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

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)
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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  • KPOM - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Except it is heavier, has a lower resolution screen, and a slower processor than the new MacBook.
  • Dorek - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    "Heavier." lol
  • dragonsqrrl - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Ya, "heavier"... it's just under .6 additional lb. It also provides an optional 3200x1800 panel and higher clocked M-5Y71. And as I said in my previous comment the slightly thinner and lighter body of the MacBook comes at the cost of connectivity and functionality.
  • gw74 - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

  • FwFred - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    As a travel device? No heavy user is going to use this as their primary machine, but it's still much faster than any fanless tablet for 'on the go' usages.
  • FwFred - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Amazing price point for the overall package. I would have guessed $899 or $999 (and +$100 if it had the higher end Core M and 802.11ac)
  • kyuu - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Agreed. For the price it really can't be beat. If you need/want more performance than the Core M offers, you can step up to a Dell XPS 13 instead. If you need/want a Yoga-like hinge and touchscreen, you can go to an HP Spectre x360 (or Yoga, if battery life isn't big on your priority list).
  • darkich - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Anandtech skips the Geekbench again, yet almost whenever they do some deep chip analysis, they use it as a reference for raw performance measures.

    Why is this the case?

    What I find the most striking regarding the Core M is, again, the vast inferiority in the GPU aspect compared to ARM based chips.

    20nm planar Apple GPU and 28nm Nvidia GPU are besting it for the fraction of the price.

    Imagine the disparity when the upcoming iPad and Shield with the X1 Tegra come out.. next iPad will probably have double the graphic power than the new $1300 MacBook!! Ouch
  • kyuu - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    I guess we'll just ignore that Intel thoroughly trashes even the best ARM SoCs in CPU even in the same power envelope and focus only on GPU. Okay then.

    Yeah, the Core M is equaled or bested by Apple's and Nvidia's SoCs in terms of GPU. What are you going to do with that GPU power? Especially with an iOS device? Last I checked Candy Crush didn't require a lot of horsepower. With Android you can at least run console emulators to take advantage.
  • darkich - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    And I guess you will just ignore that there are TONS of graphically rich touch oriented games(do I need to start naming titles?) on iOS, and that gaming on iPads is by many orders of magnitude larger bussiness than gaming on all ultrabooks put together!
    The fact you mention candy crush says all about your objectivity and knowledge.

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