Asus ROG Flow X13 gaming laptop review: Tiny yet tremendous

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(Pocket-lint) – The Asus ROG Flow X13 is a 13-inch ultraportable 2-in-1-style gaming laptop that’s tiny, lightweight and pretty fascinating too. It’s designed to be useful in many ways, thanks to a design that can be flipped into different positions.

When gaming, you can also connect it to the XG Mobile external GPU which doubles not only as a traditional eGPU but also as a hub for all your gaming peripherals and gear. This additional box of tricks not only boosts gaming performance with Nvidia’s RTX 3080 but also has a built-in 280W power module as well as connections for USB, Ethernet, DisplayPort and more. 

So if you want something you can take with you to work, then come home and dock with a bigger monitor or TV for immersive gaming, then you can. In theory, it’s fantastic – and here’s why it’s greatly surprised and pleased us.

Compact portability and power

  • AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU
  • Up to 32GB of LPDDR4X 4266MHz RAM
  • Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU 
  • USB-C PD charger with fast-charging (60 per cent in 40 mins)
  • 1TB NVMe

The Asus ROG Flow X13 is clearly a looker. It might be tiny, but it’s easy on the eye with stylish accents and design highlights that make it appealing. It has a swanky looking ridged effect on the lid and on the area that surrounds the keyboard, that’s oddly pleasant on the wrists. In classic ROG fashion, it’s also sturdily constructed with a nice solid frame that doesn’t flex or bend unnecessarily. 

As a 2-in-1 with a touchscreen it means that when you’re not gaming on it, you can flip it and use it in tablet-style, or pop it into a tent or stand mode for easy content viewing. In tent mode it’ll also run cooler, which is an interesting highlight for gaming. 

Despite its diminutive size, the Flow X13 has plenty on offer. There’s an AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU, so it’s got great battery life for a start. Not as much as the 11 hours Asus claims, but certainly more than the other thin-and-light gaming laptops we’ve tried over the last few years. 

Considering that it weighs just 1.3kg and is only 15mm thick, it’s also no slouch in terms of gaming specs. It packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics card into that slender body – which gives some fairly decent frame rates. Though that experience certainly depends on the game. We managed to get 60+fps on games like Forza Horizon 4, Back 4 Blood and Rage 2, but Far Cry 6 didn’t perform as well – even on lower settings. 


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One downside of the compact nature is the heat and noise. This is often an issue with ultra-thin gaming machines, but the positions of the fans on this laptop are particularly problematic if you’re gaming on your lap. We sat on the sofa to game and found that the position of the fans on the underside lead to the laptop getting too hot on our thighs. 

Naturally, you can adjust the performance capabilities in the Asus Armoury Crate software. Increasing performance with turbo or performance mode gives you a frames-per-second boost, but also results in some fairly loud fan noise. The laptop’s speakers are good enough to overpower it for the most part, but the noise can be taxing at times. 

One thing we do like about this machine is it’s able to run indie games and less taxing titles at decent frame rates while not plugged in. We used it to casually game on Obsidian Entertainment’s wonderful survival game Grounded and got smooth frame rates and a couple of hours play before it needed plugging in. 

When you need more power, there’s always the XG Mobile external GPU.

Extra power and expandability

The Asus ROG Flow X13 isn’t without its problems. The compact frame is fairly limited in terms of ports as standard: there’s just one USB-A and one USB-C port. So if you’re plugging in a mouse and the power cable, then you can’t really connect anything else. 

That’s where the XG Mobile external GPU comes in. This is a small box of tricks that holds a more powerful graphics card in the form of the RTX 3080. It connects to the laptop with a large XGm adapter on the left-hand side and then enhances the usability of the machine massively. 

Obviously, the main appeal is the extra graphics power you then get access to, but it also has other features too. It acts as a power source, for a start. Meaning that you don’t need to use the standard USB-C power brick while you’re using it, which frees up that port on the right-hand side. 

The XG Mobile external GPU also has four USB-A ports, DisplayPort, HDMI output, and an Ethernet connection. Connect it and you’ve suddenly got more connectivity options and you can output to bigger monitors. We made the most of it by using this tiny laptop and its eGPU to power a 65-inch 4K TV and to play Forza Horizon 4 and Far Cry 6 in a much more satisfying way.

That’s one of the great highlights of this laptop in this setup: not only can you play casual games on it without being plugged in, but you can also connect it up and maximise your frame rates on larger monitors. It also brings extra graphical technologies that you don’t get as standard as well. The GTX 1650 graphics in the laptop itself can’t manage ray tracing, but once you’ve connected the eGPU you can crank those settings on.

However, we will note that the connection for the external GPU can be a bit of a faff. In theory, it’s easy enough: plug it into the mains for power, then connect the cable to your laptop and you’re away. But when you need to disconnect it, you first have to click buttons in the taskbar and set it to shut off. Think of this as akin to safely removing hardware, except it’s not a step you can just skip if you don’t feel like it.

Pocket-lintAsus ROG Flow X13 laptop review photo 7

You don’t need to do this if you’re just turning the laptop off, leaving it connected to the eGPU ready for next time, but you can’t just unplug the eGPU on a whim. Doing so will lead to the laptop nagging at you that the eGPU is not detected and you’ll have trouble booting back into Windows. It’s not a major issue, but one foible of the design. Once you get used to that logic it becomes a lot easier to manage though.

Convenient touchscreen fun

  • Corning Gorilla Glass touchscreen
  • 13.4-inch panel, 16:10 aspect ratio
  • 120Hz refresh rate, 1920 x 1200 resolution
    • or 60Hz at WQUXGA (3840 x 2400) resolution
  • Pantone validated, sRGB: 116%, DCI-P3: 85%, 
  • Adaptive sync support

The ROG Flow X13 has a 16:10 aspect ratio, 13.4-inch display. You can choose from either 3840 x 2400 at 60Hz or 1920 x 1200 at 120Hz. The latter is the model we reviewed and likely the more logical choice with a display of this size and with the standard GPU choice. You get a higher refresh rate and the potential for better frame-rates without the eGPU as well. Though it is worth noting that there are models of the Flow X13 which come with an RTX 3050 GPU as standard. 

Pocket-lintAsus ROG Flow X13 laptop review eGPU setup photo 13

Obviously, the display on this laptop isn’t exactly huge. But somehow thanks to the relatively bezel-less frame it manages to appear larger than it actually is. Yes, it has a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the usual 16:9 – but this isn’t a problem for the majority of games.

As with other Asus laptops we’ve tested, it also has various different GameVisual settings that adjust the screen colours to make the most of various game formats. So you can select FPS, Racing, RTS/RPG and more and enjoy the changes that brings. 

We were pleasantly surprised by what this screen is like to game on. It has more presence than you might imagine from its tiny frame and it didn’t cause us loads of eye strain even when playing for long periods. Multi-tasking for work is a bit of a different story, but with the ability to easily connect to a larger monitor, it’s not much of an issue. 

Verdict

As a complete package, we’re super surprised – and extremely pleased – by the Asus ROG Flow X13. It’s just so usable across a variety of circumstances. Assuming you’ve purchased the laptop and the XG Mobile external GPU as a complete package, then you’ve got a real winner of a setup. 

Minor complaints like the less capable standard GPU or lack of ports are soon put to rest with the eGPU connected, making the overall experience really strong. So If you’re looking for a multi-capable gaming laptop, that’s also lightweight and portable, but can still do the business when you need it to, then this one is an absolute belter.

Also consider

Pocket-lintOthers to consider photo 1

Razer Blade 14 (2021) 

Another beautifully designed gaming laptop that’s compact and capable. It potentially has more power on board, rather than in eGPU form, but it’s also not quite as snazzy looking in our opinion. 

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Pocket-lintOthers to consider photo 2

Asus ROG Strix G15

If you’re an Asus fan, there are other alternatives worth considering. The Strix G15 is one such laptop. It’s a bit flashier and more in-your-face with that RGB lighting, but still a great gaming machine.

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Writing by Adrian Willings. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .





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