Asus blames 'thermal stress' for fried SD card readers in Ally handhelds

So much for that 'zero-gravity' cooling

The SD card reader on Asus's Steam Deck competitor is failing due to excessive heat, the manufacturer confirmed this week.

"After confirmation from internal testing, under certain thermal stress conditions the SD card reader may malfunction" on the ROG Ally, a company representative wrote in a forum post.

"To alleviate the issue, we will be releasing an update that further fine-tunes the default and minimum fan speeds on the device to improve reliability while keeping fan noise in check, as we know this is a concern for many of you."

Introduced in early May, Asus's ROG Ally is a small handheld game console intended to compete head on with Valve's popular Steam Deck portable. The Ally runs Windows 11, has a 120Hz 7-inch display, and is powered by AMD's hexacore Ryzen Z1 or octacore Z1 Extreme SOCs with 16GB of LPDDR5 memory. Both chips feature AMD's latest generation RDNA 3 graphics onboard.

As you might expect, packing what's essentially a graphics-optimized notebook processor into a handheld form factor requires some creative cooling. According to Asus's website, the device can be set to run using anywhere from 10 to 30 watts.

But despite bragging about its "zero-gravity," and "dual fan" cooling system, it appears Asus's superlative-laden marketing was not enough to prevent the handheld from damaging itself under normal operation. Oh, and in case you're wondering what Asus means by zero-gravity, it's a heat pipe. You know, like the kind you'll find on just about every notebook today.

While it appears that the SD card slot is located directly above the handheld's exhaust vents, and thus should benefit from increased airflow, it's unclear whether tweaking the fan curve will be enough to prevent future damage.

The response comes after customers began complaining of unreliable, slow, or faulty SD cards on the handheld gaming PC, presumably as a result of the heat. Some customers reported issues with their SD card readers after fewer than two weeks of use.

And considering that the device only ships with 512GB of onboard NVMe storage, and it's not unusual for AAA games to consume well in excess of 100GB, SD card expansion is an important selling point on a device like this.

Unfortunately for customers whose SD cards and SD card readers have already gone on the fritz, the updated fan curve won't do much good. Customers facing the issue are encouraged to contact customer service to return their device for service. ®

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