Asus Zenbook UX305 review - A worthy MacBook alternative
Processor: Dual-Core Intel Core M-5Y10c, RAM: 8GB, Size: 324x226x12mm, Weight: 1.2kg, Screen size: 13.3in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Intel HD 5300, Total storage: 128GB SSD
Intel's Core M mobile processors are revolutionising what we expect from an ultra-portable laptop. The new chip is at the core of the much-hyped new 12in MacBook. However, Apple isn't the first to market, with a number of Windows-based laptops coming out. Better still, the chips aren’t exclusive to top-end devices and can be found in laptops under £700. Enter Asus with the 1.2kg Zenbook UX305 - which at £650 is almost half the price of the new top-end MacBook.
This stunningly thin laptop takes full advantage of the low power consumption and low thermal footprint of its 0.8GHz Intel Core M-5Y10c processor. 800MHz may sound pathetically slow, but keep in mind that it can Turbo Boost to an impressive 2GHz when thermal conditions allow. If we didn't know what processor was inside the laptop, we'd have guessed it was a Core i3.
The advantages of such a low-power processor are clear. First, the laptop has a fanless design meaning it's completely silent no matter how heavy a load it's under. As a result, it's thin (just 12.3mm) and extremely light thanks to the lack of a heavy cooling system. The thin design means you're left with just a single micro HDMI output, SD card reader and no Ethernet port alongside the 3 USB3 ports and 3.5mm audio jack, although that’s a heck of a lot more than you’ll get in the new MacBook. Asus also supplies a USB 10/100 Ethernet adapter in the box for when you want to connect to a wired network.
Despite the low price, Asus hasn't skimped too much on build quality. The brushed metal chassis looks the part and although it picks up greasy marks fairly easily and has a little flex to it, it doesn't feel flimsy by any means. This means we're happy to pick it up and throw it into a bag without worrying too much about it getting damaged. Its weight is so inconsequential that you'd barely notice it even in a small bag, so you can take it anywhere even if you're not sure you're even going to need it. It's this effortless practicality than so many laptops miss and the Asus 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 consistently and quickly whether on the bus, sitting at work or with our feet up on the sofa. The only downside is a lack of backlighting, making typing late into the night a possible pain. We wouldn't neccesarily expect it on a laptop at this price, but we still miss it.
The touchpad is relatively good, too, and is massively improved by Asus' excellent Gesture Control software. You can switch various two- and three-fingered gestures on and off using this program, and also deactivate the often tiresome Windows 8 gestures that activate if you accidentally swipe your finger from the edge of the touchpad. Our favourite gesture is the three-fingered down swipe gesture that shows the desktop and the three-fingered left and right gestures that take you back and forward in the browser. This brings the UX305 in line with the Apple MacBook Air, which is equally easy to use thanks to similar gesture controls.