Asus' ZenBook UX305CA is a killer work companion for the price. Starting at just $699, this is one of the best laptop values we've seen, offering a stylish aluminum frame, a sharp 13.3-inch display and superlong battery life, all for a great price. It's not all that fast, but the ZenBook UX305CA belongs in your workbag if you need a solid work laptop that won't break your budget.
Workers will also appreciate the ZenBook's gorgeous aluminum design, which looks as sleek and premium as the designs of rival laptops that cost hundreds of dollars more. The metal lid and keyboard deck have a subtle warm tint that sets the ZenBook apart from competing silver machines like the HP EliteBook Folio 1020.Commuters will love the ZenBook UX305CA's lightweight design. Coming in at 2.64 lbs., it's almost as light as the 2.6-lb. Dell XPS 13, even though that laptop is noticeably smaller. The Yoga 900, meanwhile, is actually heavier, at 2.8 lbs., though that system offers faster performance and a higher-res touch screen.
With its superslim profile, the ZenBook offers just the basic selection of ports. The left edge has two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader for expanding the notebook's internal memory. The right side, meanwhile, offers one extra USB 3.0 port and a mini HDMI port for connecting to a monitor or projector.
This is everything you'd want out of a 13-inch display. The ZenBook UX305CA's 1080p panel is nice and sharp, delivering crisp text and clear images. Plus, the resolution is high enough that side-by-side multitasking is perfectly comfortable.
The display is also quite bright, topping out at 322 nits. That's about on par with the HP Spectre x2 and ZenBook UX303UA, and much brighter than the Lenovo Ideapad 300s. I also like the matte finish on the screen, which does a good job of curbing annoying reflections from overhead office lights.
Keyboard and trackpad
The ZenBook UX305CA's keyboard is a bit on the shallow side, with just 1.2 millimeters of travel. That's typical for superthin laptops like this one, though. On the bright side, the keys provide snappy feedback on each stroke, so typing on the UX305CA feels pretty good overall.
However, I'm not a fan of the trackpad, which has a slightly tacky surface. That caused my finger to skid unpleasantly over the trackpad's surface from time to time. Otherwise, cursor control feels fine, and two-finger scrolling is responsive enough.
The ZenBook UX305CA's longevity might be its most impressive trait, though. The device ran for an excellent 9 hours and 38 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That beats the ultraportable notebook average of 7 hours and 27 minutes, and blows away the HP EliteBook Folio 1020's time of 6 hours and 49 minutes. Dell's $899 XPS 13 is still the battery-life king, though, running for an epic 11 hours and 42 minutes on a charge.
Under the hood, you get an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor with 8GB of RAM, which provides enough performance for basic work tasks, but not a lot else. During my testing period, I found that moderate to heavy multitasking can definitely cause some slowdown. I tried editing a large spreadsheet while streaming HD video with several tabs open in my Web browser, and saw noticeable lag when I switched among windows.
Those impressions were borne out in our benchmark tests. The UX305CA racked up a middling score of 4,810 on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. That falls short of the scores achieved by rival laptops like the HP Spectre x2 (5,814) and Lenovo Ideapad 300s (5,753).
I was also disappointed by the system's performance on our spreadsheet test. The UX305CA took 6 minutes and 1 second to pair 20,000 names to their addresses in the OpenOffice spreadsheet app. Competing systems finished much faster, with an average time of about 4.5 minutes.
Asus sells the ZenBook UX305CA in a handful of hardware configurations. Our review unit is the low-end model, offering an Intel Core m3-6Y30 processor with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage and a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen, all for $699.
But for just $750, you can upgrade the display to a higher-res 3,200 x 1,800-pixel touch screen. If you don't mind spending an extra $50, this is the model I'd recommend for most workers.
A top-end model is also available, with a speedier Core m7-6Y75 processor that has 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 3,200 x 1,8000-pixel display.
The ZenBook UX305CA is a really well-rounded work machine that delivers a lot of bang for your buck. It sports a sleek aluminum design, long battery life, a nice keyboard and a sharp matte display for under $700. Just don't expect to do any serious multitasking on it, and be prepared to deal with the tacky touchpad.
If you need a bit of extra power, the Asus ZenBook UX303UA is a similar system that offers a faster processor for $850. But business users on a strict budget can't go wrong with the ZenBook UX305CA.