It was way back in 2011 that ASUS launched the Zenbook series. The original UX21E and UX31E were the first of the thin and light Ultrabooks from ASUS to bear the Zenbook brand, and featured an all-aluminum chassis. ASUS has kept the styling consistent over the years, and refined their Zenbook with each new model. The new UX305 is their thinnest and lightest incarnation to date and keeps the Zenbook aluminum frame, with the distinctive concentric-circle finish on the lid, and squeezes the laptop down to an incredible 12.3 mm thickness.

Part of that story is what is powering the UX305. Intel’s Core M processor is a 4.5 watt chip which has compressed the entire system on a chip into a much smaller package than the traditional Core processors that have powered the other Zenbooks. ASUS has created a system board with a ten-layer high-density PCB which is only 0.83 mm thick, and roughly the size of a six-inch smartphone. Core M, with its low Thermal Design Power (TDP), also enables fanless devices, and ASUS has done this to provide a laptop computing system with no moving parts at all, and therefore it is virtually silent.

The most amazing thing about the ASUS UX305 though is that the company has crafted an all-aluminum, thin, light, and capable Ultrabook for only $699. With this kind of price point, one would expect sacrifices to be made in the specifications, but that is not really the case at all. For the base starting price, the UX305 comes with the Core M-5Y10 processor which has a base clock of 800 Mhz and boost to 2 GHz, along with 8 GB of LPDDR3-1600, and a 256 GB Solid State Drive. The display is a 13.3 inch 1080p IPS panel, and in April a 3200x1800 model will be available which includes multi-touch.

ASUS Zenbook Ultrabook
  UX305FA- As Tested, Core M-5Y10, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 1920x1080 IPS display, 802.11n Wi-FI
Processor Intel Core M-5Y10 (2C/4T, 0.8-2.0GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 4.5w)
Intel Core M-5Y71 (2C/4T, 1.2-2.9GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 4.5w)
Memory 4GB or 8GB LPDDR3-1600Mhz
8GB Standard in NA
Graphics Intel HD 5300 (24 EU, 100-800 MHz on 5Y10, 300-900 Mhz on 5Y71)
Display 13.3" 1920x1080 IPS matte
AUO212D

Optional 3200x1800 PLS
Optional Mult-touch
Storage 128GB or 256GB SSD
Sandisk model
256 GB standard in NA
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7265 (802.11n, 2x2:2, 300Mpbs Max, 2.4 and 5GHz)
Optional
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 (802.11ac, 2x2:2, 866 Mbps Max, 2.4 and 5GHz)
Audio Conexant SmartAudio HD
Stereo Speakers (downfiring)
Battery 45 Wh Battery
45 Watt charger
Right Side Power Input
USB 3.0 Port
micro-HDMI Port
Headset Jack
Left Side 2 x USB 3.0 Ports
SD Card Reader
Dimensions 324 x 226 x 12.3mm (12.75 x 8.9 x 0.48 inches)
Weight 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs)
Extras 720p Webcam
Colors Obsidian Stone, Ceramic Alloy
Pricing $699-$999 USD

For the US market, the $699 5Y10, 8GB, 256 GB 1080p model will be the base, however they will offer other configurations in other markets. As far as specifications, there is very little to complain about. ASUS has still managed to fit a 45 Wh battery onboard, and it has all of the ports one would expect of a modern Ultrabook, with three USB 3.0 ports including one port with sleep charging, a micro-HDMI port, a headset jack, and a micro SD card slot. They have even fitted a 720p webcam. Really the only spec that that might be considered cutting corners is the 802.11n wireless, but some models will come with 802.11ac as well. ASUS has packed all of this into just 1.2 kg, so the UX305 is very light too.

One look at the UX305 and you can instantly tell that ASUS is going for those who are after a premium Ultrabook, but with a budget price. However that budget does not mean that it skimps on the necessities like storage or RAM. At CES, I was hopeful that the push to lower cost devices with solid state storage would be right around the corner, and clearly that is the case. Many of us who follow technology get asked for recommendations on devices to purchase, and it was difficult to find a quality device for a reasonable price that included solid state storage. ASUS has shattered that barrier with a 256 GB SSD at this price point.

They have also changed the perception about design and feel of a mid-priced notebook.

Design and Chassis
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  • metayoshi - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I may be in the niche group right now, but I am pretty excited at what these 5W chips bring to the table. These chips are really where Windows on a tablet will stand out in my opinion. With much better performance than you get with the crappy Atom line of CPUs and with way better performance than anything ARM will provide, and then add in the millions of legacy programs that you can use on a full x86 Windows platform, and in my opinion, it's a winning combination. With products like Dell's Venue 11 Pro already upgraded to Core M, and with the upcoming Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi also coming in with Core M, and all for around $800, I find it worth the extra $300 to get better performance and get full blown Windows instead of being stuck in the limited Chromebook world. At this point, I'm waiting on reviews, and both of Anandtech's Core M reviews so far show me what I expected.

    Of course, I agree that this platform is not for everybody. A gamer should build their own gaming desktop, or invest in something like the Razer Blade if they want mobility, and a content consumer should just go Android Tablet, iPad, or Chromebook. But personally, I already have a gaming desktop at home that is overpowered for the task in my mind and would benefit from being mobile, but the task is incompatible with anything but Windows, so my smartphone or non-Windows tablet can't even run to program, and Atom is far too weak, so something with Core M is ideal.

    In other words, if you don't want it, don't buy it. But to answer your top question, who asked for a 5 W notebook chip? I did.
    Reply
  • eanazag - Monday, March 30, 2015 - link

    I'm excited about these chips too because of battery life. For personal use I'd rather have some more gaming chops.

    I use a Surface Pro 1 for work and am happy with it except for battery life. The battery life isn't bad; I just know there is better out there and in consideration to my iPad I can't ditch the iPad.
    Reply
  • r00fus - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Hyperbolic post is hyperbolic.

    Let us know how all your existing software runs on an ARM chip.

    Go buy yourself a monster laptop if you want. I like having an option of a slim, sleek fanless form factor, even if the performance isn't top notch.
    Reply
  • wetwareinterface - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    because the MAINSTREAM of the notebook market won't even use the paltry power this offers. the MAINSTREAM user needs a web browser, a picture viewer, video playback software and at rare intervals the ability to run office. 8GB of ram means they won't need an upgrade for a long time. Reply
  • V900 - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    But after a couple of weeks the MAINSTREAM will start to get annoyed with the slowdowns, the heat and the fact that you can't have more than a few programs running at once, whitout the laptop throttling down constantly. MAINSTREAM is especially annoyed how everything comes to a crawl when they're doing the virus scans. Because 8GB RAM doesn't change the fact that the puny 5 watt ceiling means that it spends half the time below 1 GHZ and with one core turned off.

    MAINSTREAM quickly realizes that much of the time, their iPad does a quicker and better job at looking something up online, or replying to an email.
    Reply
  • V900 - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Hey now! Apple certainly didn't put this halfassed, asthmatic excuse of a CPU in the MacBook Air.

    It's the craptastic 12 inch MacBook that has to suffer the indignity of being powered by a CoreM.

    (And while I love Apple products and got an i-everything myself, both Apple and Apple fanboys have finally jumped the shark with the 12 inch MacBook. And the Koolaid-swillers can't believe how innovative it is: "It only has ONE port! So brave and futuristic!"
    Reply
  • akdj - Saturday, March 28, 2015 - link

    It's also fabless, with PCIe storage that flat FLIES, an excellent iGPU that'll help that meager Core m processor that is essentially as fast as the quickest core2duos (mobile)! As well, an operating system that scales your UI properly and sure, a single port. It's 'portable'. Not meant to be connected.
    You can certianly (& already) buy the proper docks and/or adaptors necessary to utilize USB 3, HDMI or VGA, & power it simultaneously. The traditional bottleneck for the 'mainstream' has NEVER been the CPU. Rather it's memory, storage sub system, OS or a combination of all at the above...including GPU. While you're an Apple fan, you should know just how great these displays and their HiDPI scaling through OS X (& iOS) has gotten since the release of the 2012 models and 'new' iPad (3).
    This IS the computer for the 'Apple fanboy Kool-Aid swillers' unlike you and I that obviously need a bit more horsepower, I/O or 'strength' from our laptops. Most, don't. They're doing the 'lifting' at work on a supplied work station. They're using their MacBook to edit family photos, videos, neither using Premier, AE, Smoke or even FCPx ...nor photoshop. They're using iPhoto and iMovie, NEITHER of which will be slowed down to the point of frustration as they're doing what they NEED it to. Surf the web, check email, Facebook and Twitter, watch a flick or listen to music, even ALL those processes, simultaneously running won't create any 'perceived slow down' by the end user of they're not in need of the processing power and amount of ports you somehow believe we all need.
    I get it. And own a pair of 15" rMBPs and they're the best computers I've ever owned, and to think it started on a IIe and monochrome display! That said, we get it, you're disgusted but guess what? ASUS literally JUST released the same 'halfassed, asthmatic of an excuse of a CPU' in their latest Ultralight line. Bit less money, but lesser IGPU, lesser storage speeds, and severely lacking display OOB without calibration. It's got your ports, but again I ask, Why?
    Why the ports? Why a quad core i7 Xeon with GPUs in SLI? When no one wants anything p,urged in to their laptop on the train, on the plane or on the go? No need to charge, it lasts ten hours --- but if u need it, buy the 13" rMBP. Same tech, all the IO you seem to need and not so anemic a CPU
    As an Apple fan myself, it's sad to see another 'fan' so clueless and ignorant to what a portable, laptop design should and shouldnt be (like the crappy hinge on the ASUS)
    And you get OS X, an operating system built and 'intended' for maximum end user enjoyment and Performance --- 'real or perceived', it's irrelevant.
    It's always nice to leave work at home
    Reply
  • Haravikk - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Who asked for a 5W notebook chip? To me the answer is anyone concerned about battery life and/or size; having to put a fan in a notebook adds to its bulk, not to mention making noise, reducing room for batteries and, if the processor needs a fan, reducing that battery life even further.

    Granted the screens are really the most demanding component these days, especially high-densisty screens requiring stronger backlights, but hopefully this will go down too (and you can run at reduced brightness to get some extra time out of the battery). But yeah; battery life improvements require everything to get more efficient, and that includes the processor. It might not be a massive leap in performance (or an improvement at all, depending upon what you're doing with it), but the efficiency improvements are enormous.
    Reply
  • ragenalien - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Because it's easier for intel to improve the power to performance ratio than merely making the chips faster with the same power. They've been doing this since sandy-bridge and it doesn't seem like they'll change that any time soon. Reply
  • frodbonzi - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Except this laptop is $699.... not $1300...And for that "extra" $200, you get a thin, shiny laptop capable of doing 99% of what the "normal" user will want...

    You want to play uber games... buy an Alienware 18!
    Reply

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