The ASUS ROG Flow Z13 is the ultimate portable desktop replacement when combined with the ROG XG Mobile
- Manufacturer: ASUS ROG
- Model: Flow Z13 (2022) and XG Mobile RTX 3080 (2021)
- Part number: GZ-301ZE-LD220 (2022)
- Price when reviewed: £1,799 (+£1,499 XG Mobile)
- Supplied by: ASUS
ASUS ROG Flow Z13 Review
When I first saw the Flow Z13 I assumed it was just an updated version of the Flow X13, but it’s so much more. Unlike the X13, the Z13 has a removable keyboard, so can be used much more comfortably as a tablet. It’s a remarkable piece of engineering, with all of the components housed behind the screen in the main chassis, but it still has exceptional cooling, venting hot air from the top of the notebook. This has given it the best thermal performance of any gaming system I’ve tested when connected to the eGPU. With the graphics work offloaded, all of the Z13’s cooling is focused on the CPU, which barely topped 80℃ at full chat.
The version of the Flow Z13 we have in for testing is a compact juggernaut, with specs that put many desktop systems to shame. Inside the Flow Z13 is a brand new 12th-gen Intel i9-12900H CPU, 16GB soldered DDR5-5200 memory (32GB can be specified at purchase, but not upgraded), a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050Ti.
The Flow Z13 is a very capable portable gaming system – the RTX 3050Ti only has a TGP of 40W, so you’re realistically looking at 60fps at medium settings for most AAA games, but for competitive titles like CS:GO, Halo Infinite, Fortnite and R6: Siege, you can feasibly hit the display’s 120Hz refresh rate with a bit of tweaking. In comparison with other tablets/convertible systems, there’s no contest if you’re into gaming, and it even holds up well against dedicated gaming laptops. The ROG Flow Z13 has another trick up its sleeve, though.
When I reviewed the Flow X13, we didn’t get the eGPU, so were restricted to the criminally underperforming GTX1650. It was a phenomenal portable workhorse but gaming on it was uninspiring. This time, we have received the ROG XG Mobile eGPU, which houses a full-power mobile RTX 3080 16GB with a TGP of 150W. This allows you to enjoy competent mobile gaming performance when you’re travelling, whilst leaving your XG Mobile docked at home connected to your monitor/s, keyboard and mouse. When you get home, you are one (enormous) connector away from a true desktop gaming experience with zero fuss.
Now that the world is opening up again, this combination of powerhouse laptop/tablet hybrid and potent eGPU makes a lot of sense. You’ve got a portable media and gaming system, a high-performance laptop, dedicated desktop gaming at home, and if you often head into the office you can keep another setup ready to go using the Thunderbolt USB-C connector. It truly is one system that can do everything.
Design and build
The ASUS ROG Flow Z13 is absolutely stunning, with some eye-catching design flourishes that elevate the visual appeal without looking gaudy. One element I love is the transparent RGB backlit panel at the rear, offering a glimpse of the motherboard and circuitry inside.
The integrated kickstand is another brilliant touch, allowing you to adjust the angle of the display up to 170°, supported by a pair of industrial looking and very strong hinges.
I really like the finish on the keyboard. The underside is coated in an Alcantara-like material, while the top of the tray is coated in a soft-touch rubber. Attaching and detaching the keyboard is pure simplicity thanks to the surprisingly strong magnetic connector. You can literally move the Flow Z13 onto the keyboard connector and it snaps perfectly into place without any awkward connectors to line up.
The Flow Z13 has a volume rocker on the right side, alongside the power button which has an integrated fingerprint scanner. The fingerprint scanner is accurate and reliable if you put your finger squarely on the button, however, the button itself sits flush with the chassis. This meant I frequently had to slide my finger along the edge to find the right spot, which occasionally locked me out due to misreads of the prints. If you don’t have the keyboard attached, you’ll then have to open up the onscreen keyboard to unlock the Flow Z13. It’s not the end of the world, but it could have been avoided by adding a braille-style tactile bump to help you locate the button easier. I’m sure with time I’d adapt easily enough, but it’s a very rare misstep in the Z13’s design.
After most of its 2021 range of laptops shipped without cameras, ASUS has responded to feedback from consumers and began adding integrated webcams again – on the Flow Z13, there is a small front-facing sensor for chats and conferences, but they have also added an 8-megapixel camera at the rear.
Both cameras suffer from noise in low-light conditions, but as long as you have decent lighting they are very capable. The 8 Mp rear camera produces some pretty decent shots, too. I’m no professional photographer and I was using the basic pre-installed windows camera app, but I’m happy with the results.
The XG Mobile is remarkably compact, considering all that it offers, and I like the integrated kickstand. The actual connector that you plug into the Flow Z13 is huge, though, and protrudes significantly from the side. Considering the power and convenience it affords, it’s hard to complain too much, especially as your attention is likely to be on a separate monitor and peripherals.
Internals and upgrades
I usually pop the back off of laptops to give you a view inside, but due to the design and all-in-one form factor I didn’t want to risk damaging any components or connectors. That’s not to say there aren’t any upgrades you can make, though, as there is an incredibly convenient additional M.2 NVMe SSD slot that can be accessed with a single screw.
Unlike most of ASUS’s laptops, you can’t upgrade or increase the memory capacity. 16GB is plenty for gaming, but with the power of the Z13 you may want to choose the 32GB option, especially if you do a lot of video editing or design work. Bonus points for the Flow Z13 using super-fast and energy-efficient LPDDR5 RAM at 5200 MHz.
Keyboard and trackpad
The quality of the ROG Flow Z13’s detachable keyboard was a pleasant surprise. When I first saw it I expected there to be very limited key travel, but at 1.7mm it feels almost identical to a regular laptop. For something that’s as thin and light as a piece of cardboard, what ASUS has achieved here is incredible – you even get RGB backlighting!
Due to the limited size, this is a tenkeyless layout, but they’ve still fitted it with a full array of keys and shortcuts. As always, they have used the fantastic ROG font, allowing you to clearly see the key designations and quickly identify the intuitive FN key shortcuts. These useful shortcuts allow quick access to frequently used adjustments such as display brightness adjustment, performance mode switching, snipping tools and much more.
Typing on the keyboard is good, but it’s not quite as good as a dedicated keyboard for gaming due to the small amount of flex and limited space to rest your palm. It works, but it feels a little cramped. Again, considering the size and design of it, it’s still very impressive what ASUS has come up with.
The compact touchpad is not quite as good as the keys, though. It’s a decent size, but I had a few taps not registering and it doesn’t feel as responsive as their usual laptop touchpads, especially towards the outer corners. The under-surface LMB and RMB (mouse) buttons could be better, too. They respond well if you place your finger correctly but the actuation zone is a little more limited than what I’m used to.
Connectivity and I/O ports
There’s a limited selection of ports on the Flow Z13, but it’s sufficient to meet its likely use-case scenarios.
To the left, there is a Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port (DP alt mode) and the XG Mobile port, which also includes another Thunderbolt 4 USB-C. On the right, there is a single USB-A 2.0 port, the volume rocker and power button, and a 3.5mm TRRS headset/headphone connector. Hidden behind the kickstand is also a very convenient micro-SD card reader.
(It should be noted that there is no dedicated power connector, so one of your USB-C ports will be taken up by the compact 100W charger – When using the XG Mobile, it provides power to the Flow Z13)
Additionally, the XG Mobile has an integrated 4 port USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A hub, HDMI 2.0b port, DP 1.4 port, gigabit ethernet and a full-size SD card slot.
It’s a bit limited if you don’t have the XG Mobile, but you can add a USB-C hub (sold separately) to add a lot of functionality like additional USB ports, Ethernet connectivity, HDMI and full-sized DisplayPort connections, and more. I’m disappointed that the only USB-A port on the Flow Z13 itself is limited to USB 2.0, as this is only really useful for basic peripherals.
The ROG Flow Z13 has a 1920×1200 touchscreen display, with a 120Hz refresh rate, adaptive sync and fantastic colour (it is also available with a 4k 60Hz panel). The display is both Pantone Validated and Dolby Vision certified, and although it isn’t as good as ASUS’s wide gamut displays, it still produces bright and colourful images.
The 16:10 aspect ratio is well-suited to the tablet slash convertible form factor. Using the discrete GPU you won’t be hitting the full refresh on most AAA titles, but competitive or CPU dependent titles can make use of the extra Hz available. Although there is a 4k option, the 1080p panel with its higher refresh rate is the one to go for. The extra resolution of 4k is wasted on a screen of this size in my opinion, though if the increased colour gamut is of use to you then you may want to consider it.
Although the gamut coverage isn’t huge, it’s respectable and makes for a pleasant viewing experience. sRGB coverage is 96.9% with 106.9% volume, AdobeRGB coverage is 73.1% with a volume of 74.6%, and DCI-P3 is 74.1% with 75.7% volume.
Peak brightness was recorded at 500.6 cd/m², with a black level of 0.36 cd/m². The brightness is excellent and complemented by better than usual black levels of 0.36 cd/m². Backlight bleed is minimal with blacks appearing suitably dark, especially at lower levels of brightness. For an IPS display, the contrast ratio of 1390:1 is outstanding. It maintains its contrast right down to 130 cd/m², before diminishing at the minimum brightness of 27.5 cd/m² to a still respectable 1000:1.
I was impressed once again by the highly accurate native gamma. With no adjustments, the Flow Z13 follows the 2.2 gamma curve almost exactly. There’s a slight fluctuation in white point, but the average of 6400K is pretty close to ideal and doesn’t look overly warm. Colour accuracy is mostly good, with an average DeltaE of 1.45 (<2 is deemed acceptable), but unusually the blues were considerably out, with a maximum DeltaE of 7.4. This was using the default colour profile, and I managed to bring all colours in line during calibration, but the variations in the blues could be problematic for creators without calibration equipment.
Due to the touchscreen, the Flow Z13 has a glossy screen surface, but it’s been treated in such a way that as long as it’s not facing direct light reflections are minimal. Viewing angles are excellent, as you’d expect from an IPS display, and panel uniformity is outstanding across the display. Any deviations are minor and imperceptible without measuring equipment.
Motion handling is one of the weaker aspects of the display. Even before I booted up Blur Busters, I could detect smearing during fast-moving images. During the UFO Test, there is significant ghosting behind the UFO – I don’t have a proper tracking-camera rig to capture the blur so I had to approximate it by hand, but the following image is representative of how it appears.
As you can see, it’s not great. You can still happily play games like this, but it’s like you always have the in-game motion-blur applied. Other ASUS laptops we’ve tested have built-in panel overdrive that you can activate within Armoury Crate, but I found no such setting here.
ASUS is leading the way when it comes to audio quality. The Flow Z13 has very good speakers considering the compact form factor. The balance between bass, mids and treble is superb, although once you pass around two-thirds volume the bass stagnates while the treble intensifies. This makes it sound tinny and a bit scratchy at full volume. Stick within the 10-66/100 range, though, and it’s excellent.
The Intel Core i9-12900H in the Flow Z13 is incredible. This is the first 12th-gen Intel CPU we’ve tested, and it has surpassed every other system we’ve had so far, and significantly out-benches the previous standard-bearer, the R9-5900 HX. Both single-core and multi-threaded performance bests everything in our comparisons and represents a sizeable improvement over the 11th Gen i9 in the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE and ROG Zephyrus M16. Make no mistake, this is a stonkingly powerful CPU, ideal for streaming, content creation and AAA gaming.
Although the Flow Z13 has an RTX 3050Ti, it only has 40W of power available, which is underpowered in comparison to the 60W version in the Zephyrus G14 AW SE. At native resolution, however, the results are still remarkably close. This is because the G14 AW SE we tested has a 1440p display versus the 1920×1200 Flow Z13, proving ASUS made the right call offering the 1200p option. I dread to think what performance would have been like with the 4K panel, although you could always play at a lower resolution.
Like all of ASUS’s 2022 range, the Flow Z13 has a MUX switch, which allows it to bypass the iGPU and extract the full performance of the discrete GPU (and XG Mobile). I ran our usual gaming benchmarks at Ultra and Medium settings at native resolution and was very satisfied with the performance on offer.
For gaming on the go, it’s plenty powerful enough to enjoy most games at perfectly playable frame rates, but if you aren’t getting the XG Mobile you can get superior gaming performance for the same price or less. If you’re choosing the Flow Z13, it’s important that you either pick up the eGPU if you want this to be your main gaming PC or that you will make use of its raw CPU performance, touchscreen capabilities and portability, otherwise, there are better options.
Plug the ROG Flow Z13 into the XG Mobile and it becomes a beast. Because the GPU is external, there is no problem with temperature management, and you can extract the full potential from both CPU and GPU. The mobile RTX 3080 is a great GPU, recording 60+ FPS at 2160p Ultra settings on all but the most demanding of games. 1440p is arguably the butter zone, though, as 4k results were comparable with many other RTX 3080 laptops we’ve tested. At 1440p the GPU bottleneck is removed and the Intel i9 CPU can stretch its legs. We found 1440p frame rates to be consistently higher than our comparison systems.
The phrase gets bandied around a lot, but these are genuine desktop-replacement levels of performance, and with the convenience of the one-connector XG Mobile, you get portability and power in one magnificent package.
All benchmark tests were carried out with the performance mode set to Turbo in the Armoury Crate software, which overclocks the GPU and runs the CPU at its maximum, dynamically adjusting fan speed to keep everything cool.
We have recorded two sets of benchmarks – the first set is at native resolution using the inbuilt display and integrated RTX 3050Ti, and the second set with the XG Mobile connected, recorded at 1080p, 1440p and 2160p using an external display. If DLSS was available, it was set to performance mode unless stated otherwise.
Gaming Benchmark Results
We’ve selected computers with varied GPUs and specifications for comparison to give you an idea of how it compares against a range of processors and system configurations. We find these comparisons useful for consumers looking for not only the best overall performance but the best value, too.
As you will see, the CPU in the Flow Z13 is astonishingly good, with the 3DMark Time Spy scores up to 50% higher than our comparison systems. Actual gaming benchmarks show a more subtle increase in performance, but the Flow Z13/XG Mobile pairing still comes out on top in the overwhelming majority of our tests. CPU dependant games in particular show a massive improvement over systems with the same GPU, indicative of just how much Intel has stepped up its game.
Full comparisons are listed below for the Flow Z13 with the XG Mobile connected – We couldn’t compare gaming benchmarks with just the 3050Ti as the variations in their native resolution and limited data available made the comparisons unrepresentative. We did however compare the results in Cinebench, 3DMark and PCMark 10 with ASUS’ Flow X13 and the Zephyrus G14 AW SE. As expected, the Flow Z13 trounces the competition in CPU based tasks, but it can’t quite match the G14 AW SE for graphics work, as the 60W RTX 3050Ti comfortably outperforms the Z13’s 40W implementation.
|Laptop/PC||ASUS ROG Flow Z13 + XG Mobile eGPU||ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15||Acer Predator Triton 500 SE||ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15||ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16|
|Processor||i9-12900H||R9 5900HX||i9-11900H||R9 5900HS||i9-11900H|
|GPU||RTX 3080 16 GB||RTX 3080 16GB||RTX 3080 8Gb||RTX 3080 8GB||RTX 3070 8GB|
|GPU TGP/TDP||40W/150W eGPU||115W/130W Dynamic Boost||110W||80W/100W Dynamic Boost||80W/100W Dynamic Boost|
|Ram||16GB DDR5-5200||32GB DDR4-3200||32GB DDR4-3200||32GB DDR4-3200||32GB DDR4-3200|
|SSD||1TB M.2 2230 NVMe SSD (PCIe 4.0)||2 x 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD||2 x 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD (PCIe 4.0)||1TB M.2 NVMe SSD||2TB M.2 NVMe SSD (PCIe 4.0)|
|Display||1920×1200 Pantone||1440p 165Hz||2560*1600 165Hz||1440p 165Hz||2560*1600 165Hz|
System Benchmark Results
- CineBench – CPU (Single)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 1476
- CineBench – CPU (Multi)
- (High-performance mode / Auto Fan): 13293
3DMark – Time Spy (DX12)
|ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 AW SE||ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – 3050Ti||ASUS ROG Flow X13|
|Time Spy Score||6214||4729||3341|
|ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – XG Mobile||ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15||ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15||Acer Predator Triton 500 SE||ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16|
|Time Spy Score||12261||11125||10232||10309||9717|
3DMark – Fire Strike (DX11)
|ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 AW SE||ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – 3050Ti||ASUS ROG Flow X13|
|Fire Strike Score||13085||10393||7743|
|ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – XG Mobile||ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15||ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15||Acer Predator Triton 500 SE||ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16|
|Fire Strike Score||26385||23835||21547||22687||21363|
|ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – 3050Ti||ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 AW SE||ASUS ROG Flow X13|
|Rendering & Visualisation||11832||9730||8005|
|ASUS ROG Flow Z13 – |
|ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15||ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15||Acer Predator Triton 500 SE||ASUS ROG Zephyrus M16|
|Rendering & Visualisation||15219||11699||11151||11734||12460|
The 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD is reasonably fast, but as it is an M.2 2230 profile rather than the larger 2280 SSDs in bigger laptops, we’re limited on both size and maximum speed. Thankfully, there is an additional M.2 2230 slot easily accessible, so if/when more capacious SSDs become available in this form factor, it will be easy to expand the storage.
Although faster SSDs are out now, this is still no slouch; The performance of this SSD would have been flagship-level a year or so ago. System responsiveness is very good and games and apps load fast. Having just 1TB of storage is a bit limiting these days, but as mentioned, it’s easily expandable.
Sequential read and write speeds of 3347 MB/s and 3219 MB/s respectively are very good, especially in a device that is this compact.
The following are the results recorded in CrystalDiskMark, with figures measured in MB/s
The ROG Flow Z13 has power-efficient components, fed by a mid-sized 56Wh battery. This may not sound that large (some laptops have 99.9Wh batteries, now), but longevity is in line with typical gaming laptops.
Watching 1080p videos played back from an external hard drive, we got around 8.5 hours of battery life. For standard productivity and browsing, we used PCMark 10 running on a loop and averaged around 6.5 hours on a full charge. Gaming was as expected, lasting just over an hour before having to reach for the charger.
It’s on par with a typical high-performance gaming laptop, then, but is aeons behind your typical tablets or hybrid PCs. In this case, even if this is an ultra-portable device, the comparison with gaming laptops is perhaps the fairest one. How many tablets can play AAA games from your Steam library?
It certainly helps that the included 100W charger is very compact, so you can whip it out when needed and juice up the Flow Z13. Charging from empty to full with the 100W charger is rapid, quick-charging from empty to 50% in around 30 minutes, with a full charge taking 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you are using the XG Mobile, this charges the Flow Z13 while you are using it, but I also tested it hooked up to a monitor using KVM with power delivery (90W) and this comfortably kept the battery topped up during my typical workflow and gaming using the onboard RTX 3050 Ti.
Pricing and alternatives
At £1,799, the ROG Flow Z13 could be considered expensive for a convertible/tablet hybrid, but there aren’t many similar devices that can do what this does. The updated Flow X13 with RTX 3050ti could be considered an alternative, but the detachable keyboard and sublime styling of the Z13 make it a better choice in my opinion. Outside of this, there’s nothing I can think of in this form factor that would come close to competing with its mixture of gaming pedigree and productivity performance.
When you add the XG Mobile eGPU (and you really should), the price increases dramatically. MSRP for the XG Mobile is around £1,499, so you’re looking at £3,298 for the complete setup. If you are going to take advantage of the XG Mobile for docking to a dedicated gaming setup and will be carrying the Flow Z13 around the rest of the time, it’s a worthy investment that’s sure to be desirable for a niche of users. It’s certainly one that I’d consider, as it would be perfect for my typical usage.
The ASUS ROG Flow Z13 is an outstanding piece of hardware, which when paired with the XG Mobile is the ultimate all-rounder. It’s a super-powered convertible, tablet, gaming machine and true desktop replacement solution in one beautiful package.
The sound quality is great, screen brightness and contrast are excellent, and the actual performance is stellar. The Flow Z13 is slightly let down by average battery life and middling motion-handling from the touchscreen display, but that’s not enough to dissuade me from recommending this incredible laptop/tablet/gaming PC.