Should You Buy the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 or the Z1 Extreme?

Should You Buy the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 or the Z1 Extreme?

The ASUS ROG Ally Z1 Extreme was quickly dubbed a “Steam Deck killer” when it launched earlier this year, offering better performance than the Steam Deck, a higher resolution display, and easy access to the full version of Windows 11.

But now that the company has come out with a cheaper, less powerful version, those purchasing a ROG Ally handheld must choose between the Z1 or the Z1 Extreme. But how are they different? And does it really matter which one you get?

After spending two weeks tinkering with both the Z1 and Z1 Extreme, I’m confident in saying that it absolutely matters which one you buy.

Design and pricing

If placed side-by-side, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the Z1 and the Z1 Extreme apart without looking for the tiny sticker on the bottom of the handheld. That’s because ASUS has provided the same outward design for both of these handhelds—and that’s a good thing, because the design is great.

Both of these devices are solid handhelds that don’t feel too heavy in your hands and are easy to hold for an extended period of time. (The white color is nice too.) The location of the joysticks, the buttons, and the triggers are all ideal, as you can move around the handheld without having to stretch your fingers uncomfortably.

But where the design is the same, the price is different. While they might look identical, at $US600, the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 is priced $US100 less than the Z1 Extreme. While $US100 is a significant different, if you’re going to spend the money on a device like this, I’d recommend going ahead and getting the Z1 Extreme, just for the extra performance.

How the ROG Ally Z1 and Z1 Extreme perform

This is really where you start to see the differences between the two devices. If you shell out the extra $US100 for the Z1 Extreme, you’ll get additional cores on both the CPU and GPU. While that might seem like ephemeral technobabble, in practice, it makes a real difference when you’re trying to play AAA games like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Starfield. The Z1 Extreme truly benefits from those extra cores of performanc.

Both devices offer the same 512GB internal SSD, as well as the same 1080p screen with up to 120Hz refresh rate. But if you want to come anywhere near making the most of that refresh rate, the Z1 Extreme is the only way to go. (I recently reviewed the Asus ROG Ally Z1, and while it isn’t a bad device by any means, I walked away a bit underwhelmed by its capabilities.)

While both devices offer full access to Windows 11, it isn’t always easy to navigate, and the games are often sluggish on the Z1’s slower chip. When testing out those same games on the Z1 Extreme, I was able to more reliably play them without having to tweak the settings. On the Z1 Extreme, for example, I played Starfield at a relatively reliable 30FPS, albeit with some dips here and there. That isn’t amazing, but the regular Z1 struggled to play it at 15FPS, and I often had to wait several minutes for the system to catch up to what I was trying to do. (The Steam Deck, which performs somewhere between the Z1 and Z1 Extreme, was able to manage Starfield at around 30FPS, too, though it did suffer more dips than the Z1 Extreme.)

To be honest, such quibbles are to expected with handhelds like these—no handheld is going to offer the same level of performance you would expect from a more expensive desktop computer or even a gaming laptop. But if you want the option of playing more games with fewer hiccups, the ASUS ROG Ally Z1 Extreme is definitely the better choice.

However, if you just plan to play undemanding indie games and don’t mind occasional slower response times, then the Asus ROG Ally Z1 is still a solid choice. It’s just hard to recommend it over its slightly more expensive sibling.

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