A “budget” laptop does not mean a cheaply-made laptop. It doesn’t mean a hand-me-down laptop and it doesn’t mean a knockoff brand or a used computer from a thrift store. What budget laptops do mean are affordable, new computers that get the job done without digging too deep into your pockets.
While high-end models tend to get the glitz and marketing pictures, many brands also release another set of laptops with lesser specs that sell at affordable prices. Asus, in particular, is known for this — and the Asus Zenbook UX305UA may be the best budget-friendly laptop ever produced.
Why you should buy this: it’s fast, portable, affordable — and it even has a 256GB solid state drive.
Who’s it for: Everyone except gamers.
How much it will cost: $750
Why we picked the Asus Zenbook UX305UA
Asus has long been a top competitor in the budget space, but over the last five years the company has upped its quality, resulting in fantastic systems across a range of prices. The Zenbook line has become the flagship, and the Asus UX305UA — available for $750 (and often a bit less than that, on sale) — is the best value yet.
You might not expect quality from a laptop that barely costs more than a new iPhone 7 Plus, but this Zenbook is a pleasant surprise. Its metal, unibody chassis is barely more than six-tenths of an inch thick, and its overall weight is around three pounds.
Better still, the laptop is a real pleasure to use. Its has an excellent keyboard — one of the best on any 13-inch laptop, in fact. It also offers a spacious touchpad and a 1080p non-touch display with a matte coating that nearly eliminates glare. This isn’t a 2-in-1, so you won’t be swinging the Zenbook UX305UA’s display around for use as a tablet, but its focus on conventional use helps Asus offer this system’s excellent design at a budget price.
If you think it’s what inside that counts, you’ll find even more reason to love this laptop. It has a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid state drive. This selection of hardware is the best you can expect to receive for $750, and easily exceeds other systems like the Dell XPS 13. Though we love that laptop, it only offers a Core i3 and 4GB of RAM in its $800 base configuration.
And the Zenbook UX305UA won’t leave you stranded when you’re on the move. It has a large, 54-watt-hour battery which, in our testing, delivered more than five and a half hours of battery life when browsing. An extra few hours can be squeezed out with more conservative use.
Weaknesses? Uh… well, the configuration options are very limited. An alternative version with a more powerful processor and even higher resolution is technically available, but tends to be hard to find given Asus doesn’t offer made-to-order laptops. The standard configuration is the only configuration.
Other than that, there’s nothing to complain about. The Asus Zenbook UX305UA is good or great in all important metrics, which is why we gave it our Editor’s Choice award. It’s not just one of the best budget laptops. It’s among best laptops at any price.