The UX305 was Asus’ MacBook killer and it emerged triumphant in a fight with the 13in MacBook Air a few months ago. We said it looks like something that Asus could easily charge around a lakh for, even though the price lingered at around half of that. Now, the UX305LA is Asus’ response to that statement. But the base version still does not reach six-figure territory. Coming in at ₹ 71,990, it seems to be unstoppable.
But does that new price tag justify the updates that have been implemented or is this the unbecoming of the UX305? Would you spend the almost ₹ 20,000 more on the Asus? You might just want to.
White white baby
With an exterior that could make The Hulk weak in the knees and schmuck designers at Apple furious, the updated Asus retains the original look of the UX305 with most changes being made to the soul than to the body, the biggest one being the bump in the display resolution and the processor options. You now get to choose between a Full HD option or an Ultra HD stunner, along with 5th-generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors.
Our review unit in ‘Aurora Metallic’ was a welcome change from the usual purple-black laptop with concentric circles. The whole thing looks like a Macbook Air clone, but it has this ‘Asus’ aura to it which is very difficult to ignore. It is, in fact, like the fragrance of a million sizzling hot chocolate brownies. Once you have a whiff, you just need to devour one, or one million. When put side by side, the UX305LA also feels every bit premium, and at some angles, it even has the edge over the Air.
But it doesn’t, actually. The Asus features diamond-cut chamfered edges, and as a result, is comfier on the wrists when you type or stalk your ex on Facebook. There’s not a hint of cheap plastic or any tacky bits added. The original UX305 was 1.2kg and 12mm thick, but the new one weighs 1.3kg and is 14.9mm thick, which keeps things practical and shouldn’t be a deal breaker at all.
Connections remain the same with three USB 3.0 slots, a proper full-size SD card slot and a micro HDMI socket. Asus gives you an ethernet connector too for neanderthals who haven’t heard of Wi-Fi. Add a keyboard and mouse, and you will be happy to work at it all day.
Or you could just use it as is, like me, and find out that it’s a pretty great work machine, after all. The 13.3in display is on the money and you can easily type lengthy boring stuff like the book with yellow pages and phone numbers in it, or your biography, whichever works for you.
One of the major updates on the UX305 is the display. With an option of the gorgeous Ultra HD resolution, the UX305LA completely kills competition. Even the Full HD option (the one reviewed) is a treat to the eye. And that Asus has gotten rid of the gloss and given it the matte treatment adds to the visual drama of it all.
The viewing angles are as stunning as they’ve always been and the only one that comes close to the Asus’ 1080p display is the Dell XPS 13. The MacBook Air’s 1440x900 TN panel is no match for the Asus’ 1080p IPS cracker either. Text on the Asus is as sharp as the MacBook Air’s non chamfered edges and colour reproduction is great too for a matte display.
Working outside in extremely bright light is also not a problem, albeit a stupid thing to do. The matte IPS display doesn’t turn into Snow White’s Magic Mirror and reflections are kept at bay, allowing you to type away your horrendous biography. What’s that? You’ve scrapped the idea? Good move.
Core M processors are for the senile. Asus agrees and hence you now get the proper Core i5 or Core i7 options to choose from and, of course, this is the main reason you pay that much extra over the older model. But hey! On the bright side, it also means you have the force with you.
Core M processors are more focussed on efficiency rather than outright Rambo-machine gun madness, and hence, are slower than the Core i5 or the i7. That is pretty evident from the moment you say go, and with the new UX305LA booting up in less time than it would take Donald Trump to be cussed, the update puts it on top of the MacBook Air.
That’s not to say the older version was drab, but tedious tasks like heavy photo or video editing would be pretty hard on the poor thing - like asking Harry Belafonte to sing Bohemian Rhapsody. You could, but he would stare back at you in disgust and hit you with a banana boat.
Throw anything at the new Asus and it'll return like a young Sachin Tendulkar on a bright sunny day at Wankhede - hitting big and scoring like there's no tomorrow, sure-footed and precise, helped by the brilliant SSD. It sure feels a lot quicker than the older ZenBook and heavy tasks are handled with no sweat.
Except when you decide to really heat things up and start multitasking while an already heavy task is going on. That’s when there’s a hint of lag. That’s where you need more than just the paltry 8GB of RAM.
Ice ice baby
Asus’ fanless design keeps things mute, but when push comes to shove, the UX305LA does tend to heat up a bit. It won’t burn a hole in your pants, though, so there’s not a lot to worry about on that front. Overall, the temperature is kept well under the comfort zone and there’s not a lot of heat felt in between keys while typing or playing a game even.
Talking about heat, the UX305LA comes with Windows 10 installed. This means all the problems and frustrations of Windows 8 are done away with, which leads to a peaceful mind, almost akin to a Buddhist monk’s. Except when you’re reminded of that silly biography you secretly still want to write. Get over it.
Try and distract yourself with a bit of gaming. Oh, but don’t get too ambitious - the UX305LA doesn’t have a fancy graphics card and comes with the bog-standard Intel HD 5500 graphics. It’s an upgrade from the previous HD 5300, but the update doesn’t do much. Don’t expect to play anything more demanding than Bioshock or GTA: Vice City.
The good, the bad and the battery
Battery life does take a hit when you game or give the Asus a truckload of tasks, but we managed to get about 10 hours from a single charge. A day’s work is easy to achieve and the Asus keeps awake and trails into late evening like a slowly sipped cup of coffee. Anything more than that and it all tastes like the burning end of a midnight cigarette.
But what’s bad is the silly sound quality of the tiny speakers the Asus has. Even though it says “Audio by ICEpower and Bang & Olufsen Technology”, the Asus manages to produce sound that is similar to a little mouse squealing at the site of a family member’s early demise under a semi-truck. It gets loud but without any body or proper definition. There’s still no backlight for the keyboard, but on the ‘bright’ side, you could use that as an excuse for your appalling spelling errors.
Asus has managed to do it again. It has brought out a laptop that retains the stunning look but improves on performance without costing a lot more than the competition. Asus has turned the UX305 into a serious powerhouse and you really need to hate Windows or Asus, or be enough of a fruitcake yourself, to go for the fruity option.