Asus may have copied the MacBook Air wholesale with its ZenBook range, first launched in 2011. But with this year’s new ZenBook UX305F the Taiwan manufacturer pipped Apple to the post by coming to market first with its Air clone using the intriguing new Intel Core M processor, the same low-power series that drives the new super-lightweight MacBook.
The ZenBook UX305F is a 13.3-inch ultraportable, a near clone of the 13-inch MacBook Air in terms of its chassis shape, profile and all-metal solid construction.
It differs in its smaller but higher-resolution screen, which benefits from IPS-like AHVA technology and a matt anti-glare finish. This display has 1920 x 1080 pixels, and this full-HD resolution in a 13-inch frame is arguable the best compromise for a Windows computer display, since the operating system does not scale reliably beyond 150 percent.
Powering the UX305F is an 800 MHz Intel Core M-5Y10c processor, built on a new smaller 14 nm process. Yes, that’s a 0.8 GHz base clock frequency, a number we haven’t seen applied to a PC processor since the megahertz wars of the last decade. This can be overclocked in short bursts by Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, up to 2 GHz.
It’s a dual-core chip with Hyper Threading like the popular Core i5 and i7 processors, so can work on four threads like a quad-core processor. Most notable is its low thermal design power (TDP) figure of 4.5 W, allowing its use in laptops without a cooling fan. That in itself is an incredible breakthrough, making for a silent, low-maintenance design with no moving parts apart from keyboard, trackpad and screen hinges.
Asus still leaves some tiny perforations in the case underside as air in/outlets on each side. In use we never noticed the UX305F becoming noticeably warm.
The casework looks like it fell out of the same machine that makes Apple’s Air, but here finished in a matt anodised dark bronze colour. One small difference is the way the laptop sits on its screen edge at the back; on two rubber stoppers in fact that stand proud of the display frame.
Asus ZenBook UX305F review: Ports and connectors
The UX305F is relatively well-equipped in ports and connectors by the standards of ultraportables, featuring three USB ports, all of USB 3.0 specification, plus Micro HDMI video output, headset jack and SD card slot.
Its wireless capabilities run to the now-ubiquitous Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi. This is a two-stream solution too, with maximum signalling speed of 867 Mb/s and potentially better range than the most basic single-antenna cards found in budget laptops.
Working with the Core M processor is 8 GB of low-power 1600 MHz memory and a 128 GB SSD from SanDisk. This latter part is one of the new generation M.2 types and here connected to a regular SATA Revision 3 bus. See all laptop reviews.
Asus ZenBook UX305F review: Human Interface
The keyboard has the same keys and general layout as the MacBook Air, with the Ctrl and Fn keys reversed, as are the Alt and Apple/Windows keys.
The trackpad look similar, about the same size at 104 x 73 mm (vs 76 mm for the Air) but is a lower grade component without the same precision in mouse steering and multi-touch control. It also proved unreliable, failing to work sometimes when the laptop resumed from sleep, although that is not an uncommon failing with Windows.
The display is unusually good for a Windows laptop though, using IPs-like technology that gives wide viewing angles and better colour gamut. This AHVA (advanced hyper viewing angle) display is made by AU Optronics, and lived up to the manufacturer’s spec with a measured 860:1 contrast ratio, and an sRGB colour gamut of 93 percent (69 percent Adobe RGB). It does have poor listed response time of 25 ms, although we did not notice significant blurring in the limited game benchmarks we ran.
It colour accuracy was good, with a spread from 0.25 to5.95 Delta E, and an average of 0.92 Delta E. The overall performance of this AHVA technology screen is quite impressive when you consider it is only a 6-bit per pixel panel, specified with only 262,000 colours rather than the millions of colours we find with most of today’s 8-bit panels.