Asus ROG Flow X13 Review: This laptop breaks all the rules

Asus ROG Flow X13 Review: This laptop breaks all the rules

The Asus ROG Flow X13 is a laptop that breaks all the conventions. It looks like a typical ultraportable, but its CPU performance rivals or surpasses that of many laptops twice its weight. And while most thin-and-light laptops make serious sacrifices in performance, the ROG Flow X13 is actually one of the fastest gaming laptops in town.

If all this sounds great, we have two caveats. First, this unique take on a thin and powerful laptop does come with a few compromises, which some will gladly accept in exchange for its impressive performance and versatility. Keep reading before you decide whether the ROG Flow X13 laptop is the one for you. But second, even if you do accept the compromises, good luck: The bundle we tested, which is $2,800 from Asus, is currently sold out, as is the laptop alone (without the eGPU), which would be $1,500 from Asus if you could actually buy it. Sigh.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best gaming laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.

Asus ROG Flow X13 Review: This laptop breaks all the rules Gordon Mah Ung

The Asus ROG Flow 13 is a convertible tablet that can surpass far larger gaming laptops in CPU and GPU performance.

The secret of the ROG Flow X13 comes down to two elements. The first is the Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU, which is AMD’s flagship Ryzen 5000 chip based on its Zen 3 cores. Our review of the Ryzen 5000 laptop CPU is actually based on the performance of the ROG Flow X13. Built on a superior 7nm process, the Ryzen 5000 (and Ryzen 4000) have made it possible to get more cores into a smaller body without the thermal issues we’ve come to expect from prior generations. We saw this last year with the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, but that laptop’s 3.5-pound frame meant only a midrange GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q could be used.

The second element is the GPU—and we’re not talking about the GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q inside the chassis. For those times when you want more graphics performance, Asus created the XG Mobile, a custom GeForce RTX 3080 eGPU. Most eGPU cabinets you’re probably seen have been about the size of a shoebox, but the XG Mobile is simply tiny at 8 x 6 x 1 inches. The weight of the XG Mobile is truly portable too, at two pounds. We’ll get more into the external graphics later, but it truly lets you pack amazing powerful graphics in your bag if you need it.

Asus ROG Flow X13 specs and features

It’s truly amazing what Asus managed to fit into the slender ROG Flow X13. Here are the specs for our eGPU bundle:

  • CPU: AMD 8-core Ryzen 9 4980HS
  • GPU: Internal Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q and external GeForce RTX 3080 @150 Watts
  • RAM: 32GB LPDDR4X/4266 in dual-channel mode
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, 3840×2400 touchscreen with 16:10 aspect ratio
  • Storage: 1TB WD SN530 NVMe SSD
  • Networking: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200, RealTek USB GbE on eGPU
  • Dimensions: 11.75 x 8.75 x 0.62 inches
  • Weight: The laptop itself weighs 3 pounds, and the power brick, 1 pound. The eGPU weighs 2.1 pounds.
  • Right-side ports: Power button with fingerprint reader, one USB-A, and one USB-C
  • Left-side ports: HDMI 2.0, audio jack, eGPU port (x8 PCIe Gen 3), USB-C
flow x13 1 Gordon Mah Ung

The laptop features a power button with integrated fingerprint reader as well as USB-A and USB-C on the right side.

The left side of the laptop includes a larger port near the rear that is the dedicated port for the eGPU, which connects to the cabinet at x8 PCIe Gen 3 speeds. You may not see it, but it also features a USB-C port that can be used for charging and data transfer when the eGPU isn’t plugged in.

flow x13 2 Gordon Mah Ung

The left side of the ROG Flow X13 features a proprietary x8 PCIe connection for the eGPU, a full size HDMI 2.0 port, and analog headset jack.

In the next picture below you can get a better view of the port, which comes with a simple ROG-branded rubber cover that we can almost guarantee will be lost within the first 10 minutes of using the laptop. We’d prefer a sturdier cover if there’s going to be one, but in all honesty we’ve never jammed debris in our HDMI or USB-C ports, so maybe they’ll be OK anyway.

flow x13 5 Gordon Mah Ung

A rubber cover on the eGPU port is held in place by friction and will likely be easily lost.

Mouse, keyboard and speakers

The keyboard has reasonable travel, and we were generally satisfied with it. The backlighting is solid white. We didn’t find any poorly placed keys, but there is a microphone-off button that should probably include an LED to confirm whether you’ve shut off the mic.

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