With the ever shrinking size of 13-inch laptops, the line that separates small laptops and Ultrabooks gets thinner every day. Laptop makers are pushing the envelope on compact systems: Lenovo unveiled its Yoga 900S, a convertible notebook thinner than the 12-inch MacBook while keeping its USB 3.0 ports. Similarly, the HP EliteBook Folio G1 is also puts the MacBook to shame with its slimmer body despite incorporating a 4K touchscreen.
However, before the MacBook and all its challengers, there was the Asus ZenBook UX305. This 13-inch Ultrabook comes with a stunningly svelte aluminum frame that is, again, thinner than the MacBook while packing a newly-added Skylake Core M processor and plenty of flash storage space. All of this might sound like the makings of an expensive compact laptop, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is actually one of the more affordable Windows 10 laptops, starting at $699 (£599, AU$1,199).
This makes the Asus ZenBook far more affordable than most premium Ultrabooks, like the glass-surfaced Acer Aspire S7. And yet, this machine is just as carefully crafted as the all-metal Samsung Ativ Book 9 Spin. Asus has once again struck the perfect balance of affordability and luxury with its latest offering.
While the Asus ZenBook UX305 is now well over a year old, there’s a new Ultrabook in town, and its name is ZenBook UX330. It’s probably the closest you can get to the UX305 if you want a 7th-generation Intel processor on-board, and it goes for the same price the UX305 did at the time of its release.
At the same time, the classic Asus ZenBook UX305 flavor still goes strong. And it may soon get even better with Windows 10 announcements expected to arrive on May 2. That’s when Microsoft will apparently show off a barebones Windows 10 Cloud to the public, along with – presumably – a few more surprises.
Meanwhile, PC sales as a whole are on the decline, with Asus market share in particular having dropped almost below Apple. Much of this is due to increasingly expensive component prices in areas such as memory, which has experienced a 100% rise in cost year over year. Meanwhile, SSDs are experiencing shortages because of demand for them in the smartphone space.
You could easily mistake the Asus ZenBook UX305 for a sketchbook when holding it. It's stunningly thin, measuring just 0.5 inches thick and weighing 2.6 pounds (1.17 kg). This makes the ZenBook one of the skinniest Windows 10 machines in existence but don't think it's flimsy.
The UX305 is entirely made of aluminum. The interior deck is one solid piece of metal that features an anodized and fine grit finish. By no means is the surface abrasive – rather it adds an extra bit of texture for your wrists to sit on. The underside also sports an anodized sheen, and it's also made with a separate sheet of metal.
For a bit more style on the UX305's screen lid, Asus went with a brushed aluminum finish. However, instead of going with the traditional straight lines, the top panel features a radial pattern that's both attractive and conveniently draws your attention to the Asus logo in the center.
Despite the small size of this Ultrabook, the trackpad is extremely roomy and extends over a third of the laptop's width. The trackpad almost looks comically large, but you'll appreciate the extra space and the frictionless surface. Better yet, clicks are tactile and audible whether you're pressing on the dedicated left and right buttons or pressing anywhere on the surface.
Similarly, the keyboard is spacious and follows the standard layout with a full-length backspace and enter key. The keys bottom out to a defined thump and spring back instantly for a responsive typing experience.
Asus Zenbook UX305 (2015)-10
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
There's no denying the Asus ZenBook UX305 looks exactly like a MacBook Air. From the hinge, the bezel around the screen, the position of the trackpad to the recessed keyboard, you can easily see the similarities to the MacBook Air. The hinge even helps to prop up the entire book at a tiny angle – just like Apple's ultralight notebook.
One of the few original touches Asus has added to the design are its chamfered edges, as opposed to the MacBook Air's razor sharp sides. Otherwise, the UX305 looks like the MacBook Air after it's gotten a nip-tuck job to make it marginally slimmer and lighter.
While the new ZenBook seems extremely derivative, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. If the MacBook Air helped set the benchmark for Ultrabooks, then the UX305 has surpassed it and improved on the design.
What's more, you also get a lot more ports too. This 13-inch laptop comes packing three USB 3.0 ports – which isn't even available on premium laptops, like the MacBook Pro and Surface Book. There's also an SD card reader and micro HDMI to round out the selection of ports.
First reviewed: January 2016
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this review