ASUS Zenbook UX305

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 INTEL’S CORE M mobile processors changed what we expect from ultra-portables in terms of performance and battery life. Even better, the chips can be found in laptops.

SPECIFICATIONS

PROCESSOR Dual-core 0.8GHz Intel Core M-5Y10c

RAM 8GB

SIZE 324x226x12mm

WEIGHT 1.2kg

SCREEN SIZE 13.3m

SCREEN RESOLUTION 1,920×1,080

GRAPHICS ADAPTOR Intel HD Graphics 5300

TOTAL STORAGE 128GB SSD

OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 8.1

PARTS AND LABOUR WARRANTY One year collect and return

The stunningly thin 1.2kg Asus Zenbook UX305 takes full advantage of the low power consumption and low thermal waste of its 0.8GHz Intel Core M-5Y10C processor. While 800MHz may sound pathetically slow, it can Turbo Boost to an Impressive 2GHz when thermal conditions allow. If we hadn’t known what processor was inside the laptop, we’d have guessed it was a Core i3.

The advantages of such a low-power CPU are clear. First, the laptop has no fans, so it’s silent no matter how heavy the load. As a result, it’s just 12.3mm thin and extremely light. The slim design means you’re left with just a single Micro HDMI output, SD card reader, three USB3 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack, but that’s a lot more than you’ll get In the new MacBook. Asus also supplies a USB 10/100 Ethernet adaptor in the box for when you want to connect to a wired network.

METAL GURU

Asus hasn’t skimped on build quality. The brushed metal chassis looks the part and, although it picks up greasy marks fairly easily and flexes a little, it doesn’t feel flimsy. We were happy to throw the Zenbook UX305 into a bag without worrying about It getting damaged. At 1.2kg it’s so light you’ll barely notice it even in a small bag, so you can take this laptop anywhere even If you’re not sure you’re going to need it. It’s this effortless practicality than so many laptops miss and the Zenbook UX305 manages perfectly.

The keyboard is comfortable to use with grippy island keys leaving plenty of space for your fingers. We had no problems with missed keystrokes and were able to type quickly whether on the bus, at work or with our feet up on the sofa. The touchpad is good, too, and is improved by Asus’ excellent Gesture Control software. This lets you switch various two- and three-fingered gestures on and off, and turn off the tiresome Windows 8 gestures that activate if you accidentally swipe your finger from the edge of the touchpad. Our favorite gestures are the three-fingered down swipe that shows the desktop and the three-fingered left and right gestures that take you back and forward in the browser.

This brings the Zenbook UX305 in line with Apple’s MacBook Air, which is equally easy to use thanks to similar gesture controls.

BLEEDING HEART

The screen is one area where a couple of build deficiencies come into focus. There’s a small amount of backlight bleed at the bottom of the display where the panel looks to have warped slightly. It’s not terrible by any means but it’s the sort of build quality issue you’d find on a cheaper laptop. The 13.3in screen uses a Full HD panel, but it’s not particularly stunning. While sRGB color gamut coverage isn’t great at 85.2%, the 1,368:1 contrast ratio means images still look good and fine details are visible. The matt screen has a 271cd/m2 backlight and is visible even in brightly lit conditions, but this comes at the cost of fidelity: there’s a slightly messy grain over the screen coating that is sometimes noticeable when looking at light grays and whites.

Performance isn’t startling, but it’s more than a match for basic tasks. The UX305 did well In our multimedia benchmarks, scoring 42 in the image-rendering test. The results from the multitasking and video-corn precision tests brought its overall score down to a less exciting 22, but then you shouldn’t be buying a tiny ultra-portable for editing high-resolution video, so these results can be taken with a pinch of salt.

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The Zenbook UX305 is about as far from a gaming laptop as you can get, but we ran our Dirt Showdown 720p graphics benchmark anyway, just to stretch the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300. It managed 14.7fps at High settings and 4x anti aliasing, so you may get away with a few light 3D games.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY

There’s 8GB of RAM, too, so you’re unlikely to run out of memory unless you open programs and browser tabs with reckless abandon. The laptop is pretty tightly sealed, so you won’t be able to replace the RAM, 120GB SSD or battery without risking damage.

Battery life should be another strength of Core M-powered laptops, and while the 7h 24m the machine lasted in our laptop battery benchmark doesn’t sound like much, you’ll probably get through a full day’s work if you’re conservative with screen brightness.

The premium-feeling yet reasonably priced Zenbook UX305 is a great success. It doesn’t tick every box – the screen isn’t perfect and there are a couple of rough edges – but If you’re looking for a nifty laptop. It’s a great choice. It has more RAM, a thinner design and a higher-resolution screen than the MacBook Air, and it’s also cheaper.

VERDICT

Super thin and light with sprightly performance, the Zenbook UX305 is a superb-value ultra-portable.

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