There are several explanations why this notebook should spark your interest: it includes a slim, light and sexy metallic body, a matte high res display, fanless hardware inside and an attractive price. Nonetheless it has its share of quirks aswell, as you’ll find from the post.
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There is a very important factor I must stress right from the start though, that ought to majorly impact your decision of shopping for a Zenbook UX305 or not. This is simply not as powerful as a normal ultrabook, nonetheless it can cope well with everyday activities. It could handle videos, browsing, Office use, music. Alternatively, it won’t play well with demanding software and chores and it’s not likely to be as responsive as a Broadwell U or a Haswell U machine. If you’re fine with these specific aspects, then your UX305 could possibly be what you’re looking for. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Update: Asus just announced that the UX305FA model with the Core M-5Y10 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB SSD and a FHD matte panel is designed for only $699 in america, which makes it a lot more affordable than any other similar devices. For that sort of money, if you only desire a computer for light daily tasks, you’ll hardly find something much better than this Zenbook UX305 at this time.
Update2: An updated version of the UX305FA is in the works at this time, called the Zenbook UX305CA, which bundles a Skylake Core M hardware platform and promises to boost performance and battery life.
Disclaimer: This review is founded on my experience with a pre-production version of the Zenbook UX305 and a follow-up with a final-retail model, identical to the kinds to get. I’ve used both for a complete around 10 days. I’ve received both of these from Asus for the purpose of this review and were repaid afterwards.
Design and exterior
This Zenbook UX305 is among the most slender laptops you can purchase right now, using its 12.3 mm body. It only weighs around 1.23 kilos (but to be fair, it really is heavier than you’d expect initially sight) and is rather compact as well, practically as compact as the Dell XPS 13 (the 2014 model), since you can plainly see from the narrow lateral bezel around the display.
But despite these, the construction is spectacular and the notebook computer feels strong as a brick. Metal is employed for the complete case, even for the underbelly. The hood sports the shiny Asus logo and the characteristic ripple pattern we’ve seen on the rest of the Zenbooks, as the interior is manufactured out of an easier, smoother material. Our version will come in the darker Obsidian Stone color, but Asus may also give a lighter model in Ceramic Alloy, that ought to look spectacular, but might scratch and dent easier than that one that’s nearer to the natural color of brushed aluminum.
Metal is employed for the screen’s hinge aswell and actually the only plastic you’ll find upon this thing may be the bezel around the display. And even that part looks and feels premium. As a side note, I did so observe that the plastic bezel was somewhat too tight on the screen using one of the models I’ve tested, which caused somewhat of light bleeding on the panel’s lower edge.
Anyway, there’s hardly any anyone could complain about with regards to the UX305’s looks and construction. Aside from those stickers on the inside, which I for just one would peel off as soon as I’d take this from the box.
But this notebook is not simply beautiful, it’s practical aswell. Four large rubber feet are located on the belly, making sure it sits firmly on your own desk. The palm-rest is spacious and permits a comfortable typing position, increased by the laptop’s low front profile, the chamfered edges and the actual fact that the complete body elevates on both small feet put on the lid cover’s budget, as possible plainly see in the video.
On the sides you’ll locate a decent collection of ports, with 3 USB 3.0 slots, an SD card-reader, micro-HDMI video output, a headphone/microphone jack plus some status LEDs. Asus includes an USB to LAN adapter in the pack, nonetheless it could have been nice if indeed they included a micro-HDMI to HDMI adapter aswell. They don’t, so you’ll have to buy it yourselves. There is however a protective sleeve included.
As a side note, there’s no USB 2.0 slot upon this machine, which could possibly be problematic in case you have some older accessories that aren’t appropriate for the newer standard. There’s also no DP port, thus driving a high-resolution external monitor at 60 Hz could possibly be problematic.
Keyboard and trackpad
You almost certainly noticed already that the keyboard and the trackpad occupy almost all of the laptop’s interior.
The typing experience is rather good, although not spectacular. Needlessly to say on such a thin laptop, Asus had to sacrifice key happen to be some extent, but however the stroke appears deeper if you ask me than on a number of the other ultraportables I’ve tested lately, like the XPS 13 2015. The layout is standard, aside from the tiny Arrow keys and the energy button integrated as the top-right key, that i ended up hitting every once in awhile when actually targeting delete. That’s annoying, because it puts the computer to sleep.
However, exactly what will probably frustrate you most with regards to this keyboard may be the lack of backlighting, that ought to be considered a must on top end laptops these days.
Decent keyboard and clickpad
Shifting, the trackpad is spacious, smooth and nicely separated from the palm-rest by a chamfered contour. It’s a clickpad, somewhat stiff to press and quite noisy. The latter is particularly annoying, since even the gentlest of taps cause the complete ensemble to rattle.
The sample I primarily reviewed had a flawed trackpad, with a jumpy cursor and difficulties in registering gentle taps. The retail version provided a greater experience though, and that’s what you ought to expect from the UX305s you’ll manage to find in stores.
Swipes and taps worked fine, even though requiring extreme precision, I no more encountered fake or palm-clicks and gestures were handled properly aswell (Back and Forward aren’t supported). Along with these, the top worked fine when keeping one finger down on the click area and swiping around with another, something other trackpads on Windows machines have a problem with.
However, that is an Asus Touchpad, thus you’ll be stuck with Asus’s drivers and their Smart Gesture app, which from what I could tell, will not allow fine tuning. Cursor velocity and tap speed were the kinds I would have wished to tweak somewhat more. Actually, these and the surface’s overall feel left me with mixed feeling concerning this implementation. It’s not at all bad, but it’s of low quality either.
The UX305 is merely bundled with matte non-touch displays, which is truly a huge thing, especially because the vast majority of lightweight laptops available nowadays pack glossy touchscreens. Due to this fact, the Zenbook could be comfortably actually used outside in bright light and doesn’t need to manage reflections and glare.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Speaking of performance, you have to know our test unit posseses an Intel Core M 5Y10 processor (stepping E0 according to HWInfo, not F0 as some forums were rumoring), 8 GB of RAM and an easy 256 GB M.2 SSD (Sandisk SD7SN3Q256G1002), which may be the beefiest configuration Asus will offer you for this series.
The memory is soldered on the motherboard, so you’ll be stuck using what you’re choosing right from the start (either 4 or 8 GB), nevertheless, you can upgrade the storage if you wish to, with compatible M.2 NGFF 80 mm sticks. For that you’ll have to pry open the trunk panel, hold set up by twelve of Torx and Philips screws. It’s not complicated, you need to be aware there are two extra screws hidden behind the laptop’s rear rubber feet.
As I said initially and as we’ve observed in our other reviews, the Core M platform is normally not very fast, that was to be expected, because it is a Broadwell Y architecture with a minimal TDP. The Core M 5Y10 processor is a base model in this line, with a 4.5W TDP, so we shouldn’t expect much from it. And it can’t deliver much either.
Given that you’ll adhere to basic pursuits like browsing with only several tabs opened, watching video content (both streamed or from the computer), editing documents, hearing music, chatting with friends and family, etc, you’re likely to be fine. However, you may still face hiccups when switching between your apps, so make an effort to keep multitasking at smallest amount.
In addition, there’s still an over-all impression of sluggishness, too little instant response, even though performing the standard of chores, like launching a browser or opening a fresh Explorer window. I’m probably biased here, since I’m used to considerably faster computers and my tolerance for delays is actually NILL, but I still had to say this, and that means you don’t build-up false expectations.
I’d also need to note that the entire browsing experience in Chrome continues to be much less smooth as in Firefox, and especially in IE. Watching Youtube clips in CHrome and even loading normal websites still pushes the CPU to raised loads than in those other two browsers, which also translates in poorer efficiency. My initial Chrome experience with the pre-production UX305 was appalling. That was no more the case with the ultimate retail unit, which still struggled occasionally though, so I’d say Core M continues to be not properly optimized for Chrome and keeping Internet Explorer as well as Firefox contributes to a far more enjoyable experience.