At a Glance
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is an excellent portable all-rounder. It has the design spark of a laptop worth showing off, matched with an amazing breadth of features and smart pragmatism that sees it pack in more, higher-quality tech than its rivals. This is as close to a perfect mid-price portable laptop as we’ve seen this year. Sure, there are parts that could be improved. The display sacrifices black level for peak brightness a little, there is some flexing of the shell under pressure, the trackpad surface isn’t as silky smooth as some and the speakers are just so-so. However, stack these up next to the list of strengths and the UX310UA is easy to recommend.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is what happens when a practical everyday laptop and an expensive all-aluminium Ultrabook fall in love. It gets you the pricey look and feel of a portable, stylish machine with the features of a workhorse and a price way below that of a rival MacBook. See also:
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We’ve seen a few laptops arrive with similar ideals, the
Dell Inspiron 13 5000 being the most recent. This one is something special, though. It’s a laptop we can imagine recommending to many people over the next 12 months, and is even better than its ‘predecessor’ the
ZenBook UX305 in several respects.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Price
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA we’re reviewing
699 from Currys. It’s not cheap, but is also only about 60 per cent the price of a top-end laptop that, for many, won’t feel much faster to use day-to-day.
The exact specifications for the Asus ZenBook UX310UA vary depending on the country in which you buy the thing, but in the UK you get an Intel Core i5 CPU, a 128GB SSD, 500GB hard drive and 8GB RAM.
There’s also a cheaper version with an Intel Core i3 CPU, 1920×1080 screen and 4GB RAM that sells for
549 from John Lewis.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Design
We’ve reviewed several laptops from the Asus ZenBook UX series over the past couple of years. The slightly disappointing
UX360CA was the most recent, a good-looking but flawed convertible laptop.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is a return to the roots of the range. This is a normal laptop, without a touchscreen or a 360-degree hinge.
It’s also slightly chunkier than some of our favourite mid-price ZenBooks, because it fits in a hard drive as well as an SSD. However, it’s not thick and it’s not heavy. Its shape is simply a little less sharp and wedge-like than the MacBook 12-inch or the ZenBook UX305.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is 19mm thick and weighs 1.45kg, light enough to carry around with you all day, every day. It’s amazingly practical.
It’s a looker too. Like other 13-inch ZenBooks, the UX310UA has an all-aluminium frame that comes across as a more affordable Windows 10 take on what Apple has made with its slimmer MacBooks. The Asus flavour comes from the brushed concentric circles design on the lid, used across ZenBooks. There are plain silver and light gold shades to choose between. Both look great.
There’s one problem with the build. Apply firm pressure to the keyboard surround and you can get it to flex a little. It’s more noticeable that in early ZenBooks and is a little disappointing in an otherwise lovely design. But it is much less obvious than in the UX360CA and does not ruin typing or cause any weird trackpad problems.
This is a fairly sturdy little machine, just not one as well-built as a MacBook or Dell XPS 13.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Connectivity
In many respects the Asus ZenBook UX310UA is much more up-to-date than a MacBook Air though, which is the closest machine Apple offers. Unlike the older ZenBooks, this one has a USB-C 3.1 port. USB-C is the new breed of USB, using a reversible plug rather than one that has to be plugged-in the right way.
It’s also a USB 3.1 port, meaning it’s ready to take on the fast peripherals that we’ll start to see more of in the next 24 months. Right now USB-C is a future-proofing addition, but it’ll become more important.
There are plenty of the old standards packed in too. The Asus ZenBook UX310UA has a full-size HDMI, an SD card slot and three regular USBs. One of just a few minor downsides of this laptop is that only one of the full-size USBs is a 3.0 port. The other two are slow old USB 2.0.
This makes no difference if you’re attaching a keyboard or mouse (unless it also works as a USB hub), but if you use an external SSD drive, you’ll have to make sure you use the USB 3.0 port on the left side. We can live with the compromise given the other high-end bits of hardware on offer, though.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Screen
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA screen is one of the highlights, because is most respects it flattens a lot of the similarly-priced competition. For a £700 laptop, its sharpness and colour saturation are fantastic.
It covers 94.1 per cent of the sRGB colour standard according to our display-benchmarking colorimeter, where some at the price we’ve reviewed recently only hit around 70 per cent. You’ll notice this as soon as Windows 10 boots-up: colours look deep and rich without appearing overcooked.
Pay closer to £1000 and you can find a laptop that will cover 100 per cent of sRGB, but in person the Asus ZenBook UX310UA seems about as impressive anyway. The Asus Splendid application also lets you tweak the display character, increasing colour pop further or applying a blue light filter to avoid eyestrain if you’re going to read
This is a “Retina” style laptop too, a term Apple came up with to denote you won’t be able to see any pixellation when you use the device at normal distances. It’s a 3200 x 1800 pixel LCD screen, which equates to a 276ppi density. That’s very high for a laptop, particularly one that costs less than £700. It looks pin-sharp.
In use it’s almost the polar opposite of the convertible ZenBook UX360C too. A matt finish and very high max display brightness of 377cd/m mean it’ll sail through being used outside on a bright and sunny day. It’ll cope better than some laptops double the price because of its lack of glassy screen reflections.
Once again, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA earns full marks for practicality.
There are a few little niggles, though. First, as this isn’t a pure flat screen, which you tend to see in very fancy laptops or those with touchscreens. All we mean by this is that the display border is raised, but it does knock off a few style points.
The UX310UA display also does not tilt back that far. On a desk this doesn’t matter, but if you’re going to want to use this out in the park, typing away with it on your knees, the display angle will be slightly severe.
These are minor issues. The only one all of you should consider is display contrast, which isn’t all that hot. Our colorimeter measures the display at 409:1, where some laptops can achieve over 1000:1.
We checked with Asus as in a reasonably well-lit room the display looks more punchy and vibrant than this ratio would suggest. However, even Asus’s own claim for the laptop is only 500:1. When playing a film in a dimly-lit room, we did notice that the luminescence of the backlight is fairly obvious.
The UX310UA is hard to beat for using outside or in a well-lit office, but its raised blacks mean it’s not so great as a late-night movie machine.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Keyboard and trackpad
Regardless, it’s an excellent standard to hit at this price, and Asus has also clearly aimed to set a new benchmark with its keyboard. Taking a cue from Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA’s keys have a ‘scissor’ mechanism designed to make them a bit less wobbly-feeling.
This is a very solid keyboard with slightly deeper action than most in this category, which is the exact opposite strategy to what Apple used a similar key mechanism for in the ultra-shallow MacBook 12-inch. We like it a lot, despite the visible keyboard flexing that happens is you type quite firmly.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA also has a keyboard backlight, one of the main features missing from the earlier UX-series ZenBooks.
Its trackpad is more familiar. It’s large, topped with glass, and has buttons integrated into the pad that take a rough 50-50 split of the very bottom part.
If keyboard flex and the use of just one USB 3.0 socket were the first black marks against the UX310UA’s day-to-day experience, the trackpad is perhaps the third. A few times the pad registered taps when we were just trying to move the cursor, and the button arrangement isn’t quite as smart as it is in the HP Envy 15.
Despite using a glass surface, the trackpad also is a little higher-friction than we’d like. This is likely because the surface isn’t treated to the same level of glass-frosting as you get in some more expensive machines.
We are being tough on the Asus ZenBook UX310UA here, though. The pad is still large, comfortable and has a button click that doesn’t require too much pressure and isn’t loud enough to annoy anyone nearby trying to watch TV. It’s just one of the few parts that doesn’t thoroughly outclass much of the competition.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Performance
The UX310UA we’re reviewing here has an Intel Core i5-6200U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 2133MHz RAM, a 128GB SSD and a 500GB hard drive. It’s the hard drive that we need to notice here, as most laptops this size only manage to fit in a single 2.5-inch drive.
As a result, you get 628GB storage rather than the 128-256GB you’d usually get in a laptop this slim. You’ll have to be fairly careful about what you put on the SSD to avoid filling it up very quickly, as once Windows has eaten up its share you only have about 60GB left. But it is an impressive combo.
Running Windows 10 off an SSD makes the UX310UA feel very fast day-to-day, but the spec is meant for those after an everyday laptop, not one to replace a giant desktop workstation. The Intel i5-6200U CPU is a low-voltage dual-core model clocked at 2.3GHz, and designed for laptops that need to last a good long while off a charge.
It can handle any kind of task, but bear in mind you may be better of with a higher-voltage HQ-series CPU if you’re after a laptop for serious 3D rendering or video encoding. Such a laptop is going to be a lot thicker and heavier, and won’t last long away from a power socket, though.
In Geekbench 3 it scored 5790 in the multicore test and 2544 in the single-core one. (For comparison, the newer Geekbench 4 scores are 5886 and 3175 respectively. )
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is also not well-suited to any sort of demanding gaming. Even at 720p resolution with low graphics settings applies, Thief only runs at an average of 15.3fps. It slows right down to 4fps at 1080p.
Alien Isolation is only playable if you’re very patient, averaging 22fps at 720p.
This is actually slightly worse performance than we’ve seen in some similarly-specced laptops, making us wonder if there’s slight GPU/CPU throttling going on here. However, its productivity benchmark score of 2097 in PC Mark 8 is at the level we’d expect.
We also tried the now very old Elder Scrolls: Skyrim at native screen resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels, just to see how it would cope. While it looks great even with the graphics set to ‘Low’, it’s far too slow to be playable. It will run reasonably well at 1080p, though.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA offers solid everyday performance, but is not a particularly performance-led machine.
Like most Intel Core i5 laptops, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA has fans rather than relying entirely on passive cooling. It’s noticeable in quiet rooms, but the volume doesn’t ramp up too high when you start challenging the CPU.
If you hate the sound of fans, you might want to look for a laptop with a Core M CPU instead. Those chipsets aren’t designed to be as driven quite as hard as a Core i5, but they’re often efficient enough to use heat sinks alone: cleverly-designed chunks of metal used to dissipate heat.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA review: Battery Life
One of the biggest pleasant surprises of the Asus ZenBook UX310UA, is that despite its use of a Core i5 rather than a Core M, its battery life is still very solid. Playing back a 720p video on loop at 120 cd/m brightness, it lasts eight hours 10 minutes.
That provides enough scope to use the Asus ZenBook UX310UA for a full day’s light work away from the adapter. The screen is a real benefit here, as it only needs to be set to 35 or so per cent brightness to be comfortable to use in a well-lit room.
This laptop is a fantastic all-rounder for someone looking for a laptop prepared for a whole bunch of different uses. However, for the sake of balance we’re going to end on one slight off-key note: the speakers.
The Asus ZenBook UX310UA has a pair of Harman Kardon speaker units that fire out from the underside of the laptop. They’re fine, but lack the volume and beefiness of the
Dell Inspiron 13 5000, and the greater finesse of Apple’s MacBook speakers. You can’t have it all. But this latest ZenBook gets pretty close.
Asus ZenBook UX310UA: Specs
- 13.3in (3200 x 1800) 276dpi LCD matt anti-glare
- 2.3 GHz, up to 2.8 GHz Turbo, Intel Core i5-6200U, two cores four threads
- Intel HD 520 GPU
- 8GB RAM DDR4-2133
- 128GB SSD
- 500GB HDD 5400rpm
- No Ethernet
- 802.11b/g/n/ac 2×2
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 1 USB 3.0 port
- 2 USB 2.0 ports
- 1 USB-C Gen 1 port
- SDXC card slot
- Stereo Harman Kardon speakers
- 0.9MP Webcam
- Single mic
- 3.5mm headset jack
- UK tiled keyboard
- 48Wh lithium-ion, battery non-removable
- 323 x 223 x 19 mm
- 1.45 kg