fools’ Day 2022, hawking a concept “Smart Lens” for eye-controlled gestures (also featured in the Ally launch video) that it later revealed was a joke. Plus, Asus is also the company that just unleashed this ROG Flow Z13 Acronym portable that defies all belief and understanding.

Asus ROG Ally Image: Asus

Update April 3rd, 10:29AM ET: After the April Fools’ Day teaser and a confusing LinkedIn post from a head of product management, Asus has announced that actually, the ROG Ally handheld gaming PC is a real product, telling people to “stay tuned for more.” The post has been updated to reflect that.

Update April 3rd, 11:24AM ET: Added video from Dave2D and additional spec information.

Update April 3rd, 6:59PM ET: Added Linus Tech Tips video.

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