Best New MacBook Alternative Is $600 Cheaper

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MacBook-AlternativeEvery time Apple unveils a new laptop, its competitors attempt to ride the ensuing PR and social media tsunami by making direct comparisons to their own products. Two days after the new 12-inch MacBook with Retina display ($1,299) launched, Asus took to Twitter to tear it down, highlighting that its $699 ZenBook UX305 is even thinner (12.3 mm versus the new MacBook's 13.1 mm). As it turns out, that's the least compelling reason to consider this machine over Apple's.

Here's why the UX305 is the best alternative to the new MacBook for your money.

1. It's $600 cheaper and has similar specs.

Core M processor: Check. 8GB of RAM: Check. 256GB SSD: Check. While the clock speed on the $699 Asus UX305 is lower (0.8 GHz versus 1.1 GHz), you're getting comparable specs and storage for $600 less than the $1,299 12-inch MacBook. In fact, the UX305 is one of the best laptop deals of the year, as you never see this size SSD at that price. (As of this writing, the Microsoft Store is selling the UX305 for $699, but Amazon is overcharging with its $819 price.)

MORE: Best Ultrabooks Available Now

2. More ports

Apple made the extreme decision to include only a headphone jack and a single USB-C port on the 12-inch MacBook. USB-C can deliver power to the laptop, as well as feed video to external displays and power gadgets (with the right dongles). But Asus doesn't force you to carry extra adapters. The UX305 sports three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and a micro HDMI port, in addition to the combo headphone/mic jack. No compromises required.

3. Long battery life

The new MacBook uses a new terraced battery design that gives Apple's 2-pound wonder a rated 9 hours of wireless Web browsing on a charge. That's great, but the Asus UX305 lasted a strong 9 hours and 38 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi.

MORE: Best & Worst Laptop Brands

4. More traditional keyboard and touchpad

In order to make the 12-inch MacBook so compact and thin, Apple decided to switch from a traditional scissor switch for each key to a new butterfly mechanism. The result is a keyboard that's plenty large but whose keys feel flatter than those on the Asus.

However, the UX305 doesn't have a keyboard backlight — one of the concessions Asus made to keep the cost down. It's also worth noting that the new MacBook's touchpad doesn't physically depress like the UX305. Instead, Apple's Force Touch trackpad uses a "taptic" engine to deliver the sensation of a click. I prefer the feel of Asus' pad, but it's a lot louder than Apple's.

MORE: New MacBook Is Too Ahead of Its Time

What the MacBook Does Better

The new MacBook has a number of advantages over the Asus UX305, starting with its lighter design. The difference between 2 pounds and 2.6 pounds doesn't seem like much, but it's noticeable. In addition, the MacBook has a backlit keyboard, and the Asus doesn't. The MacBook also benefits from a sharper Retina display (2304 x 1440p vs. the Asus' 1920 x 1080p) that's richer and more colorful. However, some users may prefer the matte finish on the Asus, which reduces glare. An upcoming $999 model of the UX305 will offer a sharper glossy QHD display (3200 x 1800p) with touch capability.

Last but not least, Apple's ultraportable has more personality, coming in three colors: silver, space gray and gold.

Bottom Line

The Asus ZenBook UX305 isn't the only excellent alternative to the 12-inch MacBook. The Dell XPS 13 (starting at $799) crams a bigger, 13-inch display into a chassis the size of an 11-inch MacBook Air. And the new HP Spectre x360 ($899) has a touch display that flips all the way around, so you can use it in tablet mode. But Asus' Ultrabook stands out because of just how much you get for the money versus Apple's ultrapremium machine.

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
  • Michele Says:

    Just purchased the UX 305 and so far, I'm very happy with it. I wanted something light, thin, and portable, more than a tablet, but not a full-blown laptop. So far, the combo laptops/tablets still have serious drawbacks. I don't really do much with my computer at home, some Word, a lot of web browsing, and email, and that's it. For me, that doesn't justify the $1,000+ for a Mac product.

    All the reviews I've read have listed the lack of a backlit keyboard as a drawback. Personally, I find that a plus.

  • Joe Says:

    It looks like the one on Amazon now is being sold by Old Dog Express. Amazon sells products from any number of sellers. I always check the box so I just see products being sold by Amazon. It looks like Amazon is out of stock (I had purchased mine from them at the $699 price). Since they're out of stock, the only option is the price-jacked one from Old Dog.

  • Fjord Prefect Says:

    I haven't "clicked" a touchpad in years. I always used tap to click (as long as it's been available) and I've converted a few others over to this method as well. Try it and I'll bet after a few minutes you won't want to go back.

  • Danny Says:

    The new Macbook should have no comparisons, its the only laptop on the market right now using it. For its thinness and the low powered cpu its using, to push a 1440p screen is also groundbreaking. The new macbook is just setting the standard for new laptops, spec wise, nothing should be compared to it right now, except chromebooks which serve the same purpose but dont even run an OS. Give me a chromebook that runs full windows and well have some competition. For everything else, the original MBA and MBPr need to be used in comparisons.

  • Kamal Says:

    Great comparison.

    I think it's also worth comparing with the new Acer Switch 12. It seems to have some genuine ergonomic advances in laptop design (like the Macbook), plus works with a decent pen. The only issue is probably the inferior build quality.

  • Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    Hi Luke, thanks. I goofed on the CPU and that's being updated. I can't say when the system will be back in stock but hopefully soon.

    I think this system should be fine for handling statistical software but if you want more power go for the $899 Dell XPS 13 with Core i5.

  • Luke Says:

    Mark, thanks for this review!

    There are two things that may be misleading. First, UX 305 processor is 0.8 GHz, not 0.9 Ghz. Second, it is currently out of stock in Microsoft store.

    I need an advice. I am in the market for an ultrabook, and UX305 seems like a perfect one to buy with the current price tag and specs.

    But, I have a question about its performance. I am a grad student who uses statistical softwares
    frequently. Since UX 305 has Core-M 800 MHz.processor, I wonder how it can handle programming tasks. Actually, I am in between MBA 13 (Older) and UX 305.

    Any help would be appreciated, thanks!

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