The ASUS Zenbook UX305UA now features Intel’s 6th Generation Core processor also known as Skylake, this thin and light notebook has the exact same design as the previous generation but has improved performance and battery life. If you’re looking for a something portable with a starting price of $799 there is a lot to like about this Notebook.
The ASUS Zenbook UX305UA is compact lightweight and stylish, it’s design language feels like it took a note from the Macbook Air but that’s not a bad thing. It’s all metal chassis makes it an attractive thin and light notebook whose matte display makes it perfect for use on the go.
There is a lot to love about the soft lines of the design, but there are a few missteps, there is a space below the display where they’ve covered the aluminum with rubber leaving a sharp metallic edge exposed. Details like this are what helps the UX305UA keep the balance between good design and affordability.
The US35UA feels durable in hand, it’s curves are soft and metal edges aren’t sharp but feel pronounced when if you decide to draw your finger along the length of the machine. The chamfered edges are a nice touch in hand, the Macbook Air has very sharp edges as did ASUS’ earlier Ultrabooks.
The left hand side of the device hold 2 USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader, along the right we’ve got a powered 3.0 port along side the power socket a mini HDMI, headphone jack and a few status LEDs. The display angle goes quite far back and allows for quite a bit of flexibility.
The ASUS Asus ZenBook is an impeccably thin machine measuring just 0.5-inches (12.7 mm) thick with a 12.8 x 8.9-inch (355 x 226 mm) footprint. Under the hood you’ve got a few options under the UX305UA umbrella. This model is also running 5th Generation Core processors, the chassis design is the same, but the performance is improved which we will get to in the performance seciton. Users just have to be conscious of the different processors available, price will be the biggest indication.
The ASUS UX305UA is a 13.3 inch Notebook with an IPS display which comes in Full HD 1920 x1080 or QHD+ 3200×1800, we’re testing the FHD edition which we are perfectly happy with, I have no desire to spend the extra money on this upgrade. Under the hood we’ve got a 6th generation core processor the Core i5-6200, you can also find Core i3-6100 and Core i7-6500 processors available with 8GB of DDR3 RAM and an Intel HD520 integrated graphics. Storage wise we have options for 128,256 & 512GB which is based on a SATAIII SSD. The Notebook is powered by a 56Whr Li-Po battery which they claim will give you 12 hours, but our tests have it between 6-7 hours.
Connectivity wise we’ve got 1 Micro HDMI port, 2 x USB 3.0 with 1 being powered for charging your devices, 1USB 2.0 port and 1 SD card reader. The front facing camera was noisy in oiur skype calls, you’re going to need good lighting to look your best. The camera is 720P with a CMOS module. Additional connectivity includes WiFi 802.11 ac & Bluetooth 4.0.
We’re reviewing the Core i5 version with a FHD display and 256GB’s of storage.
In fact the ZenBook UX305 even beats out the new MacBook in terms of thinness without sacrificing ports. Whereas Apple’s latest notebook measures 13.1 mm (0.51 inches) and gets rid of all its ports for a single USB-C, the Asus’s Ultrabook is even thinner at 12.7 mm complete with two full-size USB 3.0 ports and HDMI.
Display – Matte & Beautiful
I love machines with matte display’s, they make your laptop 100% more usable hear a bright window or outside. You don’t see them enough and the reason why is that the devices look a little less sexy on the shelf and there is a slight sacrifice in color saturation and some feel clarity (though I don’t agree with this). The 1080p version that I’m testing right now has acceptable viewing angles. The right to left for sharing is wide enough for 2 people to share, I think 3 would be pushing it, you will have to make sure that the angle works for the brightness of the room, as I found when testing the angles I needed to make adjustments more often.
The colors pop off the screen without being overly saturated and it’s easy to distinguish grey’s from black which is an indication that the display has excellent contrast levels.
The ambient light sensor is a nice touch to try to keep the display at the correct brightness for the room, but I found that turning it off often made the display brighter when. Typing by a window at a local coffee shop on an over cast day the display didn’t feel quite bright enough, I turned off the light sensor and the display brightness increased by about 25% which is more my speed. I like bright display’s, I’ll sacrifice 30min of battery life to be able to not have a muted experience.
What I do think they need to work on for the next generation is decreasing the size of the bezel, it’s a little thick at the top and bottom. Competition is stepping up on this front and a slimmer profile would be very welcome.
Keyboard & Trackpad
The keyboard is made of plastic, it’s apparent when you push down in the middle of the keyboard which has a significant amount of flex. Typing this review I can’t call the keyboard bouncy, but when I’ve gotten on a pretty vicious typing roll the experience doesn’t feel as solid as the Microsoft Surface Book a ThinkPad or even a Yoga. The travel of the key’s themselves is only …. but the spacing on the island style keyboard is is perfect, typing accuracy is excellent. Some keyboards take a few hours to really get used to, there was virtually no learning curve on typing accuracy on the UX305. Shift keys are large on both sides for those who capitalize with both hands (check it, it’ll change the way you look a laptop keyboards if the shift key is virtually non existent under your dominant hand).
One thing that I do find very irritating about the keyboard is that the shortcut keys on the top row require you to hit hit function to turn the volume or display brightness up an down. I can’t think of many users who wish they had easy access to F9. The power button is also located on the keyboard right beside the delete key. I know from owning ASUS laptops in the past that it’s meant to ask if you before it puts the machine to sleep, it hasn’t done this for me. So I’ve been accidentally putting my machine to sleep when I’ve aiming for the delete key.It’s lucky that I spend more time hitting backspace than delete or else I may have never finished this review.
The placement of the microphone by the enter key is a great move. Including a shortcut to the ambient light sensor is nice, not many laptops will keep your display at the perfect brightness, though when you notice that you’ll notice that there isn’t a key to toggle on and off the backlight on the keyboard because it isn’t backlit.
Windows 10 & Gestures
Windows 10 is growing on me, I’ve been using on my desktop forever, but I waited for the official build on Notebooks because I didn’t want to judge it to harshly before the trackpad tuning was done. ASUS has included a few gestures. 2 finger scroll 3 finger tap to pull up Cortana and 4 fingers to bring up the charm bar are very useful.
The one thing that I’ve had to keep in mind when reviewing this Notebook, is that I just came off reviewing the Microsoft Surface Book whose keyboard and trackpad are in a different league to the UX305UA. The trackpad always works, where on this Notebook I’d say it has a 90% success rate and in my books10% is enough to call it annoyingly inconsistent.
Tip: since there are no brightness control keys on the keyboard and the Windows 10 quick setting only offers brightness changes in 25% increments, use Fn + del and Fn + backspace to change display brightness more gradually.
Gestures and shortcuts make Windows 10 a lot more pleasurable than on the desktop version which I spend a significant amount of time using as well.
But How Does it Run?
Performance is where I’ve got the most to say, because if I was you’d I’d be asking the question “If it looks exactly the same and I’m going to save a hundred bucks…should I get the 5th generation processor instead?” My answer to this is flat out, you should go with Skylake & the 6th generation core series. The jump wasn’t supposed to be that significant but the gains are $100-150 worth it in my books. Where you’re going to notice it the most is in battery life, the 5th generation version will get you about 5.5 hours, the 6th generation 6.5, that’s a full hour more. Personally I need my notebooks to be in the 8 hours range, ASUS boasts 12 hours for this machine, I bet you could get it to 10 if you turned the wifi off and tuned the brightness down. But I don’t live in a world where I don’t connect to the internet and want a dim display. So if you wanted to be a little more moderate, I’d say you’re above 7 hours if you tuned the brightness all the way down.
Now what about actual performance? You’re going to notice that apps open just a little bit snappier and you don’t have to wait as long for to find things when you’re searching your hard drive.
If we compare benchmarks, you’re seeing a pretty significant improvement.
Benchmarks 5th Generation
3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,210; Sky Diver: 2,190; Fire Strike: 594
Cinebench CPU: 202 points; Graphics: 21.28 fps,
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,107 points
Geekbench 3 Multi Core – 4623
Benchmarks 6th Generation
3DMark FireStrike 798, SkyDriver – 3535, Cloudgate – 5431 IceStorm 1.2 – 44532
PCMark 8 (Home Test) 2698
PCMark Home Accelerated 860
Geekbench 3 Multi Core – 5857
ASUS has scarified the initial set up experience thanks to an obscene amount of bloatware. Before you do anything else you’re going to want to install PC decrapifier, and select new device set up. It will walk you through uninstalling all the bloatware they’ve started you off with. It’s a shame because the boot up speed is significantly impacted which gives the machine a less snappy first impression than it could have.
Sporting Bang & Olufsen ICE speakers used to mean great sound, unfortunatly on the Zenbook UX305UA it is tinny and not very loud.
When I watched movies alone in a silent apartment it did the trick, but as soon as I wanted to share content with others I felt like I was constantly checking to make sure the volume was all the way up. The speaker is located on bottom right and left hand side about half way up.
The Zenbook UX305UA Skylake edition has significantly improved battery life over the edition released earlier this year. The 5th generation Core M notebooks got around 5 and a half hours, 6th Generation Skylake edition gives a full hour more at 6 and a half hours. After a week of use I was able to generate this battery report.