Well-built, affordable and boasting a long battery life, the ZenBook UX305 has a lot to offer casual users. However, limited processing power and a general lack of enterprise-friendly features cause it to fall just short of its potential.
Thin and lightweight, great keyboard, lots of ports, cheap for an ultrabook
Uninspiring performance, small SSD, ugly anti-glare coating
From £649 (as tested)
Processor: Intel 5th-gen (Broadwell) Core M-5Y10 (dual-core, 800MHz) or Core M-5Y71 (dual-core, 1.2GHz)
Display: 13.3in, 1920x1080, 16:9 aspect ratio, IPS
Storage: 128GB SSD, 256GB and 512GB SSD options available internationally
Connectivity: WiFi (802.11b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, Ethernet (via adapter, included)
Operating system: Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Professional
Battery: 45WHr lithium-polymer, up to 10 hours battery life
The ZenBook UX305 starts at £649 and is one of the more affordable models in Asus' ZenBook series that has made the Taiwanese firm a four-year veteran of producing slim but strong ultrabooks.
Competing devices commonly nudge the £1,000 mark, including the 2015 Apple MacBook Air, so the ZenBook UX305 definitely seemed worthy of a look. We spent a few days trying it out to see whether Asus has delivered a bargain or whether the low price tag comes at a rather different cost.
The ZenBook UX305 looks like a much more expensive product than it actually is. Besides an attractive laser-etched lid, the case is all tasteful matte aluminium which gives the whole thing a pleasant feel, along with a sturdiness and an impressive resistance to scratches.
It's more than light enough to carry around comfortably, despite the abundance of metal. In fact, at just 1.2kg it weighs less than the MacBook Air of the same 13.3in screen size. It's thinner too, at 324x226x12.3mm.
That's still enough for a nice, roomy keyboard and a generous trackpad that's as spacious as it is responsive. It would have been even better if the keys were backlit, but they're well-proportioned enough that we could type accurately even in the dark.
Or at least, we could after changing the language settings. US English was set as the default input despite physically using the UK English keyboard layout, thwarting our ability to type pound signs. An odd little oversight, albeit one that can at least be quickly fixed.
The ZenBook UX305 also has room for quite a few connectivity options - more than we've come to expect from such a skinny ultrabook. There are three USB 3.0 ports, a 2-in-1 SD/SDXC card reader and a micro HDMI port, as well as a bundled USB-to-Ethernet adapter.
Of course, the ZenBook UX305 is designed to go wireless (where it can take advantage of the 802.11ac WiFi support), but it's good to know that it can still stay connected even in environments where cable-cutting remains an alien concept.
Like an increasing number of notebooks and ultrabooks that also use Intel's cool-running Core M chips, the ZenBook UX305 eschews a fan and is therefore practically silent.
There was one period where, after running for a couple of hours, the entire right side (including the keyboard) became uncomfortably warm, although to be fair this occurred during the UK's hottest July day on record. Temperatures, both of the ZenBook UX305 and London, were far more tolerable afterwards.
The ZenBook UX305's IPS display is large and sharp enough for most tasks at 13.3in diagonally and with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. We've seen brighter whites and deeper blacks, but colour quality is otherwise high and viewing angles very nearly reach a full 180 degrees.
In other words, this is a very good screen, which is why it's so disappointing to see the anti-glare coating give the entire thing an unfortunate grainy effect.
Don't get us wrong: we criticise other displays for their reflectivity on a fairly regular basis, and the coating on the ZenBook UX305 does an admirably effective job of preventing glare.
It's just that the graininess is very noticeable indeed, especially over blocks of a single colour. We can definitely see this being a problem for creatives who need a display to be immaculately clear, even if most people could probably live with it.
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