Looking for a new laptop can be a daunting task as there are so many many different models on the market. If you are looking for something powered by Intel, thin and fast you can almost immediately narrow down your search to an Intel Ultrabook. There are still hundreds of different models and configurations to pick from, but you can usually narrow the search even more by knowing your budget and screen size. The Ultrabook model that we are taking a look at today is the ASUS Zenbook UX305 and it can be purchased for $699.00 shipped. The ASUS Zenbook UX305FA is affordably priced and features a 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display with a matte finish, Intel M 'Broadwell' processor, a Solid-State Drive (SSD), 802.11n WiFi and Windows 8.1.
The ASUS ZenBook UX305 that we are going to be taking a closer look at today is the UX305FA-ASM1, which to make things simple is the only model widely available to purchase. The UX305 features an Intel Core M 5Y10 processor, 8 GB of DDR3L memory, a 256GB M.2 SATA III Solid-State Drive and a 1920 x 1080 full HD 1080p display. The Intel Core M 5Y10 processor is a dual-core processor with Intel Hyper-Threading that was built using Intel's 14nm manufacturing process and Broadwell architecture. The 800MHz base clock on this dual-core chip might scare some people away, but this is a very capable 4.5W TDP processor that can boost all the way up to 2GHz when needed. The processor also features Intel HD Graphics 5300 integrated inside that is Intel Quick Sync Video ready and ready to tackle DirectX 11.2 or OpenGL 4.3 tasks.
The only other option you have on the ASUS Zenbook UX305 would be the Crystal White Limited Edition version that has a larger 512GB SSD and a 3200x1800 matte display for $999.00. The kicker is that there were only 200 units produced and it is only available at ASUS' own estore.
The ASUS Zenbook UX305 weighs just 2.7 pounds (1.23 kilos) and is just 12.3mm thick thanks to the aluminum unibody design. One of the reasons this Zenbook is so thin is that it doesn't require the use of a fan for cooling the processor and that helps keeps the design thin and also gives you a noiseless computing experience as there are no moving parts on this laptop that put off noise. ASUS opted to use chromium copper alloy coils (heat-pipes) to keep the UX305 from overheating. The back of the Zenbook UX305 does get fairly warm (around 120F) during heavy use, but it's far being what we would call burning hot.
One of the highlights of this particular device is the 13.3-inch matte anti-glare wide-angle IPS 1080p display that looks amazing with a modest 170-degree viewing angle. When it comes to interfaces you have three USB 3.0 ports (One has USB Charger+ for faster charging of your mobile devices), one micro HDMI, one microphone-in/out combo jack and a SD card reader. The micro HDMI port can be connected to a 4K 30Hz display as the Intel HD 5300 graphics is up to the task of outputting content at Ultra HD resolutions. Along the top edge of the display bezel you'll find a 1.2-megapixel HD camera capable of recording 1080p video at 30 frames per second (FPS). ASUS went with a full keyboard on the UX305 and the keys have a travel depth of 1.5mm. The trackpad isn't centered with the space bar, but it is fairly large (4" x 3") and has gesture control. Audio performance is handled by a pair of Bang & Olufsen ICEpower speakers that sound great for the size of this Zenbook.
The 45 Whrs polymer battery offers up to 10 hours of battery life with 2-week long battery standby to ensure all day performance when one is at school, work or traveling. We've used ASUS Zenbooks for years and we noticed that they made some changes with regards to the battery charger that are worth noting on the Zenbook UX305. The wall charger is still the same shape and size, but the wall 'prongs' no longer retract which means they are always out. We also noticed that ASUS went away from the hard plastic 2-piece shell on the connector that plugs into the Zenbook that had an LED light to let you know if it was charging to a more rugged looking molded rubber design. We've had Zenbooks in the past that have slid off a couch and had this connector crack and break, but this design looks to be more forgiving.
ASUS has a great unboxing and overview video of the ASUS Zenbook UX305 that you can also watch to see and hear more about this particular model.
We also opened up Zenbook UX305 to see what all was soldered down and what wasn't. We were happy to see that ASUS was using a normal slots for the M.2 SATA SSD and the 802.11n wireless card, so both can be replaced later if they fail or you need something different. The processor and DDR3L memory are both soldered down and aren't end user replaceable.
Let's take a quick look at the performance on this model!
General Zenbook UX305 Performance
We ran 3DMark on battery power and got an overall score of 2,871 in Cloud Gate and 1,417 in Sky Diver. On Cloud Gate we scored 15.6 FPS on Graphics Test 1 and 14.9 FPS on Graphics Test 2.
When plugged into the wall outlet we found that the scores improved up to 3,075 in Cloud Gate and 1,497 in Sky Diver. On Cloud Gate we scored 16.7 FPS on Graphics Test 1 and 16.0 FPS on Graphics Test 2, which is an improvement of about 7%. If you are wanting the best gaming performance possible you'll want to ensure the laptop is plugged in as gaming on the battery is not the same even if you have the system set to 'High Performance' in Windows 8.1!
In Cinebench Release 11.5 we scored 14.31 FPS on the OpenGL test and then 1.70pts on the mult-core CPU benchmark.
On Cinebench R15 we scored 13.81 FPS on the OpenGL benchmark at 128cn on the multi-core CPU test.
The benchmark built-in 7-zip showed that the ASUS Zenbook UX305 had a total MIPS rating of 5,318.
A quick look at the memory performance showed 15.27 GB/s of bandwidth. This is about where we expect it to be for a dual-channel DDR3L memory kit running at 1600MHz with rather loose timings of 12-15-15-34 1T memory timings.
AIDA64 v5.20.3449 Beta showed memory read speeds of ~18,000 MB/s and write speeds of ~23,000 MB/s with a memory latency of 80.5ns.
In Sandra Processor Arithmetic the aggregate native performance score was 25.91 GOPS.
In the Encryption Algorithm Benchmark that comes inside TrueCrypt we found an AES mean score of 943 MB/s.
Our Geekbench 3.3.2 single-core score was 1,946 and the multi-core score was 3,159.
The last performance test that we wanted to run was Bootracer 4.9 to see how fast the system is able to boot Windows 8.1 64-bit. We found that it took just shy of 30 seconds to get everything up and running on the desktop!
USB, SDXC Card Reader and M.2 SATA Speed Tests
No review is complete without a look at drive performance, so we took a closer look at data transfer speeds on the primary M.2 SATA slot along with the three SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports.
ASUS went with the SanDisk X300s M.2 2280 256GB SATA SSD on this particular notebook. This isn't a popular SSD on the consumer market, but it is fairly popular on the OEM side.
A quick run of CrystalDiskMark v4.0.3 showed the sequential read speed at 528 MB/s and the write speed at 473 MB/s! The Random 4K read speed was 30.8 MB/s and the 4K random write speed was 70.6 MB/s.
Taking a look at another storage benchmark called ATTO, we find that the SSD reaching speeds of up to 527 MB/s read and 473 MB/s write. These are basically identical sequential read/write scores to what we saw on CrystalDiskMark.
To try out the three SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports we used a Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD in the Inateck FD1006C USB 3.0 docking station, which is the fastest USB 3.0 drive housing that we have.
We tested all three USB 3.0 ports and found that we were getting 463MB/s read and 455MB/s write speeds on the ASUS Zenbook UX305! It doesn't matter what USB 3.0 port that you use, this Intel Ultrabook will give you great performance.
The SDXC Card Reader that is built into the ASUS Zenbook UX305 tops out at around 35.8MB/s, which is a little disappointing. We transfer lots of images and videos that we shoot on SDXC cards and it would have been nice to see the reader connected to the USB 3.0 interface as our card is capable of 90MB/s write speeds.
Let's take a look at wireless performance.
Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7265 802.11n WiFi Performance Testing
When it comes to wireless performance we used LAN Speed Test to check the performance of the included the included $699.00 shipped. This is one of Intel's latest 802.11agn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards for mainstream applications. The card is socketed and replaceable, so you could always change it out down the road with an 802.11ac card if that was something you were interested in doing. This card is a dual-band 2x2 wireless card (TX/RX Streams), so it has a peak theoretical peak speed rating of 300 Mbps. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0 devices as well as Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)!
We used a desktop with Gigabit Ethernet to run LAN Speed Server that was hard connected to the ASUS RT-AC68U 802.11AC wireless router on the 2.4GHz band and moved it 15-feet away from the NUC test machine to check out performance with both 1MB and 100MB packets. We ran LAN Speed Test and looked at performance with 1MB and 100MB files on the 5GHz band.
On the 1MB packet size test we found 89Mbps (11.1MB/s) average write speeds and 114Mbps (14.25MB/s) average read speeds. With the larger 100MB packets the performance jumped up to 148Mbps (18.5MB/s) average write speeds and 215Mbps (26.88MB/s) average read speeds. Not bad performance for 802.11n, but certainly not as good as one would get with an 802.11ac solution.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The ASUS Zenbook UX305 was found to be a very well built Intel Ultrabook that is easily affordable. At first we were doubtful that the Intel Core M processor would be able to perform the tasks that we wanted to do, but we were pleased with the performance that it offered. We were able to stream 1080P content smoothly, play light games and do some Photoshop editing without any issues at all. The Intel Core M processor and 8GB of memory allowed us to edit dozens of images in Photoshop without bringing the system to a crawl, which is impressive for sub $700 dual-core powered notebook that is passively cooled!
The only thing we found ourselves wanting on the Zenbook UX305 was a back-lit keyboard as we really do enjoy the look and added benefits of having one. The battery life was pretty solid on our Zenbook UX305 and while we never got 10 hours out of it, we were able to spend the day traveling around the country on two flights that totaled 5.5 hours and we still had about 20% battery life left. We were surfing the web, watching movies, editing photos in Photoshop and had the screen brightness up, so we were happy with the battery life that we were getting.
When it comes to pricing the ASUS Zenbook UX305 can be purchased for $698.00 shipped on Amazon this very second. Right now you can go to the Microsoft Store and get the Zenbook UX305 for $599.99 shipped by using the $100 off promo code PCGRAD15. After using this laptop for a number of weeks we feel the $698 asking price is fair, but for $599 it really does feel like a steal! The ASUS Zenbook UX305 is also covered by a one year warranty on parts and labor for that price.
Legit Bottom Line: ASUS' Zenbook UX305 is one heck of a budget Intel Ultrabook and we are shocked how capable this model is thanks to the Intel Core M processor that exceeded our performance expectations!