Asus ExpertBook B9450 Review: Outdated Display, CPU Diminish Sleek Ultraportable
This 14-inch business ultraportable is impressively light and eminently portable but costs too much when you consider the previous-gen CPU and a display that feels constricted.
Updated Oct. 4, 2023 5:00 a.m. PT
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Matt ElliottSenior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Asus proudly declares that the 2.2-pound ExpertBook B9450 is the lightest 14-inch business laptop, and I can't find any evidence to dispute the claim. I believe you could go as far as to say it's the lightest 14-inch laptop of any kind -- whether it's for home or work -- if not for Asus's own Zenbook 14 Ultralight UX435, which the company quotes as weighing a scant 2.16 pounds. There was also the 14-inch Acer Swift 7 from a few years back that managed to get under the two-pound mark, but it's no longer available. Regardless, the ExpertBook B9450 is extremely light and achieves its featherweight lightness without feeling cheap. This extreme portability, however, requires you to make a few tradeoffs.
For starters, this 14-inch laptop is smaller than most modern 14-inch models. It features a widescreen display with a 16:9 aspect ratio that provides less vertical screen real estate than the 16:10 panels that are the trend now. And if you've spent any time using a 14-inch, 16:10 laptop, then a 14-inch, 16:9 unit is going to feel cramped. The ExpertBook B9450's internals are also behind the times. It features a previous-generation Intel Core processor that's a step or two behind competing business laptops based on Intel's current 13th-gen chips. I prefer the roomier and only slightly heavier Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 that's also faster and longer running.
Configuration as tested
Price as reviewed
14-inch 1,920x1,080 nontouch antiglare display
1.7GHz Intel Core i7-1255U
16GB LP-DDR5 6,400MHz
128MB Intel Iris Xe graphics
1TB NVMe SSD
Wi-Fi 6E 802.11ax Dual band 2*2 + Bluetooth 5.3
Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
Asus sells one version of the ExpertBook B9450. It's a fixed configuration and costs $1,770 from Asus. For that sum, you get an Intel Core i7-1255U processor, 16GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 1TB SSD. The 14-inch display features a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio display. The previous version with an 11th-gen Core i7 processor is also still available from Asus, but the 12th-gen chip in our test systems is already playing catch-up to models with current 13th-gen Intel CPUs, so the 11th-gen model is to be avoided at its current $1,700 price. There's also a ExpertBook B9403 OLED model for $2,150 that features an OLED display and 13th-gen Intel silicon. The ExpertBook B9450 starts at £1,600 in the UK. It's listed in Australia as the ExpertBook B9400 12th Gen Intel but not available for purchase at the time this is published.
The ExpertBook B9450 did not light our labs on fire. It finished last among similarly priced laptops on our Geekbench 5 and Cinebench tests and managed to squeak past a pair of ThinkPad X1 Carbons on 3DMark with a score that still placed it near the back of the pack. Its 12th-gen Intel Core U-series CPU could not keep up with either newer 13th-gen chips or Apple's M2 processor. The 15-watt Core i7-1255U chip, however, helped the ExpertBook B9450 deliver a positive result on our battery drain test where it lasted for more than 12 hours. The efficient CPU also allowed the laptop to stay cool and quiet, despite its compact enclosure.
Light but tight
Asus achieves the remarkably lightweight chassis for the ExpertBook B9450 by using a magnesium-lithium alloy, which it says is the lightest metal alloy on the planet and, more to the point for laptop shoppers, lighter and more durable than laptops more commonly constructed from a different magnesium alloy or aluminum. At 2.2 pounds, it's lighter than the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2.5 pounds), the 13.6-inch M2 MacBook Air (2.7 pounds) and 13.4-inch Dell XPS 13 (2.6 pounds). In short, it's really, really light and eminently portable.
The ExpertBook B9450 may be light, but it's no lightweight. It feels like a premium laptop. Many ultraportables chasing a low carrying weight go too far and end up feeling like cheap, plastic budget models -- even when they're made of metal. Not so with the ExpertBook B9450. It feels fairly rigid; there is some flex in the lid behind the display and underneath the keyboard, but nothing to a worrying degree. The metal surfaces on the top and bottom panels and keyboard deck have a pleasing, textured matte finish. The texture feels like fine-grit sandpaper, and there are tiny green and white sparkles against the matte-black surface. It adds up to a sleek-looking laptop that also feels good whether you're typing on it or toting it around.
The keyboard is excellent. The keys offer a springy, lively response, and the hinge props up the back of the laptop to create a comfortable typing angle -- while also providing greater airflow for the bottom vent. In addition to the standard row of function keys at the top of the keyboard, the ExpertBook B9450 features four extra hotkeys. The 1, 2, 3 and 4 keys are outlined in blue and are set to control Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the proximity sensor and power modes. You can customize these four extra hotkeys with the preinstalled Asus ExpertWidget app, but there are only five choices for the four keys, and two of the functions -- power mode and power plan are very similar.
Like the keyboard, the touchpad has a few hidden features. It can act as a virtual number pad, which could be helpful for data entry, but number crunchers will probably miss the tactile feedback they'd get from actual keys if they spend large portions of their day entering figures into Excel. An NFC reader is also integrated into the touchpad, which provides an easy and secure way to log into the system if your company issues NFC cards.
With an IR webcam and a fingerprint scanner, the ExpertBook B9450 features two other biometric options for secure logins. The webcam can also sense when you get up from your laptop and will lock the system, logging you back in when it sees your face again. There's also a physical shutter to ensure your privacy when the camera isn't in use. The IR functionality and privacy shutter are the only positives, however, about the webcam. It's a 720p camera that produces a grainy, poorly exposed picture.
The 14-inch display features a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. My primary laptop for the last two years has been a 14-inch, 16:10 model, and I've tested and used countless other 16:10 laptops of varying sizes over that time. Going back to a 16:9 display feels very constricting as a result, especially at its 14-inch size. A larger 15.6-inch panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio doesn't feel as tight as a 14-inch, 16:9 panel. There's just not a lot of room from top to bottom, and I felt like I was constantly scrolling through web pages and Google docs and sheets on the ExpertBook B9450.
The panel's full-HD resolution suffices for the size, but I did find text to be a bit blurry when viewed close up. The panel is rated for 400 nits of brightness, and I confirmed that figure with my tests using a lux meter.
The ExpertBook B9450 provides a limited but useful selection of ports. You get a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and a micro HDMI-to-Ethernet port on the left. On the right reside a USB-A port and a combo audio jack. Asus includes a micro HDMI-to-Ethernet adapter in the box, along with a laptop sleeve.
With a price approaching $2,000, the Asus ExpertBook B9450 ought to provide a more modern CPU powering a more modern display. Asus sells an ExpertBook B9 OLED (B9403, 13th Gen Intel) model for $2,150 that provides not only an OLED panel with a crisper 2.8K resolution but also with a 16:10 aspect ratio and a newer, 13th-gen Core i7 CPU. Even though it costs almost $400 more than our test system, it's the better deal. Looking to spend less? The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 costs less than our ExpertBook B9450 test system and is our current recommendation for business travelers looking for a dependable, portable and long-running ultraportable.
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments.