ROG FLOW Z13: A week with “Gaming Surface”

In recent years, the explosion of the gaming market has increased the offer of solutions with special form factors and ideas for products that are different from the norm. The ROG Flow Z13 fits into this context: it’s a tablet but also a powerful gaming PC, powered by a Core i9-12900H processor and Nvidia RTX 3050Ti. A kind of Surface with more performance and respectable multimedia capabilities. It’s certainly not a product for everyone, but this 13-inch, with touch screen and stylus support, lets you work and play at home and the office, as well as on the go. Given the specificity of the solutions adopted by Asus, we have chosen to use them on the go and try them in contexts that enhance this particular hybrid between a tablet and a gaming PC to understand how a similar solution can already be applied today, where it excels and there is still room for improvement. We also got to exploit it in tandem with the RTX 3080 through the use of ROG XG Mobile, which connects to the Flow Z 13 via Thunderbolt 4 on the side of the PC and opens the way for a completely different gaming experience. Designed for the most demanding users. PI computer or PI disk? After using the Surface Pro for several months, the design and use of the ROG Flow Z 13 is nothing new. The PC’s chassis holds all the components and also makes room for a monitor, while at the back there’s an adjustable kickstand that’s useful for choosing the tilt you want to work with. The keyboard is magnetic instead, and can be detached and reconnected at any time as well as flipped over to take advantage of the computer in tablet mode. The hardware chosen and the need to cool it properly imposed higher weight (1.19 kg without keyboard, 1.5 kg with keyboard) and dimensions (30.3 x 20.5 x 1.2 cm) compared to Surface devices and other similar products: the inevitable compromises that make, for example, Using in portrait mode is less practical, let’s say an extra type. In most cases, I’ve found myself wanting to use the Flow Z 13 on a desk or place it on a horizontal surface, such as a train table. However, it remains a versatile product that offers a wide range of possible uses, as well as a decidedly practical user experience. The assembly is of excellent quality and there’s no shortage of extras, including a window with a view of the components and RGB lighting, for a look that doesn’t break with the usual style of ROG products. The cooling system draws air in from the back and releases it from the top frame, which makes the entire user experience very comfortable: when you play for several hours, you don’t have components under the keyboard, which always stays cool, it’s a great comfort and even in terms of noise, the system is always completely silent . Connectivity is ensured by the presence of two USB-C ports placed on the left side, which also houses the connection for XG Mobile, then on the right USB-A, unfortunately only 2.0, and the 3.5 mm jack useful for those who want to connect a pair of wired headphones, which It is still very popular in games. Under the kickstand is instead a microSD slot which may not be easy to access, but it’s still a good plus that isn’t easy to find on devices of this type. A keyboard of all respects The keyboard/cover is a bit heavier than the Surface Pro cover, which remains a franchise in this particular area, but it doesn’t make you regret it. RGB lighting and a longer key distance (1.7mm) make it more gaming-oriented, but also in everyday use – for example when writing this article – it’s always convenient. As with all other components of the ROG Flow Z 13, the keyboard also has a respectable build quality: the buttons are not particularly noisy and any key you press, even with a certain force, does not show any kind of uncertainty. or bending. In short, you can use it without fear even for long hours of work or play. The connection to the computer is done through physical connectors, which provide the best possible response to inputs but do not allow them to be used separately from the device, as is the case with a Bluetooth keyboard. The trackpad is fine but not great, and it can come in handy when you don’t have a mouse on hand, but it’s still kind of a second choice. The inner surface of the cover is covered with a very comfortable rubber which, over time, will inevitably tend to scratch a little. On the other hand, the exterior, in Alcantara is similar, which, perhaps also due to the black color, seemed more prone to heating. Screen for gaming and more, ROG Flow Z 13 is available with two different screens: FHD+ with 1920 x 1200 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 100% sRGB and 500 nits of maximum brightness and then another UHD+ at 60Hz, 3840 x 2400 pixels and 85% DCI-P3. I was able to test the first one and for my tastes it remains the best solution: given the specifications of the device, a lower resolution but still more than enough on the 13-inch allows you to choose higher graphics options, while the refresh rate of 120 Hz draws attention to those who want a great deal From streamlined in some titles, such as competitive titles. Overall performance is good even if the panel does not have fast response times, and this sometimes leads to some silhouette effects on the images. Nothing too annoying but sometimes you notice, and given the cost of the system, it’s definitely not fun. On the other hand, the response to touch is very good: for me, the spirit of the tablet in the ROG Flow Z13 remains only, but when the interaction with your fingers occurs on the screen, you will never be disappointed. Cooling does a great job: It has two dedicated fans and two radiators that help cool both the CPU and GPU, then push hot air out of the chassis from the top. The body reaches about 40 degrees of outside temperature when under stress, which you feel if you choose to use it in tablet mode and hold it in your hand or, say, your legs without the benefit of the kickstand. The small size, with the screen and components placed side by side, suggested opting for some drastic options, such as starting the fans as soon as the system reached and exceeded 50°C, but without settling on annoying noise levels. While gaming we recorded about 45-50 dB felt over the distance one would normally set while using the computer, and appreciate anything but the max. Alternatively, more could have been done, in my view, on the front of the speakers: the ones installed inside the ROG Flow Z 13 see sound coming out of the side slits, produce decent sound but not very satisfying bass and peak power is not incredible (we measured 80 dB max by placing ourselves as usual in the normal use position, in front of the PC). battery life. One 56W inserted inside allows you to enjoy, also thanks to the good work done on the internal components, about 6 hours of video playback on Netflix, Prime Video and similar streaming services with brightness set to 50% and about 5 hours for working and browsing on Google Chrome. When you start playing, choosing the maximum consumption and performance profile, you obviously go down quite a bit but that’s definitely not a surprise. The front webcam has a maximum resolution of 720p and in good lighting conditions allows you to participate in online meetings and videoconferencing without any thought, while the 8MP rear camera is an extra feature that you will hardly use and take forgotten photos. . Let’s say this can be considered in an emergency but no more than that, there are no huge margins for upgrades, however, since access to components is limited to an M. Expect it generally given the particular structure of this device. What is the missing external card? Observing the specifications of ROG Flow Z 13 immediately draws attention, at least in the version tested with Intel Core i9 12900H, NVIDIA RTX 3050Ti (in the version with 4GD GDDR6 and 35-40 watts of power) and 16 GB of LPDDR5 processor, Large in size compared to the GPU. The answer to this problem comes from the possible connection to the XG Mobile dock which, through the special connection, provides the RTX 3080 and a few other ports for increased connectivity (HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4, four USB 3.2, SD reader and Ethernet port). This is an expensive solution with limitations, for example, it was not designed to see any future upgrades, so inside the chassis the RTX 3080 must still be installed initially. Nevertheless, it remains an interesting solution for those who don’t have budget issues and want a power boost perhaps when they get home, connect the Flow Z 13 to a monitor(s) and they need more power than when in use. This inquisitive hybrid for work on the go. For whom is this? It’s not easy to judge the ROG Flow Z 13. The idea of ​​creating some kind of Surface designed and built for gaming – or in any case for a certain kind of advanced performance – is very interesting, and so far it’s a unique product on the market. The build quality is excellent and there is a whole series of solutions, such as the one selected for cooling, which indicates how much attention has been paid to designing this hybrid. In everyday life consisting of travel and work on the go, the Flow Z 13 always behaves appropriately, ensuring excellent performance, as well as the handling and versatility that this format can offer only halfway between a laptop and a tablet. At the same time, there are some limitations, first of all the price: about 2,200 euros for the tested version, to which another 1,000 euros will have to be added and also an XG Mobile unit equipped with RTX 3080 is put on the desk. The tested configuration is about 3,500 euros. Choosing to combine the i9 12900H with the RTX 3050Ti creates a fairly obvious bottleneck and adds to a series of youthful problems, for example related to port availability and suboptimal screen response times, which will further add to future revisions that they will certainly alleviate. To date, the Flow Z13 remains a niche and aspirational product for video game enthusiasts who over the years have seen gaming PCs getting thinner and more performant and are now dreaming of one last leap towards maximum versatility. video

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