The Asus ROG Flow X13 is the most exciting laptop at CES 2021

Asus ROG Flow X13 GV301 and GC31
(Image credit: Asus)

The Asus ROG Flow X13 is easily the most exciting thing I've seen from CES 2021 so far, in fact it's probably the most interesting thing to happen to laptops in years. Firstly, as the name suggests, it's a tiny 13-inch gaming laptop, and we've seen from the likes of the Razer Blade 13 that such devices can work brilliantly as gaming machines. And you're not going to be embarrassed taking this into a work meeting either (does anyone remember meeting others in person? No? Ok…)

That's not all though, the Flow X13 is the first time that Asus has created an ultra-slim gaming 2-in-1. Yup, it's one of those versatile machines where the screen can be flipped all the way around so that you can use it in a variety of modes. It's got a touch screen as well, so if you want to use it as a supercharged tablet, then you can. Alternatively, prop it up in tent mode and you can watch films and play games, and when used like that you'll enjoy improved airflow too.

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus used the excellent Zephyrus G14 as the starting point of the ROG Flow X13 and built from there. Obviously shaving an inch off the diagonal dimensions in the process. As mentioned, this is an ultra-thin machine, and as such is just 15.8mm thin. The chassis is a magnesium alloy that has been sandblasted to help make sure it doesn't slip out of your hands.

Inside the tasty chassis, you'll find a next-gen AMD Ryzen 5000-series mobile processor alongside an Nvidia GTX 1650 to provide passable gaming performance when on the go (more on that in a second). You can also spec the machine out with surprisingly speedy memory—up to 32GB of 4,266MHz LPDDR4X RAM, no less. The Flow X13 can be configured with either a 512GB or 1TB M.2 SSD as well.

Asus has shifted to a 16:10 aspect ratio for the screen, which offers up a bit more room vertically. You can also choose whether you go with a 120Hz FullHD or a 60Hz 4k screen, both of which are touch panels. They're also Pantone validated, so whichever one you choose, you know colour accuracy is going to be spot on.

(Image credit: Asus)

There's another thing up the Flow X13's sleeve though, and that's going to be of particular interest to us gamers, you can use an external GPU with it. We've obviously been promised such things before, but they've never really taken off. Asus believes it has the solution to the technical limitations that have plagued previous solutions though and has developed a proprietary interface that's faster than Thunderbolt 3. This allows the Flow X13 to hook up to next-gen cards like the RTX 3080 for desktop-levels of performance. 

So you can carry the 1.3kg laptop around with you in the day, and then hook it up to the eGPU box at night for some serious gaming, or even work if you absolutely have to. The eGPU has a 280W power design, and at 1Kg it isn't out of the question to take this with you if needed as well, although carrying around an RTX 3080 is probably the most paranoia-inducing thing you can do with PC hardware at the moment.

(Image credit: Asus)

The ROG Zephyrus Flow X13 looks like it's going to challenge our best gaming laptops, and could actually see eGPUs finally become a thing. The fact it's such a small and powerful machine certainly gives it the best chance of succeeding. And even without the eGPU side of things (you don't have to buy that as well), this looks like a great gaming machine. I honestly can't wait to give it a full rundown in our labs. 

Asus has plenty of other machines coming out too, with updates to its existing lines, and new machines in its TUF and Strix ranges, with higher refresh panels and overclocked AMD processors no less.  

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.