Computer

Asus ZenBook UX305CA review – another shot at the MacBook

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Asus’ ZenBook range is one of consumer technology’s pleasant consistencies, both in terms of their stylish designs but also in terms ofperformance. Last year’s ZenBook UX305 was the first ZenBook to use Intel’s new Core M processors and gave Windows-based laptops a suitable rival to Apple’s latest MacBook that also opted for the same processor.

Now, a year on, and Intel has upgraded its Core M range, providing modest clock speed increases. The Core m3-6Y30 that’s now inside the UX305CA has had a modest base clock speed increase to 0.9GHz, up from 0.8GHz. It’s worth noting that there’s also a ZenBook UX305UA model, which uses more conventional Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors depending on configuration, so keep an eye on which you’re ordering to avoid confusion.

As before, such slow clock speeds might make you think you might have fallen into a time machine and found yourself decades in the past, but it all makes a little more sense when you realise Intel’s Core M processors are designed to Turbo boost to far nippier speeds. The UX305CA’s processor has a Turbo speed of 2.2GHz, which is 0.2GHz quicker than the older model, allowing for capable performance when required.

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In terms of the UX305CA’s design, it’s as delightfully light and svelte as its predecessor. It weighs 1.2kg with a thickness of 12.3mm, marginally thinner but slightly heavier than the MacBook for those keeping score. This gives you all-day portability without ever becoming a serious burden.

It’s available in a choice of three colours, which Asus describes as ‘Ceramic White’, ‘Aurora Metallic’ (silver) or ‘Obsidian Stone’ (black). Only the latter uses Asus’ now signature ‘spun-metal’ finish on its exterior. This is the concentric circled ridging seen elsewhere on models such as the ZenBook UX303UA.

The UX305CA has an all aluminium chassis, which feels well constructed and sturdy in your hands, yet helps to keep the weight low. The edges are chamfered and well finished. In short, this is a very classy laptop.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Open up the lid and you’re greeted by the UX303CA’s chiclet keyboard with contrasting black keys. As before, the keyboard isn’t backlit, which is a shame. It’s not something I expect for a laptop at this price, but it’s always a welcome inclusion.

The keyboard is comfortable to type on, with a respectable amount of travel to the key action. Keys are well spaced and there aren’t any puzzling key placements to throw your fingers into flux. Similar to the HP Envy 13, but not quite as pronounced, the hinge of the ZenBook UX305CA rounds over and under when the lid is opened, propping the keyboard up by a few millimetres. This angles the keyboard slightly, making for a more comfortable typing experience.

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The touchpad is a generous size and has a pleasant coating to its surface. IIt doesn’t match up to Microsoft’s requirements for a Precision-certified touchpad (which really are better than most), but it responds decently nevertheless. You can configure multi-touch gestures using Asus’ Smart Gesture software and the usual three-finger, two-finger and pinch gestures are configurable. The mouse buttons are integrated into the touchpad but are nicely responsive and I never encountered any annoyances in day-to-day use.

Connections

There are three USB3 ports, one of which is powered even with the laptop turned off so you can charge your other devices. There’s also an SD card reader and a headset jack. No sign of USB Type-C here, but then that seems to be the order of the day for laptops around this price at present. Micro HDMI is available for outputting to an external display. In terms of networking, there’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Stereo speakers are provided by Bang & Olufsen but these don’t reach particularly high volumes and they produce an overly bright sound.

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