At this year’s CES, Intel unwrapped its newest line of notebook and desktop processors codenamed Broadwell. They’re faster, more frugal and have better graphics capabilities than their predecessors but there arrival had already been preceded by a new product line from the Broadwell family called Core M.
The ASUS UX305 is the first notebook to pass through the htxt.africa offices bearing an Intel Core M chip and for that reason, it holds a lot of expectation on its hinges.
While the promise of the sleek, silent, speedy notebook of the future is alluring to us hardware addicts, it doesn’t mean we’re going to go easy on the UX305.
Beautiful. That’s the first word that sprung to mind when we unboxed the ASUS UX305 and it was the last one we thought when packing it up again.
At just 12.3mm thick, the aluminium framed UX305 exudes premium looks from afar but once you open the lid, the plastic interior begins to cheapen the experience. The plastic does help in keeping the weight down to a mere 1.2kg, a boon to those who carry around their notebooks all day.
Our review unit was ‘Obsidian Stone’ in colour and featured the now standard spiral machined lid that reflects light in a manner very specific to ASUS Zenbooks. While the design is old now, we still think it looks great and will hold up for years to come.
The next thing you’ll notice about the ASUS UX305 is something that you don’t see when using it, noise. The beauty of Intel’s Core M processors is that they finally allow notebooks to be built in the same way that tablets are – without fans. It’s an eerie experience to boot up a notebook with no moving parts that emits no sound save the click-clack of the keyboard. Eerie, but at the same time very exciting.
The biggest fundamental flaw with the construction of the UX305 was the omission of a backlit keyboard. While it will help keep the battery consumption down over time it definitely took away from the premium quality that we think ASUS was searching for.
As we mentioned earlier, the ASUS UX305 runs on Intel’s latest generation of Broadwell processors which, for those who like to get into the specifics, is manufactured using a 14nm fabrication process.
Our particular review unit was fitted with the Intel Core M-5Y10 processor which hums along at 0.8GHz with the ability to churn up to 2GHz when the need arises. It’s paired with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage which gives it more than enough grunt for the average day’s web browsing and word processing.
The 13.3 inch display is a 3 200×1 800 resolution IPS panel with wireless connectivity in the form of 802.11ac dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, while wired connections come in the form of three USB 3.0 ports an SD card reader and a micro HDMI output.
The chiclet keyboard, although not backlit, was fantastic to type on even though it offered very little travel. The main irritation was the tiny arrow keys which proved almost impossible to hit by touch forcing you to look down at the keys more often that strictly should have been necessary.
The trackpad was rather hit and miss most of the time, failing to impress us in any way close to what is offered by the industry leading ones on Apple’s MacBooks.
All in all it’s a very solidly specced unit and would be more than capable of meeting the day-to-day needs of any light-to-medium user.
The 3 200×1 800 resolution 13.3 inch IPS display is eye-wateringly good. It’s bright and offers vibrant colours in almost all lighting situations and because it lacks touchscreen functionality, was almost never covered in fingerprints and offered far better resistance to reflections in the bright light.
While the extra pixels were appreciated and marvelled over, we can’t help but think that the 1080p resolution display would have suited us just fine for the increase in battery life that we expect would have accompanied the change.
The biggest failing of the ASUS UX305 is that the battery life suffers greatly from that QHD+ display. Not only does it take a tonne of juice to keep all of those pixels lit, the processor’s built in graphics also have to churn pretty hard when rendering web pages at that resolution.
The display is definitely the main contributor to the six or so hour battery life that we saw from it in day-to-day usage. It’s not to say that it’s a bad battery life figure, or even one that you can’t live with but we would have liked to see something around the eight hour or more mark to make it a serious competitor to the likes of Apple’s MacBook Airs (which do, in all fairness, have much lower resolution displays).
The ASUS Zenbook UX305 is a fantastic laptop that, for its price, is easily recommended to the average user who needs something more than a tablet, but won’t be pushing the hardware to the limit.
That said we do have two very important caveats:
Firstly ASUS South Africa has a terrible service centre which has left two members of the htxt.africa team underwhelmed at the best of times and infuriated at the worst. It’s a sad truth that we have been assured is being dealt with by the higher ups at ASUS. However, if you think that you may ever have to deal with them then rather buy a different brand of notebook.
Secondly, this is the first Core M notebook we’ve had the chance to see, and therefore a slew of competitors will be able to more accurately represent what we should be looking for in a Core M-toting notebook.
So perhaps for now it is more prudent to wait and see what the future holds before you commit to the UX305 any time soon.
Price: R11 499
Display: 13.3 inch, 3 200×1 800 resolution IPS display
Processor: 0.8GHz Intel Core M-5Y10
Storage: 256GB solid state drive
Networking: Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0