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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  • Klug4Pres - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I don't know why people want to buy these thin & light machines. What is wrong with a 5 lb laptop with a 35 Watt CPU, four RAM slots, two spindles, 14.1 inch 4:3 SXGA+ screen etc.? I keep being told "the ship has sailed", but I have no idea why. Reply
  • Novacius - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    If you're traveling a lot or just have to take your laptop with you every day, you appreciate a lighter laptop. Very, very much. They also have much better battery life. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I used to carry a 4kg laptop with extended battery, 1200p screen etc to events like Computex and day trips/meetings for a couple of years. Put it this way, I'm glad I have a UX301 now at just over 2lbs. That being said, there are a few lighter weight systems that have me interested, like the LaVie Z that we saw at CES. Reply
  • Refuge - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I am the definition of a desktop replacement buyer.

    But even I see the relief in pulling out a 2lb feather on an airplane rather than some 17in 7lb beast.

    Although those days are even coming to an end. Now you want a desktop replacement, the new Gigabyte P35X is a perfect idea! Thin, light, and TONS of horsepower. :)
    Reply
  • Flunk - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    If you want light and power I'd recommend getting a desktop AND a thin and light notebook. Why? The compromises necessary for thin and light notebooks are not compatible with the idea of a powerful notebook. Because of this you have to make a lot of compromises when it comes to heat, battery life, performance, price. At some point it might be possible but you can't get the best of both worlds right now. Reply
  • killeak - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Well, I disagree. As a render programmer that travels and works remote a lot (once every two months as minimum) I need a powerful laptop to work with. And the true is that these days there is plenty of great options that give you both (portability and performance). Recently I bought a Clevo p650sg (i7 4720hq, 980m, 32gb RAM, 2xSSD 500 + HD 1tb) for 2k usd. That being said, I do have a modern desktop PC at home that I bought last year (i7 4790, 16gb RAM, 500gb SSD + 2tb storage and a GeForce 770), but I prefer to use my laptop (I also bring it to the office and I plug to monitors and keyboard to increase my productivity). Performance wise, I will say that there is not much difference between my new laptop and the desktop that I use, in fact my new laptop is more powerful than my desktop at work except for the CPU (4770, 16gb RAM, 256 SSD and geforce 760).

    I love to have the performance of a powerful desktop in 2.6kg (before I had a Lenovo Y500, not that powerful but close and same weight). These days I use my desktop pc at home more as a media server and some occasional gaming on the TV than for work or main gaming platform (in any case I play SC2 and Civ5 mostly and I can play those on my laptop, even my old one).

    That being said, I do see the point of ultrabook or hybrids. I also have an Asus T100 that I use as my true mobile laptop/tablet that I bring with me everywhere. For web surfing, mails, word/excel, watching movies/series at the airport/airplane, etc. is great, and battery life is awesome. I see myself buying a Surface Pro 4 or something like it in the future, to replace the T100, but not for actual work since I need a true i7 (not ULV), lot of ram and a powerful GPU, that I can bring with me when I travel.
    Reply
  • Refuge - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I disagree, but only half.

    While you are correct and if you want power then there is no better solution than a full fledged desktop.

    But you can't say that Laptops can't be defined as powerful when it is toting a 4ghz I7 with a GTX 980m. That is like saying a Corvette isn't sports car because it isn't a Ferrari. Laughable I know right?

    Either way, broad stroke generalizations like that are quickly falling apart with each passing year as they cram more and more power into smaller and smaller packages. Anymore you are really only lacking in personal upradability. Which I can see being a big enough problem to turn people towards a desktop form factor of some sort.
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I mostly agree, I've done the 17" laptop with dedicated graphics. It quickly lost it's ability to play the latest games with high settings, and eventually do play the latest with reasonable settings. It's battery life sucks, it's heavy, it's useless on an airplane, etc.

    It was handy for gaming on vacation though. I've been tempted to buy 2 new laptop's, another gaming/big screen 17" laptop and a 12 or 13" ultralight. They're both laptops, but they serve completely different purposes.
    Reply
  • Conficio - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Working with two machines brings a lot of hassles of its own. Installing apps twice, upgrading twice, synching data, etc. having more storage on the desktop means you have to be selective and then you go the wrong selection on the road.

    I'd wish I could have an OS that has a seamless cloud extended storage, synching apps and documents a I need. Did I describe ChromeOS here?
    Reply
  • kingpotnoodle - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Because (very obviously) if you don't need a powerful machine but you do a lot of travelling then it's much better to have a lighter machine with a long battery life. Most of my work is web/ssh/rdp, long battery life and lighter weight are FAR more important to me than it being able to play Crysis or do video editing lightning fast. Reply

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