The ASUSPRO is a sub-brand by ASUS whose products are targeted for business users. The B9440 announced at CES 2017 early this year is a 14-inch full-HD business notebook that weighs 1.05kg. This review unit I tested is the top-spec 16GB DDR3 RAM with 512GB SATA3 M2 SSD.
The laptop body is built with magnesium alloy, MIL-STD 810G military grade reliability to handle heavy abuse, although the body does creak when being handled and squeezed. The overall design is angular instead of round.
The laptop does not come with webcam but includes a fingerprint sensor that speeds up unlocking. All laptops from now should have one, since most smartphones today already have it too.
Some of the features I like about the B9440:
The laptop is extremely light and puts me at ease in bringing it anywhere with me, without worry about weight. It is rather large, but only because it has a 14-inch screen with thin bezels, making it the size of a 13-inch laptop.
The B9440 boots up cold in less than 10 seconds, so there is no need to waste time waiting for the computer to be ready.
Another feature that should be default for all laptops. It really helps when working in dimly-lit conditions, which is often the case for executives doing presentations.
The laptop can fold all the way flat, just like ThinkPad. It sounds trivial but truly, when you needed to show the screen to people around the table, folding flat against the table is a great alternative instead of crowding all behind you.
The keyboard tilts when the display is flipped open, offering a slight comfort to extended use.
Branded with Harman Kardon, the B9440 has the best laptop speakers I have ever reviewed.
ASUS managed to make the speakers produce some bass! Midrange is also present and the highs are clear enough but not harsh. Playing iconic reference tracks like Hotel California, the speakers deliver the audio balance respectably. You can feel the bass guitar and the drums vibrating beneath your palms as you type on the keyboard. Talking about feeling the music!
Overall, the speakers sound warm and not noisy and are definitely good enough for audiophiles who needed some quality music without dishing out large portable speakers. Instrumentals like piano might sound a tad muffled due to the warm tuning to give prominence to the lower frequencies.
Touchpad as Handwriting
I can use the touchpad as a handwriting pad to input characters, like Chinese. This beats using the mouse. The touchpad also supports Windows 10 multi-finger gestures up to 4 fingers.
The B9440 can become a Wifi hotspot using either the laptop Wi-Fi or the Ethernet port from the external dock. And that sounds rather cool, especially when you need to access Internet with your other devices but you can only connect one device to the walled garden, for instance, hotel room Wifi service.
Some not-so-good things encountered when reviewing the B9440:
Only 2 USB Type-C ports
To reduce the laptop size, ASUS provides only 2 USB-C ports positioned at the edge of the display panel near the hinges.
The left port doubles as a charger and multi-port connector, while the right port is for charging and data.
The B9440 comes with a mini dock with another USB Type-C port, full HDMI port, and USB Type-A port, but that is still not enough for on-the-go expandabilty.
You could buy the optional SimPro Dock which I highly recommend, as that will maximise the connectivity of the B9440, turning it into a productivity workhorse. The SimPro Dock gives you 4x USB Type-A ports, 1 USB Type-C, SD 3.0 slot, RJ45 Gigabit ethernet port, 3.5mm audio jack, 2x Display Ports, HDMI port, VGA port.
You can connect up to 2 external displays plus the laptop display. The dock comes with a power button which you can use to operate the laptop without opening the flip. A power adapter is required to power the SimPro Dock, and it can also power and charge the B9440.
Occasionally, without any reason, the laptop fan will run at high speed, prompting me to check the Task Manager on what processes were being run. It appears some ASUS apps or Windows driver is running, for reasons unknown. Due to this, I find the elapsed battery life to be around 5 hours used over an entire day. It keeps me worried that the remaining battery might not last if the processes anyhow act up again. I reckon if the CPU was to run mostly idle, I should be able to achieve 10 hours as advertised. Charging is really fast, and I could get a full load in less than 1 hour.
Less responsive touchpad
The touchpad somewhat does not give me the responsiveness. There is that tiny lag and the multi-finger gesture does not get recognised as confidently.
Power button placement
The power button is placed next to the other keys, and I often tap it accidentally which send the laptop into sleep mode instantly.
Display Screen Tint
The display appears to have a green tint. Colour calibration is recommended to achieve a more pleasing result.
There are times when the touchpad completely stopped responding, but putting it to sleep and waking up again gets it working again. In another occasion, the fingerprint stopped working altogether, and I had to reboot to get it working.
The ASUSPRO B9440 does not give me that entirely positive impression compared to my recent experience on the LG Gram 14, which delivers longer battery life, more built-in ports, and with a slightly lighter weight. The angular design might not appeal to everyone, somewhat inspired by the ASUS ROG gaming series.
Still, I love the speakers sound for a laptop, and the computer boots up really fast. Plus, the ASUSPRO feels less flimsy, and supports external dock that extends the capability of the B9440 into a desktop. Finally, the fingerprint unlock eliminates entering long passwords. For a first attempt, the ASUSPRO feels like a capable machine for the road. Gone were the days when a durable laptop has to be heavy and bulky. Given an optimised firmware, the B9440 can be a very productive notebook.
The ASUSPRO B9440 starts from S$2,098 and the SimPro Dock retails for S$269, available at all ASUS Brand Stores in Singapore, located at Marina Square, Sim Lim Square, and Causeway Point.
- speakers with real bass and mid-range
- relatively long battery life (if I disregard the occasional heavy CPU utilisation)
- not without bugs
- only 2x USB Type-C ports. Requires an external dock that runs on AC power to maximise the laptop connectivity
- no webcam