The time has come again for me to explore the wonderful world of laptops. This time, however, I won’t be talking about a hefty gaming laptop adorned with neon lights, but rather something much more portable, convenient, and better suited to everyday use. I’ve been given another apple from the ASUS tree, and this time it comes in the form of the ultra-handy Zenbook UX305UA.
ASUS have produced a pretty well-rounded machine with the UX305UA, but it isn’t a new design. This Zenbook is a slightly updated model of the UX305LA, which came out in 2015. ASUS dropped in the latest Intel Skylake platform and probably called it a day, essentially keeping everything the same from the LA. What we are given is a super-sleek and lightweight laptop with a gorgeous display, great battery life, and impressive internals. However, noisy fans, the lack of a backlit keyboard, and a Wi-Fi range that’s rather limited may cause some potential buyers to second-guess their decision.
To start off, the UX305 is beautifully designed—on the outside as well as the guts of the machine. Measuring in at around 13 inches, it’s been outfitted with a slim-aluminum body with a unique circular design etched into the surface. From what I’ve read, there seem to be only two colour options available: Obsidian Stone and Aurora Metallica. I spent my time with the Aurora model, which is the lighter colour of the two. It’s been reported that the Obsidian is very prone to smudging, so I recommend you go with the Aurora if that’s going to be an issue. The full-metal body does add some slight weight to the laptop, but to me this means a tougher body and that’s more than welcome on a thin laptop. Measuring in at just over half an inch thick and slightly under three pounds, you’ll be hard pressed to find something more compact. Then again, while it isn’t up there with the thinnest or lightest among its companions, it’s definitely one of the most portable.
This is further backed up by the workload the UX305 can handle. Powering this undersized monster is in Intel i7-6500U running at 2.5 GHz. Producing our graphics will be Intel’s HD Graphics 520 that can power its way right through to 950 MHz. This is further enhanced by dual-channeled RAM, which sits at 8GB. Thanks to this, we see graphical results comparable to that of lower mid-range graphics cards, so if you were planning on gaming with this thing, then I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. A game like Overwatch for example ran smoothly at low graphical settings and a lower resolution. That’s about as good as you’re going to get with a game like that on this laptop, so don’t even think about installing The Witcher 3. The good news comes if you plan to use this for work or everyday use. It had no problem operating at a fast pace; even with multiple Internet tabs open and a couple programs running. This all looks extra pristine on the Zenbook’s full HD 1920×1080 display. Furthermore, I clocked the machine at draining its battery from full to zero in just over nine hours, which is more than the average battery on the market.
I must come back to the bad news though. The keyboard is an issue with the UX305, which I’ve noticed in other reports on the device. For one, it’s not backlit, which is inexcusable in this day in age. The keys themselves are a nice size and their layout is acceptable, but typing takes some time to get used to. I found the keys to be kind of stiff and pretty soft, and the feedback I received never did feel right. It’s a pretty quiet keyboard, but I do not recommend using it for long periods of typing. I’ll quickly mention the track pad as well, because there are some who still prefer it to a mouse. It’s actually rather smooth and has a reasonable response time along with good accuracy. There is very little in the way of customization, however.
The machine also gets noticeably loud at times, which is probably why its operating temperature is so cool. The fan would kick on often and aggressively, even when I was just doing simple things like browsing the Internet. Again, I’ve found several other similar reports of this as well. While the fan doesn’t run long on simple tasks, it gets the point that you think you left a program running the whole time and your machine is overheating. These overworking fans do their job very well though, as the Zenbook never got to a point where it was uncomfortable to hold, or left my desk feeling like it was on fire.
In the past, I’ve had some good and bad experiences with ASUS products, but more times than not I’ve felt satisfied with what I was using. The Zenbook UX305UA is no different. This machine may not look like it can do much based on first glance, and that only improves the experience. Workhorse would be a good word to describe it, as it has no problem handling daily office tasks or if you’re looking to kick back with a movie on the HD display. Gaming is a no go here, unless you like indie titles, and even then you could find a better machine for the same price. Though there are some physical setbacks, the Zenbook is all about value for work, and it provides that in spades.