ASUS Zenbook UX305LA Review
Finally ASUS packed power and beauty into the same Zenbook; and the result is a thinner and slimmer ultraportable that certainly redefines thin and powerful performance. The ASUS Zenbook UX305LA is the newest mid-range ultraportable that comes with Windows 10 preinstalled and ASUS threw in there a 5th-Generation Intel Core i5 that is by all standards better and energy saving.
The Intel Core M processor outfitted in the ASUS Zenbook UX305FA was its main undoing, even with the svelte and thinnest chassis ever seen, and now ASUS corrected the flaw thanks to the same great design we saw in the previous Zenbook and went ahead to give power users something to smile about. Thin and light have been the watchwords in the industry, especially for new laptops, smartphones, tablets and iPads for years now.
Asus made major compromises to get the previous Zenbook to its svelte proportions, sadly; they left the otherwise decent system looking less impressive than its competitors like the Editor’s Choice Apple MacBook Air. The Zenbook UX305 now brings powerful performance, a slim and thin chassis among other yummy perks. Asus has always prioritized the design of its Zenbook line, and the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA doesn’t fall far away from the pack.
Here you get a slim chassis etched with a pattern of concentric circles, and the finish has a near-black color that Asus calls “obsidian stone.” The design cries out for attention and is quite compelling for anybody interested in the looks. Is it really worth the competition apart from the thin and light chassis, lets find out!
Yes, here we are talking of a really thin and slim ultraportable laptop. The slim aluminum frame measures 8.9 by 12.8 by 0.2 inches (HWD), and weighs just 2.9 pounds. That’s way thinner than the Core M-powered ASUS Zenbook UX305FA that measures 8.9 by 12.8 by 0.5 inches (HWD), but very light weighing in at 2.5 pounds and and is slightly heavier than the Dell XPS 13 Touch (2.76 pounds) but lighter than the MacBook Air (3 pounds).
The ubersvelte design also invites comparisons to one other prominent Apple product, the 12-inch Apple MacBook—the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA measures 0.5-inch thick versus the MacBook’s 0.51-inch—but the MacBook is lighter by 0.6-pound. That’s not a lot of a difference, but it’s one of the reasons Apple charges nearly twice as much for what is an otherwise very similar laptop. On daily tasks, the bright side of Core i5 starts to show, as the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500 solution can handle basic tasks, like Web browsing and streaming media, but more intensive uses, like gaming, are still within reach.
Despite the slim dimensions of the chassis, Asus outfits the Zenbook with a full complement of ports and connectors. On the right is a USB 3.0 port with USB Charger+, a sleep-and-charge solution that offers faster charging for smartphones and tablets. An HDMI Type D (micro) port offers video and audio output, while a headset jack supports headphones and a mic.
On the left are two more USB 3.0 ports, along with an SD card reader. The laptop is also equipped with dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity. Asus offers some extras for security as well, with an embedded Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, LoJack and Intel Anti-Theft technology, and a built-in case-lock slot to physically secure the laptop.
For storage, there’s a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). That’s twice the standard capacity of the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch or the MacBook Pro 13-inch, (both of which come standard with 128GB drives), but it’s on par with rest of the competition, like the Lenovo Yoga 3 and the Dell XPS 13 (Touch), both of which come with 256GB drives. The keyboard is quite comfortable especially for marathon typing, but some will find it unfair not to have it backlit on such a decent machine.
Performance-wise, the Zenbook UX305LA wheezes past the ASUS Zenbook UX305FA-ASM1 that runs on Intel Core M processor; which ideally sit between the mainstream Intel Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs and the low-powered Intel Atom and Celeron chips used in many budget-friendly laptops. The powerful 5th-generation Intel Core i5-5200U 2.2GHz (Turbo up to 2.7GHz) finds the upper ground of the spectrum by its 8GB RAM that enable it to offer better performance than the low-powered chips, but with lower power demands than the standard Intel Core CPUs.
The result is a better mobile processing experience that maximizes battery life while keeping performance up in an acceptable, though unexceptional, range. This puts the machine ahead of the Core-M-equipped Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, but it falls a bit behind non-Core-M laptops, like the Dell XPS 13 Touch and the Acer Aspire E15.
The display looks great, with a full HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolution and an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel that offers wide viewing angles and good color. An anti-glare finish keeps the reflections to a minimum, though it does slightly dull the blacks shown on screen. Most notably, the display does not have touch capability, an omission that may limit its appeal to users who want to make the most of the touch-friendly Windows 8.1 interface and gesture controls.
The chiclet-style keyboard feels nice to type on—equivalent to past Asus Zenbooks, at least—but there is no backlight, which will be a bit of pain if you need to type something when the lights are lowered for a PowerPoint presentation. The accompanying touchpad is relatively large, measuring 4.1 by 2.9 inches, with a wide, clickable surface.
The ASUS Zenbook UX305LA is extremely thin and feather-light, but ASUS realized that an ultraportable laptop can’t get by on those aspects alone. To beat the competition, a powerful 5th-generation Intel Core i5-5200U 2.2GHz (Turbo up to 2.7GHz) processor was thrown somewhere in there, and a faster 256 SSD to shorten wake-up time. Although the Core M-powered Zenbook UX305LA sports the same design and costs fairly less, it does rise above the performance.
Even when stacked up against systems that are similarly slim, the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA falls short, due in large part to its Intel Core M processor. That’s a difference that outweighs svelte design, so the Apple MacBook Air 13 remains our top pick for midrange ultraportables, but for those on a budget, the ASUS Zenbook UX305LA is a real performer and has a premium looking chassis. For that, it deserves a top spot in your shopping list.