Asus's ZenBook UX306UA is a great value – unless you do a lot of typing. The laptop's shallow keyboard is a real drag on this otherwise excellent system. Its many high points include a gorgeous metal design, blazing fast performance, long battery life, generous internal storage and a sharp 1080p display – all for an affordable $999. All together it's a nice, portable work companion, but there are better options for serious typists.
The ZenBook UX306UA is one of the slickest laptops you can buy for $999. The system looks and feels great, with a solid aluminum lid and a sturdy aluminum keyboard deck.
Commuters and frequent travelers will appreciate the slim profile. Measuring 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches and weighing in at 2.8 lbs., it's small and light enough to lug back and forth between home and the office without any fuss. Some competing systems are even more portable, though. Dell's XPS 13 (12. X 7.9 x 0.6 inches, 2.6 lbs.) is smaller and lighter, and the HP Spectre is comparable in size to the ZenBook, but is the lightest of the bunch at 2.5 lbs.
You get a really limited selection of ports here. On the system's left edge you'll find a single USB 3.0 port and an SD card slot for expanding its 256GB of internal storage.
On the right edge, you get a micro HDMI port for connecting to monitors or projectors, and a USB Type-C port for attaching accessories.
The ZenBook's bright, sharp display is a pleasure to work on. The 13.3-inch, 1080p panel is roomy enough for split screen multitasking, and cranks out vibrant images and crisp text.
It's nice and bright, too. The ZenBook's display tops out at 320 nits of brightness, outshining the category average of 301 nits. That makes it easy to work on outdoors or in direct sunlight.
I started out typing this review on the Asus ZenBook UX306UA, but the laptop's shallow keyboard soon had me running back to my desktop computer. With just 1.1 millimeters of key travel, the layout just isn't very comfortable to type on for long. I felt like I was bottoming out hard as I struck each key, which made typing feel a bit uncomfortable, and seemed to increase the number of typos I committed.
If you're not picky about keyboard quality, or rarely need to hammer out anything longer than an email reply, the ZenBook UX306UA's shallow layout might not be a big deal. For workers who do a lot of typing, though, it could be a deal breaker.
Security and durability
The ZenBook UX306UA is a consumer-grade laptop, so it doesn't offer any extra security or durability credentials. Workers who want hardware-based encryption, a fingerprint reader or extra protection against drops and dings will have to pay a bit more for a business-class notebook such as the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon (starts at $1,269.)
Leave your charging cable at home – the ZenBook UX306UA can easily last through the workday and beyond. The system ran for a very impressive 10 hours and 44 minutes, making it one of the longer-lasting ultraportable laptops out there. It far outlasted the Spectre (6:13). Dell's XPS 13 is the battery life champ in this category, though, running for an even stronger 11 hours and 54 minutes.
You'll have to really push the ZenBook UX306UA before you see any slowdown. The one and only hardware configuration available comes equipped with a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i7-6500U processor, 8GB of RAM and a generous 512GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. You'll be hard pressed to find another ultra-thin laptop that's this powerful at such an affordable price. On the other hand, the Core i7 processor is frankly overkill for most work tasks, and you're unlikely to notice much real-world performance difference between the UX306UA and a similar, Core i5-equipped laptop.
Still, the ZenBook cranked out a really impressive score of 6,898 on the Geekbench 3 benchmark test, which measures overall performance. That beats the category average of 5,295, as well as most rival systems including the XPS 13 (6,391). HP's Core i7-equipped Spectre did even better, though, scoring 7,026 on the same performance test.
The ZenBook also fared well on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in 4 minutes and 24 seconds. That blows the average time of 6:50 out of the water, and edges out the XPS 13's time of 4:34. But again, the Spectre was speedier, completing the spreadsheet test in 3:56.
The Asus ZenBook UX306 is a terrific deal, providing a powerful processor and a generous 512GB of internal storage for at least a hundred dollars less than similarly-equipped rivals. You get speedy Core i7 performance, long battery life, a gorgeous 13.3-inch display and a sleek aluminum design that will slide in and out of your work bag effortlessly.
If only typing on the ZenBook UX306UA wasn't such a slog. The system's shallow keyboard will have serious typists wishing for something more comfortable in minutes. That's reason enough to opt for a rival laptop like the $999 Dell XPS 13, whose Core i5 processor will perform just as well for the vast majority of work tasks, and whose modest 128GB of storage can be augmented via its SD card slot. Plus, it's even more portable than the ZenBook, and feels loads better to type on.
Still, it's hard to deny that the Asus ZenBook UX306UA a pleasure to look at, and it delivers great bang for your buck if you aren't picky about keyboard quality.