With the ever shrinking size of 13-inch laptops, the line that separates small laptops and Ultrabooks gets thinner every day. Laptop makers are pushing the envelope on compact systems: Lenovo unveiled its Yoga 900S, a convertible notebook thinner than the 12-inch MacBook while keeping its USB 3.0 ports. Similarly, the HP EliteBook Folio G1 is also puts the MacBook to shame with its slimmer body despite incorporating a 4K touchscreen. The Asus ZenBook UX305 is amazing laptop.
Asus ZenBook UX305 Full Specification, Features, Price, Release Date And Review
However, before the MacBook and all its challengers, there was the Asus ZenBook UX305. This 13-inch Ultrabook comes with a stunningly svelte aluminum frame that is, again, thinner than the MacBook while packing a newly-added Skylake Core M processor and plenty of flash storage space. All of this might sound like the makings of an expensive compact laptop, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is actually one of the more affordable Windows 10 laptops, starting at $699 (£599, AU$1,199).
This makes the Asus ZenBook far more affordable than most premium Ultrabooks, like the glass-surfaced Acer Aspire S7. And yet, this machine is just as carefully crafted as the all-metal Samsung Ativ Book 9 Spin. Asus has once again struck the perfect balance of affordability and luxury with its latest offering.
While the Asus ZenBook UX305 is now well over a year old, there’s a new Ultrabook in town, and its name is ZenBook UX330. It’s probably the closest you can get to the UX305 if you want a 7th-generation Intel processor on-board, and it goes for the same price the UX305 did at the time of its release.
At the same time, the classic Asus ZenBook UX305 flavor still goes strong. And it may soon get even better with Windows 10 announcements expected to arrive on May 2. That’s when Microsoft will apparently show off a barebones Windows 10 Cloud to the public, along with – presumably – a few more surprises.
Meanwhile, PC sales as a whole are on the decline, with Asus market share in particular having dropped almost below Apple. Much of this is due to increasingly expensive component prices in areas such as memory, which has experienced a 100% rise in cost year over year. Meanwhile, SSDs are experiencing shortages because of demand for them in the smartphone space.
You could easily mistake the Asus ZenBook UX305 for a sketchbook when holding it. It’s stunningly thin, measuring just 0.5 inches thick and weighing 2.6 pounds (1.17 kg). This makes the ZenBook one of the skinniest Windows 10 machines in existence but don’t think it’s flimsy.
The UX305 is entirely made of aluminum. The interior deck is one solid piece of metal that features an anodized and fine grit finish. By no means is the surface abrasive – rather it adds an extra bit of texture for your wrists to sit on. The underside also sports an anodized sheen, and it’s also made with a separate sheet of metal.
For a bit more style on the UX305’s screen lid, Asus went with a brushed aluminum finish. However, instead of going with the traditional straight lines, the top panel features a radial pattern that’s both attractive and conveniently draws your attention to the Asus logo in the center.
Despite the small size of this Ultrabook, the trackpad is extremely roomy and extends over a third of the laptop’s width. The trackpad almost looks comically large, but you’ll appreciate the extra space and the frictionless surface. Better yet, clicks are tactile and audible whether you’re pressing on the dedicated left and right buttons or pressing anywhere on the surface.
Similarly, the keyboard is spacious and follows the standard layout with a full-length backspace and enter key. The keys bottom out to a defined thump and spring back instantly for a responsive typing experience.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery:
There’s no denying the Asus ZenBook UX305 looks exactly like a MacBook Air. From the hinge, the bezel around the screen, the position of the trackpad to the recessed keyboard, you can easily see the similarities to the MacBook Air. The hinge even helps to prop up the entire book at a tiny angle – just like Apple’s ultralight notebook.
One of the few original touches Asus has added to the design are its chamfered edges, as opposed to the MacBook Air’s razor sharp sides. Otherwise, the UX305 looks like the MacBook Air after it’s gotten a nip-tuck job to make it marginally slimmer and lighter.
While the new ZenBook seems extremely derivative, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the MacBook Air helped set the benchmark for Ultrabooks, then the UX305 has surpassed it and improved on the design.
What’s more, you also get a lot more ports too. This 13-inch laptop comes packing three USB 3.0 ports – which isn’t even available on premium laptops, like the MacBook Pro and Surface Book. There’s also an SD card reader and micro HDMI to round out the selection of ports.
The ZenBook is an impeccably thin machine, measuring just 0.48 inches (12.3cm) thick with a 12.8 x 8.9-inch (32.5 x 22.6cm) footprint. The MacBook is by no means fat, with its 11 x 7.73 x 0.52-inch (28.05 x 19.65 x 1.31cm) dimensions, but Asus packs in more ports and a better keyboard in its tight packaging. While the UX305 wins out in thinness, it’s 2.6-pound (1.18kg) frame is heavier than the 2.03-pound (0.92kg) MacBook.
The HP Spectre x2 has different dimensions, being built as a tablet first with a magnetic keyboard cover. As a tablet alone, it is 0.31 inches (0.79cm) thick and weighs 1.87 pounds. With the keyboard attached, the Windows 10 slate’s thickness increases to 0.52 inches (1.32cm), while making a heavier, 2.68-pound (1.22kg) device.
- CPU: 900MHz Intel Core M3-6Y30 (dual-core, 4MB cache, 2.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
- RAM: 8GB DDR3L (1,866 MHz SDRAM)
- Screen: 13.3-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display
- Storage: 256GB SSD (M.2 2280)
- Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, SD card reader, micro HDMI, headset jack
- Connectivity: Integrated 802.11ac
- Camera: 2MP HD webcam
- Weight: 2.6 pounds (1.18kg)
- Size: 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.48 inches (32.5 x 22.6 x 1.23cm; W x D x H)
The ZenBook comes well equipped with the configuration listed above, calling for $699 (£649). Everything comes stock, including the laptop’s 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen, generous 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) and 8GB of memory. Unfortunately, Australian folks will feel shorted, as the UX305 is available with only 128GB of SSD storage for AU$1,199.
Asus also has a higher-end model of the UX305 that comes with a 3K screen for $999 (about £696, AU$1,420). With a 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display, this WHD+ version of the UX305 is on par with Ultrabooks like the Lenovo Yoga 900 and Dell XPS 13. Aside from the sharp display, this top-end spec comes outfitted with an Intel Core m5 processor and a larger 512GB SSD.
The HP Spectre x2 presents a tantalizing – but still more expensive – deal, even if you chose the lower-tier $799 (£799) model. Like the UX305, this 12-inch tablet comes equipped with the same m3 processor and 1080p display, but it’s limited to 4GB of RAM and a 128GB (256GB in the UK) SSD. The Spectre x2’s starting configuration is different in that it comes with a 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 Processor with 8GB of RAM and an 128GB SSD for AU$1,699.
With an 900MHz processor on tap, you might expect some sluggish performance, but the UX305 manages to run Lightroom with only some minor struggles. Otherwise, thanks to the ZenBook’s processors’ 2.2GHz max clock speed, I almost never ran into snags while playing 1080p video or swapping between 20 open browser tabs.
Save for a few instances when the video driver crashed with heavy browser usage (which I hope Intel can rectify with a future update), I had no problems doing anything with the UX305.
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,228; Sky Diver: 1,973; Fire Strike: 458
- Cinebench CPU: 212 points; Graphics: 32 fps
- GeekBench: 2,402 (single-core); 4,778 (multi-core)
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,308 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 6 hours and 30 minutes
And here’s how it the early 2015 model performed:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,210; Sky Diver: 2,190; Fire Strike: 594
- Cinebench CPU: 202 points; Graphics: 21 fps,
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,107 points
- PCMark 8 Battery Life: 5 hours and 21 minutes
The ZenBook UX305 proved to be a solid performer and, for the most part, it’s faster than its predecessor. However, as the benchmarks scores reveal, it seems like the new ZenBook took a slight hit on graphics. While the original model scored 2,190 points in Sky Diver, the new model only scraped together 1,973 points.
The difference between the scores is marginal, but there were a few times the UX305 felt like it was underpowered for more graphically intensive tasks. That said, the new Skylake chipset also puts a little extra hop in the Ultrabook’s step, and it serves up better marks in almost every other test including more battery life.
The ZenBook also outpaces the MacBook, with a multi-core GeekBench score of 4,778 points over the latter’s 4,423 point performance. The HP Spectre x2 plods ahead with its Core m5 processor, producing the better overall numbers and a markedly higher 5,701-point GeekBench result.
I was consistently pleased with the ZenBook UX305’s solid performance – until I reached the last 10% of the laptop’s battery life. During the final stretch of my six hour battery test, the UX305 began tripping over itself whether playing a 1080p YouTube video, opening a webpage or just editing a document in Microsoft Word.
These were all tasks I had no problem with throughout my anecdotal battery life test, so the system likely locks down the processor to its minimum clock speed when battery life dips below the critical level.
That said, at roughly 6 hours, the battery life is nice and long. During that time, I was editing images in Lightroom for half an hour while unplugged, mind you. The PCMark 8 test also yielded a similar result of 6 hours and 30 minutes.
Users simply streaming Netflix through the Windows 10 universal app will be able to chill out for 7 hours and 42 minutes. While running standardized movie test, the Asus UX305 also lasted for an impressive 6 hours and 27 minutes.
By comparison, the HP Spectre x2 topped out with a battery life of 5 hours and 47 minutes while running the movie test. The MacBook, meanwhile, could keep going for 7 hours while streaming YouTube videos.
A 1080p screen on a 13.3-inch device is a treat, and the display that the UX305 ships with is a gem. The colors pop off the screen without being overly saturated, and you can easily distinguish grays from blacks, thanks to the display’s excellent contrast levels.
Asus has also treated the panel with a matte coating that virtually removes any sign of glare even under bright room lights or direct sunlight. Out of all the laptops I’ve tested, the UX305 is the only one with a nigh-perfect screen.
While the screen is nearly flawless in every way, the Zenbook’s speakers leave a little more to be desired. The two drivers are located on the bottom of the laptop, marked with two speaker grills on the left and right edges of the notebook. Turning the volume up to 20 brings in some significant distortion, and the sound is noticeably tinny no matter what you’re listening to. So, be sure to pack a pair of headphones for a decent audio experience when you use this laptop.