Gaming laptops keep getting smaller, but the size constraints of hot components are always an issue. But at CES 2021, Asus has announced a rather unique solution to the problem, involving one of the smallest external graphics cards you’ve ever seen.
The first piece of the puzzle is the ROG Flow X13. It’s a 2-in-1 laptop that doesn’t look dissimilar from something like the HP Spectre x360 or Asus ZenBook Flip. It includes a 13-inch screen, a 360-degree hinge, weighs under three pounds, and is just 0.62 inches thick. The device also uses a 16:10 display, in either a 120Hz 1080p configuration or a 4K model.
But Asus has packed some gaming-ready internals under the hood. It’s powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS and an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card. That might not sound like a gaming powerhouse, but remember — this is a 13-inch 2-in-1. The only other 13-inch laptop we’ve seen with a dedicated GTX 1650 GPU is the Razer Blade Stealth. The Flow X13 would be noteworthy all on its own.
But then, there’s the ROG XG Mobile, an external graphics enclosure that’s meant to add some additional power to the Flow X13. External graphics are nothing new, but the XG Mobile has a form factor that makes it stand out. The enclosure itself only weighs 2.2 pounds, and Asus says it, only 6% of the size of a typical eGPU. The primary reason is because the XG Mobile uses a mobile version of an Nvidia graphics card, rather than the desktop models that most eGPUs use.
The XG Mobile can handle up to the latest Nvidia RTX 3080, which was just announced at CES 2021. Apparently, Asus thinks there’s enough additional graphics horsepower in these new Ampere GPUs to make it worth plugging in an external enclosure for.
Asus does have a trick up its sleeve, though. The XG Mobile connects directly to the CPU of the Flow X13 using a custom PCIe interface. Asus says it’s even faster than Thunderbolt 4, which most external GPUs rely on. The interface can commit 64Gbps of bandwidth exclusively to the GPU, meaning there’s the potential for a much more significant bump in game performance when hooked up to the XG Mobile.
Asus says the Flow X13 and XG Mobile will both be available in the first quarter of 2021 in North America, though a price was not yet given.
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