Asus ZenBook UX305CA review
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA is a laptop that takes up the slack left by the MacBook Air series, whose design and hardware is now a little out-of-date in certain areas. What you get is a very slim, very light laptop that’s perfect for portable work - quite a lot like the ZenBook UX303U we reviewed a few months back.
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It’s not that expensive either, particularly for a machine with a 3K-resolution screen. Such a high resolution display has a mild hit on battery life compared with the 1080p version, and its Core M CPU isn’t suited to really taxing tasks. But in most respects this is one of the very best affordable Ultrabooks.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Price
The ZenBook UX305CA is a mass market laptop. It’s not out to court people who are going to spend hours poring over benchmark results, and worrying about whether it’ll run their favourite game.
It’s not terribly powerful, but that does mean it’s able to offer an impressive-looking and feeling machine for £649. At the time of writing the UX305CA-FB005T (to give it its full name) is available for just £599 online from John Lewis too. Much like the original UX305, reviewed, you’d probably assume it was more expensive on first sight.
See also: Asus ZenBook UX501 Pro review
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Design
Your first reaction on seeing the version of the Asus ZenBook UX305CA we were sent will likely be: that looks a lot like a MacBook Air. The tinted silver version is made of anodised anodised aluminium throughout, and its lines and ultra-skinny frame are clearly out to appeal to the sort of buyer who might otherwise end up with a MacBook Air.
Asus does offer a version with more of its own identity, though. The black Asus ZenBook UX305CA has a spun brushed finish on its lid, which is the ‘family crest’ of the ZenBook series. If you won’t want your laptop to be confused for a MacBook, consider that version. It’s no more expensive.
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA is quite lovely whichever version you choose, though. All-aluminium construction and a thin, light body make it feel quite expensive while also being thoroughly practical as a portable machine.
Unlike the HP Envy 13 we reviewed recently, there’s no obvious flex to the panels either. This is a cheaper Ultrabook, but doesn’t give that away too obviously.
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA weighs 1.2kg and is 12mm thick. It’s very thin. It’s very light. You would have to switch to a smaller-screen laptop to get anything significantly thinner and lighter, but we find 13-inch laptops to be a great balance between portability and screen size.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Connectivity
Asus has been quite a big supporter of the rise of the USB-C standard in its devices, but the Asus ZenBook UX305CA misses out on this. Instead you get three USB 3.0 ports.
It is looking as though the move to USB-C may be more fractured than we imagined, anyway. Until recently it seemed most new phones would use the new standard, forcing USB-C from relative obscurity right into the mainstream. But now that (perhaps) the most important Android phones, the Samsung Galaxy S7 family, have decided to use microUSB, the transition will take a bit longer.
You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it’s a big deal or not. Other than the trio of USBs, you get a full-size SD card slot and a microHDMI port.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Screen
One of the boasting points of the UX305CA is that it has a high-resolution 3200x1800-pixel screen. Most laptops with one of these are significantly more expensive. Many are twice the price. It’s also the key difference between this model and the UX305 we took a look at last year, which had a 1080p screen.
This is an all-round good screen, but one that excels as a practical, all-conditions display rather than one you’d want to use as a TV-replacer.
Starting with the good bits, the Asus ZenBook UX305CA’s screen is very sharp. As with a lot of the current 3200x1800 LCD panels there’s still a tiny bit of fizziness up close, but it’s much sharper than a 1080p one. 276ppi wouldn’t look bad on a phone, and you’ll be sitting further back here.
Windows 10’s scaling options let you choose between packing more info on-screen and just having a sharper but otherwise normal-looking UI too.
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA has a matt screen, and its very solid 398cd/m2 brightness means this is a laptop you can use in virtually all conditions. A times I’ve used the machine with bright sunlight streaming right onto the display. It’s not ideal, but you can still see what’s going on when, say, writing a document.
It’s an IPS panel too, so looks just fine from any angle. Colours are good too, hitting 91 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut and 63 per cent of Adobe RGB. Ideally you’d want a laptop to hit 100 per cent of sRGB, but it’s easily forgivable given the price, and it isn’t all that evident in person. Plus, it's in a different league from a TN-panel MacBook Air. Calibration is good too with an average Delta E of 0.2, making colours look natural.
The part of the screen that is just ‘ok’ is contrast. We measured it at 500:1, which is fine but nothing special. It clearly favours peak brightness over contrast. In person what this means is that blacks lose some of their depth when you ramp-up the brightness or when you’re in a darker room.
However, the unremarkable contrast wasn’t anywhere near as apparent when actually using the machine as a work computer. It is only when using the UX305CA in subdued indoors lighting it starts to come across a little limited compared to the best.
Just like last year’s UX305F, the UX305CA doesn’t offer any fancy screen tricks. The hinge only bends back to around 130 degrees, it’s not a touch display and has a classic raised bezel rather than a totally flat screen.
It may be super-slim and have a very modern CPU, but this is otherwise a traditional laptop.