Asus ROG Flow X13 Review: Don’t Let the Smallness Fool You

by January 28, 2021 0 comments

ROG Flow X13: Gaming plus Convertible. I’ve never seen these two terms used in the same sentence before, and, to be honest, I never thought that it would be possible. But it’s never too late, right? Video games are part of our daily routine, and everything around us turned gradually into something gaming-related. Everything from monitor, mouse, headphones, keyboard, mouse pad, microphone, webcam, phone, TV, chair, desk, glass, everything went full gaming.

So why wouldn’t a two-in-one convertible be part of a gaming setup as well? And regarding Design and Ergonomics, Is it a laptop? Is it a tablet? Is it a PC? YES! Depending on the scenarios. Without taking it too seriously, we kept wondering What’s the real use of this 2-in-1?

As a laptop, ROG Flow X13 makes for an excellent ultraportable. We’re talking about a really thin, 13-inch laptop with a thickness of just 15.8 mm and a more or less light chassis: 1.3 kg exceeded our expectations, you have to hold it to feel the actual weight. To be honest, the extra-weight is largely due to a generous battery, 62 WH, but also because of the protective Corning Gorilla Glass covering the touch-screen. I expected the feel of metal upon touching it. Instead, I came across a highly textured, practical and sleek plastic, which boasts a firm grip, suitable for transportation. On top of that, this material is also armed against fingerprints.

As a really tiny laptop, I appreciated the edge-to-edge keyboard, designed to maximise the gap between the keys without reducing their size. And this usually comes as a solid challenge for that much-sought lateral connectivity. ASUS really prides itself, arguing that this keyboard has the size of a standard 15-inch laptop keyboards. I was taken by surprise upon discovering such a long keystroke: 1.7 mm. If you take the thickness of the chassis into account, this is really noteworthy. Those wishing for keys that offer stronger feedback will be glad to take ROG Flow X13 for a ride. The power switch on the edge can be a bit weird at first, but it is a standard part of 2-in-1 models. Besides, it also sports an integrated fingerprint sensor for a quick unlock, just like a smartphone.

The ROG Flow X13 comes with a 120Hz Sharp panel which is very sharp. Eventually, a 4K, 60Hz, wide gamut sRGB 113% version will be available as well. It has a great contrast ratio, and its color accuracy isn’t bad either. Once you set a good amount of brightness let’s say… 350nits, you get a really nice touch of black, of only 0.21. Now, although I doubt you will ever embark upon complex image and video editing on this wee little display, rest assured, for this one is a reliable traveling companion.

I’ve never been a fan of these modes, but let’s be honest, these are in a league of their own in terms of low temperatures. The FLIR sensor is the most credible witness. The temperature of the ROG Flow X13 drastically drops once you switch on Tent mode which is good both for watching movies and gaming. That’s because both Tent and Stand modes offer the fans the luxury of better managing the airflow. Asus indicates that in this way the temperature drops by almost 8 degrees. Well, it’s worth mentioning that the CPU tests showed a drop from over 50 to 46C on the back of the chassis in just two minutes after switching to Tent mode.

The External GPU dock, also known as eGPU, have come a long way since its birth. The biggest flaw of these eGPUs was the lack of compatibility. To be more specific, not all eGPUs worked or were detected by all laptops, even if these laptops did come with a Thunderbolt port. Having this port was believed to offer extended compatibility, but things didn’t go our way.

However, the ROG XG Mobile does not rely on Thunderbolt 4, the latest version of the Thunderbolt interface. If we are to do the math, we can easily understand why ASUS gave up on Thunderbolt 4. XG Mobile connects to the laptop through a customized PCIe 3.0 x8 interface. So it’s 1.5 times faster. Meaning the eight lanes of PCIe 3.0 encompass a 63 GB/s bandwidth compared to Thunderbolt 4 and its 40 GB/s. Since XG Mobile e-docks are not actually suited for desktop obviously and what we have here is a much faster, personalized, PROPRIETARY ASUS interface, that GPU, hidden in that tiny 1 kg shell, will never be slowed down by all those external cables. It really does have an impressive size: 155 x 208 x 29 mm. It almost makes you want to shove it in your backpack ALMOST. Of all the elements that make the setup, this brick had to be the loudest one.

ROG Flow X13 can, in fact, be used as a PC. You basically turn the laptop into a desktop PC. The big edge is that XG Mobile deactivates both GPUs once hooked up to the laptop, you can activate the e-dock through the XG Mobile app, and then switch between video cards can be done through ROG Armory. This means less heat, and the cooling system has to make sure only the CPU isn’t getting too hot, that’s all. Furthermore, because of the ROG Flow X13 build, the lid can be closed without raising the temperature.

The new AMD processors are here. And boy, they really pack a punch. The ROG Flow X13 has a 5900HS with 35W TDP, but it can reach up to 54W TDP in tough situations, and it shows: Plus, it does so, without tampering with the thin chassis. It never exceeded 90C, not even during CineBench tests, with all the cores going full force. Gaming-related, we’re talking about 70-80C, with rare spikes of over 80-85C. Bear in mind, if you were to run these tests on an Intel, you would already have to face throttling and 95-98C. That’s basically the difference. But let’s be fair: the AMD CPU sports a VIP cooling system, aka Metal Liquid Cooling, which helps reduce the heat better than any standard paste.

The fact that this tiny Flow X13 is actually on par with the high-end Desktop Replacements is simply amazing! We are witnessing the downfall of a monster generation. Ryzen 9 5900HS is on par with i9-9980K without exceeding 90C and without making the laptop go past 45-46 dB! Our tests included Cinebench, followed by intense gaming sessions in Metro Exodus, so we were able to record 43-44C on the keyboard and 50C above it.

At the end of the day, ROG Flow X13 is a nice and interesting option for those seeking both entertainment and portability during work hours. And you can, of course, pack the XG Mobile eGPU as well. I mean come on, it only weights 1 kg, it’s not like you’re carrying those old school bricks around anymore.

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