ASUS ExpertBook B9 Series may be designed for business professionals in mind, but anyone should try one and enjoy the quality and weight (or lack of). The review unit model is B9450FA-GV0015R and retails at S$2,688. After reviewing for 2 weeks, there is only one weakness. Read on to find out what it is.
Unboxing and Design
The product came fresh from the factory, sealed. Inside the brown box contains the laptop in a print cardboard case, the charger, and carry sleeve. ASUS is one of the few laptop brands that include protective case in their premium range.
The ExpertBook B9450 feels well-built, with ceramic finishing on the magnesium lithium alloy body. The laptop passed MIL-STD 810G military-grade durability tests.
The connector ports include one full-size USB 3.2 Gen-2 Type-A, two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, one full-sized HDMI, one dedicated LAN port (micro-HDMI) and 3.5mm audio-mic port. I would wish for more USB-A ports as I would have used one permanently for the wireless house, but it’s a good that there are two USB-C ports, so I would invest in an external hub with multiple ports.
When the laptop is flipped open, the keyboard gets lifted up by 5 degrees, the ASUS “ErgoLift” hinge. On the ExpertBook, the display can be flipped all the way to lay flat, which I really like. And at any tilt angle, the laptop will not topple because the display panel is lighter than the keyboard panel.
The 14-inch full-HD display only has 4mm bezels at the sides, 7mm above it. A well-thought feature is the built-in webcam shield cover, since it would be difficult to find an external cover that small and elegant – kudos to ASUS! To use Windows Hello face unlock, the webcam needs to be uncovered, but you can also use fingerprint sensor to unlock. ASUS ExpertBook is one of the few laptops that offer multiple biometric unlock options, another plus point. The matt screen offers no distracting glare, giving the ExpertBook yet another positive tick.
The keyboard is backlit, spill-resistant (up to 66cc) and offers good key travel and response. I often have a problem of releasing the [SHIFT] key up too slow before hitting the second letter on my ThinkPad X270 office laptop, so I ended up with 2 capital letters in a word. But on the ExpertBook B9450, it rarely happens. And so the key design works pretty well for me.
The touchpad doubles as a numeric pad when you press the top-right sensor to active. You can still use the touchpad normally even when the numeric pad is enabled. On the top left corner, there is a short-cut gesture to start the calculator app. Gesture again to exit the app. But while ASUS boasts its extra-large touchpad, I find that I rest my palm too much on them, resulting in some unwanted cursor movements.
Lightweight Portability with Compromise
What makes me want to carry my laptop everywhere is the weight. That is the main reason why I bought the LG gram 13. The ASUS ExpertBook is even lighter than the LG, and feels a lot more solid.
But LG gram 13 is a better laptop in two other aspects: extremely longer battery life and touch screen. And this is the weakness I was mentioning at the top of my article. This review unit (B9450FA-GV0015R) carries only 33Wh (2-cell) battery, and the battery could not outlast a day of heavy blogging activity. In comparison, the LG gram 13 has a 72Wh battery, which is about the same weight as the ExpertBook 66Wh battery option. Still, it lacks the touch screen, and if you ask me, having a touch screen is a productivity boost at times. Instead of dragging your mouse with the touchpad, I could simply tap on the screen and the mouse get to where I need it to be at an instant. I could still make do with the lack of touch screen, but a poor battery life would impede me to work long hours on-the-go.
The workaround would be to always bring along the charging adapter, which thankfully is relatively compact, or you can charge it using any USB-PD (power delivery) source. And the ExpertBook supports quick charging: 40 minutes gets the battery filled up to 60%. So, it’s still not that bad.
OK, let’s not get distracted by the battery constraint. The ExpertBook B9450 as a whole is quite a solid laptop to use. The Harman/Kardon speakers deliver full warm sounds that are pleasant to listen to without sounding tinny or harsh. Bass is hard to reproduce, but using the advanced AudioWizard app, I pushed the upper bass and midrange to compensate the lack of lows.
The other pretty useful feature is the Link to MyASUS app, where it lets you interact with the smartphone remotely. Once connected by Direct Wi-Fi, you can see the smartphone screen on the laptop, transfer files and URL, remotely access files, and even extend the screen. This would be extremely useful to let you interact with the phone without touching it nor leave your eyes off the laptop screen. However, I find that it is difficult to navigate the phone with the mouse, as it seems the swipe actions aren’t very reactive. Clicking and typing are fine, though.
Another feature that more branded laptops are embracing is the special laptop management tool which helps in self-diagnostics, firmware and driver updates, hardware settings, charging mode options, fan mode optimisation.
There is a light bar just below the touchpad which works with Alexa and Windows Cortana to indicate responses. Not much use for me a I do not use both.
Overall Experience and Verdict
I always put emphasis on experience rather than nit-picking the specs. As a whole, the ExpertBook B9450 performs smooth, boots fast, and runs cool. It’s extreme lightweight makes me feel no burden bringing it along with me anywhere I go, and the well-built chassis feels like it can withstand casual handling. I like that the body does not feel cold and metallic.
I would recommend getting the 66Wh model (B9450FA-BM0315R) for just S$10 more so that it can run longer when you are on the go, since even at 980g, it is still really lightweight. To be on the safe side, get a portable PD power bank (up to 65W to match the AC adapter performance). And for businesses who feel somewhat daunted by the price, ASUS for Business now provides “Device As A Service” (DAAS) option to support local SMEs. So instead of buying the ExpertBook at full price, you can opt for a subscription or leasing model from S$59.90 per month. It’s a complete solution that combines hardware, insightful analytics, proactive management, and device lifecycle services.
- Very lightweight and well-built
- Ample full-sized ports for connectivity ease
- Multiple biometric log-in options
- Satisfying overall performance and response
- Small battery capacity
- No touch screen