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Reviews ethics statement
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Nice design including kickstand and color-illuminated window into the guts
4K rear camera
Keyboard backing material is a dust magnet
Thick and heavy
Expensive, especially with the external GPU
Can get hot
Meh webcam and audio
In a lot of ways, the Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a terrific idea. The company's tablet-plus-detachable-keyboard gaming laptop comes to the product line launched with the Flow X13 convertible last year and its external GPU dock accessory, the XG Mobile. Detachables in the style of the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 make more sense to me than convertibles, which tend to be bulkier, cumbersome to switch positions and less lap-friendly for tablet use. With a discrete GPU and support for the XG Mobile, the Z13 seems like a great alternative.
And I do like it, from the just-gaming-enough aesthetic to the multiangle kickstand, comfortable keyboard and good CPU performance when connected to power. It's got an HDMI port, too, which is rare these days.
For gaming, it's nice but not world-changing compared to a typical clamshell or convertible with similar components. The i9 should deliver great simulation performance, since those tend to be CPU dependent, but at least on Riftbreaker's CPU test it was a disappointing 45fps in hybrid mode. Since it does quite well on traditional CPU benchmarks, like Geekbench and Cinebench, as well as Procyon's Lightroom/Photoshop photo-editing test, it's almost as if the system automatically throttles back the CPU in favor of the GPU when it detects a game, though bumping it to Turbo didn't make a difference. Unsurprisingly, Turbo turns the fans to max and creates a mighty wind noise.
The RTX 3050 Ti hits the mark for base 1080p gaming that's GPU dependent, such as 83fps on Guardians of the Galaxy. It's not quite as perky on heavier-weight games, turning in a mediocre 63fps on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. For those, you're probably expected to use DLSS to boost performance by upscaling from a lower resolution. Forcing it to use the discrete GPU and cranking it up to Turbo can add a tiny bit of speed, though: Riftbreaker gained about 6fps on average, a hair under a 5% increase.
Off power, CPU performance drops a lot (about 43% on Geekbench multicore, for example), similarly to the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, in keeping with Asus' aggressive power and noise management. But it doesn't gain as much in battery life.
Ultimately, it's hard to pin down why I didn't like the Asus ROG Flow Z13 more, despite the various nits I've found to pick. And I'm not talking about value for the money -- $1,700 for the current entry-level Core i7 model is expensive compared to traditional competitors like Asus' own X13, but still pretty realistic for what it is. I'm talking about my first-pass internal review criteron, which is "would I use it if I got it for free?"
And the answer is "probably not." That's partly because it doesn't work for me as a tablet. It's thick, and at 2.6 lbs/1.1kg without the keyboard it's pretty heavy for one that's only 13-inch class. It runs hot, lacks the battery life of a tablet (at about 6.5 hours at best), and cuts back performance significantly while off power. It does get silent, though.
I tested the model with the 120Hz 1,920 x 1,200-resolution screen (the same display as on the X13) and while it was okay working with a compatible MPP 2.0 stylus, in this case the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2, I got too distracted by the visible pixel grid of the low-ish resolution screen. The speakers never project toward you so the sound is a bit muffled and it has a subpar 720p webcam.
In order to use the components it has, especially the i9 and to a lesser extent the RTX 3050 Ti, thick and heavy are unavoidable to accommodate the cooling. But then one of the the tradeoffs it makes versus a convertible -- notably, it's difficult to type on it while it's perched on your lap -- isn't worth it so much. Plus cloud gaming is a viable option if you're really looking for tablet-friendly performance.
Once you factor in the cost, especially if you want to boost gaming performance with the pricey XG Mobile, I don't know who it's optimally suited for, despite its various attractions.
Asus ROG Flow Z13
Microsoft Windows 11 Home (21H2); 2.5GHz Intel Core i9-12900H; 16GB LPDDR5 SDRAM 4,850MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti; 1TB SSD
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402RK (2022)
Microsoft Windows 11 Pro (21H2); 4.7GHz AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS; 32GB DDR5 SDRAM 4,800MHz; 8GB AMD Radeon RX 6800S; 1TB NVMe SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
Microsoft Windows 11 Home (21H2); 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-11370H; 21GB LPDDR4 SDRAM; 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti; 1TB SSD
Razer Blade 14 (2021)
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (21H1); 3.3GHz AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080; 1TB SSD