Asus ExpertBook B9 laptop review: As good as it gets
Product: Asus ExpertBook B9450
Key specs: 14-inch LCD FHD display, 10th Gen Intel Core processor, 16GB RAM, 2TB memory, HD camera with privacy shutter, fingerprint sensor,
If the year 2020 has taught us anything it is that laptops and personal computers are probably the single most important piece of gadgetry that we need to get through our day-to-day lives. Sure, smartphones have become powerful enough to tend to almost all our needs but they are no match for a laptop that caters to both our personal and professional requirements.
Laptop technology, just like smartphone tech, has evolved in leaps and bounds in the past couple of years. And a better display and a powerful processor are not the only things that have changed. The bulky laptops from the yesteryears have been replaced by devices with a light and sturdy design. More importantly, laptops have become more reliable, not just in terms of performance but also in terms of security -- something that is of paramount importance these days.
Enter: Asus ExpertBook B9450.
Asus, last month, made a foray into the commercial PC market in India by launching a host of new laptops, personal computers and all-in-ones in India. In the commercial laptop segment, the company introduced the ExpertBook P2 and the ExpertBook P1 series along with the ExpertBook B9450, which, as you know, is the star of today’s review. It is also the premium and the costliest commercial laptop that Asus launched in India this year costing over a whopping ₹1,02,228.
Now, it might seem like a hefty price to pay for a laptop, especially since there is no dearth of low budget yet relatively sturdy laptops in the market right now. But, in reality, the ExpertBook B9450 laptop deserves all that and even more. It’s light, it’s easy on the eyes, it’s a strong performer and it’s extremely secure, all of which make it a great pick for all those who are looking for a device that will cater to all their needs.
Let’s get into the details...
The Asus ExpertBook B9 laptop measures 32.00 x 20.30 x 0.90 cm and it weighs just 995 grams. It is made of Magnesium-Lithium alloy, which the company says makes the newly launched laptop lighter and more durable than other materials used for making laptops. In practice, the ExpertBook B9 is extremely sleek and light. It is not only sleeker but also lighter than the book that I am reading right now, which makes it ideal to be used on the go. You can cradle it in your arms all day and not feel a wink of pain, which is a part of its allure.
Talking about the build, the ExpertBook B9450 has other structural reinforcements (in addition to the build material) that enable it to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life. For instance, it has metal brackets in the hinges and on USB ports and HDMI terminals that increase the overall durability. It also has several black rubber pads around the processor and the bottom base cover to reduce the shock from impacts or accidental drops or blows.
Strong and sturdy design aside, the ExpertBook B9 has a backlit keyboard wherein the keycap size and pitch are 15 mm. There is a special key that controls the brightness of the keyboard, and another to activate or deactivate the trackpad. There is also a dedicated key that disables the camera that is hidden in the top bezel. The overall placement of the keys is concise yet it gives you ample space to move around.
In addition to an ergonomic keyboard, the ExpertBook B9 also has a multi-purpose trackpad or in this case Numpad. The Numpad in this laptop is the second generation of Asus’ Numpad, that is, Numpad 2.0, which not only includes a trackpad but also the number keys. One tap and you can enable or disable the Numpad. There is another button on the trackpad that controls the brightness of the Numpad 2.0, just like there is a button to control the brightness of the keyboard. All of this is cleverly hidden inside the Numpad. That said, the Numpad can sometimes present a hitch in terms of activation. Nothing a tiny software update cannot fix.
Right in front of the Numpad there is an Alexa LED lightbar that lights up when you activate Alexa (yes, this laptop has built-in support for Amazon Alexa) should you choose to do so. It also serves the purpose of informing users about the battery status. The bar turns red when the laptop is charging and Green when it has been completely charged.
Lastly, the ports. The Asus ExpertBook B9 has a whole bunch of ports to cater to your day-to-day needs. It has two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports, a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, a 3.5mm headset jack, and a full-sized HDMI terminal. Additionally, the company provides an RJ-45-adaptable port along with an adapter cable in the box.
The ExpertBook B9 comes with a 14-inch LCD IPS anti-glare display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and an aspect ratio of 16:9. It offers a 100% sRGB colour gamut and a peak brightness of 300 nits. Specifications aside, the overall display is as comfortable as it can get. Firstly, the screen is bright enough for you to peer through all the information, even the bright daylight. Secondly, even when you are inside and you have turned the brightness to its peak it doesn’t hurt your eyes, which is particularly helpful if your job entails staring at the screen all day long like mine does.
The overall build of the display is such that it wastes no space at all. There are thin bezels on the sides, which essentially a part of the overall build and they help in keeping the display sturdy. On the top, it has a marginally thick bezel that houses the IR camera. This design helps Asus fit in a 14-inch display in the body of a 13.3-inch laptop.
Talking about the IR camera, it can not only be used for video calls but also for unlocking the laptop adding another layer of security on top of the fingerprint sensor. This IR camera, which is powered by Windows Hello, is extremely efficient in unlocking the laptop. It takes less than a second to unlock the ExpertBook B9 unless your face is placed outside the purview of the camera, which is a big plus.
But if you don’t like using the face unlock or you prefer keeping the camera shutter on, the ExpertBook B9 has a fingerprint sensor that is placed below the End key near the keyboard. The fingerprint sensor is faster than face unlock in unlocking the laptop. It is almost instantaneous, like a wink. In addition to physical security, the ExpertBook B9450 supports the TPM 2.0 security solution which ensures that all your data remains safe all the time.
Besides this, the camera comes with another interesting feature, which demonstrates that Asus has traveled the extra mile to improve and increase the privacy of users and their data. The company has a manual camera shutter -- a feature that isn’t available on most laptops right now. This camera shutter ensures that you don’t end up accidentally showing the decor of your bedroom while on a conference call. It also ensures that no one snoops in on your private meetings.
In addition to all these features, the ExpertBook B9 comes with another feature that makes it ideal for all your meetings -- a display that makes a 180-degree angle with the rest of the body. The ExpertBook B9 uses a special hinge mechanism, which enables you to use the laptop like a notebook. In case you are wondering, no you cannot use the display as a touchscreen, but what you can do is turn the display such that it lays flat on the ground side-by-side with the keyboard and rest of the laptop. Simply said, your colleagues can focus on the display while you type in all the details or move around using the keyboard.
Now, the audio features. The ExpertBook B9 has a 1W speaker unit on each side and these speakers feature support for SmartAMP functions. This, the company says, protects the speakers from over-loud volumes. Additionally, this laptop features Harman Kardon certification, which is a hallmark of its quality. In practice, the speakers of this laptop are loud and clear. They are loud enough for you to hear every word being said during a virtual meeting with absolute clarity. Furthermore, the sound of the speaker is enhanced when placed on a solid surface owing to its special hinge mechanism which instead of suppressing the sound coming out from the speakers below enhances it to provide a louder and clearer audio experience. It is also good to be used on your day off for a relaxing session with Netflix or any other OTT platform that you prefer. As far as the microphones are concerned, the ExpertBook B9 has four microphones embedded in the display’s upper bezel, which improves the ability to capture noise.
The Asus ExpertBook B9 supports Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201. It also supports Wi-Fi 802.11ax wireless network protocol that operates at 2.4 GHz and 5GHz dual-band connections with maximum transfer bandwidth of up to 2.4 GHz. Additionally, the ExperBook B9 comes with Bluetooth version 5.1.
The laptop comes with a 10th Gen Intel Core processor and it runs on Windows 10. You can pick between Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors. The one that I used had the Core i7 processor along with 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 2TB of PCIe 3.0 SSD. This is an extremely powerful combination and it is capable of handling anything that you throw at it. During my time with the ExpertBook B9, it handled all my work-related demands with ease. Be it grueling video calls, on the back-breaking daily routine and even my time with various streaming services, which admittedly I often prescribed while working, ExpertBook B9 worked smoothly throughout without heating up even once. Overall, it is one laptop that is capable of handling all your needs with ease.
If the build, display and performance were not enough for you to pick this laptop over the others that you are considering then the battery will surely help you make the choice. The ExpertBook B9 laptop comes with a massive 4-cell 66Whr battery, which the company says delivers 24 hours of continuous productivity time. In practice, the ExpertBook B9 delivers 10 to 12 hours of battery life, which means you can charge your laptop once in the morning and then forget worrying about charging it again throughout the course of your workday completely.
Talking about the charge time, it takes the ExpertBook B9 less than two hours to go from zero to 100% charge. The laptop starts giving you warnings as soon as the battery hits the 22% mark post which you can either put the laptop for charging or change the battery mode for making the battery operate on optimal settings which in turn gives you around 1.5 to 2 hours of additional run time.
Now, the million-dollar question: should you buy it or not? Well, the simple answer to this question is a big yes. The Asus ExpertBook B9 is light and sturdy. It is loaded with security features. It has an extremely comfortable display along with long battery life. And it has powerful hardware too. Sure, the Numpad 2.0 does throw a fit once in a while but that can be easily fixed using a software update. Now, a hefty price tag might be a bummer for some, but with everything that the ExpertBook B9 is offering the price, it is somewhat justified.