Hmm, Asus might have me over a barrel with this one. If you know me, you know that I don’t believe in tablets. I haven’t since the Nvidia Shield. I mean, what’s the point when we have phablets? But Asus’ latest creation, the Flow Z13 is just too pretty and jam-packed with features to deny. Thanks to an Intel 12th Gen processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, the Flow Z13 might just be the most powerful gaming tablet in the world.
The company was kind enough to let me spend some time with a pre-production model and I’ve got to say, I’m seriously impressed with what the Flow Z13 has to offer. Is it enough to make me rescind my tablet denial? No, but I’m willing to overlook it by calling the system a snazzy detachable.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 pricing, configuration and availability
Although Asus recently announced the Flow Z13 at CES 2022, the company has yet to divulge pricing. If it’s anything like last year’s Flow X13, the base configuration might start somewhere around $1,599. That’s not counting the XG Station, Asus’ mobile eGPU which packs a powerful Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU.
According to its website, the Flow Z13’s base model features a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-12500H processor with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 512GB M.2 2230 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD, an Intel Iris Xe GPU and a 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 display.
The mid-tier model that I’m currently demoing bumps the CPU up to a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-12700H and the graphics card to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM and a 3840 x 2400 display. The most powerful configuration has a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i9-12900H CPU, a 1TB M.2 2230 NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD, an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM and a 3840 x 2400 panel.
The Flow Z13 will be available sometime in the first half of 2022.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 design
While other outlets are calling the Flow Z13 a souped-up Microsoft Surface Pro, I’d posit that the detachable is a toned-down ROG Mothership. It’s got a slick, attention-grabbing design, starting with the black aluminum back. Employing bold embossed lines, the tablet has a Blade Runner aesthetic.
The numbers “06” are etched into the top left corner in the form of clever venting and directly above are the words “For Those Who Dare.” A glossy module in the top right corner holds the 8-megapixel camera module. A peekaboo window accentuated with the coordinates of the company’s headquarters sits along the middle right gives a glimpse of the components illuminated in a gentle pulse of rainbow lighting. The ROG emblem in the bottom left corner is partially done in red plastic with a matching ROG flag sticking out along the side.
That little flag is a hint for the kickstand that can be adjusted to a 170-degree angle. That way you can play with the tablet standing straight up or laying nearly flat.
If the keyboard is attached, you’ll see the words “Republic of Gamers” engraved in gray plastic. From there, the bottom of the keyboard is made from a material similar to the Alcantra fabric found on the Microsoft Surface type cover. If not, you’ll see the divots and the magnetic connector. There’s another ROG tag at the top of the tablet flanked by large vents on both sides.
The front of the tablet is basically all that 13.4-inch display save for a quad of slim bezels with a 720p webcam embedded in the top bezel.
By itself, the Flow Z13 weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 11.9 x 8 x 0.47 inches. The keyboard adds another 0.7 pounds and a thickness of 0.22 inches. Either way, it’s slightly heavier and thicker than the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 (2 pounds, 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.37 inches) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable (1.7 pounds, 11.2 x 0.8 x 0.3 inches).
Asus ROG Flow Z13 ports
When the time comes to transform the Flow Z13 into a mini battlestation, it has a few ports to help you out.
Along the right is a full USB Type-A 2.0 port, a headset jack and buttons for power and volume. On the left sits a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port and a proprietary port for the XG Station eGPU. And when you lift up the kickstand, there’s a microSD card reader on the left side.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 display
There’s no denying that the Flow Z13 has a gorgeous display. Watching the King Car trailer, I was transfixed by the vibrancy of the colors, particularly the deep royal blue chassis of the titular vehicle. Details were so clear, I saw the individual ringlets in the protagonist’s hair as well as the fine wrinkles in his white shirt.
As this is a pre-production model, we haven’t run our usual battery of tests on the panel. But I’m hoping the consumer version will deliver this level of brightness and vividness or beyond. Asus has bundled its GameVisual utility in its Armoury Crate hub (more on that later). For the uninitiated, GameVisual is the company’s display software that allows you to adjust the color temperature via eight presets (Default, Racing, Scenery, RTS/RPG, FPS, Cinema, Eyecare and Vivid) or manually adjust it yourself. There’s also a utility to adjust the color calibration.
As a touch display, the Z13 is agile and responsive, keeping pace with me as I wrote a message in cursive or drew a rudimentary-looking flower. I wish the detachable came with a pen so the screen wouldn’t get unsightly fingerprints, though.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 audio
The pair of side-mounted speakers on the Flow Z13 won’t fill most rooms with audio, but they’re good for a front-and-center performance. I restrained myself from singing along with George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” long enough to appreciate the lush spanish guitar and synthy keyboard that accompanied his melancholy vocal. Sadly, the bass guitar receded into the background in most cases. The lack of the low-end continued as I listened to Sebastian Mikael’s “Last Night” as the bass was practically existent.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 keyboard and touchpad
First things, first. Can you use the Flow Z13 in your lap? With strategic placement of the kickstand on your knees, yes you can and do it comfortably. After I got over that shock, the next was how good the full-sized, island-style keyboard was to type on. Unlike other detachable keyboards, the Z13’s has normal-sized keys with generous spacing. I did notice a bit of flex once I got into a real typing groove, but nothing so much that it would be a hindrance.
The keys are bouncy with good key travel and produce a gentle click when pressed. When I took the 10fastfingers typing test, I reached 73 words per minute which is slightly above my 70-wpm average.
The Flow Z13’s keyboard has backlighting, but unlike other detachable keyboards, Asus is hooking us up with customizable RGB colors with ten basic effects (Rainbow, Strobing, Breathing, Static, Color Cycle, Starry night, Music, Smart, Adaptive Color and Dark).
The touchpad is a reasonable size and performs Windows 11 gestures without incident. It had no problem executing pinch-zoom, two-finger scroll or three-finger tap.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 gaming
Unfortunately, since this is a pre-production model, I can’t do any real benchmarking (stay tuned for the real review). I can, however, play a few games and let you know how the Flow Z13’s Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM holds up to the challenge. I tried to play several current AAA titles including Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, God of War and Deathloop.
Despite dropping the resolution down to 1920 x 1080 and switching every setting possible to Very Low, I could only play Deathloop at a reliable 28 frames per second. However, the textures looked particularly muddy and I couldn’t get the VRAM usage under 4637MB, above the 4GB of VRAM. You’ll definitely need the XG Station and its RTX 3080 GPU to really game on this system.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 performance
I’m excited to see exactly what Intel’s 12th Gen processors can do. But as I mentioned, I can’t do any benchmarking just yet. And so far, Alder Lake is living up to the hype. With the 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-12700H CPU with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, I had 40 Google Chrome tabs open with a mix of Twitch, YouTube, Tweetdeck, Netflix, Google Docs, Sheets and Analytics with no slow down.
It’s an encouraging result, but I’m chomping at the bit to get a production model in and run our usual battery of tests on this system.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 webcam
The Flow Z13 has two webcams –– a 720p front cam and a 8MP rear shooter. The front cam is definitely the better of the two producing clearer details such as the slight striping in my blouse and cleaner text on the black box in the background.
The front shooter also gave better color accuracy capturing the exact shade of my multicolored locs and my lipstick.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 software
The Flow Z13 is one of the latest systems to run Windows 11. Thankfully, that doesn’t transfer into a bunch of unnecessary bloatware outside of Dolby Access. Instead, you have quite a few helpful utilities. From Asus, you have Armoury Crate, which allows you to adjust display, performance and fan speed. There are also options to toggle the Win Key, touchpad and boot up sound on and off. There’s also MyAsus where you can check the system diagnostics, battery health and warranty. You can also contact tech support and prioritize internet bandwidth.
Third-party apps include Nvidia GeForce Experience which offers a host of utilities to optimize your gaming experience. You also have McAfee LiveSafe and Personal Security to keep the malware at bay.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m excited about a tablet of all things. It’s hard not to be when it has such powerful specs. Now is the Asus ROG Flow Z13 going to be the portable gaming solution to end all our problems? No. While the Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti GPU will allow it to play older titles at lower settings, in order to truly unlock the power, you’ll definitely need the XG Station, which makes it markedly less grab-and-go.
Still, what Asus has accomplished with the Flow Z13 is seriously encouraging, particularly with the design, keyboard and display. I’m just hoping it won’t cost an arm, leg, soul and first-borne babe to play around with this intriguing piece of tech. Either way, I’m excited to get a consumer model and get to testing.