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 somewhat revolutionised what we initially expected performance-wise from an ultra-portable laptop. The chip, which was brand spanking new back in August 2015, is found at the very core of the much-hyped Early 2015 2in1 MacBook. The thing is, Apple wasn't actually the first to market in this case, with a bunch of Windows-based laptops gracing our store shelves. Even better still, the Core M chips aren’t exclusive to top-end devices and can be found in laptops under the £700 mark. One of which is Asus' 1.2kg Zenbook UX305 - which now priced below £550 is even more than half the price of the 2015 MacBook.
The gorgeously thin laptop takes full advantage of the low power consumption and undemanding thermal footprint of the 0.8GHz Intel Core M-5Y10c processor buried inside. While 800MHz may sound pathetically slow, it's worth keeping in mind that it can actually Turbo Boost to an impressive 2GHz should thermal conditions allow. If we didn't already know what processor was inside the laptop, our first guess would have been a Core i3, considering its performance.
The advantages of such a low-power processor are paramount and definitely very clear. Firstly, the laptop is pretty much completely silent no matter how heavy a load it's under, made thanks to its fanless design. As a result of this, it's nice and thin at only 12.3mm and extremely light, yet again thanks to the lack of a heavy cooling system. The stunningly thin and compact design sadly means you're left with just a single micro HDMI output, SD card reader and no Ethernet port. Asus haven't scrimped when it comes to USB ports, with a total of 3 USB3 ports and a 3.5mm audio jack, which is a heck of a lot more than you’ll get in the new MacBook for instance. There is a workaround for the lack of wired connectivity, though, with a supplied USB 10/100 Ethernet adapter in the box for when you're able to connect to a wired network.
Despite this low price, at first glance you can clearly see Asus hasn't skimped too much on build quality and overall design. The sleek brushed metal chassis certainly looks the part and while it does pick up greasy fingerprints pretty easily and has a little bit of flex to it, it definitely doesn't feel flimsy by any stretch of the imagination. We're more than happy to pick it up and throw it into a bag without worrying all that much about it getting damaged during our time spent with it. Its weight is so small that we barely even noticed it even in a small bag, so it's perfect to take around with you, even if you think might not need it. It's this effortless practicality that so many laptops miss and the Asus Zenbook UX305 manages pretty much flawlessly.
The keyboard is incredibly comfortable to use, even during lengthy typing sessions, with grippy island keys leaving you plenty of space for your fingers. There wasn't any noticeable issues such as missed keystrokes and we were also able to type perfectly consistently and quickly whether on the bus, sitting at work or lounging about on the sofa. The only real downside we noticed is an unfortunate lack of backlighting, which would make typing late into the night significantly easier. Obviously, with a laptop of this price we wouldn't exactly expect it , but we still miss it nonetheless.
The touchpad is relatively good, too, and is massively improved by Asus' excellent Gesture Control software. You get the option to switch various two- and three-fingered gestures on and off using this software, and you can also deactivate the often tiresome Windows 8 gestures that activate if you accidentally swipe your finger from the edge of the touchpad. A particular gesture of note 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 with OS X.