Asus came out of nowhere with its ROG Ally gaming laptop and it quickly became one of the most anticipated product launches of 2023. It does a lot of things differently compared to other handheld consoles and it might just carve out a new market. More importantly, Asus 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 caught up with Arnold Su, Vice President, Consumer & Gaming PC, System Business Group, Asus India, to talk about the overview. of the company for this new product category and what it 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 consistently secured the top spot [for gaming laptops] for five consecutive quarters in India. However, even Indian gaming enthusiasts want to have additional functionality of their personal gaming devices beyond pure gaming features. The ROG Ally gaming console excels in not only delivering 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 portable segment is an emerging category in the Indian market, currently at a relatively early stage, making it difficult to make accurate 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 will buy?
Arnold Su: ROG Ally targets individuals who prioritize a compact, portable, high-performance device for on-the-go gaming experiences. Additionally, we identified a growing segment of consumers who currently engage in gaming activities via consoles or mobile phones, but express a desire to transition to PC gaming. We firmly believe that Ally is the ideal product to meet the needs of these customers, providing them with an affordable, easy-to-use 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’s too early to predict where the market will take us, but we strongly advocate a vision of a future where diverse gaming platforms can coexist harmoniously. Given its distinctive functionality, we anticipate the market embracing the Ally as a secondary handheld game console rather than a standalone flagship device.
Gadgets 360: How much did Asus and AMD work together to develop the Ryzen Z1, and how much did AMD contribute to the ROG Ally development process?
Arnold Su: We’ve collaborated with AMD to be the ROG Ally’s chip partner, and we greatly appreciate their unwavering support, which reflects the level of dedication they’ve consistently shown on our past AMD-exclusive products like the Zephyrus G14. It’s important to recognize that every laptop we release is the result of close collaboration with our valued partners, and Ally is no exception. Rest assured, Ally will continue to receive the same high level of support and commitment over time, similar to our gaming laptops.
Gadgets 360: What level of performance should buyers expect from gaming? How would you compare the power of the Ryzen Z1’s integrated GPU to today’s laptops and other consoles?
Arnold Su: ROG Ally’s performance is the best in its class. You can expect modern AAA titles to run smoothly. Our software and hardware teams have worked hard to get the best performance out of the AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip.
Gadgets 360: How did you decide on the final overall specs, screen size and type, physical design, and so on?
Arnold Su: ROG Ally’s development journey spanned a period of five years, starting with the conception of the ROG Mothership. Our overriding goal has always been to improve the portability of gaming experiences, a sentiment that’s clearly evident in our previous laptop iterations, and we’ve successfully achieved a compact 13-inch screen size. Throughout the development cycle, we conduct multiple focus groups and multi-stakeholder test rounds, employing an iterative approach of constant testing and refinement. This process allowed 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 beyond gaming? Do you see it as an all-in-one PC?
Arnold Su: As this is a Windows device at its core, the ways you can use it are endless. Basically, you can use it however you want, and it’s ultimately up to the users. While we plan to sell the Ally as a gaming-focused device, users can create more distinctive scenarios.
Gadgets 360: How easily can ROG Ally be updated and what can users replace or upgrade?
Arnold Su: Our approach to tinkering with ROG Ally is in line with our stance on handheld personalization. It is 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 who are happy to accept voiding the warranty, disassembling and flashing the device is an option. No
however, we strongly encourage all of our users to take advantage of the knowledge and resources available from our dedicated service centers for any upgrade requirements. This ensures the highest level of quality and reliability for the device.
Gadgets 360: Is Asus’ aftermarket network prepared to support this unique product?
Arnold Su: In fact, our customer support team is fully equipped to answer and resolve any customer queries. Extensive on-site training is conducted well in advance of any product launch to ensure that our support team has the knowledge and experience needed to provide comprehensive assistance.
Gadgets 360: What else has changed from the beginning of the design phase to the final product?
Arnold Su: Throughout this project, we implemented several changes and improvements. One notable change was the transition from a single fan on our initial test units to a more advanced dual-fan configuration in the final design. Similar revisions were made to the trigger designs, external layout, and other important aspects. We have invested significant work and effort into ensuring that the Armory Crate SE software provides a seamless user experience, and we continue to refine it through regular updates to further enhance its performance and functionality.
Gadgets 360: Are you planning more devices with different specs, bigger screens, etc? Will ROG Ally expand to a full range?
Arnold Su: As pioneers in this new product category, we are in the early stages of our journey and remain committed to actively listening and collecting feedback from our customers. We value both positive and negative information as it provides us with insights to continually refine our offerings. Our goal is to remain responsive and adaptable to meet the evolving needs and expectations of our valued customers.
Some responses have been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.