Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Keyboard and trackpad
It’s a good job, then, that the trackpad and keyboard are both solid. The keys are shallow like those of all laptops this size, but the key action is pleasant and there are no nasty surprises: no weirdly positioned or oddly shaped keys beyond the left-most column.
It is comfortable to type away on: we’ve written out thousands of words at a time, with no discomfort or cramped sensation. If you’re on a sensible budget, a 13-inch machine like the Asus ZenBook UX305CA is the best class to start in if portability is important.
Like last year’s model, though, the UX305CA doesn’t have a keyboard backlight. At a similar price the HP Envy 13 does have one of these, and it’s one of the few things that tips you off that this is a cheaper laptop.
The trackpad is similarly solid, with just a slight niggle or two. It’s of a good size, and the embedded mouse buttons are well-designed enough to mean you can just slide into using it without having to re-teach your fingers exactly where you need to press for a ‘right’ button press.
Its surface is smooth and non-tacky, because it uses the same sort of textured glass covering you get in more expensive ultraportables.
One area where the UX305CA could be improved is the feel of the pad’s click. It’s fine, but the HP Envy and MacBook Air pads have a slightly softer, more comfortable click that’s also quieter. This one is just a little loud.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Performance
While the UX305CA has a pretty wide-reaching appeal, its hardware is actually intended for a fairly specific use case. It’s all down to the kind of processor used, a third-generation Intel Core M, the 6Y30. Its standard clock speed is just 900MHz, which can be boosted by over 100 percent to 2.2GHz.
These Core M chipsets are tiny SoC processors that use a tiny amount of power but are very efficient. This is a ‘premium’ chipset like the Intel Core series, as opposed to the budget Celeron and Atom series CPUs seen in cheaper slim machines. However, its power is relatively humble.
Its aim is to offer day-to-day performance fairly similar to that of, say, an Intel Core i5. It’s pretty successful on this front. Unlike most Atom systems, there’s no basic interface lag and thanks to the use of 8GB RAM and 128GB all-SSD storage, the UX305CA is very quick to boot and snappy to come out of sleep.
If you’re moving between locations, just put it in your bag and you can take it out later and be back to what you were doing within a few seconds. If the laptop does into a deeper sleep it’ll take a bit longer, but that’s the norm.
You see this decent baseline performance in the Asus ZenBook UX305CA’s PC Mark 8 Home score of 1985. While lower than the Core i5 you could find in a chunkier laptop of this price, the difference is less than you might expect. The HP Envy 13 scores 2657 points, for example, and it has an Intel Core i7 (the version we reviewed at least).
Its Geekbench 3 score of 4837 (2403 single core) is very solid too. If you’re looking for a laptop for light duties, a Core M CPU is a good pick.
It’s with more challenging stuff the Asus ZenBook UX305CA starts to show its limits. Its gaming performance is really quite poor, for example. Where a dual-core Intel Core i5/i7 can generally handle recent games if you really strip the settings down to the bone, this machine continues to struggle.
With settings minimised and resolution set at 720p, the Asus ZenBook UX305CA still only manages 22fps in Alien: Isolation. Some might consider this playable, but only just. An Intel Core i5/i7 dual-core CPU will add another (up to) 10fps to this result.
At 1080p, that performance drops down to 10fps. And the results were even worse with Thief, which managed 15fps at 720p, Very Low settings. As you’d really want to play the game, at 1080p and with the visual turned up, the UX305CA managed just 3.9fps.
You probably have the idea by now. This definitely is not a gaming laptop. It’ll handle very old games and recent casual ones, but not the sort of titles released boxed for PS4. It also means that the extra resolution on offer here is only useful for making the desktop and general interface look sharp, and for playing high-res video.
Finding the Intel Core M’s limits isn’t hard. However, one obvious benefit is that this is a silent laptop (bar any touchpad or key noise you make). It uses full passive cooling: no fans at all. Bliss.
In normal day-to-day use as a Word, email and browsing machine it stays very cool too.
Asus ZenBook UX305CA review: Battery Life
The other big benefit of the Core M 6Y30 CPU is that it uses very little power. It lets the UX305CA balance the high screen resolution with fairly good stamina.
Windows laptops continue to struggle to match the stamina of MacBooks, but the ZenBook UX305CA lasts a very respectable nine hours when playing back a 720p video at 120cd/m brightness.
We’ve also been using it in our daily work routine, and if you’re in a location that’ll let you keep the brightness fairly low it’ll last a decent eight hours off a charge. That includes plenty of Wi-Fi use too.
Crucially this is better than a lot of the rival Core i7/i5 ultraportables we’ve reviewed recently.
The one part we’ve not covered yet is speaker quality. Like many Asus laptops the UX305CA uses Bang & Olufsen IcePower speakers, one at each end of the underside. And like other IcePower speakers we’ve heard recently, they’re not mind-blowing.
The sound is fairly thin and light, and is not hugely loud. However, the tone is also fairly natural, making even music perfectly listenable once your ears bed into the lack of lower-end body. There’s also no obvious distortion at max volume. They may be fairly ‘standard’ laptop speakers, but the fairly low price and that 12mm thickness will make you think about them more favourably.
Asus Zenbook UX305CA: Specs
- 13.3in (3200 x 1800) 276dpi IPS LCD matt anti-glare 900MHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ (2.2GHz boost) 2 cores, 4 threads Intel HD 515 integrated GPU 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM 128GB M.2 SSD No Ethernet 802.11b/g/n/ac dual-band 2x2 MIMO Bluetooth 4.0 3x USB 3.0 microHDMI SDXC card slot stereo Bang & Olufsen speakers HD webcam single mic 3.5mm headset jack UK tiled keyboard 44Wh lithium-ion battery 324 x 226 x 12.3 mm 1200g