Not the last word in speed or stamina, but a stylish laptop with a great screen.
F ear not if the Asus ZenBook UX305CA looks familiar, because it should. Asus tweaks the UX300-series design and specs in a similar way to Apple with the MacBook, and it has every reason to use a light touch: this ZenBook is as stylishly sleek as ever, and the all-aluminium design looks fantastic while feeling sturdy.
The UX305CA uses one of Intel’s latest Core M processors, the m3-6Y30, which has a headline speed of 900MHz. Note there’s also a UX305UA model based on more powerful Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, so keep an eye on which you’re ordering to avoid confusion.
As ever, the Core M family’s lower clock speeds don’t mean you’re buying a slow laptop: there’s always a Turbo Boost when you need it. The m3-6Y30 hits 2.2GHz, and with 8GB of RAM this laptop is responsive in general use. I was disappointed by its performance in our benchmarks, however: an overall score of 19 falls behind the 23 achieved by http://www.pcauthority.com.au/Review/430529,review-the-hp-spectre-x2-cant-beat-the-surface-pro-4.aspx.
This indicates some throttling taking place to keep heat under control. That won’t be an issue in everyday tasks, but push this laptop with 4K video editing and it won’t thank you. Nor should you expect much in the way of gaming from the integrated Intel HD Graphics 515.
Battery performance during our video playback test was equally underwhelming at 6hrs 4mins. The screen was set to 170cd/m2, so by dropping this – and, again, not pushing the processor too hard – you might eke out eight hours.
Open up the lid and you’re greeted by a familiar chiclet keyboard with contrasting black keys. It isn’t backlit but, far more importantly in most situations, it’s comfortable to type on, with a respectable 1.5mm of travel to the key action. Another plus: the hinge rounds over and under when the lid is opened, propping up the keyboard up by a few millimetres, making for a more comfortable typing position.
The touchpad is of a generous size with a pleasant coating to its surface. You can configure multitouch gestures using Asus’ Smart Gesture software and the usual three-finger, two-finger and pinch gestures are configurable. The mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad, which can be an issue with lesser laptops, but here they’re responsive and never annoying.
In terms of ports, Asus squeezes in an SD card reader, headset jack and three USB 3 ports, one of which is powered even when the laptop’s switched off. You’ll also notice the promise of Bang & Olufsen speakers, but don’t get too excited: I found the sound a little too “bright”, and the volume doesn’t go quite high enough.
There’s a micro-HDMI port for connecting to an external display, but the built-in panel doesn’t lack for resolution: the 13.3in 3,200 x 1,800 screen ensures images appear incredibly crisp. This, together with vibrant and bold colours, provides an excellent first impression.
It’s also, in the true sense of the word, brilliant, hitting 409cd/m2 in our tests. Such brightness did have an adverse effect on black levels, which were higher than I’d like at 0.77cd/m2, while a contrast ratio of 513:1 is underwhelming by modern standards. That said, matte panels such as this tend to have a lower contrast ratio.
The panel’s sRGB coverage of 90.2% is respectable for a laptop of this price, and its Delta-E average of 2.79 is fine, provided you’re not looking for a perfectly colour accurate screen (see our Labs group test covering professional monitors on p64 if such a monitor appeals). If you aren’t happy with the default settings, you can make adjustments via Asus’ Splendid display profile software. Vivid mode, for example, boosts saturation and makes colours pop; it proved too extreme for my tastes, however.
This isn’t the perfect laptop – the 128GB SSD is a reflection of its price, for instance – but none of my criticisms are death blows. For under $1,200 Asus has produced a remarkable machine. It looks amazing, the build quality is excellent, and to include such a high-resolution screen without a commensurate increase in price is quite a feat.