A publishing update
Instruction Set 2023/7/7
Welcome back to Multicore.
I've decided to tweak my publishing schedule. From now on, paid subscribers will get an issue rounding up the week's events every Friday. I'm going to call these issues Instruction Set, because they'll include a bunch of things to hear about. I'll also publish at least one more paid and one more unlocked article earlier in the week.
My thinking here is that it'll make for a more straightforward subscription and free me up to write better standalone essays and articles. Right now I usually include roundups of a few stories after an issue's main topic, but sometimes I won't have anything like that, and other days I might go all-in on a roundup when there's a lot going on. It's difficult to manage the balance and put out a consistent product given the variable speed of the news cycle, but I figure this is probably confusing to readers. And if you weren't a paid subscriber, you wouldn't have any idea that I'm actually covering more topics behind the paywall.
I know I could summarise this sort of thing up top, but that's a messy solution. I would prefer to make sure that everything published on Multicore stands up on its own and that the reader knows what they're getting going in. By moving general news commentary to Fridays, I can work on curation throughout the week and plan my longform material without needing to respond to new developments right away. If I feel like I should write about something timely, I’ll just do that in its own dedicated post instead of figuring out how it fits alongside everything else.
This does mean that some topics won't get covered until Friday when otherwise I might have mentioned them on Thursday or Tuesday, but I don't think anyone's reading me for up-to-the-minute breaking news. Switching to this more predictable publishing cadence means you'll know when to expect me to weigh in. If there's ever something you want to make sure I do address that week, of course, please get in touch.
Sound good? Okay. Here's the first Instruction Set for Friday, July 7th. It'll be a little shorter than usual because I already rounded up half the week the other day.
We love a good emergency bug fix here at Multicore, so let’s kick things off with Asus updating the ROG Ally to stop it causing heat damage to microSD cards. When Jeff Gerstmann found that he couldn’t remove his card from the device, apparently the solution was to turn it on for five minutes so that the Ally somehow forced it out.
The BIOS update is out now and bumps the Ally’s fan curves, among other tweaks.
I actually checked out the Ally for the first time recently when a friend brought his to a bar. I had my Steam Deck along for direct comparison. Here is my review based on playing Fortnite for about fifteen minutes.
It runs Fortnite very well — I saw a smooth 60fps at 1080p with a mix of high and medium settings. The Steam Deck doesn’t support Fortnite at all.
The screen is much better than the Deck’s in terms of colour reproduction, and of course it’s sharper and smoother due to the 1080p resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. The 16:9 aspect ratio isn’t ideal for Windows, though, and ultimately I’d rather run games at native resolution wherever possible. I don’t ever find myself wishing pixels were smaller on the 800p Deck, whereas I bet Ally owners will often find themselves running games at 720p. I’d also miss the Deck’s anti-reflective matte finish.
I have big hands but thought it seemed pretty good ergonomically — much better than the Switch, not quite as comfy as the Deck. The build quality also feels very sturdy.
The Ally was very quiet on the default power profile. Granted, we were in a bar, but I could hear the speakers fine, and they also sounded better than the Deck. I don’t know how many people play these kinds of handhelds without headphones, but the audio experience is going to be much better on the Ally in that regard, even with the ~5db boost to fan noise in the new update.
All in all, I thought the hardware was impressive and the kind of thing I was expecting premium gaming laptop makers to make when entering this space, including the early glitches. I think I’ll be fine with the Steam Deck for at least a few years, but it’ll be interesting to see if Windows adapts itself to this form factor any better by then — the Deck still has a clear advantage in terms of console-style usability.
Speaking of the Steam Deck, Valve announced a strong milestone: there are now more than 10,000 games officially verified for the device or tested and found to be playable with minor tweaks.
It’s worth noting, of course, that a lot of games listed as “unsupported” will run fine if you give them a shot — it just takes a while for folk to test the entire history of PC gaming. ProtonDB is an unofficial community-led effort that I’d always recommend checking if you want to play something on the Deck that hasn’t been formally verified.
Jony Ive’s “first hardware project post-Apple” is this 50th anniversary version of the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, an iconic product in the hi-fi world.
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