ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!

ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!
7 min read
13 January 2021

ASUS are introducing a powerful  13” gaming laptop during CES 2021,   the ROG Flow X13, and despite being on  the smaller side, this gaming laptop   packs up to an 8 core Zen 3 Ryzen 9 5000  HS processor and Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!This is the first AMD based gaming laptop  I’ve ever seen at this smaller size,   but ASUS have taken things to  the next level by offering an   external graphics solution with up  to RTX 3080 for even more power.

External graphics, or an eGPU setup  typically works with Thunderbolt.   As that’s not present here, ASUS have  instead created their own custom port   for direct PCIe 3.0 x8 connectivity  with their new ROG XG Mobile eGPU. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!Not only is direct PCIe connection faster than  Thunderbolt, 8 lanes gives us more bandwidth too,   which is one of the key restrictions of  an eGPU setup.

63Gbps of this is dedicated   just for the GPU, which is about 58%  more bandwidth than Thunderbolt 4. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!The XG Mobile is basically an eGPU dock,   but it’s still significantly smaller when  compared to your typical eGPU enclosure,   making it far more portable, and ASUS are  saying it’s around 6% the size of a typical eGPU   enclosure while still offering Nvidia’s latest  RTX 3000 series graphics, right up to RTX 3080.

Despite the smaller size, the XG mobile has  an integrated 280 watt power supply too,   so you don’t need to carry  an additional power brick. This means that your eGPU brick is powered  by one cable, and then this can fully power   the laptop too.

The cable between the  XG mobile and Flow X13 laptop is 41 cm,   so shorter than the 70 cm Thunderbolt  cable that came with my eGPU enclosure. The XG Mobile also offers plenty of connectivity,  it’s basically a complete docking solution, with   gigabit ethernet port, DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0a,  4 USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports and an SD card slot.ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level! The XG Mobile is cooled  with a vapor chamber cooler,   so it will be interesting to test how  hot it gets owing to the smaller enclosed   form factor.ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level! I’m not currently sure what  power limits they will run the GPUs at. ASUS have advised that it’s not  possible to upgrade the eGPU yourself,   apart from replacing the whole unit. This is an  advantage with a more traditional eGPU enclosure,   but those do also come at the cost of  being larger and taking up more space,   they’re far less portable and that’s the tradeoff.

If we look inside, we can see  that the motherboard with GPU die   also houses all the external I/O ports, so yeah  you can’t exactly just stick in your own GPU. With the eGPU connected to the laptop and in use,  the GTX 1650 graphics in the laptop aren’t needed,   so the power limit of the processor can actually  raise up in this scenario for more performance.

Speaking of that processor, ASUS are  now able to use liquid metal with AMD.   Last generation this was only available with  Intel laptops, as AMD chips just have different   conductive components around the sides of the  chip, but this problem has now been solved.

The GTX 1650 graphics also uses  dynamic boost, so depending on the   workload the GPU can potentially boost  5 watts higher for more performance.

ASUS have said that is their  goal to offer the custom PCIe   port and the XG Mobile with future gaming laptops,   but so far the Flow X13 is the only laptop  offering this port, baby steps I guess.

Back to the laptop itself, it’s also a 2-in-1, so you can fold the screen back 360 degrees   and use it in tablet or tent mode. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!It’s got a  13.4” glass touchscreen with 16:10 aspect ratio   versions of 1080p and 4K resolutions, so some  extra vertical space compared to traditional   16:9 panels. Both have adaptive sync and I look  forward to testing the screen response time,   hopefully it’s better than what we got  in the ASUS Zephyrus G14 last year. 

 For the rest of the specs it’s available  with either 8gb or 16gb of LPDDR4X memory   in dual channel. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!Based on these images of the  motherboard provided by ASUS, the memory appears   to be soldered, which makes sense as this is  typically the case with smaller laptops this size. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!While we’re looking inside, here’s a  look at the cooling solution that’s used. ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!Unlike the larger Zephyrus G14 laptop,  the Flow X13 does have a 720p camera.

ASUS have placed the Flow X13 side by side  with the G14 to give you an idea of the size   differences, ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!and we can see the difference  in thickness with this side shot too,  ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level! which also shows the XG Mobile PCIe  port on the back left hand side. It’s also got a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port  hidden within the custom port that you can use   separately for charging, followed by HDMI 2.0b  and 3.5mm audio combo jack on this left side.ASUS ROG Flow X13 Takes eGPU to the Next Level!The right has the power button which doubles as  a fingerprint scanner, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port,   second USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, and air  exhaust vent which wasn’t present on the left.

The laptop can be charged with USB  Type-C with a smaller 100 watt brick,   and this is enough to fully max  out both the CPU and GPU together.   It’s also got a 62Wh battery which ASUS say  can last for 10 hours in video playback.

There aren’t a huge number of ports available  as it’s a smaller 13” laptop, but again   you've got the XG mobile which acts as a dock,  offering more connectivity should you need it. The keyboard has curved keycaps with 1.7mm of key  travel, n-key roll over, and white backlighting.

ASUS said there’s going to be a limited  supernova edition, which uses AMD’s top   end binned processors exclusively. I don’t have the   exact processor specifics as I’m making this  video prior to AMD’s Ryzen 5000 launch event. Unfortunately I don’t have  pricing and availability   information during this initial announcement. Regardless of what you may think of an eGPU setup,  which is traditionally more niche and costs more   money, I think it’s still pretty cool to see ASUS  innovating here.

Before this I’ve only really seen   Alienware do the direct PCIe connection thing with  their graphics amplifier, which is much larger,   granted it’s not possible to change the GPU with  the XG Mobile, the trade off is a much greater   level of portability. For the first time, making  an eGPU something you could actually travel with.   I don’t think that’s really been an option before,  so it’s cool to see something new like this. ASUS have plenty of other interesting changes in  their gaming laptop lineup which I’ll cover in   other reviews.

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