Last year, ASUS launched one of the best ultrabooks of 2015 in the Zenbook UX305. Despite it being well received, there were a few complaints about the device – particularly the keyboard, WiFi range and touchpad. ASUS has addressed those two issues in the new Zenbook UX306UA, which is slated for release soon. I’ve been using one for about a week now, and the experience is really solid. There’s a couple small issues I’ve had, but overall ASUS has a winning ultrabook on their hands!
Zenbook UX306UA Design
Anyone familiar with the UX305 will almost certainly recognize the design on this device. While not exactly the same, it is pretty close. Switching away from the darker (Obsidian) colours of the previous device (at least on this model), the UX306UA has a metallic silver colour scheme that falls in line with it’s competitors (Dell/Apple). That’s good for hiding fingerprint smudges that the darker colour tends to show.
On the left side of the UX306UA you’re going to find a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack and a SD Card reader. The right side has the power input, a USB-C port (not Thunderbolt compatible though), and a micro HDMI port. It’s a little unfortunate that they only included one USB and one USB-C port. The UX305 had three USB ports, so it feels like a tiny step back in that regard. They keyboard has received a bit of an upgrade and is now backlit (one of the major complaints about the previous model). The keys don’t have a lot of action to them, so if you’re used to keys that are deeper, this may take some adjusting. The touchpad has also been updated and is quite responsive to touch – much better than the previous version. However, the coating is a little less than ideal and feels a little too grippy whereas I prefer a much more slick experience.
Speaker position hasn’t changed much on the UX306UA (if at all, from what I remember about the UX305), but they have definitely been improved. The quality of the sound itself is much better, however it still isn’t very loud topping out at about 75dB. There is a built-in webcam in full HD, and the mic is pretty decent as well. It’s also very lightweight, weighing just 1.2kg.
Zenbook UX306UA Display
The display on the Zenbook UX306UA is a 13.3″ LED Backlit Anit-Glaire panel with 72% NTSC with IPS. There are two configurations – the higher end 3200×1800 QHD+ (this is the one I’m using), and the more affordable FHD 1920×1080. Both displays are in 16:9 aspect ratio.
From my tests, I’ve been pretty impressed with the overall screen performance. The brightness is very good (it’s certainly brighter than a 300-nit display I have, but haven’t been able to properly test it). Image quality is super crisp, colours are vibrant and the overall picture just looks great. I should also point out that the hinge offers the right amount of tension – I’m able to open the display with one hand but it’s also firm enough to hold it in position. I’ve experienced no burn in.
Zenbook UX306UA Performance
In the unit I’m testing, we have the Intel i7 6500U processor, alongside 8GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 520 and a 512GB SSD. There are other builds that have the less expensive i5 6200U processor, and you can get up to 16GB of RAM. Considering I have the near top of the line version, performance may differ on the less equipped configurations. Running a pretty stock version of Windows 10 Home, there wasn’t too much bloatware that came pre-installed, so the experience on startup was very fluid. The WiFi range has been improved since the previous model (now on 802.11ac). I was able to access my WiFi everywhere around my building, including outside and slightly down the street.
The UX306UA performs exceptionally well in the environments I’ve tested it in. I have used it for regular word processing and YouTube viewing with nary a complaint. With that test complete I moved on to some more intense experiments. Starting with gaming, I installed Hearthstone (an easy game for most PCs) and was able to run it in full detail. Next I tried Minecraft, and was able to keep 80FPS+ with moderate settings.
My final test was video editing – the UX306UA was able to do basic editing and exporting, slower than I’m used to but able to nonetheless. It should be noted that the fan runs almost all the time to keep it cool. It’s not loud with mild use, but on the more intense stuff it starts to get going. I have a feel the ‘always on’ is part of their promise to keep the palm rest/touchpad no hotter than 35C.
Zenbook UX306UA Battery
The battery in this ultrabook is said to be a 57Whrs Polymer battery, advertised to last 12 hours long. In my experience, I wasn’t able to get 12 hours of battery life doing my regular daily computer activities. It was closer to 8 hours, and less than that when doing video editing/gaming. Though I was able to get to around 9.5 hours when just watching video with headphones plugged in. Battery charging from 0% to 100% was roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is 20 minutes faster than the advertised 3 hours.
The ASUS Zenbook UX306UA is a great improvement on the UX305. They addressed some complaints in the previous model by offering an improved keyboard, trackpad and WiFi. They also improved the hardware significantly as well. That said, the keys don’t feel active enough for my liking and the trackpad feels less than ideal (again, personal). Performance is top notch for an ultra portable laptop, including basic gaming and some video editing. The trade off being that the fan runs nearly all the time in some capacity to keep things cool. Overall, I think people are largely going to enjoy this device, and would recommend it to anyone looking for an ultrabook.
Processor: Intel® Core™ i7 6500U Processor
Operating System: Windows 10 Home
Memory: DDR3L 1866MHz SDRAM, 8 GB SDRAM
Display: 13.3″ (16:9) LED backlit QHD+ (3200×1800) Anit-Glaire Panel with 72% NTSC with IPS
Graphic: Integrated Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage: 512GB SATA3 SSD
Keyboard: Illuminated Chiclet Keyboard
Card Reader: Multi-format card reader
WebCam: HD Web Camera
Networking: Integrated 802.11 AC
Interface: 1 x Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack
1 x USB 3.0 port(s)
1 x USB-C Gen 1 (up to 5 Gbps)
1 x micro HDMI
1 x SD card reader
Audio: Built-in Stereo 2 W Speakers And Digital Microphone
Battery: 57 Whrs Polymer Battery
Dimensions: 324 x 226 x 13.9 mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 1.19 kg with Battery