Hands-on: Asus ZenBook UX305 review
As laptop makers eye up the future of the market, there's been a divide between the high-end and the affordable budget ranges that has seen the middle section squeezed in different ways. Those laptops near but in excess of £1,000 aren't selling like they used to, so there's a push for Windows devices to dangle extra carrots to keep the ever popular MacBook Air and Pro models at bay. Which is where the Asus Zenbook UX305 Ultrabook fits into the equation.
Not content with being average, the Zenbook's big sell is its huge screen resolution. The 13.3-inch panel has a whopping 3200 x 1800 pixel resolution and it's the most striking thing that first grabbed our attention. Bright, crisp and with good viewing angles, this leaves almost all its competitors in the dust. There is also a 1920 x 1080 panel option available, presumably costing a chunk of cash less.
It's all part of the process of trying to lure in a different customer base. Alongside the likes of the Acer S3 (2014) that has dedicated graphics at an affordable price, the Asus Zenbook is a careful balance of power to function in an appealing form factor. Running Windows 8.1, it does find itself absent of a touchscreen so the operating system might feel a little alien to those finger-jabbing types. But with that much glorious resolution, why would you want smeary fingerprint all over the place anyway?
The Zenbook doesn't utilise the very highest quality build materials though, probably in a bid to keep the price sensible given the significance of many of the features. Don't expect a MacBook Air aluminium finish, but more a soft-touch finish that, despite looking plasticky, doesn't feel as cheap as that reflective white exterior might insinuate. That's how the "Ceramic Alloy" model - which we'd just call “white” - feels anyway.
The keyboard keys do feel rather plastic though, but they're well spaced for a decent typing experience and joined by a trackpad of ample size that felt natural in use.
Big resolution needn't mean large form factor either, as the Zenbook UX305 measures 12.3mm thick, making it an ideal travel companion. It weighs 1.2kg, which is on par with the best competitors on the market at this size.
Our initial handling of the product was more an assessment of aesthetics than overall function. How well the new Intel Core M processor paired with Intel HD Graphics 5300 and 4/8GB RAM functions isn't something we've been able to dig deep into. But in either specification it should have plenty of grunt for all manner of tasks.
Elsewhere there's a 128/256GB SSD drive to store all your goodies, two USB sockets, a 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-HDMI, and even an SD card slot. The battery promises up to 12 hours of web browsing which, again, isn't something we can verify just yet - but the latest Intel chips do go a long way in advancing battery consumption.
What will make of break the Asus Zenbook UX305 is its price… which is something that we don't know just yet. Despite querying it with Asus representatives that's still a guessing game for the time being. But if the Taiwanese company gets it right then it's onto a certain winner we should think - that screen resolution, based on the numbers game along, will be enough to lure prospective punters in.
We would have preferred a more luxury build, but then you can't have it all either. In the UK, the UX305's release date is expected to fall in December. The ideal time to ask Santa to put one under the tree perhaps? We think anyone looking for a new laptop would be pretty chuffed with this model, despite its lack of touchscreen.