Back in CES 2021, ASUS officially unveiled the ROG Flow X13, its most portable gaming laptop yet. Sure, ASUS’s ROG Zephyrus laptops are already slim and light in their own right, but the Flow X13 takes it a step further by actually being the size of a premium ultrabook, not to mention that it has a convertible form factor (a la the ZenBook Flip)

Though being that small means the Flow X13 cannot pack the highest end graphics card. So with that in mind, ASUS developed the XG Mobile–an external GPU that packs up to an RTX 3080–alongside the X13. With this combo, the ROG gaming ultrabook can still be incredibly portable, all while being as powerful as even dedicated gaming desktop. Though even in its own right, the X13 has a GTX 1650 with Max-Q design along with a Ryzen 9 5800HS, a setup that should still game well.

Of course, even if the Flow X13 is an impressive laptop on paper, that doesn’t mean the laptop is already an instant recommendation. After all, there are some slim gaming laptops that don’t perform that well for gaming even if they have powerful hardware inside.

So does the Flow X13 actually deliver when it comes to gaming? And does it also work well for productivity and general use? Find out here in our full review!

 

Geek-sthetic

Before we explore the X13’s gaming capabilities, let’s take a look first at its design. Much like newer ROG laptops, the Flow X13 has a sleek, low-profile look that makes it fit better in more formal environments, especially compared to gaming notebooks with lots of RGB lighting.

Compared to premium ultrabooks with a full metal chassis though, the X13 may not seem as premium given its build which uses a combination of metal and plastic (specifically at the top). Still, the X13 is still quite a looker, and it feels great to hold to boot. It also helps that the laptop is quite light at only 1.3 kg; having a metal body all over might make it heavier.

One great thing that the Flow X13 has going for it is its convertible form factor. Similar to ASUS’ own Flip S, the Flow X13 can be used in a variety of modes–from tablet mode to tent mode. It even supports ASUS’ Active Pen, meaning you can use the Flow X13 to create digital art. Thanks to this, users who want a flexible device for productivity should be satisfied.

The laptop’s sleek look also extends to the XG Mobile. At first glance, this external GPU may just look like a large power brick, but upon closer inspection, you can see the eGPU’s flowing lines pattern that looks very much like the one on the Flow X13. When you power it on, the air vent at the front also lights up for a more “gamer” look.

For I/O, the Flow X13 has 1 x USB 3.2 Type-A, 2x USB 3.2 Type C, 1x 3.5mm combo jack, 1x HDMI, and 1x ROG XG Mobile interface with a usable Type C port. The inclusion of an HDMI port is great, but it is a bit lacking, especially as it only has one Type-A port. Though when you connect the XG Mobile, you will get a lot more I/O.

The XG mobile has 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x RJ-45 ethernet, 1x DC input, 4x USB 3.2, and 1x SD card reader. This means you won’t be lacking for ports if you get the XG Mobile to pair with the Flow X13.

As for connecting the XG Mobile, it uses a proprietary interface. While a more standard connection would’ve been better (like Thunderbolt), at least the XG Mobile’s connection is secure thanks to the lock mechanism which keeps it in place.

 

Binge Watching Factor

The Flow X13 releasing in the Philippines packs a 13.4″ 16:10 touch display with a 4K resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. While widescreen content may look a bit small on the display, the X13’s screen is still good for binge-watching thanks to the good colors and sharp output, especially for 4K content. It could be improved a bit though as it doesn’t get as bright as other ultrabook displays.

The 16:10 aspect ratio is also a nice touch as the taller dimensions makes it a better match for productivity. Though we did find the 4K resolution a bit excessive for the 13-inch display size. We would’ve preferred a 1080p option but with a higher refresh rate which is better for gaming.

 

Sound Trip

ROG’s new convertible packs a set of stereo speakers that have decent audio output, but are just too quite, even at max settings. If you plan to game on this laptop, you better have external speakers/headphones as the fan’s noise might drown game audio.

 

Pro Gaming Controls

As an ultrabook, the Flow X13 has a tenkeyless keyboard that actually feels nice to type and game on. Sure, it’s still a membrane keyboard so there is a bit of mushiness, but it provides enough tactile feel for me to have a good gaming/typing experience (though you’re mileage may vary).

One thing they could’ve done though is push the laptop’s keyboard up to make a bit more space for the trackpad. This is because the trackpad is a bit on the small side (good thing it has a touch display).

If you don’t have a mouse, the Flow X13 comes packed with an ROG Chakram core gaming mouse that performed quite well in my time with it. The mouse even has a small joystick on the left side, useful for some users who prefer an alternate set of controls in select games.

 

Gaming Prowess

Now we move on to gaming! We’ll first look at how the laptop performs on its own.

The Flow X13 on its own is powered by the latest Ryzen 9 5900HS CPU and is paired with a GTX 1650 with Max-Q Design GPU. As the 1650 isn’t exactly a high-end graphics card, we were interested to see how well it’ll fare, especially in such a slim laptop.

In our test, we found that the Flow X13 has more than enough power to run esports titles with ease. And it can even run most of today’s popular triple-A games, albeit at lower settings.

As you can see, the laptop was able to handle Dota 2 and Overwatch at max and ultra respectively, and with high framerates to boot. Meanwhile, slightly less demanding triple-A titles such as Hitman 3 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran fairly smoothly at well above 30FPS (though not quite 60) while on Medium.

The laptop’s result in Control was quite a surprise. At the low settings, Control ran decently well, with the framerate never dipping below 30 even in intense fights. Though on Cyberpunk 2077, the 1650 struggled a bit even on the low setting. Still though, the result is still kind of playable.

As for synthetic benchmarks, the Flow X13 had a score of 3499 on 3DMark Time Spy and 6000 on PCMark. The PCMark score is a good indication that the laptop is great for productivity, even without the external GPU.

So how does the Flow X13 perform when paired with the XG Mobile? As expected, there was a massive performance boost.

Take note though, the XG Mobile comes with the laptop version of the RTX 3080, meaning performance is not equal to the desktop RTX 3080. Because of this, our gaming test was done with a 1080p resolution.

For esports titles, the XG Mobile GPU provided enough power to run them at well above 100 FPS on average. Meanwhile, less demanding triple-A games like Hitman 3 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran at well above 60FPS, even when fully maxed out; SOTTR even had RTX Shadows on in our test.

As for Cyberpunk 2077 and Control though, both games weren’t able to hit 60FPS average when everything is maxed out (including Ray Tracing), but those tests were done without the help of DLSS. When DLSS is on, Control jumps to an average of 63 FPS at max everything (with a 1280×800 rendering resolution), while Cyberpunk sees an increase depending on the DLSS preset.

Moving on to synthetic benchmarks, the Flow X13 with the XG Mobile had a score of 11397 on 3DMark Time Spy and 6655 on PCMark. While the 3DMark score jumped way up, the PCMark score only changed a bit, meaning for users who will primarily use the laptop for work, the XG Mobile may not be needed.

Overall, the Flow X13’s gaming performance is impressive when paired with the XG Mobile, so much so that it can outperform even some dedicated PCs. But make no mistake, it won’t beat out a desktop 3080, and it lacks a bit of power for true 4K60FPS on triple-A titles.

 

Everyday Reliability 

The Flow X13 had no problems with gaming, and the same can be said for everyday use and for productivity. Whether you use it to work on Office files, for browsing, and even for content creation (photo editing, video editing, etc.), this ROG ultrabook is fast and responsive. This is thanks in large part to the laptop’s Ryzen 9 processor which is an excellent CPU for productivity applications.

While it does beat out the competition in terms of performance, the Flow X13 does lack in the battery department. After running a 2 and 1/2 hour movie at 50% brightness and volume, the X13 had around 56% remaining. While that’s a good result from a gaming laptop, other ultrabooks do beat it out (such as ASUS’ own ZenBooks).

 

Final Geek Lifestyle Verdict

On its own, the Flow X13 is quite pricey at PHP 99,995 for the Ryzen 9 5900HS model. While it is a bit more expensive than other ultrabooks, it has a major edge in performance. Not just for productivity mind you, but also for gaming–especially as other ultrabooks aren’t exactly capable of playing even esports titles.

Given this, the Flow X13 on its own is a good notebook that’s recommended for users in the market for a premium ultrabook that can also play games.

To fully unlock the gaming capabilities of the Flow X13, you’ll need to get the XG Mobile which is priced at PHP 89,995 for the 3080 model. In total, you’ll need PHP 189,990–a steep asking price. But for gamers who don’t want (or don’t have enough space for) a full gaming rig, getting the Flow X13 and XG Mobile combo does make sense.

To end, the Flow X13 is a niche product, especially when bought with the XG Mobile. But because it’s one of its kind, we have to give props to ASUS for giving us an innovative gaming notebook. We hope to see more of this kind of gaming laptop in the future!

ASUS ROG Flow X13 Specs

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
  • Installed Memory: 16GB
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home
  • Laptop GPU: NVIDIA GTX 1650 with Max-Q Design
    • XG Mobile eGPU: NVIDIA RTX 3080 16GB
  • Storage: 1TB M.2 2230 PCIe SSD
  • Display: 13.4″ 16:10 Touch display, 4K UHD IPS, 60Hz
  • Ports (Flow X13):
    • 1 x ROG XG Mobile interface (PCIe® 3.0 x8)
    • 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
    • 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (DisplayPort 1.4 + PD support)
    • 1 x Audio combo jack (mic-in &headphone)
    • 1 x HDMI (HDMI 2.0b support)
  • Ports (XG Mobile eGPU):
    • 1 x HDMI 2.0
    • 1 x DP 1.4
    • 1 x RJ-45 Jack
    • 1 x DC input jack
    • 4 x USB 3.2 Gen1 port
    • 1 x SD Card Reader (Standard)/UHS-II
      (312MB/s)
  • Price – Flow X13:
    • PHP 99,995 – Ryzen 9 5900HS variant
    • PHP 89,995 – Ryzen 7 5800HS variant
  • Price – XG Mobile:
    • PHP 89,995 – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 16GB GDDR6 (150w)
    • PHP 69,995 – NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6 (140w)

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