ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 review: Come for the portability, stay for the graphics power
- Lots of gaming power
- Lightweight and portable in standalone mode
- Good battery life for everyday tasks
- Fingerprint sensor doesn't work well
- Much less enticing without the GPU
Gaming laptops are nearly always expensive, because the work involved in dropping higher-end GPUs into portable frames isn't a trivial exercise.
ASUS's pitch for the ROG Flow X13 GV301 has something of an each-way bet here, with decent integrated graphics for basic gaming needs, as well as its own eGPU option to add a huge quantity of polygon shifting horsepower.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 as a standalone laptop follows ASUS's established design notes, which means what you get is a relatively standard 13.4-inch laptop. Indeed, by gaming standards it's almost subtle, because there's little of the RGB flashiness you'd expect out of a gaming system.
What you do get is a full 2-in-1 laptop on a 360 hinge, so you can set it up as a full Windows 10 tablet system thanks to its inbuilt touchscreen, or in "tent" mode if you want to use it as a propped up monitor while using external gaming peripherals.
ASUS offers a choice of screen types, with either 4K 60Hz or FHD+ 120Hz to pick from. At that size and given the needs of most gamers, the FHD+ 120Hz option is what most are likely to pick, and it's what ASUS sent me to test.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 has a fairly flat keyboard with reasonable response for a laptop of its size. There are just a few custom keys in play, all located at the top of the keyboard for volume, microphone muting and launching ASUS's Armory Crate customisation software.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 offers up a single USB 3.2 Type A port, 2 USB 3.2 Type C ports, combination microphone/headphone jack and HDMI out on the body of the laptop. That's a lighter set of ports than you might see on many ultraportables, but then there's more to the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 than that.
If the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 was just an ultraportable, it would honestly feel a little odd within the Republic of Gamers sub-brand. Smaller gaming laptops are totally a category that exists, but the ROG Flow X13 GV301 feels a tad underpowered and under-specified by itself. However, ASUS sells it with a bundled eGPU that it calls the ASUS XG Mobile.
It's a combination expansion dock and eGPU that requires its own power supply and adds USB, Ethernet, DisplayPort and HDMI outputs as well as its core external GPU functionality. While eGPUs aren't new, ASUS's pitch is that the XG Mobile can be called "mobile" because it's considerably smaller than most other eGPU options.
Still, while it's feasible that you could put the XG Mobile into a laptop bag with relatively little fuss, it's not exactly a "portable" option, thanks to the need for power tethering. When you've got it installed, you're absolutely tethered in place, and ideally gaming from an actual desk or flat surface.
You might just be able to balance the ROG Flow X13 GV301 on your lap but you'd struggle to comfortably place the XG Mobile, all the power cables and possibly a gaming mouse or controller as well without desk space to place them on.
One slight catch here is that the port cover for the eGPU is a simple rubber strip that completely comes away. It's quite likely to be lost if you're not careful, although leaving the eGPU slot open if you're not using it does reward you with an additional onboard USB C port.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 also supports biometric authentication via a fingerprint sensor in the side mounted power button. Supports is a strong word here, because it's my least favourite part of the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301's hardware build. It so very frequently failed to recognise me that I eventually just gave up.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 is a machine of 2 very distinct parts, and that has a significant impact on its performance.
If you consider it purely as an ultrabook, it's a moderately capable machine for mid-range gaming tasks, and naturally enough just about any office or productivity task outside video rendering as well, thanks to its included Ryzen 7 5800HS processor and NVIDIA GTX 1650 GPU.
ASUS manufactures the ROG Flow X13 GV301 in a few different processor and external GPU variants with options for Ryzen 9 CPUs and a choice of external Nvidia GPUs.
The review unit as supplied shipped with a hefty Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, but there are cheaper models with lesser external graphics processors out there. Naturally, you should expect less of a performance boost with those systems.
One critical detail to note locally is that if you buy the ROG Flow X13 GV301 in a bundle you'll get the eGPU with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, but if you buy the laptop standalone and later want to add the eGPU, the standalone retail model only ships currently with an RTX 3070 instead.
How much of a performance boost are you going to get in-game with the external GPU? That will vary somewhat by game choice, but to give some perspective on this, I ran 3DMark's Time Spy benchmark across the ROG Flow X13 GV301 as a standalone unit, and also with the eGPU engaged. Here's the difference that eGPU makes:
That's going to help you shift more than a few polygons in your game of choice.
The eGPU does have a smaller effect in terms of other performance metrics, and clearly could greatly assist if you were also using it for graphics rendering or video production. Here's how the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 compares across a range of benchmarks
Plugging in the XG Mobile eGPU is a simple enough process, but you will have to get used to the delay while it initialises, as well as the careful process for undocking it in software before you remove its dedicated cable. You can't simply whip it out of the side safely and be on your way.
The GeForce GTX 1650 that's inbuilt isn't exactly a slouch in gaming performance terms, even though it's far from cutting edge. If your gaming needs are modest, or you're happy enough to dial down the detail, it's entirely feasible to game without the XG Mobile GPU.
Still, it's clearly more fun to have more gaming power, right? To give this some context, I threw the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 at Forza Horizon 4 both with the XG Mobile installed and without. Forza Horizon's suggested settings went from "High" with the GTX 1650 to "Ultra" with the 3080 eGPU.
To put that in numerical terms, using Forza Horizon's own benchmark tools, the GTX 1650 managed an average of 62.8fps on the GPU alone.
That's playable for sure, given the game works to a 60FPS ideal. The 3080 on the same test cracked an average 194 fps. Overkill for this particular game, but it shows the potential for long-term play as gaming software needs intensify over time.
Gaming laptops have legendarily bad form when it comes to battery life, thanks to the power-sucking capabilities of even the best mobile GPUs. When you combine that with a lightweight frame, something has to give.
ASUS's claim for the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 is that it's capable of "up to" 10 hours of battery life for video playback, and "up to" 18 hours of overall battery life. For a gaming system that would be remarkable, but in the thin and light category, that's distinctly lightweight.
As always, it depends on what kinds of applications you're using. To give this some perspective, I ran the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 through our standard suite of battery life tests.
To get an idea of maximum performance, a Full HD video was streamed to battery exhaustion and timed. To get a more heavy duty battery life figure, the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 was benchmarked using PCMark 10's Gaming Battery benchmark.
Here's how the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 compares against other gaming systems in those tests:At 11.5 hours of playback time, the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 actually manages to outpace its manufacturer claims, which is impressive simply because that so rarely happens.
That being said, video display isn't terribly battery intensive, and its score in the PC Mark 10 Gaming Battery benchmark is far more indicative of its real endurance when you're playing games on it for any length of time. As with any gaming laptop, stray too far from a wall socket at your own risk.
While the XG Mobile does rather tether you in place, despite its smaller size relative to many other eGPU options, the supplied ASUS charger is relatively modest in size.
I could totally see myself throwing it and the standalone ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 into a small laptop bag for travel and work purposes, niftily hiding from the boss the fact that you can then use it for some after-hours gaming purposes as well.
Should you buy the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301?
- Buy it if you want a portable gaming rig that can take a big performance boost.
- Don't buy it if you want ultrabook-class battery life or a low cost gaming laptop.
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 does represent something new from ASUS in the gaming category. The company has offered ultrabook style laptops for as long as ultrabooks have existed, but marrying that kind of design up with gaming power targets an entirely new market.
ASUS isn't the first to market with an eGPU, but its XG Mobile eGPU is both nicely powerful and flexible, giving the ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 plenty of scope for many happy gaming hours in the future, if you can meet its asking price.
Pricing and availability
How we tested
The ASUS ROG Flow X13 GV301 as tested was a review unit supplied by ASUS. It was tested over a 2-week review period, including extensive benchmarking, battery testing, evaluation of its physical design and, naturally enough, playing games. We're only human, you know.