The Asus ROG Flow Z13 Wants To Challenge Steam Deck On Its Home Turf

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The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a phenomenally powerful tablet PC without a clear audience.

That’s the overriding impression I got from a week with the device. Every part of this machine is spectacularly designed. Its parts are top-tier, its design is robust and travel-ready, its screen is bright and fast, and its keyboard attachment is a solid, responsive add-on. It all makes sense on paper. But then you use it and questions begin to stack up.

This is a device that feels designed to go toe-to-toe with the Steam Deck and on raw spec, it absolutely could. Though not a handheld like the Steam Deck, the ROG Flow Z13 makes a similar commitment to power and portability. It comes in three models, all more than a match for Valve’s machine. You can check out the spec for all three models at the official Asus site, but for the purposes of this review, I’ll be talking about the top-end i9 model I spent the week with.

The full spec list for the i9 model is as follows:

  • 12th Gen Intel® Core™ i9-12900H Processor 2.5 GHz (24M Cache, up to 5.0 GHz, 14 cores: 6 P-cores and 8 E-cores)
  • NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3050 Ti Laptop GPU 4GB GDDR6 — ROG Boost: 1085MHz* at 40W (1035MHz Boost Clock+50MHz OC, 35W+5W Dynamic Boost)
  • 8GB*2 LPDDR5 (Max Capacity : 16GB)
  • 1TB M.2 2230 NVMe™ PCIe® 4.0 SSD
  • Available ports:
    1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack1x USB 2.0 Type-A1x Thunderbolt™ 4 support DisplayPort™ / power delivery1x ROG XG Mobile Interface1x card reader (microSD) (UHS-II)1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C support DisplayPort™ / power delivery / G-SYNC
  • Wi-Fi 6E(802.11ax)+Bluetooth 5.2 (Dual band) 2*2
  • 1.18 Kg (2.60 lbs)
  • 30.2 x 20.4 x 1.20 ~ 1.20 cm (11.89″ x 8.03″ x 0.47″ ~ 0.47″)

I’m detecting a few raised eyebrows in the audience right now. These are impressive specs, aren’t they, especially in a tablet. When setting the tablet up, I joked to Ruby that this tablet was more powerful than my desktop at home.

It became clear quite quickly that the ROG Flow Z13 was in fact an effortless match for my home rig, a realisation that has haunted me into a near-future upgrade.

The raw power of the machine is at its most obvious when pushed to run recent games on higher graphics settings. Ultra is still a bit of an ask, despite the spec, but in most cases, the tablet can shoulder High settings without breaking a sweat or dropping a frame. Games I played during my review period: FortniteSea of ThievesHalo InfiniteForza Horizon 5, and God of War PC. I’m pleased to report that I was able to get buttery performance out of all of these games. In the case of something like Forza Horizon 5, a game weighed down with graphical bells and whistles, this is particularly impressive. If you’d like some clear benchmarks, the results over at NotebookCheck are a strong match for my experience.

But, just in case you feel like you don’t have quite enough power at your disposal: you can tack on a second external graphics card. The ROG Flow Z13 is compatible with Asus’ family of XG Mobile external cards. This allows you to stack an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 laptop GPU on top of the existing 3050. The leap in performance puts the tablet well and truly into desktop replacement territory.

Despite only being a bit over a kilo in weight, the ROG Flow Z13 actually feels quite hefty. It’s also surprisingly large. A device that’s roughly the same size as a 13″ laptop makes for quite a big tablet in the hand. The outer shell design is a gunmetal obelisk with a small perspex window that reveals the motherboard beneath. Within this window is a series of rainbow LEDs, the universal indicator of a product made For The Gamers.

You can see what I mean when I say it has everything it needs on paper, can’t you? It’s as powerful as a solid gaming rig, and external cards give it the versatility of a desktop. It fits in a bag or backpack and it has a solid build quality that helps it travel well. It does everything well.

But it also feels like a hodgepodge of ideas. Asus wants a device with which it can challenge the Steam Deck, and that makes perfect sense. A tablet that connects to an external graphics card worth half as much as the tablet itself? The imagined user here is a person that relies solely on their ROG Flow Z13 for everything, work and play. Someone who takes the tablet with them to the office but brings it home after a long day, connecting it into an external card for Games After Dinner. The thing is, I can’t think of anyone who would find that situation amenable. The look of the device isn’t quite professional enough for the office, and the extra expense to turn it into a true desktop replacement is, I think, testing the friendship.

You can tell Asus aren’t totally sure of the final use case because all of the device’s hero images cast a net that is somehow both extraordinarily wide and incredibly niche.

rog flow z13

This man is attempting to play what appears to be a Rainbow Six Siege trailer while ignoring what appears to be an office Zoom call.

asus rog flow z13

Here is the same man using the Z13 for coding.

rog flow z13

But wait, he is also a DJ. A true wunderkind.

Again, technically the device can be used for all of these applications. And don’t get me wrong, I can see how Asus got here. I can follow the logic. I just think the number of people that logic applies to in the real world would have to be very small.

Of course, you could make the same argument about two-thirds of the laptop tech launched in 2022. Hardware makers must now attempt to fill any niche, no matter how unlikely, lest a competitor accidentally strikes a rich vein of Untapped Market Potential.

Considered purely on the basis that it fancies itself a Steam Deck competitor, I think the ROG Flow Z13 makes a strong argument for itself. Everything it sets out to do, it does very well indeed. It’s only when you push beyond that, you will witness a device caught in an identity crisis.

Article source: Kotaku

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