Asus ROG Flow X13 review: a game-ready 2-in-1

If I noticed the Asus ROG Stream X13 within the wild, I might by no means guess it was a gaming laptop computer. It’s a 13.4-inch 2-in-1 convertible that’s simply 2.9 kilos and .62 inches thick. Flip the display round, and you need to use it as a pill.

A 13-inch gaming laptop computer with these proportions isn’t remarkable, but it surely’s actually uncommon. How is Asus pulling it off? The key is that the actual gaming {hardware} is on the surface.

The Asus ROG Flow X13 connected to the XG Mobile.

The ROG Stream and its eGPU companion make a horny pair.

By itself, the Stream X13 appears like a high-end productiveness machine. Inside is AMD’s Ryzen 9 5980HS, a monstrous cell processor with eight cores and 16 threads — making this undoubtedly probably the most highly effective CPU we’ve ever seen in a 13-inch chassis. That’s paired with an entry-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with Max-Q design, 32GB of reminiscence, 1TB of storage, and a 16:10 3840 x 2400 contact show. (You’ll be able to select a 120Hz FHD show as nicely.)

On paper, that’s a wonderful multimedia gadget that might compete very nicely with the likes of the Dell XPS 13, within the $1,000-$2,000 worth vary. However Asus isn’t promoting it that manner: it’s promoting it as an ultraportable gaming laptop computer and bundling it with its very personal exterior GPU known as the XG Cellular. Asus says this GPU will ship energy equal to that of a GeForce RTX 3080 — Nvidia’s high of the road. So right here’s the kicker: for the second, you possibly can solely purchase the Stream X13 bundled with the XG Cellular. The configuration we have now prices $3,299.99.

That’s some huge cash. It’s greater than any variety of wonderful high-end gaming laptops value. It’s over $1,000 greater than the Razer Blade Stealth 13 and greater than twice the value of Asus’s personal Zephyrus G14, the 2 finest gaming laptops within the ultraportable class. The argument for it’s that for $3,299, you’re basically shopping for three laptops: one which’s competing with the Dell XPS 13, one which’s competing with the Blade Stealth, and one which’s competing with a lot bigger programs like Razer’s Blade Pro 17 (with the caveat that it wants an eGPU to maintain up).

I simply want these three laptops may very well be bought individually — and I want I might give them separate scores. As a result of the Stream X13, by itself, is really a wonderful laptop computer and probably the most highly effective 13-inch programs in the marketplace at the moment. However by positioning this as a gaming rig and slapping it with a $3,000 price ticket, Asus has compelled the Stream into the premium gaming class. And whereas it holds its personal amongst opponents there, it nonetheless comes with extra compromises than I’d wish to see from a $3,000 product.

I’ll begin by explaining what makes the Stream X13 so nice as a general-purpose laptop computer, as a result of there actually is lots going for it. Not solely is it mild sufficient that carrying it appears like carrying nothing, but it surely’s additionally the coolest-feeling laptop computer I’ve used up to now 12 months. The lid, the palm rests, and the underside of the deck all have a ridged corduroy-ish texture that’s arduous to withstand working your arms over. It additionally offers the entire thing a modern, futuristic look.

Like many Asus laptops, the Stream X13 has an ErgoLift hinge that tilts the keyboard barely off the desk when the clamshell is open. This hinge was a bit extra rounded than these I’ve seen on fold-under laptops up to now, and it wasn’t sharp in any respect in my lap.

The Asus ROG Flow X13 keyboard seen from above.

The keys have 1.7mm of journey and a 0.15mm keycap curve.

One other factor that’s nice: the 16:10 display. Most gaming laptops are nonetheless 16:9, however many high-end enterprise and productiveness laptops are starting to move to 16:10 and three:2 shows this 12 months. That’s with good purpose: You get noticeably extra vertical house with a 16:10 decision, which implies a lot much less scrolling and zooming out all through your work day.

The panel can be appropriate with the Asus Pen, and Asus says it’s “extremely scratch-resistant.” Whereas I didn’t go to nice lengths to attempt to scratch the factor, I used to be struck by how resilient it was on the whole. I gave it quantity of touchscreen use all through my first day of testing, and I by no means observed any sort of fingerprints or smudges left behind. One notice: there’s noticeable hinge wobble if you’re utilizing the touchscreen in clamshell mode, which wasn’t a difficulty for me however could also be for some people.

Inside, this laptop computer is a whirlwind. The Ryzen 9 5980HS is clearly a powerhouse. It dealt with my decently heavy load of picture modifying, Spotify streaming, and heaps of Chrome tabs and apps with no downside; I by no means as soon as heard the followers spin up. The X13 may very well be an important selection for anybody who wants a 13.4-inch laptop computer for computational duties or different heavy workplace or college work.

Audio can be fairly good. It doesn’t get as loud as an exterior speaker would, however the bass and percussion are a number of the finest I’ve ever heard on a laptop computer. Within the preloaded Dolby Entry app, you may as well change between presets for music, gaming, films, and many others. The Stream additionally helps two-way AI noise cancellation for video calls.

The ROG Flow X13 faces away from the camera.

There’s a flashy ROG brand within the backside nook.

The left side of the Asus ROG Flow X13.

The cap that covers the eGPU connector is tiny, so be sure that to not lose it.

The right side of the Asus ROG Flow X13.

The X13 Stream fees by way of its USB-C port when not plugged into the XG Cellular.

And the keyboard, as Asus keyboards usually are, is great. It feels fairly much like that of the Zephyrus G14, which was certainly one of my absolute favourite keyboards of 2020. It has a powerful click on, good journey, and really good backlighting.

Lastly, as a result of this can be a authentic query with Asus ROG merchandise: sure, there’s a webcam. It’s nothing to write down house about, but it surely does exist.

I actually have just one grievance about this method, and that’s the battery life. Whereas working my regular workload with the display at 200 nits of brightness, even with Battery Saver on and bloatware uninstalled, the Stream X13 solely lasted a mean of 5 hours and 47 minutes. The high-resolution show is probably going a contributor right here — you might get barely higher mileage from the FHD panel. Whereas taking part in Pink Useless, the Stream lasted simply over an hour and have become unplayable 55 minutes in with 10 % remaining.

The XG Mobile seen from above.

The XG Cellular weighs simply 2.2 kilos and measures 8.19 x 6.1 x 1.17 inches.

I want this assessment might cease there. As a result of what Asus has made here’s a lovely machine that might completely rival the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 as an ultraportable, 16:10 convertible. Battery life is basically my solely grievance. However since Asus has determined that this can be a gaming laptop computer, we’re going to want to dive into the way it handles video games.

Let’s speak a bit about this XG Cellular factor. It’s small for an exterior GPU, weighing simply 2.2 kilos; Asus says it’s solely 6 % of the dimensions of a typical GPU. It connects to the Stream X13 with a proprietary connector that permits for as much as 64Gbps of bandwidth, with one other 10Gbps reserved for USB hyperlink.

Along with serving as an exterior GPU, the XG Cellular powers the laptop computer when it’s plugged in. (The Stream additionally ships with an everyday 100W charger.)

The eGPU additionally serves as an exterior USB dock with an entire bunch of additional ports. In whole, it contains: one HDMI 2.0, one DP 1.4, one Ethernet jack, one DC enter jack, 4 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and one SD card reader. That’s along with the one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind-A, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Kind C (with DisplayPort 1.4 and PD help), one audio combo jack, and one HDMI 2.0b which can be already on the laptop computer itself. All in all, a wide selection.

The Asus ROG Flow X13 in tent mode.

With the XG Cellular related, the X13 Stream can energy as much as 4 shows.

I ran 5 standard video games on the ROG Stream at 1920 x 1080 decision, each with and with out the XG Cellular. I additionally ran them at native decision (with the XG Cellular). All video games had been run at their highest potential settings; in 4K, they had been run with DLSS on and ray tracing off (the place relevant). Check out the leads to the chart beneath:

Asus ROG Stream X13

Configuration Horizon Zero Daybreak Pink Useless Redemption II Shadow of the Tomb Raider Cyberpunk 2077 Overwatch
Configuration Horizon Zero Daybreak Pink Useless Redemption II Shadow of the Tomb Raider Cyberpunk 2077 Overwatch
ROG Stream X13, 1920 x 1080 38 29 40 28 77
ROG Stream X13+XG Cellular, 1920 x 1080 84 76 93 (ray tracing off), 76 (ray tracing on) 71 (ray tracing off), 55 (ray tracing on) 266
ROG FLow X13+XG Cellular, 3840 x 2400 41 42 49 38 100

As you possibly can see, these body charges are respectable. You must be capable to play no matter sport you need at 1080p with no need to bump the graphics down, and you may even play some at native decision. Even so, my general response right here is “Meh.” As an instance why, I’ll pull out a number of comparisons. (That is all with the standard caveat that relative efficiency will at all times range by title.)

Whereas utilizing the GTX 1650, the X13 ran Shadow of the Tomb Raider at a mean of 40fps. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 ran that title at 45fps, and the Zephyrus G14 ran it at 74fps. The Zephyrus additionally beat the Stream on Pink Useless Redemption II, averaging 31fps to the Stream’s 29fps. Pink Useless wouldn’t enable me to max out each slider on account of obtainable reminiscence, so this method is additional behind the Zephyrus than that rating makes it seem.

Each of those laptops are comparably moveable to the Stream X13 and simply as well-built; they’ve worse processors and higher GPUs. In addition they each value over $1,400 lower than this Stream X13 bundle. So in the event you’re seeking to truly sport on the go, reasonably than simply do workplace work, take into consideration whether or not you’d reasonably have a kind of way more inexpensive gadgets with higher body charges.

However I’d nonetheless be on board with a $3,299 bundle worth if the X13 Stream and XG Cellular delivered distinctive efficiency with no compromises — particularly if it put 4K gaming on the desk. The excellent news is that this exterior GPU does present an appropriate 4K gaming expertise (particularly on Overwatch, the best sport on right here). However eGPUs typically include some form of efficiency penalty, and I’m seeing that on a few of these titles.

For comparability, we are able to look to the Razer Blade Professional 17, a GeForce RTX 2080 Tremendous Max-Q system in the identical worth neighborhood because the Stream X13 bundle. (Our 2080 Tremendous Max-Q configuration was $3,199.) The XG Cellular clearly has no bother with simpler titles like Overwatch, the place it breezed previous the entire laptops talked about right here. However it struggled with extra intense fare, and ray tracing specifically. The Blade Professional 17 averaged 95fps on Shadow of the Tomb Raider with ray tracing maxed out, the place the Stream X13 and the XG Cellular averaged 76fps. Asus’ Zephyrus Duo 15, additionally with a 2080 Tremendous Max-Q, additionally handily beat the Stream there, averaging 87fps.

And the Stream can be coming in behind extra inexpensive programs with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 — the $1,899 MSI GP66 Leopard beat it on each Tomb Raider and Horizon, and basically tied it on Pink Useless.

So general, whether or not you’re getting higher body charges from the XG Cellular or a bigger gaming laptop computer will probably be considerably title-dependent — but it surely’s clear that we’re seeing a efficiency penalty on some standard video games.

The Asus ROG X13 Flow seen from the right side.

The X13 Stream is an modern gaming rig, but it surely asks some compromises.

So right here’s the most effective argument for the ROG Stream X13. Throughout the day, you need to use it as a piece and leisure laptop computer, with an important display, a cushty keyboard, full audio, and an outstanding processor that may deal with no matter duties you throw at it. Perhaps you possibly can play a sport or two, in the event you bump down the decision. While you’re house at evening, put the Stream in your desk and pop within the XG Cellular, and it turns into a premium gaming laptop computer with 4K chops.

That’s superb; I’m all for that. However potential consumers needs to be conscious that in making a laptop computer that basically capabilities as three laptops (an XPS 13, a Stealth 13, and a Professional 17), you’re making compromises in every use case. Within the ultrabook class, it’s the battery life. Within the moveable gaming class, it’s the low-powered graphics card and the huge uptick in worth. And within the desktop-replacement class, it’s the eGPU efficiency value, which can or might not be vital relying on the video games you’re taking part in.

Reviewers throw this phrase round to explain all types of laptops, but it surely’s very true right here: in trying to be a jack of all trades, this laptop computer is a grasp of none. And whereas the Stream X13 is a top-notch convertible, and a powerful achievement from Asus, it additionally prices over $3,000. In the event you want each a high-performance workplace laptop computer and a high-performance gaming laptop computer in a single, and you’ve got that sort of change to throw round, I gained’t cease you. However those that primarily want one or the opposite needs to be higher capable of fulfill their wants with one thing extra inexpensive, whether or not it’s a high-end 2-in-1 or a conveyable gaming rig.

Pictures by Monica Chin / The Verge

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