A few months ago, the world was introduced to the newly-released ASUS ROG Flow laptop lineup. As part of its marketing campaign, the ASUS team defined in detail how the new range of laptops would fit into its already-impressive ROG series. Having reviewed quite a number of the ROG laptops previously in the form of the Strix and Zephyrus units, I was excited to see what the Flow had in store. Having received the ASUS ROG Flow X16 for review, I was able to do just that.
While the Strix offers an out-and-out gaming experience, the Zephyrus adds a bit of ruggedity to the range with a slight lean on the more cost-effective side with its predominantly AMD Ryzen range. When first receiving the ASUS ROG Flow X16 – GV601R to be more specific – I had expected somewhat of a middle ground. However, I was more than surprised by what had arrived. The unit has quite a few handy tricks up its sleeves, let’s have a closer look at what those are.
ASUS ROG Flow X16 Build and Design
Although it’s not first noticeable when unboxing the ASUS ROG Flow X16, there’s a lot to unpack from a seemingly inconspicuous build. Despite what lies beneath the surface, the unit has a very diminutive package. It measures 355x243x194mm, making it quite compact. It fits into all of my backpacks without any issue. It’s ideal for lugging around with a weight of just 2.1KG (2.08KG to be more precise) added to its small frame.
In the way of the looks department, it doesn’t offer much on the design compared to either the Strix or Zephyrus units. Both of these have a specific design ethos to their range. The ASUS ROG Flow X16, however, looks very tame in comparison. The build features a mix of plastic and aluminium materials on a black/dark grey finish. The inner side has magnesium allow build. The lid has a textured finish – the diagonals we’ve seen on plenty of ASUS laptops in the past.
Despite the textured finish, it does still pick up a few smudges every so often, which is a bit annoying. I found myself having to wipe it down every day or so just to prevent a build of unsightly fingerprints piling up. This occurs both on the lid and on the palm that rests next to the touchpad on the inside.
Without having known beforehand, I realised that the screen could flip over backwards, turning itself into a tablet in the process. This was a very welcome surprise. The hinges are quite solid and keep the unit in place while in use. It can, thus, be flipped completely over into tablet mode, standard laptop mode, and inverted mode (keyboard flat and upright screen). It is worth mentioning, however, that when flipping beyond the 180° mark, there is a small amount of play – less than 10mm – when you place the unit and it comes to rest in that position. It’s not a major issue, though.
At the end of the day, the design of the ASUS ROG Flow X16 is very tame in comparison to other ROG units. It’s not bad, just not exciting overall. However, with its smart hinge that allows for 2-in-1 use, it definitely makes up for a lot of the design aesthetics.
Ports and Connectivity
When it comes to ports, the ASUS ROG Flow X16 has plenty to meet all your requirements. The list of ports includes the following:
1x 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack
1x HDMI 2.0b support HDMI switch
1x ROG XG Mobile Interface
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C support DisplayPort™ / power delivery
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C support DisplayPort™ / power delivery / G-SYNC
The ports are positioned on the left and right-hand sides of the device, with nothing on the rear or front sections. The ROG XG mobile interface is ASUS propriety and not something I’ve seen before on other units, which have used the ROG keystone. The ROG XG mobile interface is used to connect an external GPU for that extra power while gaming or editing. Truth be told, given what’s under the hood of the X16, I wouldn’t see a use for the external GPU just yet.
In addition to this, it also offers wireless connectivity. This is in the form of Wi-Fi 6E(802.11ax) (Dual band) 2*2 and Bluetooth 5.2. Pretty standard ports and connections apart from the ROG XG interface but ticks all the required boxes.
Screen and Display
Given the ASUS ROG Flow X16’s 2-in-1 support, the device also offers a touchscreen interface. This, along with the flexible hinges was a welcome surprise, adding additional value to the unit overall. In terms of the specifications, the ASUS ROG Flow X16 has a 16″ ROG Nebula HDR touchscreen panel.
The Nebula panel supports has a QHD+ display at 2560x1600px resolution. Additionally, it also features a 165Hz refresh rate and is Pantone validated. Lastly, it has 1,100 nits of peak brightness. These specs make for good reading and its performance of it in the real world is just as good.
In terms of the colours, brightness and boldness, the Nebula panel has you pretty much covered. It looks great, whether you’re playing games or doing a bit of graphic design. It’s colour coverage map is also very good, with 99.8% sRGB, 85.1% AdobeRGB and 98.9% DCI-P3. While colour is at the fore on most panels, I particularly loved the black. It was super dark and barely noticeable even when using it in complete darkness. You don’t often notice how good this is when playing games or watching movies but it really did make a noticeable difference here.
The 2-in-1 approach of the ASUS ROG Flow X16 makes it really appealing. While you won’t use it in tablet mode as often as if you had an actual tablet around the house but it works just well. If not for its size and weight in comparison to the conventional tablet, it would’ve easily replaced the need to have one. During the review period, I spent quite some time doodling sketches, taking notes and just playing around with the tablet mode, especially using the included Stylus. It was a joy to use.
In addition to the display specifications, it also has a glossy finish and Gorilla Glass protection on the top. This adds more value to the screen and is especially important given the touchscreen and tablet mode where it’s more likely to pick up the odd scratch or two without any protection.
The unit looks and performs great. However, given the Strix’s 360Hz panel, I do wonder whether the addition of the touchscreen has limited the refresh rate a bit.
ASUS ROG Flow X16 Specifications
Now for the internals. The ASUS ROG Flow X16 includes an AMD Ryzen chipset. To be more specific, that’s the AMD Ryzen™ 9 6900HS Mobile Processor at 3.30Ghz. This is featured alongside an NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 Ti Laptop GPU, 32GB DDR5 RAM (2 slots) and a 1TB PCIe NVMe m.2 SSD.
These are very excellent specifications on a laptop that I assumed was geared more towards productivity than gaming. Looks really can be deceiving. The X16 is geared for everything you threw at it, whether it be gaming, editing or just your average day-to-day notepad taking notes – in style, mind you.
Lastly, its battery is measured at 90WHrs using a 4-cell Li-ion battery. More on this in a bit.
Performance and Battery Life
Being an early release review unit, you do have to keep in mind that the firmware may yet still be updated on a few occasions before it becomes more mainstream. During the review period, I received notifications for two BIOS updates and some additional drivers through the Armoury Crate software. Oftentimes, when I was ready to do some filming or gaming, I’d be hit with a 10 to 15-minute firmware update, which isn’t always ideal when pressed for time. In addition to these ASUS updates, there were also quite a few GPU updates from NVIDIA.
While the performance was never in question on the ASUS ROG Flow X16, there are some points regarding the heating that needs to be discussed. Under load, you’ll notice quite a bit of fan ventilation from the exhaust fans, attempting to cool the unit down. One of the biggest concerns is the airflow underneath the unit, which doesn’t raise itself much from the flat surface thanks to rather small rubber feet. However, raising the laptop off a flat surface meant much better ventilation resulting in better benchmark scores.
When running these benchmark tests, there is about a 5-10% improvement in the scores. This means that the internals has throttled a tad based on the heating of the elements and better cooling means better scores. It’s worth noting that when using the laptop on your lap, it doesn’t get all that hot to touch or make it uncomfortable to use while mobile. It still works great regardless of any internal heating.
Next up were the load tests on a few games. Here, the ASUS ROG Flow X16 performed quite well again. For most games, you can easily run above the 100FPS mark when gaming in 4K with Ultra settings. This was impressive. However, to make the most of the 165Hz panel, you’ll need to drop this to 1080p, although you’ll still be able to use Ultra settings on the graphics. Here, the frame rates averaged above 150FPS on most games, while a few were still around the 100FPS mark, most likely due to optimisation.
I loved being able to switch from tablet mode and instantly be able to run any game I wanted on maximum resolution and graphics settings. It was so flexible and powerful to handle each of these configurations with ease.
Final Thoughts on the ASUS ROG Flow X16
When initially receiving the ASUS ROG Flow X16 for review, my assumption was that it would fit somewhere between the Zephyrus and Strix ranges. However, that’s not the case at all with the Flow range. It’s somewhat of a cross between the Strix and the Zenbook ranges, offering the best of both worlds. And this is what makes it really great. With its gaming-level specifications, touchscreen capabilities and tablet mode, the possibilities are endless.
That being said, it comes in at a slight premium, with pricing in the range of R30,000 and up. However, there’s a lot of value for what you get for that price with many other units offering only one aspect of its prowess only to have a similar price tag. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another unit as flexible (literally and figuratively) and well-rounded as the ASUS ROG Flow X16.
ASUS ROG Flow X16
The ASUS ROG Flow X16 is an all-around great unit. Its flexibility and mobility make it truly stand out against competitor units, even within the ASUS stables itself. It’s extremely versatile and despite the premium price, is a great buy.