Steam Deck OLED vs ROG Ally: Which Gaming Handheld You Should Buy

Delve into the detailed comparison of Steam Deck OLED and ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, dissecting pricing, OS, design, display, performance, and more.

By Abhishek Chandel
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Steam Deck OLED vs ROG Ally: Which Gaming Handheld You Should Buy

Steam Deck OLED vs ROG Ally: Which Gaming Handheld You Should Buy

Choosing between the Steam Deck OLED or Asus' powerful ROG Ally Z1 Extreme for portable PC gaming isn't easy. These new handhelds both promise big things, but how do you pick the right fit? Let's break down how Deck and Ally compare in key areas like design, display quality, performance specs, operating system, compatibility and value. By exploring the pros and cons, you'll come away with a better idea of which device suits your gaming needs and preferred style of play.

Steam Deck OLED vs ROG Ally: What's the difference?

1. Pricing and Value

When it comes to pricing, the Steam Deck OLED offers more affordable options. The base model with 256GB of storage is priced at $400, while the 512GB and 1TB variants cost $530 and $650 respectively. On the other hand, the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme model with a 512GB SSD carries a heftier $699 price tag.

Based on the pricing alone, the Steam Deck OLED presents a better value proposition, especially when you consider the storage capacities. For instance, the top-tier Steam Deck OLED with 1TB of storage is $50 cheaper than the ROG Ally Z1 Extreme, yet it offers double the storage space.

2. Operating Systems and User Experience

The Steam Deck uses SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system customized for games. The ROG Ally runs Windows 11 instead, which will feel familiar to most people.

While SteamOS provides a slick, touch-friendly setup great for gameplay, game compatibility can sometimes be an issue - especially if the game uses anti-cheat software or isn't on Steam. Windows gives you more options overall but can feel clumsy on a handheld at times.

Right out of the box, SteamOS makes gaming seamless. Navigating menus, storage, and your game library is simple and smooth. Windows gets the job done on the ROG Ally but isn't as well-optimized, even with Asus' Armoury Crate app helping out.

3. Design and Ergonomics

Both are mainly plastic builds, but the ROG Ally has a nicer white shell that feels premium.

When it comes to long sessions, the larger Steam Deck is comfier to hold thanks to its shape and grippy sides. The ROG Ally can get awkward after a few hours for bigger hands since it's more like a slab.

The Deck also has trackpads alongside its buttons for classic controls. The Ally's thumbsticks and D-pad could use some work compared to the Deck's crisper inputs too.

4. Display and Visual Quality

The Steam Deck OLED boasts a 7.4-inch OLED display with a 1280 x 800 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. In contrast, the ROG Ally packs a 7-inch 1920 x 1080 LCD panel with a higher 120Hz refresh rate.

While the ROG Ally's display offers a higher resolution and refresh rate, the Steam Deck OLED's OLED panel delivers superior image quality with deeper blacks, higher contrast, and more vibrant colours. The OLED display also supports HDR, further enhancing the visual experience in compatible games.

For most gamers, the Steam Deck OLED's lower resolution is more than adequate given the device's compact screen size. The OLED panel's advantages in image quality and HDR support often outweigh the ROG Ally's higher resolution, resulting in a more immersive and visually striking gaming experience.

5. Performance and Battery Life

Under the hood, the ROG Ally is a seriously powerful machine. It boasts an AMD custom chip packing 8 high-performance Zen 4 CPU cores and 12 graphics-focused RDNA 3 GPU cores. In comparison, the Steam Deck uses a less mighty APU with 4 CPU cores based on the previous Zen 2 architecture and 8 GPU cores from RDNA 2.

Both devices enable adjusting the balance between graphical horsepower and battery consumption. The Ally can crank its mode up to a sizzling 25 watts for maximum graphical grunt. Meanwhile, the Deck's most intensive setting clocks in at a cooler 15 watts.

The payoff for that extra processing power in the Ally is the shorter battery life. Real-world tests show the Deck providing 1-2 additional hours of play per charge compared to the Ally. That long-lasting battery makes the Steam Deck a no-brainer for prolonged gaming sessions away from an outlet.

6. Game Compatibility and Versatility

The Steam Deck excels at its main function - running games in your Steam library seamlessly. However, its Linux-based OS can sometimes struggle with titles using anti-cheat features or those outside Steam.

This is where the ROG Ally has a clear advantage. Powered by the familiar Windows 11 software, it can run literally any game from any storefront or platform, including protected titles. This greater versatility is appreciated by players with diverse collections.

Plugging into an external display also shows off Ally's stronger internals. Its boosted hardware delivers a buttery-smooth and visually stunning docked experience compared to what the Steam Deck can output. It's a true powerhouse when gaming on the big screen.

7. Storage Options and Expandability

Out of the box, the Steam Deck offers a nice choice of storage tiers - pick between 256GB, 512GB or a spacious 1TB SSD. Meanwhile, the ROG Ally solely provides 512GB as its preset option.

Luckily, both handhelds let you boost capacity with microSD cards. However, some users report the Ally randomly acting up with specific memory cards during intense gaming sessions.

Additionally, upgrading the Steam Deck down the road is a simple DIY process by swapping its internal SSD as needed. The Ally can be customized for internal SSD in the same manner as Steam Deck.

Steam Deck OLED vs ROG Ally: Comparison Summary

Key Advantages of Steam Deck OLED

  • More affordable pricing and better value

  • User-friendly SteamOS designed for handheld gaming

  • Excellent ergonomics and comfort for extended sessions

  • Superior OLED display with HDR support

  • Longer battery life for on-the-go gaming

Key Advantages of ROG Ally

  • More powerful hardware for better performance

  • Versatile Windows 11 compatibility with all games and launchers

  • Impressive docked mode performance

  • Premium build quality and sleek design


Ultimately, both the Steam Deck and ROG Ally deliver solid options for portable gaming fans. Consider your budget and what's most important - performance or battery life, your typical game library or plugging into a TV.

The Steam Deck is a safer pick if you value affordability, optimized gaming on the go thanks to SteamOS, or a library centered around its platform. Meanwhile, the ROG Ally performs best for flexible Windows compatibility no matter the games or launchers used.

For many, the well-rounded Steam Deck hits the sweet spot out of the box in terms of price, comfort and convenience straight away. But the ROG Ally presents an enticing premium pick for those seeking optimal power at a higher price. In the end, both aim to push handheld gaming forward - it just depends which experience calls out to you most!

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