OPINION: The ROG Ally has launched and reviews are out. To varying degrees, Windows is a key target for criticism, but I feel that Microsoft is both the problem and the solution. It’s time for an Xbox handheld.
Admittedly, our four-star review of the Asus ROG Ally wasn’t as harsh on the use of Windows 11 as some other reviews have been, in fact, it’s one of Deputy Editor Ryan Jones’ favourite aspects of the machine. Why? Because, expectedly, Windows 11 offers greater accessibility and user-friendliness than rivals like the Steam Deck.
However, for those looking for a streamlined handheld experience, something we’ve preached here at Trusted Reviews previously, the ROG Ally brings plenty of Windows-flavoured quirks. Our review highlighted that Windows 11 is, of course, not built for PC gaming on the go so navigating between small icons can be troublesome and the virtual keyboard didn’t always respond promptly.
Another issue is compatibility. The Steam Deck does a strong job of signposting which games work well with the system but the ROG Ally and its custom Armoury Crate SE software does not. Instead, you’re left to work this out on your own.
There have also been qualms over performance by some. Our review experience largely saw crashing limited to games that the ROG Ally struggled to run in the first place, as opposed to when through the Windows 11 UI as some other reviewers have found. However, some moments of freezing did occur, even if the fiddly navigation was more of a significant issue in our reviewer’s eyes.
No matter what degree to which these issues were experienced, it’s clear that a Windows-powered handheld isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Microsoft, and more specifically Xbox, should fill in the gap.
First off, you might ask, “Adam, how will this solve the problem? An Xbox handheld will just run Windows”. To that, I’d argue that it shouldn’t. Instead, a handheld with the Xbox console interface, already designed with thumbstick navigation in mind, would sit nicely on a Microsoft-made portable.
Remove the issue of having to deal with Windows 11, from navigation to performance, and you’ll know more clearly that Xbox games will be ready to go on the device. This wouldn’t simply be down to software either, with an Xbox handheld built from top to bottom with the company’s finger in all of the proverbial pies, hardware and components would surely be optimised. Valve has done wonders with the Steam Deck, with SteamOS woven into the device for tremendous results.
I must admit that this handheld may be offputting for PC gamers though, with access to third-party platforms being unlikely, if not downright unfathomable. This Xbox handheld would err more on the side of a Game Pass-focused Nintendo Switch-like machine, rather than a Steam Deck or Asus ROG Ally.
Some devices, like the Logitech G Cloud and Razer Edge 5G, have attempted such a device already, with those Android handhelds making the most sense as machines for Xbox streaming, Nvidia GeForce Now and Steam Link. Plus, you can utilise Xbox Game Pass streaming on traditional Android phones too.
Still, a dedicated Xbox handheld with a hardware and software marriage that could actually run Xbox-compatible titles natively would surely be something to get the juices flowing. Remove major worries about compatibility, internet connection or awkward navigation and it’ll draw upon the same appeal to the masses as the Nintendo Switch. Of course, I wouldn’t expect all Xbox console-friendly titles to be able to run on a handheld, but the Steam Deck has impressed us with its compatibility. Plus, Xbox loves an ‘Optimised For’ logo, so why not bring another device into the fold?
Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.