ASUS announces the Flow 13 laptop with an ingenius external GPU solution for portable gaming

ASUS announces the Flow 13 laptop with an ingenius external GPU solution for portable gaming
(Image credit: ASUS)

Among the many laptop reveals and upgrades announced at CES this year, one of the most outstanding and most exciting reveals was that of the ASUS ROG Flow X13 laptop.

This 13-inch ultraportable machine would be a neat little gaming laptop on its own given its design, pedigree, and capability - it'll come with an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card by default, after all. But there's much more than meets the eye with this product and the potential it offers.

ASUS Flow 13

(Image credit: ASUS)

The Flow X13 is of the ASUS G14 style of machine (one that sits among the best gaming laptops you can get, we think), but sticks to a smaller chassis and build while offering excellent gaming performance. The 13-inch Flow is just 15.8mm thick, weighs 1.3kg, and has a 360-degree hinge that can turn it into a movie screen, tablet, or laptop in a jiffy. It'll also have up to a Ryzen 9 5980HS CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, and multiple gorilla glass displays to choose from. All good so far, right?

Step forward the ROG XG Mobile. This is an external GPU housing that can hold up to an RTX 3080 card and offer a whole lot more too as it provides a custom PCIe interface, a multi-port I/O hub, and a built-in power adapter. While external GPUs are not necessarily new, having one of the best graphics cards at this level of portablilty - the unit is not much bigger than a 3080 or an all-purpose power brick itself - is exciting. 

In terms of custom technicalities, the XG mobile connects directly to the CPU allowing a dedicated, large bandwidth that's just for graphics. There's also a separate thunderbolt connection in the plug too, and four extra USBs, an SD card slot, and an ethernet port. Meanwhile, the DisplayPort and HDMI (2.0a) come directly from the GPU. Finally, when the XG Mobile is connected, the dedicated 1650 inside the Flow is turned 'off' and thus the CPU is allowed to spread its wings further and do yet more heavy lifting.

While this is going to cost a pretty penny (no confirmation or figures yet), the flexibility it offers is quite remarkable. With more and more people merging their work and play setups last year and this year, something like the Flow and XG Mobile could be a real gamechanger.

Strix and TUF upgrades


(Image credit: ASUS)

Not to leave it at that, however, the ASUS TUF and Strix ranges of gaming laptops are getting a refresh for 2021 as well.

The serious Strix 15 and Strix 17 machines are getting an upgrade to superfast 360Hz/3ms displays which will offer 1440p resolution variants, as well as featuring the latest hardware in the AMD 5000 series CPUs and RTX 3080 graphics cards from Nvidia. The designs have been cut down to reduce the footprint and USB-C charging is also being embraced.

The TUF range of laptops, offering viable ways into quality laptop gaming without having to blow the bank, are seeing a refresh too, but the new TUF Dash F15 gaming laptop in particular caught our eye. This will include an RTX 30-series graphics card (the 3070, to be precise), a new 11th-gen Intel processor, displays of up to 240Hz/3ms specs, and 100% sRGB ratings. The design will be as compact as ever, weighing just 2kg and sneaking under the 2cm thickness point (coming in at 19.9mm). This will be pushing more expensive machines hard this year on value alone.

In these trying times of graphics card availability, it does seem to show that the best ways to buy an RTX 3080, buy an RTX 3090, buy an RTX 3070, or even buy an RTX 3060 Ti is within a machine - it's just as well we can look forward to such quality laptops that do exactly that this year, isn't it? Bring it on.

If you prefer your gaming machines static, check out our guide to the best gaming PC money can buy right now.

Rob Dwiar

Rob is the Deputy Editor of sister site, TechRadar Gaming, and has been in the games and tech industry for years. Prior to a recent stint as Gaming Editor at WePC, Rob was the Commissioning Editor for Hardware at GamesRadar+, and was on the hardware team for more than four years, since its inception in late 2018. He is also a writer on games and has had work published over the last six years or so at the likes of Eurogamer, RPS, PCGN, and more. He is also a qualified landscape and garden designer, so does that in his spare time, while he is also an expert on the virtual landscapes and environments of games and loves to write about them too, including in an upcoming book on the topic!