If Apple's new 12-in. Retina MacBook is any indication, the laptop is no longer considered an endangered species — as long as it's slim and lightweight. However, while the new MacBook is extraordinarily portable and comes with an impressive display, it's garnered a bit of criticism because of its single USB port (which does double duty as a power port) and lack of SD card slots. On the other hand, two new Windows 8.1 systems have recently shipped that not only push the thin-and-light envelope, but offer enough features to make them suitable for both personal and business use.
The Asus ZenBook UX305 and the Dell XPS 13 are two of the newest Windows-based notebooks to hit the market — and while they are slightly larger and heavier than the new MacBook, they appear ready to give Apple's latest a run for its money.
They have a similar look, with sleek aluminum skins and 13.3-in. displays (versus the MacBook's 12-in. display). Each is lighter and smaller than Apple's current 13-in. MacBook Air, although slightly larger and half a pound heavier than the upcoming MacBook. And while the Dell uses a midrange Core i5 CPU and requires a fan to prevent overheating, the ZenBook — like the new MacBook — uses Intel's latest low-power Intel Core M processor and so doesn't need a fan.
Note that, as with tablets and many slim laptops, it is not easy to get inside either of these systems, nor can you easily switch the battery.
I took a thorough look at both the Asus ZenBook UX305 and the Dell XPS 13 to evaluate them as notebooks for work, play and travel. Here are the results.
Asus ZenBook UX305
For companies looking to lighten their workers' load without busting the budget, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is a tough act to beat, with an excellent configuration, sleek profile, bright screen and a suggested retail price of $700.
The ZenBook I looked at had a dark purple aluminum case, which Asus calls Obsidian Stone; the company also sells a white model called Ceramic Alloy. At a depth of 0.5 in. to 0.6 in., it's a tenth of an inch thinner than the Dell XPS 13, but the design is more traditional, with a 0.6-in. bezel around the screen. This gives the ZenBook plenty of room to fit its webcam (which can capture 1.2-megapixel stills and video) at the top of the screen.
The ZenBook measures 0.6 x 12.7 x 8.8 in., about an inch wider and longer than the Dell XPS 13. At 2.6 lb., the ZenBook matches the Dell ounce for ounce, although it is worth noting that the ZenBook has a lighter AC power adapter. The case has a metallic finish rather than the soft rubber coating of the Dell.
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