UPDATE: Since we reviewed the UX305, Asus has also launched the UX305CA, which makes a few major changes to the formula described below, but not all the changes are positive. Overall, we reckon the UX305 reviewed here is a better bet, but the differences between the two are worth discussing. First of all, the UX305CA uses a significantly higher-resolution screen ditching the Full HD panel on the UX305 and replacing it with a 3,200x1,800 screen. There are some issues with this; the experience with a high-resolution screen is inconsistent in Windows 10 and the screen is too small to really be useful.
This also appeared to affect battery life; we saw four hours less stamina on the high-end screen version. Performance has stepped up by around a quarter, which is impressive and could be a deal-clincher for some. The laptop also has the same drawbacks as the significantly cheaper model on test here, so the higher price doesn't quite match the build quality. Below is our original review of the Asus UX305.
The Asus UX305 is quite simply one of the most exciting laptops we’ve seen in years. It continues Asus’ long line of Zenbook ultrabooks, but really sets itself apart by bringing the same level of build quality and design we’ve come to expect, at a price many more people can afford.
Starting at £649, the UX305 undercuts the majority of ultrabooks by some £350, while it’s £200 cheaper than the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Air. There are a few areas where compromises have been made, but for the most part this is a phenomenal machine.
Watch – Trusted Explains: Laptops vs Tablets, which is best for you?
Asus has long been the nearest competitor to Apple when it comes to ultrabook design. Right from when it launched its first model, the UX31E, it absolutely nailed the premium metal look and feel, and it’s steadily refined it since.
SEE ALSO: Best Windows 8 Laptops
The UX305 actually takes a slightly different tack to those earliest efforts, largely eschewing the shinier brushed metal look for a more matte-looking etched finish. All, that is, except for the lid which retains the brand’s signature concentric circle pattern. It’s not quite as angular, either, with the corners rounded off like on the MacBook Air.
Regardless, the overall effect is stunning. In some ways the dark mauve colour takes away a little of the immediate ‘premium metal’ vibe when viewed from a distance but up close it’s a marvel, though it does pick up fingerprints easily, so you may want to keep a cleaning cloth to hand.
What’s most striking is its slimness. Thanks to the use of Intel’s latest ultra-low-power Broadwell chips, this laptop is passively cooled, eliminating the need to fit in a fan. This allows the base of this laptop to be just over 7mm thick while the whole thing is only 12.3mm at its thickest.
What’s more it weighs just 1.2kg. This compares to 1.36kg for the 13-inch MacBook Air, while that model is also a fair bit thicker at 17mm.
SEE ALSO: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids
What makes this thin and lightness doubly impressive is that Asus hasn’t skimped on connectivity, indeed it’s better than many ultrabooks.
Whereas many ultrabooks have only two USB ports, the UX305 has three, and they’re all USB 3.0. There’s also a full-size SD card reader, a microHDMI and of course a headphone jack. A couple of pin-prick lights on the right edge indicate that the laptop is charging and if it’s on.
You don’t get a wired network connection, but Asus includes a USB Ethernet adapter and there’s inbuilt 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi.
You also get a 13.3-inch 1080p IPS screen above which sits a 720p webcam. A QHD (3200 x 1800 pixels) option, which we previewed here, was set to arrive too, but it looks like nowhere is going to stock that model any time soon.
The headline feature here, though, is the Intel Core M-5Y10c processor. This is a fully-fledged Broadwell part in terms of its power saving features, so it positively sips power, but performance wise it is a far cry from Core i5 or i7 branded models.
The most obvious limitation is clock speed, which is restricted to just 998MHz. It can boost up to a maximum of 1.9Ghz but this is can only achieved temporarily in some single-threaded applications.
It also only features Intel HD 5300 graphics, which is much slower than the HD 5500 or HD 6000 used in the higher power chips.
The upshot is that performance is down compared to the likes of the MacBook Air 13-inch and other more premium and thicker notebooks.
Conversely, because the chip is so frugal it has a TDP of just 4.5W compared to the 15W of a Core i5/i7 product. Not only does this mean Asus can get massive battery life from a smaller battery, but it also allows the laptop to be passively cooled so its thinner and has no fan noise.