[Review] Paper-thin Portability: The ASUS ExpertBook B9
Portability is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of a laptop, especially productivity-oriented ones that are usually lugged around to meetings and remote working situations. The ASUS ExpertBook B9 capitalises on this and knocks it out of the park when it comes to size and weight.
The Expertbook B9 I received weighs a mere 870g; coupled with its ridiculously thin 14.9mm chassis, it feels just like another document folder tucked under your arm. There is another 66Wh variant that's slightly heavier, but still falls under the 1kg mark at just 995g.
Wondering what this pint-sized package has beneath the hood? Let's check it out.
Thin yet tough, subtle yet sexy
The ExpertBook's chassis is made of a magnesium-lithium alloy, which is purportedly lighter than the usual magnesium-aluminium combo. Durability is definitely not an issue, as it possesses MIL-STD-810G certification, which means it's resistant to shocks, drops, extreme temperatures, humidity, and more. Apparently the keyboard is also resistant to spills, but as I didn't fancy potentially throwing a few paychecks down the drain by accident, we'll just take ASUS' word for it.
[Day vs Night shots]
Design-wise, it's super minimalist with no fancy details like the ZenBook's spiralled lid or chamfered edges like the latest VivoBook. Yet, it still manages to be outstanding thanks to its rough, grey-black finish that's reminiscent of the OnePlus One's sandstone finish. Dubbed 'Star Black', the laptop indeed glitters like stars under the right lighting, lending a whimsical edge to the usually boring colour choice.
The Ergolift hinge makes a welcome appearance, lifting the keyboard up to a more ergonomic angle while enabling better airflow. Doing so also reveals the exhaust ports placed near the hinge, which then channels hot air upwards towards the screen. You can also take it one step further and fold it completely flat, which makes casual presentations over coffee that much easier.
Astonishingly slim bezels, plus decent audio for its size
The ExpertBook B9 sports a 14” IPS FHD display with an anti-glare coating. Coupled with 300nits of brightness, it's decent for working outdoors, but I'd still recommend staying indoors for the best viewing experience. The 100% sRGB color gamut also ensures pretty accurate colour reproduction, which makes watching movies and videos a pleasure.
Its 4mm-thin bezels are also joy to behold; it creates a more immersive viewing experience while maintaining a smaller footprint with its 94% screen-to-body ratio. Impressively, they still managed to pack a 0.9MP IR webcam within those slim bezels, enabling the usage of Windows Hello to sign in. There's also a physical privacy shutter in case you don't want the FBI spying on your triple chins.
Audio-wise, it's certainly not the best but you honestly can't expect much for its size. There's not much bass so if you want to rock out to hard-hitting tunes, this ain't it. However, the highs and mids do sound pretty good, so you'll still be able to watch movies and listen to certain genres of music enjoyably.
Decent typing experience with a slight flex
The keyboard is well-spaced with a comfortable key travel distance. The 3-stage backlighting is bright and even, albeit with some light leakage from the edges that is more prominent when viewed from a side angle.
You'll also enjoy the inverted-T format of the arrow keys, while the IR fingerprint reader allows speedy logins with Windows Hello. One major issue I had with the keyboard layout is that the power button is nestled into the top row right next to the delete button. I can already imagine my fat fingers hitting it by accident while working on a spreadsheet, which will certainly prove to be a frustrating experience. The keyboard also has a slight flex to it.
The touchpad is nice and large with a glass surface, and the virtual ASUS NumberPad is a welcome addition for those who are reliant on it. To toggle it on and off, simply touch and hold the icon on the top right corner of the touchpad; do note that its positioning is somewhat awkward - although palm rejection was good overall, annoyingly enough the NumberPad toggle was easily activated unintentionally.
Vast array of ports despite its size
Another thing I really like about the ExpertBook B9 is the insane amount of connectivity they managed to cram into this small form factor. You'll enjoy two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt, one HDMI port, one microHDMI port, one USB-A 3.1 port for all your peripherals, an audio jack, and a Kensington lock. A microHDMI to Ethernet adapter is also included in the box, although you probably won't be using it often as the laptop supports speedy Wi-Fi 6.
To charge the laptop, you have a 65W Type-C adapter which supports fast-charging. Battery-wise, it's also very impressive - although I didn't manage to test out ASUS' 24-hour battery life claim (which is doubtful), it was still alive and well after over 8 hours of regular use. Coupled with its fast-charging capabilities, you'll rarely have to spend time hooked up to the wall.
Performs exactly as expected, with impressive storage
The review unit I have on hand is packing an Intel Core i7-10510U processor; it's good to see ASUS opting for a power-efficient CPU variant to manage thermals as well as prolong battery life. It also contains 16GB of DDR3-2333MHz RAM, which is a bummer - at this price point you would expect DDR4 RAM; it is also non upgradable. Storage is well taken care of, with a whopping 2TB of NVMe SSD storage.
For number crunchers, here are the benchmarking test results:
Overall, the performance is what you'd expect from the specs. It handles your usual office tasks like a champ - just don't expect to be gaming on the Intel UHD Integrated Graphics 620 any time soon (it's a productivity laptop yo).
The storage is extremely impressive in terms of both speed and size, with both drives clocking in at more than 3,300MB/s read and 2,300MB/s write speed respectively. 2TB is also tons of storage for regular office work - even excessive, I might say. There are smaller storage options, so if you don't need that much space and want to shave off a few bucks from the price, you could go for those instead.
With prices ranging from RM6,299 to RM9,299 depending on the specs, the ExpertBook series certainly isn't easy on the pocket. However, it offers portability unlike I've experienced before, without compromising on connectivity and power - that in itseelf certainly warrants a premium on the price tag.
The ExpertBook B9 is clearly targeted towards a certain calibre of user, with an aesthetic that fits right into high-powered boardroom meetings and a form factor that tucks neatly into a briefcase.
It certainly is a tough contender in the Ultrabook segment, and a choice to consider should you be in the market for one.
For more information, you may visit the official product page here.