The Asus ZenBook UX501 has been out for a few months now, offering Window’s users a powerhouse of a laptop with the modern styling and an ultrathin design that helps it stand out in a crowd. As one of the best Windows alternatives to a MacBook Air it’s popularity isn’t surprising, however it’s price can be more than many shoppers are willing to spend ($1,499). Thankfully Asus understands that not everyone is a “power” user and offers a more affordable alternative. The ASUS ZenBook UX305 brings the same sleek design and styling to the table as the 501, but comes in at around half the price ($699) making it a great choice for the design conscious consumer who doesn’t necessarily need extra processing power in their everyday machine.
It has taken the PC industry a few years to recognize the importance of style and design in the machines they produce. The market has been saturated with dull and uninspiring designs for years, but the first time you see an Asus ZenBook in person you realize those days are officially gone. The brushed aluminum finish catches light at any angle and frames the Asus logo with a beautiful radial pattern. The aluminum finish gives the ZenBook a quality feel to go with its sophisticated stylw. The slim profile and light weight (2.6 pounds) keeps the machine feeling like one solid component, if something ever came loose inside it is likely packed too tightly to noticed.
Taking advantage of the Intel Core M processor, the Zenbook UX305 is able fit into a tiny 0.5 inch case while still providing ample processing power. The Core M processor conserves power much more efficiently than Intel’s I-series counterpart and the 256GB solid state drive we tested runs circles around a traditional hard disk drive, both in speed and power consumption. Even with a slim battery the UX305 is able to provide a full 10 hours of working time per charge, and an equally impressive 8 hours when playing video, enough to carry you through 3 blockbuster movies back-to-back…to back.
Open the Zenbook for the first time and you quickly notice the keyboard and trackpad, which are larger than expected. I was very pleased with the size and separation of the keys on the keyboard. I have encountered countless laptops and ultrabooks which sacrifice usability by cramming their keyboards within the smallest footprint possible. The ZenBook’s large keys are much more conducive to typing then what you find on many laptops, and the ample spacing between the keys really helps keep your typing as accurate as a full desktop keyboard.
The large trackpad is also a welcomed addition, the extra size delivers more precise control over the mouse movements. The large size is also beneficial because of Windows 8’s gesture swipe controls. Swiping from the far left of the trackpad to the center will quickly switch to the previous application you were running, while swipes from the top or right side will toggle the Application and Charms bars. The oversized trackpad found on the ZenBook helps keep the gesture controls from being accidentally activated during normal use, a problem I have found quite common on smaller track pads.
The 13 inch screen has a matted finish with the promise of reducing screen glare, especially when used outdoors. It worked well from my testing, all but eliminating the sharp reflection of a light or background objects that would normally appear on a glass screen. However I found the matted screen gave the image a slightly less vivid appearance than what I see on traditional glass screens. This didn’t detract from the quality of the screen, images and text still appear sharp and well defined. If you frequently use your laptop outdoors or in brightly lit environments the benefit of the matted screen far outweighs my complaint.
Turning on the ZenBook for the first time will greet you with the same Windows 8 operating system as every other Windows based computer, for better or worse. Window’s 10 is just around the corner, but that shouldn’t stop you if you are in the market today, it will be a free upgrade to current Window’s 8 users.
The ZenBook UX305 is intended for the more casual user, so if hard core video editing or gaming is more your interest you are better off looking at the UX501. Having said that, just because there isn’t enough power for those features doesn’t mean its lacking by any means. The vast majority of consumers, especially students, will still find more power than you need in the UX305, for a great price.
The technical specs of the UX305 are a great value for the money. We talked earlier about the Intel Core M processor that serves as the backbone of this ultrabook, but that’s just the start. You also have some options when it comes to storage, with sizes ranging from 128GB to 512GB, all of which are solid state drives. Solid state memory offers nearly instantaneous speeds both reading and writing data, vastly outperforming traditional hard disk drives. You can be sure your programs and apps will launch in the blink of an eye regardless of the size you pick. The choices for RAM are more limited, either 4GB or 8GB. We recommend the 8GB option to ensure that your machine always feels quick on its feet, even when running multiple programs simultaneously. The package is topped off with an Integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU. The Intel 5300 won’t give you the power to run the latest high end games, but it can easily handle less graphic intensive games and day to day operations.
The Asus ZenBook UX305 is a great choice for students, businessmen, stay at home moms, or anyone else that needs a well rounded laptop. The UX305 is beautifully designed, thin and lightweight, and as much a pleasure to look at as to operate. It doesn’t bring enough to the table to meet the needs of video editors or hardcore games, but it was never intended to. For $699 the ZenBook UX305 is an everyman’s machine that delivers what most people need from a computer, plus a little extra for good measure.