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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  • Klug4Pres - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Fair enough. I suppose I feel like we used to have a sane product line up for laptops, where 3 or 4 lbs was as light as anyone needed, then you had 5-6 lb machines that were workhorses with good expandability and possibly better value if you didn't need to shed all the weight, and then desktop replacements that could be as heavy as they needed to be.

    Now everything seems to be getting absurdly slim for no obvious reason, while maintainability and expandability are dirty words.
  • kingpotnoodle - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Most people consider 3-4lbs a weight to drag about, add into that a charger brick and the the chunky bag and you're quite weighed down. Contrast that to a laptop like this which has an all-day battery life (or much smalller charger) and slips into a thin sleeve case, sure you have to make sacrifices but it's all about priorities. There are plenty of fat, more upgradeable laptops around as well in all shapes and sizes. Once size doesn't fit all, never has.
  • Dorek - Thursday, March 26, 2015 - link

    Anyone who considers 3 pounds "a weight to drag about" must be from a planet where gravity is lower. 3 pounds is NOT HEAVY.
  • bznotins - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Try lugging a 5lb laptop + brick + accessories across a dozen airports over the course of a month and you'll appreciate every ounce of weight savings you can muster.

    Try opening a 14" laptop on a plane in coach when the person in their seat reclines. You'll appreciate <13" then.

    But if you're the DTR type, then yeah, Intel hasn't been focusing on you. But there are options out there from Clevo and Maingear, among others.
  • V900 - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I can understand people want a lighter machine, but you have a point about it going too far, and become a ridiculous race to be half an ounce lighter than the competitor.

    Once they got under 4 pounds it really ceases to have a point, and they could have invested the weight difference towards either performance or longer battery life. It's not like you can even tell the difference between a 2 pound laptop and a 3 pound laptop, especially once it's inside a bag. If carrying half a pound or a whole pound of additional weight really means that much, and makes that much difference, toss out that half liter bottle of water you probably got in your bag. BOOM! A whole pound of weight saved! Is the bag really that much lighter to carry now? Nah, thought not.
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    You forgot to factor in the self-centered elitist narcissism that applauds loudly inside their heads every time they haul out their precious and hope others notice.
    Thus a tenth of an ounce and one shiny polish point is a king's ransom.
  • kevith - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Lol! :-)
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    I've been carrying around a heavy 17" laptop for the last 8 years (2 different laptops). I would love to have a lighter laptop, but don't want to give up the 17" screen. I'm a heavy traveler, approaching 1 million miles on United, but my laptop case has wheels and it's not that big a deal to lug around. I wish they still made 17" laptops with 1200p screens.
  • Duncan Macdonald - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    As you did the calibration for your test machine - would it be possible for you to provide an ICC profile ? (This would also be useful for other devices with poor initial calibrations that you test.)
  • djvita - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    anandtech should post the RGB levels/ profile they used to calibrate, for goodwill of buyers =)

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