Asus is on a quest to make the ideal gaming system—one that serves as an ultra-portable device when you’re traveling and a powerful gaming rig when you’re at home. The company’s latest attempt builds upon last year’s ROG Flow X13, a compact 13-inch convertible laptop with the ability to connect to an optional XG Mobile eGPU for RTX 3080 mobile performance.
This year at CES 2022, the Taiwanese laptop maker is debuting a 2.2-pound tablet version called the ROG Flow Z13.
What’s impressive about this slate are the components you get before plugging in any peripherals: an Intel Core i9-12900H CPU paired with an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU and up to 16GB of DDR5-5200MHz memory and a 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD.
Where the GTX 1650 in the base ROG Flow X13 models was a potential bottleneck, the ROG Z13 should give you enough horsepower to run intensive tasks and play most modern games at 1080p on medium-to-high graphics settings without being docked. When you need 4K resolution or higher frame rates, the Z13 connects to Asus’s XG Mobile eGPU via a PCIe 3.0 x8 interface to harness the power of a GeForce RTX 3080 mobile GPU or AMD’s newly revealed Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU.
Asus wants the ROG Flow Z13 to be your do-to-all device—a portable tablet similar in form to the Surface Pro 8 that shape-shifts when connected to the eGPU into a powerful gaming rig comparable to Asus’ larger ROG Zephyrus laptops. It just may do so, but only for those who can open their wallets wide enough. We don’t know yet know how much the tablet will cost, but the XG Mobile eGPU currently goes for $1,500 (and is out of stock).
How did Asus put such powerful components inside a tablet form factor? Well, the ROG Flow Z13 isn’t exactly iPad thin, measuring 0.5 inches—about as thick as a ZenBook 14 laptop. And that’s without the keyboard. Add the accessory and the Z13 becomes somewhat chunky, though still thinner than you’d expect given the specs. Also allowing Asus to use such high-powered components is a cooling system comprised of liquid metal, 84-blade dual fans, and a vapor chamber that runs the entire length of the device. Asus claims the Flow Z13 can run at under 32dBa when pushing a heavy workload, and there is a 0dBa silent mode when running simple tasks.
I touched on this before, but the Flow Z13 is most similar in shape to Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets in that it uses a kickstand to stand upright but can rotate 170 degrees for better viewing angles. Where the Surface Pro is about minimalism, the Flow Z13 goes full cyberpunk. On the rear of the CNC aluminum chassis is aggressively angled etching, a bright red ROG logo, and RGB lights seen through a clear glass window that reveals the motherboard underneath.
Display options for the Z13 include a 13-inch, 3840 x 2400 panel with a 60Hz refresh rate or a 1920 x 1200 resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate. Both are rated to peak at 500 nits of brightness so you shouldn’t have problems viewing the tablet in sunny conditions.
Below the kickstand is a microSD card slot next to a “quick access door” where you can swap out the M.2 SSD. Along with the card slot, you get a Thunderbolt 4 input, a USB 3.2 Type-C port, a proprietary eGPU connection, a USB 2.0 Type-A input, an HDMI 2.0, and a headphone jack. Connecting to the XG Mobile adds four USB Type-A ports, a full card reader, and an Ethernet port.
A magnetic RGB keyboard attachment with 1.7mm of travel lets you use the Flow Z13 in clamshell mode when you don’t have a mechanical keyboard on hand. Artists who want to use the Flow Z13 for content creation—and it may be better for that than gaming—get stylus support but need to supply a pen themselves.
For the ROG Flow Z13 to be a best-of-both-worlds device, it will need to let you play at least a few hours of Halo Infinite before shutting down. Asus didn’t provide any battery life ratings so we’ll need to do our own testing to see how the 56Wh battery holds up. We should learn soon; the Z13 will be available in Q1/Q2 of this year.
If you prefer a convertible laptop over a tablet, Asus also updated the ROG Flow X13 with up to AMD Ryzen R9 6980HS processor and RTX 3050 Ti GPU with DDR5 RAM.