Another day, another innovative Asus laptop? Pretty much. No other brand offers such a dizzying, varied array of portable PCs. Enter the new Asus ROG Flow X16, a 16-inch gaming laptop with not only an exotic mini-LED display and some hard-hitting components, but also full 2-in-1 tablet functionality. It’s an intriguing package, that’s for sure.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti 8GB
RAM: 32GB DDR5
Screen: 16-inch, 2560x1440 IPS touch
Storage: 1TB SSD
Ports: 2x USB Type-C, 1 x USB-A 3.2, SD card, HDMI 2.0, audio jack, MicroSD card reader, ROG XG Mobile
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 720P webcam
Highlights include AMD’s latest Ryzen 9 eight-core CPU, nearly but not quite the most powerful mobile GPU money can buy, the full touchscreen functionality that comes with the 2-in-1 form factor and even a hefty 90Wh battery.
That mini-LED screen, incidentally, doesn’t just offer lots of visual fizz for gaming, it’s also highly accurate. Overall, then, this is a machine that offers a remarkably wide skill set.
So, if you’re looking for a powerful, portable laptop that’s not only great for games but can also have a real crack at content creation and other productivity tasks, the Asus ROG Flow X16 ticks an awful lot of boxes.
Asus ROG Flow X16 review: features
No question, the Asus ROG Flow X16’s killer feature is its 16-inch mini-LED powered screen. The 2,560 by 1,440 pixel native resolution and 165Hz refresh are nice enough. But it’s the 512-zone mini-LED backlight that marks this panel out as something special.
Not only is it good for 1,100 nits of peak brightness and HDR 1000 certified. Asus says it also covers fully 100 percent of the demanding DCI-P3 digital cinema gamut. Impressive. It’s also a touch-enabled panel which supports tablet functionality and Microsoft Pen Protocol 2.0, more on which in a moment.
As for core components, up front and centre is the hot new Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU, an eight-core and 35W variant of AMD’s latest mobile CPU. That’s paired with a 125W version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, along with a MUX switch to ensure maximum graphics performance extraction. There are more powerful CPUs and GPUs available. But only just.
Factor in the 32GB of DDR5 memory, not to mention a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD and Asus’s comprehensive cooling tech including a Tri-fan thermal module, and you have a recipe for huge performance by pretty much every metric. For the record, the Flow X16 also supports Asus’s ROG XG Mobile external graphics boxes. That may enable you to upgrade the graphics performance in future. For now, though, that 3070 Ti GPU should be plenty.
Rounding out the detailed spec is Dolby Atmos Sound, WiFi6E, a 3D mic array and a 720p webcam with Windows Hello support. Meanwhile, connectivity includes a pair of 20Gbps USB-C ports with Displayport alt mode and a microSD card reader, which is good, but only HDMI 2.0 rather than 2.1, which is a little disappointing. Oh and there’s a pretty beefy battery on board measuring 90Wh.
Asus ROG Flow X16 review: design
If there’s a chink in the Asus ROG Flow X16’s armour, it probably involves the 2-in-1 tablet functionality. Not that it’s poorly engineered. The chassis fels very rigid and the 360-degree hinge is smooth, slick and has just the right amount of stiction. The keyboard bed is likewise super-solid and the generously-proportioned trackpad has little to no flex, nice.
But this is not a compact device at over 35cm wide and tipping the scales at well over 2kg. So, in basic ergonomic terms, it’s not a terribly comfortable device to hold in tablet mode. Of course, the hinge does offer other benefits, including so-called tent or presentation mode. And the touchscreen functionality is always welcome. But it’s as a tablet that the Asus ROG Flow X16 is least convincing.
All that said, for such a powerful 16-inch laptop, it’s relatively thin, while slim screen bezels keep the over proportions about as compact as they can be. Thanks to the 2-in-1 functionality, however, all the ports and connectors are located on the sides of the chassis rather than the rear. Depending on how you like to set your desk up, that may not be the best solution for cable management.
Asus ROG Flow X16 review: price
At $2,700 in the US and £2,800 in the UK as configured, the Asus ROG Flow X16 ain’t exactly cheap. But then nothing with this class of componentry is ever terribly affordable. A similarly specced Razer Blade 17, for instance, goes for similar money.
Asus ROG Flow X16 review: performance
Cinebench R23: 14,773pts
3DMark Firestrike: 24,192pts
PCMark 10: 7,077pts
Metro Exodus: 1080p Ultra: 74fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms 1080p Ultra: 79fps
Crystal Disk read: 6,752MB/s
Crystal Disk write: 4,996MB/s
Crystal Disk 4K read: 64MB/s
Crystal Disk 4K write: 164MB/s
4K x265 encode: 8.6fps
Battery life (1080p video playback): 7h 8m
Mini-LED desktop monitors like the Samsung Neo G9 can be disappointing. But the mini-LED panel in this laptop is spectacular. It’s painfully bright if you want it to be, but also very well calibrated.
Overall, this is one of the best panels with full-array local dimming implementations we’ve seen, far better than any comparable desktop monitor. With HDR enabled, you get none of the backlighting weirdnesses that afflict desktop monitors. Just utterly eye-popping HDR performance, plus excellent SDR rendering when in HDR mode. There really are no drawbacks. You can even adjust the overall brightness level in HDR mode, something that’s usually not possible with a monitor. Long story short, this is HDR and local dimming done right.
Elsewhere, there are no obvious performance weaknesses. The AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU is more an incremental step than a revolution compared to its 5000 Series predecessor. But it’s still a hugely powerful chip that will tear through everything from video encoding to photo editing. The 32GB of RAM likewise means that even demanding users will rarely run out of memory and the 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD is about as good as solid state storage currently gets.
As for the Nvidia graphics, well, again the 3070 Ti GPU is awfully quick. Sure, even quicker 3080 and 3080 Ti graphics chops are available from Nvidia. But we’re very much talking marginal gains for benchmark results rather than the sort of big step that you can feel in the real world.
With all that in mind, it’s impressive to find that over seven hours of battery-powered video playback is possible. OK, that’s not true all-day battery life. But you can definitely get some useful work done away from the mains. This is not a desktop-replacement laptop that wilts after a couple of hours.
Should you buy the Asus ROG Flow X16?
If you’re after a really powerful laptop with a fabulous screen, the simple answer is yes. The Asus ROG Flow X16’s mini-LED display is exception, its CPU and and GPU serve up massive performance. It’s very well built. And even has decent battery life.
Add in the 2-in-1 tablet functionality and this is a multi-talented laptop that does so many things well. OK, it’s too big to use comfortably as a tablet. And port location on the sides of the chassis can be annoying and untidy in terms of cable management. And, of course, this class of laptop is never going to be cheap. But if you’re in the market for a really powerful desktop replacement with a great screen that’s up to the job of everything from gaming to heavy duty video encoding, put the Asus ROG Flow X16 near the top of your shortlist. It’s fantastic.