This 14-inch laptop is one of the leaders of the pack.
Sheltering in place means hours spent working and videoconferencing at home -- and on the couch or in bed, for some of us. That means battery life and lap-friendliness remain relevant even if you're not traveling or working in oddball places. But as much as I like the 14-inch Asus ExpertBook B9450 for its strengths in that respect, its price tag may be a little offputting, especially given its relative weaknesses compared with less expensive models.
Several novelties make the 14-inch ExpertBook B9450 stand out from a crowd of me-too business laptops , in addition to the yowza 16-plus hour battery life as tested. While it's not a two-in-one like the LG Gram 14 or Lenovo Yoga C940, it does open up to 180 degrees (in other words, it can lie flat). The range of screen angles, plus its cool running, has made it one of my favorites for lap work and Zooming while giving my back a break in bed.
It's also exceptionally light at 2.2 pounds (995 grams) -- lighter than a MacBook Air, for instance -- thanks to Asus' novel use of magnesium-lithium alloy, which the company claims is lighter and stronger than the magnesium-aluminum alloy used by most laptops. And though the surface feels like plastic, there's little flex in the keyboard deck and the company says it's passed a variety of the MIL-STD 810G tests. Though it's also lighter than the aforementioned competitors, they're also hybrids, which are usually heavier than equivalent clamshells.
Another notable feature is Asus' NumberPad 2.0, the virtual numeric keypad for the touchpad, a nice addition given that you sacrifice a number pad with most small laptops. It's great if you need to enter numbers or do calculations, but it doesn't work in conjunction with the alt key for entering ASCII codes. That may be a niche quibble, but it's the fastest way to enter frequently used symbols such as £ or ©.
None of this comes particularly cheap, though. Our evaluation unit configuration is $1,800, making it more expensive than closely configured competitors; ours came with 2TB SSD, but that's probably way overkill for a laptop in this class. You can get it with 512GB (from Amazon and B&H, for example), but that only shaves about $100 off the price. In theory, there's an Intel Core i5-10210U version and an option with a 33-watt-hour battery -- that should deliver half the battery life of our 66-Wh unit -- which should cost less, but those don't seem to be available anywhere yet. Models with the 33-Wh battery should weigh even less at 1.9 pounds (870 grams).
Along the same lines, the system appears on Asus' UK site, but isn't available to buy, and doesn't seem to be available at all in Australia. The US price translates to about £1,445 or AU$2,820.
|Price as reviewed||$1,800|
|Display||14-inch 1,920x1,080 display|
|PC CPU||1.8GHz Intel Core i7-10510U|
|PC Memory||16GB LPDDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz|
|Graphics||128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Ports||2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB-A 3.1, 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x micro HDMI-to-Ethernet, 1x combo audio|
|Networking||Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5|
|Operating system||Windows 10 Pro (1909)|
|Weight||2.2 pounds (995 grams)|
Because it's a business system, it has all the niceties you'd expect: Windows 10 Pro, a fingerprint reader, and IR camera for Windows Hello login. There's also a camera shutter for privacy and dedicated button for turning off the camera. If you're an enterprise user or buyer, Asus plans to make a vPro version available once Intel rolls out the vPro-supporing versions of these CPUs.
The matte-textured shell doesn't attract fingerprints, but does tend to get scuffed and dusty. One simply can't win against the environment.
Though the screen doesn't really stand out, it's matte and reasonably bright. I haven't been in direct light in over a month, so I'm not sure if it's bright and nonreflective enough to cope with those lighting conditions. Likewise, the backlit keyboard feels decent with quite a bit of travel (1.5mm) and bouncy feedback.
There are a variety of utilities included, all available via a central MyAsus app launcher. These include recharge-ceiling settings (100%, 80% and 60%) to theoretically prolong the battery's physical life and an app that enables direct connection to a phone (via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) for file transfer and on-PC notifications. It can be useful, but still feels a little awkward since it's not integrated with either operating system, though.
My one quibble with the keyboard is the placement of the power button, which is just above the backspace key and to the left of the delete key. It likely only matters if you're a touch typist who uses both, but I've had to train myself to look down when using either in order to keep from hitting the power button accidentally. This layout isn't unique to the ExpertBook, however. It seems to be cropping up a lot in newer generation of ultrathin laptops. On the other hand, the dedicated screen-capture key is welcome and also seems to be part of the trend.
On our streaming-video battery tests, the B9450 managed a seriously impressive average of 16.5 hours, putting it in roughly the same class as the always-impressive LG Gram 14. For real work, with the settings cranked up a bit to get decent performance, it still managed to last a full 8-hour day. Even on the fan's Turbo setting it's almost silent.
But with the exception of battery life, the B9450's performance is relatively unexceptional, albeit not bad for a business notebook. That may be partly due to its use of last-gen low-power memory, which is slower than the newer LPDDR4x used by competing systems -- it's about 10% to 20% slower than the LG Gram 14 overall. In that respect, the LG Gram provides a better balance of battery life and performance. When you throw in the LG's flexibility as a two-in-one and more extensive set of ports at a lower price, the ExpertBook loses some of its luster as a recommendation.
|Asus ExpertBook B9450||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1909); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-10510U; 16GB LPDDR3 RAM 2.13GHz; 128MB Intel UHD Graphics; 1TB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 9300 (2020)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7; 16GB LPDDR4x SDRAM 3.733GHz; 128MB Intel Iris Plus Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga C940-14IIL||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7; 12GB LPDDR4x SDRAM 3.733GHz; 128MB Intel Iris Plus Graphics; 512GB SSD|
|LG Gram 14 2-in-1 (2020)||Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-10510U; 16GB DDR4 RAM 2.67GHz; 128MB Intel UHD Graphics; 512GB SSD|