Asus came out of nowhere with its ROG Ally gaming handheld, and it quickly became one of the most anticipated product launches of 2023. There’s a lot that it does differently compared to other handheld consoles, and it might just create a new market. Most importantly, Asus has launched the ROG Ally in India just weeks after its international debut. In preparation for our full review, and as the device goes on sale in India, Gadgets 360 was able to catch up with Arnold Su, Vice President, Consumer & Gaming PC, System Business Group, Asus India, to talk about the company’s overall vision for this new product category, and what this means for gamers in India.
Gadgets 360: How big is the market for such a device in India, and how important is this launch for Asus?
Arnold Su: India’s gaming market is currently experiencing unprecedented growth on a global scale. ASUS ROG has consistently secured the top spot [for gaming laptops] for five consecutive quarters in India. However, even Indian gaming enthusiasts aspire to have additional functionality from their personal gaming devices beyond pure gaming capabilities. The ROG Ally gaming console stands out by not only offering exceptional gaming performance but also providing seamless connectivity for OTT entertainment. Furthermore, it serves as a portable personal computer, fully compatible with the Windows software ecosystem.
The handheld segment is an emerging category in the Indian market, currently at a relatively early stage, making it challenging to make precise future predictions. In order to gain a competitive edge as pioneers in this domain, we aim to proactively meet customer demand by offering an appropriate hardware solution in the form of the ROG Ally.
Gadgets 360: Who is the target audience? Who do you think is going to buy it?
Arnold Su: The ROG Ally aims to target individuals who prioritise a compact, portable, yet high-performing device for on-the-go gaming experiences. Furthermore, we have identified a growing segment of consumers who currently engage in gaming activities through consoles or mobile phones but express a desire to transition into PC gaming. We firmly believe that the Ally is the ideal product to cater to the needs of these customers, providing them with an accessible and user-friendly entry point into the world of PC gaming.
Gadgets 360: Do you think this will replace or compete with entry-level gaming laptops?
Arnold Su: It is too early to predict where the market will lead us but we firmly uphold the vision of a future in which diverse gaming platforms can harmoniously coexist. Given its distinctive functionality, we envision the market embracing the Ally as a secondary handheld gaming console rather than a standalone primary device.
Gadgets 360: How much did Asus and AMD work together to develop the Ryzen Z1, and how much did AMD contribute to the development process for the ROG Ally?
Arnold Su: We collaborated with AMD to be the chip partner for the ROG Ally, and we greatly appreciate their unwavering support, which mirrors the level of dedication they have consistently shown for our previous AMD-exclusive products, such as the Zephyrus G14. It is important to acknowledge that every laptop we release is a result of close collaboration with our valued partners, and the Ally is no exception. Rest assured, the Ally will continue to receive the same high level of support and commitment over time, akin to our gaming laptops.
Gadgets 360: What level of performance should buyers expect in games? How would you compare the Ryzen Z1’s integrated GPU power to that of today’s laptops and other consoles?
Arnold Su: The performance of the ROG Ally is the best in its category. You can expect modern AAA titles to run easily. Our software and hardware teams have worked hard to bring the best performance out of the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip.
Gadgets 360: How did you decide on the final overall specifications, the screen size and type, the physical design, and other things?
Arnold Su: The development journey of the ROG Ally spanned a five-year period, originating from the conceptualisation of the ROG Mothership. Our overarching goal has always been to enhance the portability of gaming experiences, a sentiment that is clearly evident in our previous laptop iterations, and we have successfully achieved a compact 13-inch screen size. Throughout the development cycle, we conducted numerous focus groups and rounds of testing involving diverse stakeholders, employing an iterative approach of constant testing and refinement. This process enabled us to determine the optimal combinations of screen size, type, trigger type, grip area width, ergonomics, and other crucial factors.
Gadgets 360: What are the use cases for such a portable device other than gaming? Do you see it as a multi-purpose PC?
Arnold Su: Since this is a Windows device at its core, the ways in which you can use this device are endless. You can basically use it however you want, and ultimately it is up to the users. While we plan to sell the Ally as a device focused on gaming, users can come up with more distinct scenarios.
Gadgets 360: How easily is the ROG Ally upgradeable, and what can users replace or upgrade themselves?
Arnold Su: Our approach to tinkering with the ROG Ally aligns with our stance on laptop customisation. It’s important to note that opening the machine will void the warranty. However, for customers with advanced knowledge of the potential risks associated with upgrades and willingly accept the warranty voidance, disassembling and upgrading the device is an option. No
netheless, we strongly encourage all our users to leverage the expertise and resources available at our dedicated service centres for any upgrade requirements. This ensures the highest level of quality and reliability for the device.
Gadgets 360: Is the Asus after-sales network prepared to support this unique product?
Arnold Su: Indeed, our customer support team is fully equipped to address and resolve any inquiries from customers. Extensive local training is conducted well in advance of any product launch to ensure that our support staff possesses the necessary knowledge and expertise to provide comprehensive assistance.
Gadgets 360: What changed the most from the beginning of the design phase till you arrived at the final product?
Arnold Su: Throughout the course of this project, we implemented various changes and improvements. One notable alteration was the transition from a single fan in our initial test units to a more advanced dual-fan setup in the final design. Similar revisions were made to the trigger designs, exterior layout, and other key aspects. We have invested significant work and effort into ensuring the Armory Crate SE software delivers a seamless user experience, and we continue to refine it through regular updates to further enhance its performance and functionality.
Gadgets 360: Do you plan any more devices with different specifications, bigger screens, etc? Will the ROG Ally expand into a full range?
Arnold Su: As pioneers in this new product category, we are at the initial stages of our journey and remain committed to actively listening and gathering feedback from our customers. We value both positive and negative input, as it provides us with insights to continuously refine our offerings. We aim to stay responsive and adaptive to meet the evolving needs and expectations of our valued customers.
Some responses have been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.