Asus UX305CA – Performance
The addition of Intel’s new Skylake-based Core M processor to this machine has made quite a difference to its performance. While it still trails most other Ultrabooks, I recorded a noticeable 36% jump in the Cinebench R15 benchmark compared to last year’s model (155 to 212 points).
This was also reflected in Geekbench 3, where the score jumped from 4,098 to 4,817 – a 17.5% increase. In PCMark 7 the gains were lower – only 3% – but it still adds up to a decent speed bump.
What’s more, this was noticeable in day to day use. While the old model was noticeably sluggish, and less able to cope with multiple tasks than your average Ultrabook, the ZenBook UX305CA feels more snappy overall.
For those interested in gaming, the news is even better. In the Unigine Heaven benchmark performance leapt from 9.4fps to 13.4fps. While this is way below playable, it suggests that you’re more likely to get a playable experience without having to resort to dropping the resolution and detail settings of games to ridiculous levels.
Asus UX305CA – Battery Life
Sadly, that leap in performance wasn’t joined by a leap in battery life. In fact, the UX305CA managed only 7hrs, 35mins. In contrast, the model I reviewed last year lasted for 11hrs, 50mins.
Much of that is likely down to the difference in the screen resolution, so I suspect that the 1080p version of the UX305CA will perform far better. Until I test it, though, I can’t say for certain, and of course it isn’t an official UK model anyway.
What’s clear, though, is that not only is opting for the high-resolution screen a poor bet when it comes to quality, but the device’s performance in the battery life tests means it simply isn’t worth considering. I can think of no reason I’d recommend this version of the laptop over other more powerful ultrabooks at the same price.
Other Things to Consider
The UX305CA is unlike the droves of machines that come saddled with plenty of unwelcome applications; this is a simple low-cost Ultrabook that’s fairly spartan when it comes to preinstalled software. There’s a copy of McAfee anti-virus and some Asus utilities, but largely it’s a clean slate for you to do with as you please.
The only other consideration here is whether you may want a convertible laptop with a touchscreen, but I’ve yet to review a convertible that offers the sort of experience offered here for anywhere close to the same price.
Should I buy the Asus UX305CA?
When I reviewed the original UX305 last year, the situation was quite simple. If all you needed was a good-looking, slim and light laptop that could last all day then it absolutely delivered. It wasn’t a powerhouse, but the compromise in performance was acceptable for the price.
With this latest version, or at least the top-spec vUX305CA I’ve been provided with for review, it’s a far more muddled affair.
For a start, I wouldn’t recommend opting for the £815 option since there are better Ultrabooks available on the market for around this price. Both the Toshiba Kira and Dell XPS 13 offer improved performance and features, even if they include only 128GB of storage.
This leaves the £650 high-resolution version of the UX305CA and the £550 1080p grey-import option. I’d suggest opting for the cheaper for the fact that the screen adds little in the way of practical benefits on such a modestly powerful machine, plus it comes with plenty of compromises too, including battery life that’s four hours worse than the model I reviewed last year. However the lack of a UK warranty and UK keyboard is certainly a compromise to bear in mind.
Also, while the 1080p version should offer better battery life and should have the better quality screen, until I’ve tested that model I can’t fairly score this laptop higher or wholeheartedly recommend it.
Besides, even if it did prove to perform as expected, the nagging annoyance of the mediocre touchpad would remain.
Asus had the perfect opportunity with the UX305CA to perfect what was already a superb laptop, but it has fallen some way short. This is still a good option for those seeking a slim and light laptop for two thirds’ the price of a premium Ultrabook. However, the 4K screen is actually a step back from the 1080p version of last year’s model, and battery life has taken a hit too. Add in the still poor touchpad and you’ve got a machine that’s racked with compromises.
Score in detail
Screen Quality 7
Build Quality 8
Heat & Noise 8
Battery Life 7