The tech world is non-stop in the release cycle, and last week ASUS announced an update to their Expertbook B9 for 2021 including more powerful internals and more.
The new Expertbook B9 (B9400) still comes with the title of “The world’s lightest 14” Business laptop” according to ASUS, weighing in at just 1.05kg (with a 66Whr battery) and now includes options for either the Intel Core i5 or Core i7 11th gen “Tiger Lake” platform with Iris Xe graphics.
It looks just as good, and it feels super light as last years model which I took for a spin last year, so I was keen to give it a look over and see how it handles.
The spec for the B9400 unit sent over for review includes an Intel Core i7 processor and Iris Xe graphics with 32GB of LPDDR4X RAM and a dual 1TB SSD setup in RAID 0. I’ve been using the laptop for almost a week now, and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
Externally, there’s not a lot of difference between last years Expertbook B9 and the 2021 model. The laptop includes the same chassis as the previous model, constructed with a magnesium lithium alloy which is stronger and lighter than traditional magnesium alloys and with a B9400 is MIL-Spec (MIL-STD 810H) rating which can withstand drops, bumps, nudges, spills and more it’s designed to withstand life on the road.
To afford a little protection for your new Expertbook B9, ASUS includes quite a nice sleeve to keep it protected while in a bag. The sleeve is lined with a soft material inside with a nice leather material and has a magnetic clasp to keep it closed.
There’s a good range of ports on the ASUS B9, with a full-sized USB-A port and 3.5mm audio combo jack on the right hand side, with dual USB-C ports, full-sized HDMI as well as a micro-HDMI port on the left which can use the included RJ45-to-microHDMI adapter included in the box.
It is hard to replace the RJ45-microHDMI dongle if you lose it, but a good USB-C hub should take care of it if you do.
The 14” FullHD resolution display gets a bump in spec up to 400 nits brightness. The increase in brightness makes it easier to see in brighter areas and has good colour reproduction and wide viewing angles. It’s not touch sensitive which would be a nice addition for next year.
The screen has a matte finish which makes it better for glare, though it’s still not ideal to use outdoors, but more useable than last years model.
There are minimal bezels around the sides of the screen, with the top bezel a little thicker thanks to the inclusion of an IR compatible webcam which includes a manual privacy switch.
The bottom bezel effectively disappears beneath the keyboard deck thanks to the ergolift hinge system which raises the base up off the desk to allow for improved airflow.
Both the keyboard and the trackpad are comfortable to use. There’s a bit of travel in the keyboard but it’s quiet to type on and it’s responsive so touch-typing is a real pleasure. There’s also a fingerprint scanner on the right hand side if you need it, but I found the proximity sensor and Windows Hello login so effective I rarely used it outside of testing.
The Trackpad again gets the virtual number pad which can be brought up or dismissed with a press on the capacitive button in the top right corner. The number pad obviously makes data entry easier, and it disappears really easily when you’re not using it.
The laptop really is remarkably lightweight, with even my son remarking on it. It’s super comfortable to work with on your lap, though does get a little warm after a while. There’s a bit of fan noise after you’ve been using it for an extended period, but it’s pretty good, and if you’re working at a desk that hinge allows a lot of airflow into the internals.
The new 11th Gen Intel platform is a pretty powerful one. As well as clock speed, you also get other benefits such as Thunderbolt 4 and Wifi 6 – which is great if you have the compatible devices, unfortunately I don’t, but that’s the story with a lot of new tech but the laptop is ready to take advantage when you do update.
For performance differences between the 10th and 11th gen Intel processors, I regularly use a Dell XPS 13 with a 10th gen Intel Core i7. I’ve tested a few laptops with the new 11th gen Intel core processors and find they overall add a bit more grunt and battery life and the ASUS Expertbook B9 400 is just as good, but in a refreshingly light form-factor.
One addition to the 11th gen Intel Core platform is the new Iris Xe graphics. Intel says the graphics card can handle ‘up to 1080p 60FPS for more detailed, immersive gaming’ and it’s pretty good when compared to the old Iris Plus.
I’ve become a little obsessed with The Forest of late, and it does pretty well – better than the old Iris Plus on my laptop – on the optimal settings. The Iris Xe platform isn’t going to replace high-end GPUs, but it does a respectable job on a business laptop.
The Expertbook B9(400) is an Intel Evo certified laptop, which means it has to meet certain requirements from Intel, one of which is it must have ‘no less than 9 hours of real-world battery life’.
The ASUS Expertbook B9 certainly meets the Intel Evo standards, plugging along well into the 9th and 10th hour of use. There was a bit of grey area when I threw some games at it while on battery which tended to run down the battery faster, but you expect that. Overall though, with mostly web surfing, working on Google Docs as well as catching up on Falcon and the Winter Soldier, saw me working through the full 9 hour day with no issues.
Last year ASUS began including a 65W charger with their laptop range, and the Expertbook B9 is no different. The high wattage charger offers a faster charge with the ability to get you from 1% to 60% in just 40 minutes.
My only feedback for ASUS in charging is on the dual USB-C ports….which are both on the same side. It’s handy having dual USB-C ports capable of charging the machine, but I again implore ASUS to move at least one of these USB-C ports to the right hand side to allow charging from either side which would increase the convenience factor many fold.
Overall, the charge lasts a full day – provided you’re not gaming – and it can do a fast charge if you need it, which is great.
As far as software is concerned, the ASUS Expertbook B9 can include either Windows 10, or Windows 10 Pro.
As usual if you like a clean install of Windows you’ll need to uninstall a lot of bloatware, including the McAfee subscription and Office software. There’s a number of third party, or Asus utilities included like the Realtek Audio console or MyAsus app which can keep you up to date on all that’s happening with your laptop, including options for updating warranty.
Overall, it’s a pretty good Windows build, but spend a few minutes cleaning out what you use and what you don’t and you’ll be good to go.
Alright! I get it, packaging. Boring, right? Not really if you like to use a laptop stand. ASUS have designed the box that contains your cables to turn into a laptop stand. It’s a pretty neat and easy setup, and while I’d normally turf most of the boxes with a new laptop, this is a pretty good stand – and very easy to assemble.
Should you buy it?
I like the Expertbook B9 series with its full sized USB-A and HDMI ports and compact, lightweight form factor. It’s also now more powerful with the latest Intel processors on-board.
The laptop isn’t going to impress in terms of gaming, but then the tagline for the Expertbook B9 is ‘World’s Lightest 14” Business laptop” and ASUS have certainly done that while also maintaining that light form-factor.
I still see some more areas that can be improved, but overall the Expertbook B9 is one of the better business models on the market to check out. The compact form factor is attractive for anyone needing to pack it into a bag, and it’s also light enough to carry around with you for long periods of time.
Overall, the Expertbook B9 is worth checking out if you need something that’s lightweight and comes with a load of power. It’s also slightly better value than last years model at just $2,699.
You can check out the Expertbook B9 online now on the ASUS website, or selected resellers.