A lightweight laptop with an external GPU buddy for gaming? It's not as wild as you think.
The last time someone introduced a thin-and-light lightweight gaming laptop with an external GPU, I laughed. But that's because it shed its weight by ditching a discrete graphics card, like an Nvidia GeForce GTX. In other words, to game, you needed the eGPU. Asus has taken the same idea to CES 2021, but made sense of it with the ROG Flow X13 and its eGPU sidekick, the ROG XG Mobile.
The laptop's a 2.9-pound, 13-inch two-in-one with a GTX 1650 GPU running the new eight-core, 35- to 54-watt AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS. The optional eGPU serves as a USB hub with a 280-watt power supply that can drive the laptop. It also incorporates the highest-power gaming GPU on mobile, a desktop Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
In order to facilitate that, Asus is using a proprietary connector (Alienware long has as well). Why? Because Thunderbolt throttles the connection between the GPU and the main system, and the bandwidth is split among the other connections. That means it couldn't power the hub without taking a hit. Plus, when the eGPU is connected, the system disables the integrated GPU, so it can allocate the power savings to the eGPU.
Unlike most eGPUs, the XG Mobile is relatively small: 55 by 208 by 29 mm and 2.2 pounds. It contains four USB-A connections, an SD card slot and gigabit Ethernet, as well as the DisplayPort and HDMI ports on the actual graphics card. It has a stand to prop it up and some illumination as well.
The laptop serving as a two-in-one is the icing on the cake, though 13 inches feels pretty small for a gaming laptop. Asus is likely assuming you'll be connected to an external monitor when docked.
It's a clever solution, and hopefully the first of many variations on the thin-and-light gaming laptop. But this one won't come cheap. It will initially ship only as a bundle, and the XG Mobile will cost about as much as the laptop when it ships separately, though there will be less expensive a step-down model. You can preorder the bundle now on Asus' site for $3,200. (International prices aren't available, but that's about £2,350 or AU$4,140.)