TECH NEWS – The ASUS ROG Ally, announced in April 2023, looks like a tremendous handheld gaming PC. But disappointingly, the Ally is yet another Steam Deck competitor missing a super important Deck feature. I’m talking about the trackpads.
If you don’t own a Deck, it’s easy to think that a trackpad is a tool that no Steam Deck owner uses. However, gamers – especially those who like FPSs and RTSs – will mostly agree that trackpads are an essential Deck feature. In fact, something that takes the user experience to a new level.
We first experience their usefulness when we switch to desktop mode for the first time. Of course, you can try to navigate the desktop with the right analogue stick. Sure, it’s not the real thing. But then you remember that there’s a massive trackpad on either side. And once you’ve tried them out, you’ll only use them from then on.
The combination of the mouse cursor on the right trackpad and the ‘scroll wheel’ on the left is almost as good as using the mouse.
The trackpads are also great if you decide to try Windows on the ceiling. The trackpad on the right can greatly help navigate the Windows 11 user interface. Using Edge, attempting to install Xenia for Xbox 360 emulation, and installing the Xbox app to play PC Game Pass games natively on the Blanket are all things that are made significantly easier using trackpads.
And that’s something that no other handheld gamer can do on a PC. Even if they all come with Windows and beg for a trackpad or two to replace the analogue sticks. The GPD Win 4 does have a teeny tiny trackpad, but it’s miles behind the two in the Steam Deck in terms of usability and versatility.
The sheer precision of trackpads makes them indispensable when navigating SteamOS and Windows. They offer more than a decent mouse replacement. They can completely replace analogue sticks. Many people love to perform lightning-fast “flick” gestures that allow them to hover exactly over the targeted icon. This is not possible with analogue sticks.
Add to that the fact that each trackpad includes a click option, and you have a near-perfect mouse emulation that’s even better than the best laptops.
The trackpad on the right is the Steam Deckemen’s godsend for all kinds of gaming. In first-person shooters, you can completely replace aiming with analogue sticks with the trackpad + gyroscope combo.
Best of all, you don’t even have to use Deck’s gyroscope. Spend a little time adjusting the trackpad’s sensitivity, and you’ll come up with a setup that allows for lightning movements and precise adjustments too.
I’m curious to see where the handheld gaming PC market is going. I’d like to see a real challenger to Steam Deck sooner rather than later. However, this will not happen until the competition properly integrates this feature.