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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  • darkich - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link for "thoroughly trashing" in CPU(or should i say, in software-dependent web benchmarks only), well just wait for the 14nm Cyclone and Cortex A72.
    By year's end we will see ARM CPU beating core m even on 2.5w TDP and $50 worth of chips
  • Morawka - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    See this is how you treat your customers.

    This Asus Laptop does not have a Ethernet Port since it's so thin, but GOOD guy asus includes a ethernet adapter in the box.

    THen you turn around and look at apple's offering. 1 port, Twice as expensive, and requires you to buy a $80 adapter right after shelling out $1300 + Tax.

    With the Asus laptop, you can avoid sales tax easily.
    with the apple laptop, you can't.. They got sales tax everywhere because of apple stores in every state. Your only hope is mac mall and they lag behind several months on new models.
  • DavidTJ - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Exactly what model is reviewed?
    I have looked at UX305FA-FB003P and it's totally different. Also UX305FA-FC008H looks different (4GB only)...
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Can you add a DOTA 2 battery life test? Also, why does the XPS 13 do sooooo much better in the normalized battery life test?
  • kyuu - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    It doesn't do *that* much better (well, I guess it does when you consider the XPS 13 uses a higher wattage CPU). But Dell worked closely with Intel and Microsoft to squeeze every little bit of power savings they could out of the hardware/software package, so I imagine that's responsible for the difference.
  • heytimbo - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    I tried one of the first gen UX31. If I recall, it was a 128GB SSD and so full of bloatware about 30 GB were free. I took it back to the retailer and questioned. I was told to buy a standalone copy of windows and install. It seemed easier to return the PC and go Mac. I have not looked back. ASUS, you make great products but are you still filling the laptops with bloatware?
  • Dorek - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    "If I recall, it was a 128GB SSD and so full of bloatware about 30 GB were free."

    I don't believe you. The OS takes about 10-20 GB, so that's roughly 100GB left. You're saying 70 GIGABYTES were taken up by crapware? That's bullshit. That'd be like, 20 installs of Adobe Premiere Pro, or two installs of a high-end AAA 2014 game. You're lying.
  • heytimbo - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    No, and that is why I returned the PC. I could not believe the level of bloatware. I am curious about these current machines. If I see any at a local store I may test to see.
  • beehofer - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    No back-lit Keyboard was the deal-breaker for me. I would have been very interested but I work/play in dark settings often and cannot go back to a non back-lit keyboard. It was a gross mistake by Asus. Get with it man!
  • creed3020 - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    I don't know where that $699 price is coming from. Amazon US is showing around $899 and in Canada the cost is $1200. So this "budget" ultrabook just went through the roof in pricing.

    I'm thoroughly impressed by it but this is MacBook pricing...

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