I have often complained that business laptops make me overcome with a sense of dread and despair. They are incredibly boring, generally, as black slabs masquerading as (very capable, mind you) computing devices for equally boring people who have no sense of style. Driven by IT departments in companies who really don’t have any sense of style either. There are very few exceptions to the rule. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the HP Elite Dragonfly, being the two laptops that buck this sorry trend. There is now another one joining this rather small list of exceptions. And what an aggressive entry into the commercial laptops space by Asus, it has to be said. The Asus ExpertBook B9, or the Asus ExpertBook B9450 as it is also called, is mind bogglingly beautiful. And it just builds from there in such a fantastic manner, it defies belief.
The Asus ExpertBook B9450 is priced at Rs 1,02,228 onwards in India, while the spec that we are reviewing here is priced at Rs 1,59,294 at this time. If you are considering this (or vice-versa), you would also probably be weighing up the HP Elite Dragonfly and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Both of which are considerably more expensive. The impressive basic specs of the Asus ExpertBook B9450 read as follows—Intel Core i7 10510U processor, 16GB RAM, a 14-inch Full HD display, fingerprint sensor and all this in an incredibly slim design that even integrates an Amazon Alexa notification bar.
The Asus ExpertBook B9 Has Very Powerful Yet More Expensive Rivals
The HP Elite Dragonfly is available in one variant in India right now. It is powered by the Intel Core i7-8565 vPro processor. Before you scoff looking at this and claim that this is “just an 8th generation Intel Core processor”, remember that there is a very good reason why the HP Elite Dragonfly (2020) runs the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565 vPro processor. That is because the 10th generation Comet Lake vPro family wasn’t available on laptops when the Elite Dragonfly was launched earlier this summer. They are now though, and that complicates things. The rest of the spec sheet includes 16GB of RAM and a very fast 1TB SSD as well as Windows 10 Pro 64. All this style, substance and brilliance will cost you Rs 2,19,518.
And very much within the realms of the competition is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 8), that offers the customization option for the 10th generation Intel Core vPro processors. By default, the Intel Corei5-10210U processor powers the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with 16GB RAM, 256GB storage and you need to choose between Windows 10 Home 64 and Windows 10 Pro 64 additionally. Nothing customized and with no Windows 10, prices start Rs 1,41,550. So, we go around with a bit of customization to get the X1 Carbon up to spec with the HP Elite Dragonfly, albeit the different processor generations. So, with the Intel Core i7-10610U vPro processor (that costs an additional Rs 37,500), Windows 10 Pro 64 (that adds Rs 16,000 more) and a 1TB SSD (that’s Rs 16,300 more), a similarly spec-ed Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 comes out to Rs 2,24,900.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold, But Something Even More Beautiful
What does one say? The Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop is everything that I could have wanted in a business laptop, to make things more sensible and stylish in that boring world. It is not even your regular metal mix that makes this laptop tick. It is not the magnesium aluminum alloy that laptops use. In fact, this is a magnesium-lithium alloy that is much lighter too. All that means is this 14-inch laptop weighs an incredible 995 grams. That is lighter than the similarly cool HP Elite Dragonfly (around 1.25kg). That is lighter than the latest generation Apple MacBook Air (around 1.29kg). That is also lighter than the Dell XPS 14, which we are led to believe does everything including being a laptop for home use, business use, style, substance and whatnot, and weighs 1.2kg onwards.
The drastic weight reduction isn’t the only highlight of the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop’s design. It is just 14.9mm thick, which really is ultrathin, by all stretches of the imagination. It is so compact that you will really be able to drop this in your backpack or handbag and it will just sit there not taking any more space than a couple of magazines or a folder holding important documents. Toi be honest, it just doesn’t feel like a 14-inch laptop. It is much smaller and lighter than 14-inch laptops we have known so far, even the ones that have claimed a lot of weight reduction.
Then there is the colour. It really is hard to tell what it is. Sometimes it looks a very subtle shade of blue (midnight blue?), and when light reflects off it at different angles, it keeps switching between dark grey, black and even a subtle shade of graphite. And it glitters, because there are sparkles embedded in this finish that really light up, albeit very subtly in a way that warms the heart, when you switch on your workstation lamp. Even the pickiest among the business users may get a light smile seeing this.
There really are no bezels so to speak off around the display of the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop. That has also helped tremendously in reducing the footprint. The ErgoLift Hinge makes its presence felt as you open this laptop up, because the keyboard deck lifts ever so slightly near the display itself, giving a nice angle for you as you type. And all this weight reduction doesn’t mean this is compromising on features.
There is a fingerprint sensor and even an Amazon Alexa notification light—now that is perhaps a first in laptops, because I haven’t seen that in any computing devices yet.
No shortage of ports either. There are two USB-C ports, a full USB port, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack and a RJ-45 Ethernet Port that requires a dongle which Asus has bundled with the ExpertBook B9450 laptop. Also, and this is a very nice touch—the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop comes with a very classy leather laptop sleeve as part of the box pack.
This Screen Is All About The Hidden Smartness
In case you still don’t believe it (I say because it took me some time), this is a 14-inch display. It is Full HD, doesn’t mess around with trying to integrate touch and offers an almost bezel-less viewing experience. And experience is where this screen delivers, on all fronts. Since this is a business laptop meant to mostly be used under ill-thought-out overhead lighting in offices, this is matter by default. That is great, nothing reflects off it and back into your eyes.
This is a very bright screen too, so much so that I really never had to go beyond the 50% brightness level even on the brightest summer afternoon with the sunlight really making its presence felt through the windows. That is great news, particularly for those who may be traveling a lot and may end up using this either during a commute or in a brightly lit conference room.
The display also has something known as PSR, which is a shorter form for Panel Self Refresh Technology. The Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop takes advantage of sorcery that reduces the screen’s power consumption, depending on what is being displayed on the screen. For instance, it clocks down power usage if what you are seeing is static text or still images. Asus says the consumption can go as low as 1-watt, which really resets the goalposts for rivals.
Unlike other business laptops that disappoint with the overall viewing experience, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop isn’t just meant to keep you feeling all dreary in the world of Microsoft Excel. This does colours also very well, so much so that web pages, videos and photos have a sense of life to them.
You Cannot Keep Up With This, At All
The Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop that I’m reviewing here is powered by the Intel Core i7-10510U processor with 16GB RAM. One can perhaps argue that Asus could have instead plonked in the vPro series Core i7 in this laptop, but that would purely be nitpicking. There is no trade-off in terms of performance, compared with the likes of the latest edition of the Dell XPS 13, for instance—at least as far as the real-world usage is concerned. And that is really what you should be considering, and not synthetic benchmark tests that have no bearing on how you’d use a laptop daily.
Alongside this powerful combination sits a very fast 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD which really boosts the overall app performance. Asus rates the read and write speeds for this at 3500MB/s but while that may be the best case scenario in the real world, you will still get read and write speeds upwards of 800MB/s for most intents and purposes, and that pegs it close to, if not the very top, of the performance ladder.
There was a time when all-day battery life was considered fantastic in laptops. And if a laptop really got past the 12-hour mark for a single charge, that was considered ideal for travelers and businessmen. The thing is, that benchmark is being changed significantly by the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop. When used as a regular work machine, with liberal number of Microsoft Edge tabs, multiple Microsoft Word documents, Spotify streaming music and a few other apps being opened and closed alongside all this, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop lasted 17.5 hours on a single charge. This with brightness all through at 50%. This is by far the best battery experience I have logged on an Intel Core i7 processor powered laptop on Windows 10 laptops—and only the Apple MacBook Pro line comes close with around 14 hours.
Not to forget, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop gets the fast charge feature which juices up the 66 Wh battery, from 0% to 60% in 39 minutes.
That being said, it is important to note that even though Asus claims this is a 720p front facing camera, it really doesn’t set any experiential benchmarks. What you need is good lighting on your face for this to be detailed in any way, and if that is not the case, there will be that smudgy reproduction of you in the Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams video meetings and video calls that surely are a part of your daily workflow.
The Highlight Is The Very Cool Numberpad
There is one big issue with the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop’s keyboard which I must point out right at the start—where you would expect the “Delete” key to be sits the Power button instead. Which means, as you are furiously trying to meet a deadline, you may press it hard enough without realizing and end up actually putting the laptop into Sleep. It is best to keep the power key separate from the rest of the keyboard layout, and this is something you will have to be very careful of.
That out of the way, it has to be said that the keyboard itself is very good. Its laid out well, the key spacing is quite good and the key travel is sharp enough for you to get the hang of soon enough. It is not exactly the Apple MacBook Pro 13 sharp, but you’ll be able to type fast enough as you get the hang of it. Somehow, the font size of the labeling of each key seems a tad larger than it should be (or perhaps what I am used to), and that can be a bit disconcerting initially.
It is the touchpad which will really get your attention. This is one of those rare instances where the LED illuminated number pad is built into the touchpad. And on that front, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop really takes the style aspect up another notch. It is very useful, you can choose between two brightness levels and despite the occasional need to press hard on the icon on the top right of the touchpad to illuminate this, it works well. It really doesn’t change the functionality of either the touchpad or how you use the number keys in any way, except this is quite stylish for anyone looking at it from side on.
The Last Word: The Asus ExpertBook B9 Adds Style To Drab Business Meetings
The thing is, Asus have come very close to perfectionism with the ExpertBook B9450 laptop. No one can deny the absolutely fantastic battery life, the uncompromising performance, technology that gives the display additional smartness and drop-dead gorgeous looks. Add in the number pad integration on the touchpad, and you genuinely have a laptop that looks futuristic too—at least in the world of dreary business laptops. However, very minor things keep this from achieving perfection, such as the sub-par webcam and the placement of the power key in the larger scheme of the keyboard layout. Mind you, both of these foibles really shouldn’t weigh on your mind as a consumer, all things considered. If nothing else, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 laptop must give the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the HP Elite Dragonfly some sleepless nights. Asus has drawn on all its experience with premium laptops in the ZenBook range, and it shows. I still cannot get over how compact the footprint is. And comparatively how much more affordable it is. And that is priceless.