Asus ROG Flow Z13 review: A gaming tablet with guts

Halo Infinite on the display of the ROG Flow Z13.

Asus ROG Flow Z13

MSRP $1,900.00

“The Asus ROG Flow Z13 proves why gaming tablets might be the future of gaming laptops.”

Pros

  • Bright, beautiful screen
  • Amazing portability
  • Ingenious design
  • Surprisingly good performance
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Dorky aesthetic
  • Mediocre webcam, no Windows Hello

The ROG Flow Z13 shouldn’t be possible.

It’s a device not much bigger than a Surface Pro, yet with some bona fide gaming parts inside. It’s a 2-in-1 laptop – detachable keyboard and all – but with the power of a legitimate gaming laptop.

It’s more than just an engineering wonder for kicks and giggles. As it turns out, there are significant benefits gaming tablets have over gaming laptops, and the ROG Flow Z13 capitalizes on them.

Design

The back of the ROG Flow Z13, showing the markings and branding.

The ROG Flow Z13 is certainly unique, but it does build on the pedigree of two previous Asus products. The first is the ROG Flow X13, released last year. Like the Z13, the X13 focused on extreme portability – at least, for a gaming laptop. It’s a 13-inch convertible laptop, not unlike a Surface Pro or iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.

The other strand of DNA in the Flow Z13 is the ROG Mothership, a much more audacious project. It’s a 2-in-1 tablet, but stretched out to 17.3 inches with a weight of more than 10 pounds (with the keyboard included). A fun idea, but not exactly practical.

The ROG Flow Z13 takes that nugget of innovation and turns it into something surprisingly practical. The Flow Z13 weighs just 2.43 pounds and is only 0.47 inches thick. That makes it the smallest gaming laptop ever attempted. It’s easy to carry around, and insanely mobile. And while the front is fairly nondescript, the stylized vents and kitschy branding make it a dead ringer for a gaming device. It even has a window on the back of the tablet that gives you an RGB-laden peek into the internals, not unlike the tempered glass panels featured on modern PC cases.

Of course, there are downsides to this being a 2-in-1. Like the Surface Pro, the Flow Z13 is tough to use on your lap. The 160-degree, built-in kickstand, while excellent, doesn’t work so well in that scenario.

The top of the ROG Flow Z13, showing the vents and brand.

And despite how thin and light the Flow Z13 is for a gaming device, in most cases, it’s too heavy to use as an actual tablet. If you intend to use it that wy, you’ll likely be resting it on your lap or on a table.

However, it would work quite well propped up on a fold-down airplane tray. Connect up a wireless controller, and you’re all set for some gaming on the go. You can even play in split-screen mode, with up to four controllers supported for playing with friends. Not sure you’d want four people crowded around a tablet this small, though.

Lastly, Asus highlights how you might use the tablet more as a second screen for your desktop setup. These scenarios won’t apply to everyone, but there are some unique situations that only a device like the Flow Z13 can fulfill.

Display

The screen of the ROG Flow Z13.

The ROG Flow Z13 comes in two display flavors, both of which are mini-LED panels. There’s a 4K 60Hz model and the one I reviewed, which has a 1920 x 1200 resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s no reason to buy the 4K model as far as I’m concerned. With just a 13.4-inch screen, the 1920 x 1200 resolution is plenty sharp, and the higher refresh rate is a must-have feature.

The Flow Z13 even fixes one of my problems with the Flow X13’s display, which is the brightness. The X13 maxed out at just 300 nits, whereas the Z13 can be cranked up to 528 nits. It’s a bright, beautiful screen — brighter than the latest MacBook Pro and Surface Pro 8. It has a slightly warmer tint than those screens, which is to be expected on a gaming device.

That brightness comes in handy, too, as the device uses a glossy screen rather than having a matte finish like most gaming laptops. That’s because it’s touch-enabled, of course, being a tablet. The extra brightness is more than enough to ward off glares and reflections.

The Flow Z13 fares well enough in color gamut (95% sRGB, 74% AdobeRGB), accuracy (Delta-E of 1.59), and contrast (1050:1), too. It might not be a screen you’d want to do precise color grading on, necessarily, but this is a better screen than those on the majority of gaming laptops you’ll find out there.

Ports

The side of the ROG Flow Z13, showing the available ports.

The Flow Z13 is pretty lacking in port selection. There’s a USB-A port on the right side and two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports on the left. These USB-C ports are USB4-compatible for fast transfers, Power Delivery 3.0 (up to 100 watts), and DisplayPort 1.4. One of the Thunderbolt ports is a part of Asus’ proprietary port for its XG Mobile accessory, which is an external GPU enclosure.

While that’s a bit limited for a gaming laptop, it’s barely enough to get by for a device like this. The USB-A port is important for connecting a mouse, but you’ll need a USB hub to connect more than that. There was likely not enough room to include something like HDMI on a device this thin.

Beyond that, you’ll also find a headphone jack, a micro-SD card slot for expanding storage, a volume rocker, and a power button.

Performance

My review unit of the ROG Flow Z13 features an Intel Core i9-12900H processor, but you can also configure it with a slightly slow Core i7-12700H. Either way, it’s a 14-core CPU (six performance cores and eight efficiency cores). The result is fantastic processor performance, especially for a device this small. The Flow Z13 is one of the first units we’ve reviewed with Intel’s latest 12th-gen chips, and it’s off to a very impressive start.

Asus ROG Flow Z13 (Core i9-12900H)Asus ROG Flow X13 (Ryzen 9 5900HS)Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon (Ryzen 5800U)Razer Blade 14 (Ryzen 9 5900HX)
Cinebench R23 (single / multi)1548 / 96641486 / 114781594 / 117881431 / 11226
Geekbench 5 (single / multi)1784 / 93861415 / 75921637 / 91391448 / 7243
PCMark 106417624956826612
Handbrake (lower is better)103 seconds102 seconds102 seconds95 seconds

The biggest standout from my CPU testing was the single-core performance in Cinebench R23. When turned turned into Turbo mode, its score was a record setter for laptops, and though it’ll likely be surpassed by larger laptops later this year, it’s nonetheless impressive what this little laptop can do.

Unlike many laptops, there is a significant difference between the performance modes, which control fan speed and power throughput. Jumping from Performance to Turbo modes results in a 15-19% increase in performance, likely because of how quietly Asus has tuned the standard Performance mode.

We’ll get to gaming, of course, but the Flow Z13 will handle just about anything else that you throw at it, too. It scored well in PCMark 10, which benchmarks day-to-day tasks like web browsing, word processing, videoconferencing, and even video editing. It obviously annihilates the Surface Pro 8, but it also surpasses last year’s ROG Flow X13 and stays in step with larger laptops as well.

All in all, this is a surprisingly well-cooled tablet.

Many tablets are passively cooled, meaning they don’t use fans. Not the Flow Z13. Asus has thrown in almost every trick in the book to keep this thing cool and quiet, from large vapor chambers over both the CPU and GPU to liquid metal on the processor for better heat transfer. It all adds up to a surprisingly well-cooled device. Even under the “Turbo” mode, the Flow Z13 is nowhere near as loud as a traditional gaming laptop, and because the tablet is propped up off the table, it benefits from better airflow.

In Performance mode, with all cores powered up, the Flow Z13’s core temperatures never got higher than 70 degrees Celsius. I could push it up to 74 degrees in Turbo mode, but all in all, this is a surprisingly well-cooled tablet.

For the opposite effect, you can also change the performance setting to “Silent” in the Armoury Crate application, which turns off the fans entirely. You won’t want to do anything intensive in this mode, but if you’re just watching a video or browsing the web, it won’t feel any different than using an iPad in terms of noise or heat.

Gaming performance

Halo Infinite on the screen of the ROG Flow Z13.

The Flow Z13 includes Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti or 3050 for graphics options. I tested the more powerful option, and since the configurations are only selling for a $100 difference, I highly recommend opting for the 3050 Ti.

The 3050 is as low as you can go and still call something “gaming,” but on a device like this, where performance is undoubtedly limited to due lack of airflow, the bump up to the 3050 Ti is well worth the money.

Asus ROG Flow Z13 (RTX 3050 Ti)Asus ROG Flow X13 (RTX 3050 Ti)Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon (RTX 3050)Surface Laptop Studio (RTX 3050 Ti)
3DMark Time Spy4612450342234266
Fortnite46 fps47 fps40 fps57 fps
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla34 fps20 fps34 fps37 fps
Cyberpunk 207738 fpsn/an/an/a
Civilization VI74 fps65 fpsn/a75 fps

Our normal suite of game tests, all recorded above at the highest settings for each game, resulted in expected performance. As you can see, outside of lighter fare like Civilization VI, you’ll want to play most games on Medium settings for the best results, whether that’s Halo Infinite or Fortnite — both of which get over 60 frames per second (fps) without losing too much fidelity. Rarely will use the full breadth of the available 120Hz of refreshes, so you won’t be bottlenecked there unless you plan on connecting up the XG Mobile.

Of course, the more challenging games are where you start to see the limits of this graphics card. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla only averaged 45 fps at the High setting (the game’s medium preset) and 47 fps in Cyberpunk 2077 (again, at Medium). Both games were still smooth enough to play, but you’ll need to drop settings considerably to get closer to 60 fps.

All in all, gaming performance lines up with what the Flow X13 can do — it also had an RTX 3050 Ti. They’re both ahead of larger laptops with an RTX 3050 but fall behind chunkier budget gaming laptops with an RTX 3050 Ti.

The parts of the chassis you are actively interacting with stay blissfully cool.

But gaming on a laptop is about more than just frame rates. The genius thing about the Flow Z13 design as a 2-in-1 is its surface temperatures. Most devices, whether it’s something like a Dell XPS 15 or a Razer Blade, suffer from getting warm (or even downright hot) while under heavy load. The Razer Blade 14, in particular, even stays warm during more common tasks — it’s downright uncomfortable at times.

But because the Flow Z13 puts all of its hot components and thermals behind the screen rather than under the keyboard, the parts of the chassis you are actively interacting with stay blissfully cool. It makes long sessions of computing much more comfortable, and it’s key to what makes this design so smart. You’ll never end up with sweaty palms, and that’s not something you can say about any conventional gaming laptop I’ve ever used.

The Turbo mode I mentioned when talking CPU performance doesn’t make as big a difference in games. You’ll still see a bump of around 5-10% though, depending on the game, so it’s still worth having on since it’s not too loud.

Keyboard and touchpad

A close-up view of the keyboard on the Asus ROG Flow Z13.

The ROG Flow Z13 includes a detachable keyboard cover, which is nearly identical to the Surface Pro Type Cover in functionality. It’s extremely high quality, and I’m surprised at how closely the Flow Z13 emulates the Surface Pro in this regard.

The keyboard cover magnetizes to the top of the screen when closed, and also has a secondary magnetized position for typing at more of an angle. The palm rests have a textured finish, like a more rubbery version of the Surface Type Cover. It picks up crumbs easily, but avoids fingerprints more than a smoother finish would.

As for the keyboard itself, you’ll be happy to know you’re getting a full 1.7mm of key travel — and it feels fantastic. This is the same keyboard you’ll find in Asus’ conventional gaming laptops, and it’s every bit as tactile and responsive. There’s o room for extra media keys, of course, but this is an otherwise familiar layout. Asus even throws in Aura Key RGB backlighting, though it’s only single-zone rather than three-zone or per key.

The touchpad is similarly excellent. Sure, it’d be great if it was a bit taller, but Asus makes up for the size with quality. The glass surface is super smooth, and is yet another step up from even many premium gaming laptops.

Battery life

If there’s one pitfall for the ROG Flow Z13, it’s in battery life. The device has a 56 watt-hour battery inside, and while Asus claims up to 8 hours of life on a single charge, the reality is you’ll get much less. In 1080p local video playback, the tablet died after just under seven hours. That was with the screen at 100 lux, which was 13% screen brightness.

The keyboard and touchpad of the ROG Flow Z13.

In light web browsing, the system lasted just four hours and 10 minutes. That’s over an hour less than the Flow X13 in the same test, and almost two hours less than the Razer Blade 14. All testing was done using the MUX switch, which helps the device switch between the discrete GPU and the integrated GPU.

Don’t even bother gaming on the battery, though that’s never recommended on gaming laptops.

Cameras and security

Not much effort is put into the webcams and security features of gaming laptops. Asus even started removing webcams altogether from some models in the lineup. The ROG Flow Z13 should have been a good device to rectify that lapse of attention, but it’s lacking in that department as well.

On the back of the tablet, you’ll find a world-facing 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K stills or 8-megapixel video at 15 fps. The idea of taking photos or video with this tablet is laughable — but hey, it’s there if you need it. The front-facing camera is the much more important sensor, and unfortunately, it’s only 720p.

The 720p webcam of the ROG Flow Z13.

Before the recent trend to increase the resolution of laptop webcams, 720p was the sad standard all laptops defaulted to — that is, except for tablets. The Surface Pro remained one of the few Windows devices to carry a 1080p webcam inside through the early stages of the pandemic and the surge in remote work. Why? Well, there’s a lot more room to fit a larger camera module behind the screen in a tablet than in the lid of a laptop.

It’s unfortunate we’re stuck again with a 720p camera here, and even worse, it doesn’t include an IR sensor for Windows Hello. No facial recognition, and not even a fingerprint reader. This is a portable device, and I’m not sure why gaming brands think gamers care less about security and privacy than anyone else does.

Price and configurations

The ROG Flow Z13 comes in a few variations, with the two primary ones being the option between the RTX 3050/Core i7-12700H and the RTX 3050 Ti/Core i9-12900H. My review unit, the more powerful option, comes in at $1,900, and also comes with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. Of course, prices will vary based on different retailers, but the Flow Z13 is certainly in the premium range in terms of price.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a gaming laptop with an RTX 3050 Ti at this price. However, a comparable Surface Pro 8 will cost you even more, and that doesn’t even come with the Type Cover bundled in like the Flow Z13 does.

Of course, you can also opt to buy it bundled with the XG Mobile GPU enclosure, which pairs well with the device. But the XG Mobile hasn’t received any updates from last year outside an option for the RX 3850 XT, so I don’t want to imply that it’s necessary. It does, after all, add on a sizable chunk of change to your purchase.

Our take

The ROG Flow Z13 is a niche product in the same way the original Flow X13 was. But in doing something new, this little device challenges many of the assumptions we’ve made about makes a good gaming laptop. While gaming tablets will likely never be the powerhouses that some gaming laptops are, there are some tangible benefits from a 2-in-1 design that prove to be a huge advantage, such as mobility and surface temperatures.

Are there any alternatives?

All the possible alternatives to the ROG Flow Z13 are compact gaming laptops, such as the ROG Flow X13, ROG Zephyrus G14, or the Razer Blade 14. None of these laptops really accomplishes what the Z13 does in terms of portability or design. The Zephyrus G14 does net you significantly improved performance at a better price.

How long will it last?

The ROG Flow Z13 comes with the latest hardware, Windows 11, and some extremely well-made and durable materials. It feels solid and sturdy in the hand. The performance, however, may leave you wanting more a few years down the road. Nothing inside can be easily replaced or upgraded, either.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re looking for a smaller alternative to a traditional gaming laptop, the ROG Flow Z13 will surprise you in all sorts of ways.

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