Monday, May 16, 2022

ASUS ROG Flow Z13 review: usability can be overrated

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tThe Surface Pro’s design has been with us for nearly a decade, so it’s a bit of a miracle that in all that time no one has really tried to make a detachable 2-in-1 gaming console. Pretty much everywhere you look, there’s a hybrid version of every type of gadget — from tablets to smartphones — aside from gaming PCs. And while ASUS teased us with the ROG Mothership in 2019, the company is now finally back to turn that concept into a true retail appliance: the ROG Flow Z13.

Design and display

For those familiar with Microsoft’s detachable devices, if you take one look at the Flow Z13 (which starts at $1,800), you’ll immediately see why I mentioned the Surface Pro line, because ASUS basically took that blueprint. and turned it all into a gamer. You get a bright 13.4-inch full HD display with a 120Hz refresh rate, a handy kickstand on the back, and a magnetic strip for attaching a removable keyboard cover. That cover also feels similar to a Surface, right down to the resilience of the keyboard and the slightly too small touchpad. This means that all hardcore RTS or FPS gamers will definitely want an external keyboard. ASUS even hid a microSD card slot and removable M.2 cover behind the kickstand, just like the Surface Pro. You’ll also find an 8MP rear camera, although the image quality leaves a lot to be desired (the front camera is fine, though). Elsewhere, we’ve got a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4, a USB A port, and a few other ports hidden under a protective seal. But more on that later.

Pros

  • Bright 120Hz screen
  • USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4
  • Unique design
  • Good performance for the size
  • easily accessible M.2 SSD slot

cons

  • impractical
  • Pricey
  • top heavy
  • poor image quality from the rear camera

Like a Surface Pro, the Asus ROG Flow Z13 has a built-in kickstand and detachable keyboard.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

That said, while the overall design looks a lot like a Surface, the Z13 exudes a very different vibe. ASUS’ over-the-top cyberpunk aesthetic coupled with a splash of red and black accents might be a bit much for some. But I love it, especially that RGB-lit window in the back. In fact, I’m going to go out and say we need more see-through gadgets in general.

Specifications and Performance

On the inside we have some relatively sturdy components, especially for a system of this size. We are talking about an Intel Core i9-12900H CPU, 16 GB RAM, a 1 TB M.2 SSD and an RTX 3050TI. In normal use on the internet or social media, the Z13 is quite quiet, but that changes when you start a game. Fan noise is noticeable, but not a real distraction. And while the rear of the Z13 does get warm, ASUS’ tablet design and vapor chamber cooling system help keep throttling to a minimum.

One of the most eye-catching features of the Asus ROG Flow Z13 is an RGB-lit window that shows the system's motherboard.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

Now it normally doesn’t make sense to pair an i9 chip with a 3050 Ti. In most games, the Z13 will be hampered by its GPU, making a high-end CPU seem like overkill. In benchmarks I saw frame rates of 37 fps in Forza Horizon 5 on ultra settings, 64 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at highest and 40 fps in Metro Exodus on high. So reasonable, but not really mind-blowing.

That’s where those hidden gates come in. Once you’ve removed the protective seal, you can attach ASUS’ optional (and expensive) $1,400 XG Mobile graphics dock, which has even more ports (HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4, Ethernet, four USB 3.2 Type-A ports, and an SD card). card reader), along with an RTX 3080 graphics card. And after I plugged everything in, the game performance actually doubled, with frame rates in Forza Horizon 5 jump to 87 fps at the same settings, with similar results for other titles (134 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and 95 fps in Metro Exodus

For people who want even better performance from ROG Flow Z13, Asus has created the XG Mobile external graphics dock.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

So now we’re looking at a portable gaming tablet that has the kind of performance you normally only get from a large 15- or 17-inch notebook. And because the dock is detachable, you have the option to leave it behind when you’re not gaming. It even has its own power cable, allowing it to send juice to the Z13 when plugged in. So theoretically, if you throw both of these in your bag, you can leave the standard ASUS charging brick at home. And when you’re not using the dock, under that seal, next to ASUS’ own XG port, is a USB-C 3.2 connector that supports video output with G-sync.

However, there are some quirks about the XG dock. First, you can’t just unplug it. Before you pull the plug, you have to manually disable it via the icon in the Windows system tray, which takes more than a moment. You also can’t choose which GPU goes in it, it’s an RTX 3080 or nothing. That means if you want to upgrade in the future, you’ll have to buy a whole new dock, assuming ASUS even makes a second generation. And because of that proprietary port, the XG Dock is only compatible with this system and the ROG Flow X13which is basically the laptop version of Z13.

battery life

on the Asus ROG Flow Z13 there is a removable seal that hides an additional USB-C port and the system's own XG port.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

One of the biggest drawbacks to the Z13’s tablet design is that there isn’t much room for a hefty battery. In our video run-out test, the system’s 56 Whr power pack lasted just five hours and 38 minutes. That’s four hours shorter than the Zephyrus G14 (9:45) and nearly two and a half hours less than the Alienware X14. That means you should probably take the ASUS power brick with you when you leave the house, especially if you plan on getting into real gaming. And in the real world, even with the most casual workloads, I found that the Z13 was often gasping for energy well before the end of the day. On a positive note, the Z13 uses USB-C Power Delivery, so at least the charger can charge other gadgets as well.

Complete

The right side of the Asus ROG Flow Z13 features a single USB Type-A port and a 3.5mm audio jack.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

When it comes to summarizing a product, I’m usually not that conflicted. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea, I like the way it looks, and I love being able to run a solid GPU when I want extra performance. I also love being able to flip it open, pair a controller, and just play — no need to worry about a keyboard. There really is nothing else quite like the Z13. The problem is that the whole kit isn’t very practical, nor is it a great value.

When you use it as a laptop — as you know, on your lap — because all its guts are crammed into what’s essentially a tablet chassis, it’s really top-heavy. The battery life isn’t very good either, lasting at least two to three hours shorter than any other gaming laptop we’ve tested recently. And while it’s relatively thin, considering all the accessories you’ll want to carry with it, the Z13 can’t pack that much lighter compared to a rival 14- or 15-inch laptop.

The Asus ROG Flow Z13 comes with a USB-C power adapter, but can also be charged with the optional XG Mobile graphics dock.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

And then there’s the price. The Z13 starts at $1,800, or about $1,900 for a comparable to our review unit with a 3050TI GPU, which is as high as you can spec. And if you want the XG mobile graphics dock, your all-in price rises well above $3,000.

A comparably equipped traditional gaming laptop, such as an Alienware X14, costs about $200 less. Meanwhile, ASUS’ own G14 Zephyrus is already available for just $1,450, with a slightly more powerful RTX 3060. So if you just want to be able to game on the go, you can save a lot of money by simply buying something less exotic. And if you occasionally need a little extra performance, you’re probably better off buying a regular external GPU case that you can upgrade yourself later, rather than ASUS’ own dock.

Due to the unique design of the Asus ROG Flow Z13, you can use it as a tablet, even while gaming.

Sam Rutherford/cafe-madrid

All this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one. But you need to know what you’re getting into first. The Flow Z13 is a very interesting system, and for those looking for a portable and adaptable machine with great performance, I’m glad that after all these years ASUS finally made a gaming tablet/detachable 2-in-1 into a real one. device made . And while the high price of the Z13 is incredibly hard to sell for most people, I still think it’s impractically cool.

All products recommended by cafe-madrid have been selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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