I often applaud PC companies for trying out new features and form factors. At the very least, if it doesn't result in one of the best gaming laptops, a new idea will lead to slow but sure innovation. But the Asus ROG Flow Z13 ($1,799.99 to start, $1,899.99 as tested, $3,299.99 if you include the XG Mobile graphics dock), takes it a bit too far.
At first, the idea of a gaming tablet in the shape of Microsoft's Surface Pro doesn't seem crazy; it's extremely portable, making it ideal for trips where you might want to squeeze in some play when you're done sending emails. The Intel Core i9 brings some CPU power, even if it's a bit inappropriate for the relatively low-powered RTX 3050 Ti.
But the Flow Z13 is also designed around pushing Asus' XG Mobile graphics dock. With its RTX 3080, the Core i9 starts to make sense, as does its 120 Hz screen.Asus’ tablet dependent on the this dock to stand on its own, especially for what Asus is charging.
Design of the Asus ROG Flow Z13
The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a detachable gaming tablet. It looks, in some senses, like Microsoft's Surface Pro, with the tablet held up by a kickstand, while a separate keyboard cover is used for both typing and protecting the screen. Unlike Microsoft, Asus includes the cover in the box.
But the silhouette is where the similarities end. This is because Asus has gone full gamer here, covering the rear of the tablet with so many over-the-top decorative elements that it looks like a toy. Those include vents in the shape of an "06" (the ROG brand was established in 2006); the "For Those Who Dare" tagline; and my personal favorite — a window that lets you peek at a small portion of the motherboard, with RGB lighting. Yes, Asus built an RGB sunroof into its gaming tablet. It's a lot, and the window even juts out a bit from the back. That means if you place it with the back down, it will wobble on a table.
On the left edge of the kickstand, there's a small orange tab, which is the easiest spot to open the kickstand. The opening mechanism is a bit stiff, but you can get the stand to just about any angle you might reasonably want to use. Asus claims it goes 170 degrees.
Beneath the kickstand, there's some more ornamentation, detailing where parts like the battery, speakers, microSD card and M.2 SSD go. This is tone-on-tone with the rest of Asus's black color palette.
The front is just a 13.4-inch, 16:10 display with a noticeable but unobtrusive bezel. Usually, 3:2 is a better aspect ratio for tablets, but for gaming, I understand the choice to go with 16:10.
The type cover is black, with a felt material on the outside that is sure to attract debris. The inside consists of a soft, rubbery material. It feels thicker than some other keyboard covers, though that may be due in part to the fact that the keys are RGB backlit.
Like most Windows tablets, there are only a handful of ports. On the left side, Asus has a Thunderbolt 4 port, which you'll use for charging. Like the Alienware x14, Asus is fully charging this gaming device with a USB-C charger, which is a nice plus. There's also a small silicone cap that covers the XG Mobile interface. That's a mix of a proprietary port and a USB Type-C port. If you're not using Asus's eGPU, you can use that USB Type-C port for power or data.
On the right side of the laptop, you'll find the power button (which includes a fingerprint reader), a volume rocker, a USB 2.0 Type-A port and a headphone jack. Under the kickstand, there's a microSD card slot for expanded storage.
The fingerprint reader worked most of the time, though I sometimes found it to be fidgety. It's on the side of the device, and you have to touch it in the exact right spot, even if you can't see it. You have to really take the time to get used to the location.
The Flow Z13 weighs 2.6 pounds (1.18 kg) without the keyboard and 3.35 pounds (1.52 kg) with the keyboard. I found that a bit cumbersome for a tablet, especially when the Surface Pro 8 is 1.96 pounds (0.89 kg) and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro is 1.5 pounds (0.68 kilograms). In other words, the Flow Z13 weighs significantly more than a Steam Deck (1.47 pounds)
Asus' tablet measures 11.89 x 8.03 x 0.47 inches without the keyboard, and grows to 0.69 inches thick with the keyboard attached.
While being heavier than most tablets, it’s significantly smaller and lighter than regular gaming laptops , which typically use clamshell form factors. The Alienware x14 is 4.06 pounds and 12.66 x 10.36 x 0.57 inches, heavier but thinner than the Flow with its keyboard cover. For those also using the XG Mobile graphics dock, you'll find you may save some space over something like the MSI GE76 Raider, which is 6.39 pounds and 15.63 x 11.18 x 1.01 inches, though that has a 17-inch display and the most powerful parts.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 Specifications
|CPU||Intel Core i9-12900H|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics (integrated), Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB GDDR6, 40 W max graphics power, 1,035 MHz boost clock)|
|Other||Asus XG Mobile with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (16GB GDDR6. 150W max graphics power, 1,545 MHz boost clock)|
|Storage||1TB M.2 NVMe PCIE 4.0 SSD|
|Display||13.4-inch touchscreen, 1920 x 1200, 16:10 aspect ratio, 120 Hz|
|Networking||Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Ports||Thunderbolt 4, ROG XG Mobile interface, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, USB 2.0 Type-A, 3.5 mm headphone jack, microSD card reader|
|Camera||720p webcam, 8MP rear camera|
|Power Adapter||100W, USB Type-C|
|Operating System||Windows 11 Home|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||11.89 x 8.03 x 0.47 inches (302 x 204 x 12 mm) without keyboard; 0.69 inches (17.6 mm) thick with keyboard|
|Weight||2.6 pounds (1.18 kg) without keyboard, 3.35 pounds (1.52 kg) with keyboard|
|Price (as configured)||$1,899.99 alone, $3,299.99 with XG Mobile|
Gaming and Graphics on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
In order to make the ROG Flow Z13 a gaming-grade tablet, Asus paired an Intel Core i9-12900H with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. Pairing one of the highest end Intel CPUs paired with one of Nvidia's budget graphics cards only makes sense if you assume that users will buy the Asus ROG XG Mobile, a graphics dock with an RTX 3080 inside. For more information on the XG Mobile, see our review of the Asus ROG Flow X13, a laptop that used it when it debuted.
I used the ROG Flow Z13 to play Guardians of the Galaxy at 1920 x 1200 on medium settings, to mixed results. In the very busy city of Knowhere, which has a lot of non--playable characters walking around, the game ran as high as 50 fps but was typically in the high 30's to low 40's, albeit with a few stutters.
Then, I plugged in the XG Mobile with an RTX 3080 to try the same part of the game. At the same resolution on the ultra preset, the game ran between 90 and 115 frames per second,
On Shadow of the Tomb Raider's benchmark on the highest preset, the Flow Z13 ran at 41 fps at 1080p and 38 fps at native 1200p. With the XG Mobile attached, that boosted to 95 and 91 fps.
But the Flow's 3050 Ti didn't match up with the RTX 3060 in the Alienware x14 (62 fps), and the RTX 3080 in the MSI GE76 Raider outperformed the Flow in combination with the XG Mobile (112 fps).
We saw a similar pattern in Grand Theft Auto V, when the Flow achieved scores of 47 fps (1080p) and 43 fps (1200p) on very high settings. (With XG Mobile, those boosted to 118 and 110 fps, respectively). Again, the Alienware x14 beat out the Flow at 70 fps, while the Raider hit 139 fps, surpassing the tablet with the graphics dock.
On Far Cry 6 (ultra settings), the Flow Z13 hit 43 fps at 1080p but an unplayable 26 fps. With XG Mobile, it reached 88 and 82 fps, respectively.
The Alienware x14 ran the Far Cry benchmark at an even 60 fps, but the Raider was four frames behind the XG Mobile-armed Flow.
Red Dead Redemption 2 on medium was a challenge for the Flow, which ran the benchmark at 32 fps at 1080p and 31 fps at 12900p. The Alienware sailed past the Flow at 48 fps.With the XG Mobile attached, the Flow reached 72 fps at 1080p and 69 fps at 1200p, both falling short of the Raider's 82 fps at 1080p.
On Borderlands 3 ("badass settings") the ROG Flow Z 13 was just playable at 35 fps 1080p and 34 fps at 1200p, but the Alienware surpassed it at 54 fps. With the XG Mobile, the Flow hit 89 fps at 1080p and 85 fps at 1200p, but the Raider won again at 106 fps.
We also ran our Metro Exodus stress test, in which we run the benchmark 15 times in succession to simulate about half an hour of gaming. For the Flow with the RTX 3050 Ti, we ran it on high settings, since it was unplayable at the RTX preset.
During the test, the CPU's performance cores ran at an average of 1.8 GHz, which is quite low. The E-cores ran at an average of 1.5 GHz, and the CPU package measured an average of 62.46 degrees Celsius. The GPU, meanwhile, ran at 1,195.79 MHz and measured 62.79 degrees Celsius. In this version of the test, Metro Exodus ran at 41.64 fps and was fairly consistent across runs.
With the XG Mobile's RTX 3080 attached and the benchmark running on the RTX preset, the P-cores ran at 3.36 GHz and the E cores at 2.64 GHz and the CPU measured 60.1 degrees Celsius. The GPU ran at 1,383 MHz and measured 76.03 degrees Celsius. This time around, the game ran at 66.29 fps.
Productivity Performance on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
Asus crammed an Intel Core i9-12900H into the Flow Z13's small tablet body. The 14-core processor has six performance cores and eight efficient cores. There is also 16GB of LPDDR5 memory and a 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD.
These are largely top-end specs, but in our benchmark testing, we found that it doesn't match the performance of larger systems with more room for cooling. The ROG Flow Z13 will serve you fine for lighter workloads that involve web browsing, email, spreadsheets and more, but creatives might want to consider where they can get more performance for their money.
On Geekbench 5, the Flow Z13 achieved a single-core score of 1,860 and a multi-core score of 12,603. For single-core, that's higher than the Alienware x14 (Core i7-12700H, 1,471) and the MSI GE76 Raider (Core i9-12900HK, barely edged out at 1,833.) In multi-core scores.owever, both Alienware's Core i7 and MSI's Core i9 won out.
On our file transfer test, the ROG Flow copied 25GB of files at a rate of 674.17 MBps, falling behind both the Alienware x14 (1,156.07 MBps) and MSI GE76 Raider (the fastest at 1,774.47 MBps).
And on our Handbrake video transcoding test, Asus' tablet took far longer than its competitors, converting a video from 4K to 1080p in 6 minutes and 48 seconds. The Alienware did it in 5:04, while the MSI took just 4:44.
Display on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
The 16:10, 1920 x 1200 touchscreen on the ROG Flow Z13 gets plenty bright and offers vivid colors, although they aren't perfect.
I used the Flow Z13 to check out the trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and despite the fact that the video has a lot of dark scenes (I guess that explains the madness,) the display was luminous enough that everything was clear.
A sunrise over New York City early in the trailer looked great, showing off a blend of blues, reds and yellow in the sky over a gray landscape, and Strange's blue cloak was vibrant even when he was being held prisoner in a dim, cement room.
When I played Guardians of the Galaxy, the game looked excellent. It's vibrant and colorful, and the seedy underbelly of Knowhere was bright with lots of neon lights.
In our measurements, we sound that the Flow Z13 covered 72.4% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and 102.2% of the sRGB gamut. That's only slightly under the Alienware x14 (77.7% DCI-P3, 110% sRGB) and MSI GE76 Raider (74.5% DCI-P3, 105% sRGB).
But the Flow more than made up for those slightly smaller color ranges with a ton of brightness. It measured 455 nits on our lightmeter, far surpassing both the Alienware (377 nits) and the Raider (259 nits).
The ROG Flow Z13, in all of its current configurations, uses a 120 Hz display. I think that's overkill, considering the graphics card that's in it. I think it would have been prudent for Asus to add a cheaper 60 Hz model for those who don't want XG Mobile.
Keyboard and Touchpad on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
The Flow Z13's keyboard and touchpad are on a detachable cover, just like Microsoft's Surface Pro type covers. It attaches magnetically with a series of pins, and can be used flat on a desk or at a slight angle. Of course, in true gaming fashion, the keys here are backlit with RGB lighting.
Typing on the keyboard isn't as good as on a regular laptop, but it's decent (this is almost always the case with detachables.) While the Flow's attachment is a bit thicker than I expected, it still does bow in the middle when you're typing, and the travel isn't exactly deep. I hit 106 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is good for me, but with a higher-than-usual error rate of 5%.
Gaming on it is OK. I really don't recommend using the ergonomic angle for it, but rather letting the keyboard lay flat on a desk. That will reduce a lot of bounce. If you like deep travel on your gaming keyboards, this won't get you too far. In an adventure game like Guardians of the Galaxy it did the job, but if you're mashing buttons, this will get uncomfortable.
The touchpad is small. It's big enough to navigate and perform Windows 11 gestures, but there's plenty of space on the trackpad to make it wider. Additionally, it feels cheap and plasticky compared to the rest of the computer.
One worry I have is about how long the keyboard will last. Followers of the Microsoft Surface know that these type covers tend to have a limited shelf life and get gross or start to fall apart with heavy use. That might take awhile, but at least Surface owners can buy replacements. While I appreciate Asus including one in the box, a representative for the company confirmed that there are currently no plans to sell new keyboard covers, which I find worrying for those who invest almost $2,000 in a machine.
Audio on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
Despite the ROG Flow Z13's size, its dual speakers can hang with most 13-inch laptops. That's not to say it's some sort of revelation, but they're satisfactory.
The tablet didn't fill my whole apartment with sound, but the speakers brought enough volume to alt-J's "The Actor," including its moody vocals and dark synths. Some details, like the bass and drums, were on the weaker side, however.
The speakers were only OK on Guardians of the Galaxy. The dialogue sounded a bit flat, though the music sounded alright.
If you're holding the tablet and listening to music or watching a video, you'll need to be careful where you place your hands. In landscape mode, I found the speakers, which are at the bottom of each side, are exactly where my hands were most comfortable. That made for muffled, quiet, distorted audio. This isn't a problem in portrait mode or when you have the Flow on a desk.
Upgradeability on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
The only part of the Asus ROG Flow Z13 you can replace or repair is the SSD.
When you flip out the kickstand, you'll see a small door near the right side of the device that is held in with a single Phillips head screw. Once you remove that, you'll need to use your nail to lift the plastic cover off.
The M.2 2230 SSD is held down by another screw. There's a second spot for a screw if you use a longer drive, but there's really not that much room in there. Don't go buying your standard M.2 2280 for this.
The only other visible screws on the devices are either attached to the kickstand (all Phillips head) or on the bottom corners. Those latter two are pentalobe screws, which are more rare. Of those two, one was stuck in place on our unit.
Asus' SSD door echoes what Microsoft has done on some (though not all) of its Surface Pro models, and it's certainly better than not being able to make repairs at all.
Battery Life on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
Gaming laptops aren't exactly renowned for their battery life, but tablets, as a whole, are typically meant to be portable and long-lasting. With the Flow Z13, that becomes a bit of a paradox, as the powerful components suck power, rather than sip it.
On our battery test, which browses the web, runs OpenGL tests in the browser and streams video with the display set to 150 nits of brightness and the machine connected to Wi-Fi, it lasted 6 hours and 14 minutes.
The Alienware x14 lasted longer, running for 8:44, but the MSI GE76 Raider, which doesn't have the luxury of leaving its RTX 3080 behind in a graphics dock, conked out after 4:05.
Heat on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
The ROG Flow is a tablet, so the primary touchpoints are on the rear of the device. The keyboard, which is detachable, doesn't see any particular changes in temperature when the system is running.
We took skin temperature measurements while running our Metro Exodus stress tests. And, like in our performance testing, we did it twice: once with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti inside the tablet running and a second time with the XG Mobile, utilizing an RTX 3080.
Using the internal GPU, the hottest point on the back measured about 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.42 degrees Celsius). But when using the XG Mobile, that same spot hit 37.7 degrees Celsius (99.86 degrees Fahrenheit). It ends up that having the GPU outside of the chassis makes cooling far more efficient!
If you were to touch the XG Mobile, we found the hottest point there was 50.4 degrees Celsius (122.72 degrees Fahrenheit).
Cameras on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
There are two cameras on the ROG Flow Z13: a front-facing 720p webcam for calls and an 8MP shooter on the back for taking photos.
The front camera is decent. I wish Asus could've found a way to jam a 1080p camera in here, but in tests at my desk, my olive green shirt appeared on screen as it looked in real life, and details like my hair and beard were fairly distinct.
While there is a fingerprint reader on the side of the device, I feel that adding a front-facing IR camera, as on the Surface devices, would have been a better option, as most people pick up their tablets and point them directly at their faces anyway.
I don't quite get the inclusion of the rear camera on this device. I get that Apple has one on the iPad and Microsoft has one on the Surface, but those are both productivity tablets that occasionally get used in field work. Have you ever heard jokes about people who take pictures with iPads at concerts? Imagine someone busting this out on their family vacation: "Look at the RGB and say 'cheese!'"
But since it's there, we did test it. It ended up being a mixed bag, having issues focusing on anything in shadow. It is also zoomed in more than expected by default, so be sure to take a few steps away from anything you want a picture of.
Software and Warranty on the Asus ROG Flow Z13
Asus has slowly added more software to its gaming portfolio, and I don't think it's all necessary on the Flow Z13.
Armoury Crate, a hub app that shows performance statistics, lets you control RGB lighting and allows owners to create performance profiles makes enough sense. But Aura Creator, a newer piece of software to create lighting patterns. Considering this doesn't have per key backlighting on the keyboard and the window faces away from you, I find it to be of limited utility. It might be better baked into Armoury Crate.
Asus also preloads MyAsus, which includes some useful information like your serial number, but also doubles up on settings that are already in Windows and pushes promotional software offers.
Otherwise, this is a standard Windows 11 load , including occasional links to software you may not want such as Disney Plus, Spotify, TikTok and Instagram.
Asus sells the ROG Flow Z13 with a one-year warranty.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 Configurations
We tested the ROG Flow Z13 with an Intel Core i9-12900H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and a 120 Hz, 1920 x 1200 display. That's available at Best Buy for $1,899.99. A bundle with the XG Mobile graphics dock featuring an RTX 3080, which we also tested, will run you $3,299.99.
The base model is $1,799.99 at Newegg and Amazon. While it has the same display and RAM, it uses an Intel Core i7-12700H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 and a smaller, 512GB SSD. Considering that AAA games like Elden Ring can take 60GB or more of disk space, that’s an unacceptably low amount of disk space on a system this expensive.
It's hard for me to recommend the Asus ROG Flow Z13 to anyone outside of a very specific group of people. If you want a Windows 11 gaming PC in a tablet form factor similar to the Surface Pro, this is really your only option.
But a bright screen and a thin form factor don't make up for some of the questionable choices Asus has made. Using a Core i9 with an RTX 3050 Ti, for instance, doesn't make a lot of sense, unless you're choosing to also buy the XG Mobile graphics dock with an RTX 3080. The same goes for the 120 Hz display screen. It often feels like this device was designed to work only with the graphics dock; as a result, it's hobbled as a standalone product.
Add in the fact that you can't buy a replacement keyboard for a tablet that starts at $1,799.99, and you get an investment that seems questionable in the long term.
Unless having a gaming tablet is the most important thing to you, consider one of the many 14-inch gaming laptops, which have gotten thinner and more portable in the last few years. The Alienware x14, for instance, starts at $1,599.99 for the same specs as the base ROG Flow Z13, resulting in $200 in savings. For $1,899.99, which is the cost of the Flow we tested, you can get that Alienware with a Core i7 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 for stronger gaming performance and still get a 144 Hz display.
At the moment, however, the combination of the Flow Z13 and XG Mobile may be cheaper than some top-of-the-line gaming laptops such as the MSI GE76 Raider. But the extra cost of those laptops gives you bigger displays, better keyboards, upgradeability and portability that doesn’t involve carrying a dock in your bag.
This all makes the Flow Z13 extremely niche in a way that often feels like it was designed to show off the XG Mobile rather than provide a comprehensive gaming experience. The performance and price make it an odd entry-level gaming machine, and the design makes for an odd productivity machine.
I don't think Asus' idea for an eGPU dock is one without merit, but the products should be enhanced by it, not designed around it.