When it comes to business ultraportables, portability is every much as important as performance and it’s an elusive grail that many notebook vendors strive to achieve with very mixed results.
For ASUS, they’ve gone to extreme lengths this time around to fulfill both with their new ExpertBook B9 (B9450) notebook that has just been launched in Malaysia as it weighs under a kilogram.
Depending on configuration, the lightest variant weighs a mere 870g. That’s almost 400g less than most mainline business ultraportables that usually weigh in at the 1.2kg mark.
The ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) notebook is the premier offering in the brand’s growing professional ExpertBook range. Intended for the suit and tie crowd, it has the enviable honour of having Project Athena certification by Intel; quite an achievement indeed.
All this is icing on the cake as as the B9’s main raison d’etre – it’s exceptional lightness and power is what also makes it an ideal ultraportable for mainstream use.
ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) build, MIL-STD810G rating and design
Weight aside, our test unit is barely thicker than an early 20th century pulp magazine at 14.9mm with the width and length of a sheet of A4 paper.
To achieve these incredible weight savings without compromising on quality or durability, ASUS has opted to make to machine the chassis out of solid slabs of magnesium lithium alloy to ensure superb structural integrity.
To protect against drops, the motherboard itself sits on several shock absorbing pegs that soften inadvertent impacts. In terms of toughness, the B9450 is rated MIL-STD 810G, a US Military standard for toughness which means it is capable of surviving a 120cm drop to the floor when powered on without damage, endure 30kg of force on the top and bottom lid without damage and generally take the sort of punishment that would total lesser laptops.
Materials and MIL-STD810G rating aside, the ASUS ExpertBook B9 adopts a business-chic design with an understated matte black finish all around that feels wonderful to the touch and repels fingerprints nicely.
On the connectivity front, the ExpertBook B9 is well equipped with a comprehensive array of ports. Where ultraportables have been steadily removing their ports to a bare minimum, the B9450 still has the works while still being one of the lightest and slimmest around.
On the left side, you get two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, a full sized HDMI port and a micro HDMI port. They’ve also thrown in a free micro-HDMI-to-RJ45 dongle to plug into wired ethernet.
Either of these Thunderbolt ports can be used to charge the notebook. Combined, you’re able to support two external 4K displays via the HDMI port and the other via one Thunderbolt 3 port. In lieu of the RJ45 port, you also have fast WiFi 6 (802.11ax) connectivity.
On the right side, lo and behold, you have a full sized USB 3.1 Gen 2 port so you can plug in flash drives, hard disks and other peripherals without having to deal with fiddly docks.
There’s also a 3.5mm combo audio jack too for headphones and a Kensington lock. This line-up covers all the bases for almost any corporate samurai to tackle everything from presentations to docking all manner of kit on the go.
Flip the top lid up and you’ll discover one of ASUS’ greatest engineering innovations – the Ergolift Hinge. When opened, the Ergolift Hinge gently lifts the keyboard up to about a 25-degree angle to make typing easier and to improve airflow.
The hinge mechanism is so smooth this time around that you can open it one-handed, helped also in part with a machined indentation in the top lid for a better grip for your fingers.
There’s no give or play in the top lid and absolutely no wobble whatsoever from the hinges that allow the notebook to fold almost all the way down flat like an inverted tent of sorts. The underside is tastefully bare save for four rubberised feet and two grilles for the downward firing speakers.
Up front, the ExpertBook B9 hosts a 14-inch matte NanoEdge display with 1080P resolution and breathtakingly 4mm slim bezels even on the bottom bezel to give it a 94% screen-to-body ratio. The top is slightly thicker than the size bezels and for good reason as it hosts a 0.9MP webcam and four omnidirectional far-field mikes for better quality video calls.
It also has support for Windows Hello so you can unlock the laptop with your mugshot. Better yet, the webcam itself has a physical slider that privacy advocates will appreciate. In our new age of remote working, all these features give it a decisive edge indeed.
The keyboard for the ExpertBook B9 is backlit and in keeping with many other notebooks of its ilk lacks a numeric keypad but ASUS has handily solved this annoyance as their touchpad integrates a light-up numeric keypad. Basically this is an underlay that activates on demand so it stays out of the way when not needed. Next to it in the corner is a fingerprint reader to unlock the laptop.
Better yet, the keyboard itself is splashproof and is capable of surviving a sousing from up to 66cc of water; about a quarter of the contents of a mug. There’s also a glowing neon light bar located at the bottom of the touchpad that lights up when you interact with Cortana or Alexa virtual assistants with your voice.
ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) Variants and Specifications
In Malaysia, the ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) comes in a variety of different configurations that all have the same chassis and 14-inch NanoEdge 1080p display but vary in terms of processor they use though all are Intel 10th Gen CPUs, storage, RAM and battery size.
Coming in on the ground floor is the B9450F-ABM0284T entry level variant which has a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U, Intel HD graphics, 8GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, the aforementioned 2-cell 33Wh battery and an RM6,299 price tag.
On the other end of the scale, our test sample is a retail unit with the most powerful configuration available and an equally princely price tag at RM9,299. Our top-of-the-line B9450 rocks with the following specifications and model number:
Specifications ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) – B9540F-ABM0278R
Display 14-inch NanoEdge display, 1,920 x 1080 pixels
Processor Intel Core i7-10510U
OS WIndows 10 Pro
Memory 16GB RAM/ 2 x 1TB M.2 NVME PCIe x 4 SSD
Graphics Intel UHD Graphics 620
Battery 4-cell @66 Wh lithium-polymer (24 hours battery life, quoted) w/ 65W fast charging USB Type-C
Size/Weight 320 x 203 x 14.9mm/ 970g (lightest variant is 870g)
This substantial investment gets you one of, if not the lightest 14-inch business notebook in the world while retaining a rated 24 hours of battery life on its 4-cell 66Wh battery.
It’s a bit heavier than the stock variant which weighs 870g but at 970g our top of the line variant still keeps the weight to under a kilo.
The entry-level variants of the B9450 get their weight savings on account of a 2-cell 33Wh battery that halves the battery life to 12 hours but which keeps the weight to the advertised 870g.
The provided Intel Core i7-10510U processor is a high-powered CPU with a 4 cores/8 threads arrangement that has a 1.8GHz base clock and 4.9GHz boost capable of tackling most productivity related tasks.
Our test unit lacks a dedicated GPU and instead relies on an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 solution. Storage needs are sorted out by two 1TB SSDs from Samsung with the first partitioned into two sub-512GB partitions with one storing the OS for one drive and another 1TB drive on its own solely for storage. This amount of storage space is staggering and dwarfs the stock options from many other competing ultrabooks.
We dialled the settings to maximum ‘high performance’, put it through the usual wringer of benchmarks and got the following scores:
3DMark NightRaid 3,911
3DMark FireStrike 871
3DMark FireStrike Extreme 379
3DMark Time Spy 310
3DMark Time Spy Extreme 142
CineBench R20 828
SuperPosition 1080P High 245
SuperPosition 1080 Medium 278
Interpreting these numbers, the ASUS B9450 proves to be an ideal platform for document-based productivity such as processing Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheets, web browsing and basic photo editing. It’s not intended for heavy pixel crunching or gaming seeing as it’s reliant on the integrated Intel UHD graphics solution but you can eke out some retro gaming if you’re keen.
In terms of actual performance, the B9450 fulfills the role of a portable paperwork cruncher with deft aplomb. In Open Office and Google Docs, it tackled everything thrown at it including graphics-heavy documents chock full of a ton of slides and attachment images for good measure.
Web browsing was pleasantly fast as well on Chrome with over two dozen open tabs that we switched to at will back and forth in seconds. It was able to handle some light photo editing in GIMP and Canva and managed to tackle some retro-gaming too with modest titles like FTL, Into the Breach and a bit of Portal 2.
The provided 14-inch NanoEdge display isn’t rated for colour accuracy and is capped at a modest 60Hz refresh rate but nonetheless performed in a suitably stellar fashion with deep, vibrant hues on test footage and pin-sharp detail.
The provided quad mic array is perhaps one of the more impressive audio setups in a laptop. While the webcam isn’t anything to write home about, audio quality was excellent, especially for online calls while the provided stereo speakers were loud enough to carry a tune in a quiet room without tearing with fair sound staging and detail.
Seeing as this isn’t intended as a gaming or entertainment laptop, these shortcomings are easily overlooked. When it’s focused on its mission profile as a productivity performer, the ExpertBook B9 is one of the lightest, best performing notebooks in its class.
The addition of the numeric keypad underlay makes it fantastic for spreadsheet jockeys while the excellent 1.5mm key travel and slightly concave keys make typing close to a desktop-like experience with the addition of three-stage backlighting allowing you to use it under all but the dimmest work scenarios like a night flight on a plane (unlikely) or a rush job in a pub (more likely).
Granted, hashing out your work in a dingy pub isn’t the best of circumstances but at least with this – it’ll survive a sousing from a pint, a drop to the deck and more while letting you get the job done.
In terms of battery life, it managed to last the equivalent of a full work day on balanced settings with about 9 hours of active usage with a normal workload that had WiFi, intermittent usage of Netflix (for work, serious!) and YouTube plus a few Zoom calls thrown in for good measure.
With light usage and energy saving settings, it was easily able to get close to 16 hours meandering between idle moments, basic web browsing and emails and an hour or two of videos.
This kind of battery endurance is phenomenal indeed. To date, the B9450 has the best battery life in its class.
Naturally, your mileage will vary and dialing it to maximum performance mode and maxing out the screen brightness will radically reduce battery life.
The provision of a compact, fist-sized 65W fast charger means it’s easy to charge the notebook on the go with a full charge in under two hours.
ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) Verdict
In its chosen arena as an ultralight premium business laptop, there are few contenders especially if you prize lightness and performance save perhaps for the 8th generation Lenovo X1 Carbon in Malaysia. In terms of chassis and design, the B9 (B9450) edges out with a slightly smaller size footprint at about 1.5cm smaller in length on account of a chunkier lower bezel for the X1’s display.
The ExpertBook B9 (B9450), even with its heaviest configuration at 970g is still lighter than the X1 Carbon’s lightest configuration that starts at 1,090g and up. Where it edges out though is its addition of a numeric keypad underlay and faster USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and HDMI 2.0. The addition of a free micro-HDMI to HDMI dongle with every unit is also a tempting proposition.
The ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) is currently the best ultrabook that ASUS has ever made. Their engineers have lovingly hewn a masterpiece from a ridiculously light slab of magnesium lithium alloy then shoehorned in top class hardware capable of tackling anything a desk jockey would conceivably handle while offering an excellent keyboard and outstanding battery life.
The highest end model is also staggeringly expensive but you get what you pay for and if you prize lightness, battery life and outstanding portability, the ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9450) ought to be at the top of your list.
Review unit courtesy of ASUS Malaysia. Available for purchase at the link here at https://www.asus.com/my/Commercial-Laptops/ASUS-ExpertBook-B9450FA/Features/
What we liked Awe inspiring lightness, superb build quality and military-grade durability, great battery life, excellent performance, generous array of ports
What we didn’t Not cheap, no touchscreen capable variants, display not colour calibrated, RAM is soldered in
We say The Asus ExpertBook B9 (B9450) represents an impressive new milestone for ASUS with a stunning combination of power and endurance in the lightest chassis in its class. If money is no object and you prize portability and performance, this should be your top pick.
Asus ExpertBook B9 (B9450)
The Asus ExpertBook B9 (B9450)
The Asus ExpertBook B9 (B9450) represents an impressive new milestone for Asus with a stunning combination of power and endurance in the lightest chassis in its class. If money is no object and you prize portability and performance, this should be your top pick.