This is the Asus ExpertBook B9450.
It’s marketed as the world’s lightest 14-inch business laptop as of early 2020, and yes, it weighs less than a kilo even in its bigger battery version, or under 900 grams if you opt for the smaller battery configuration. Which you shouldn’t. Really, don’t!
But what’s impressive about this notebook is that it doesn’t compromise on any important aspect in order to weigh this little. In fact, it’s sturdily built, it’s compact and still offers full-size ports on the sides, it types well, it offers a fine matte display, it performs excellently and lasts for many hours on a charge.
But it’s not without quirks, though, as you’ll find from this detailed review that will explain what to expect from this Asus ExpertBook B9450 ultrabook.
Specs as reviewed – Asus ExpertBook B9450FA
|Asus ExpertBook B9450FA |
|Screen||14 inch, 1920 x 1080 px, 16:9, IPS, matte, non-touch, AU Optronics B140HAN06.2 panel|
|Processor||Intel Comet Lake Core i7-10510U CPU, quad-core|
|Video||Intel UHD 620|
|Memory||16 GB LPDDR3 2133 MHz (soldered, dual-channel)|
|Storage||2x 1 TB SSD (Samsung PM981 MZVLB1T0HALR – M.2 2280 PCIe x4)|
|Connectivity||WiFi 6 Gig+ (Intel AX201), Bluetooth 5.0, GbE via included adapter|
|Ports||1x USB-A 3.1 gen2, 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, micro HDMI, mic/headphone, Lock|
|Battery||66 Wh, 65W charger (USB-C plug)|
|Size||320 mm or 12.6” (w) x 203 mm or 7.99” (d) x 14.9 mm or 0.59” (h)|
|Weight||2.18 lbs (.99 kg)+ .53 lbs (.30 kg) charger and cables, US version|
|Extras||white backlit keyboard and finger sensor, HD webcam with physical cover and IR, stereo speakers|
Our model is a top-tier configuration, with the Intel Core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 2 TB of storage. Lower tier versions start with a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, and while less storage is acceptable, you’re forced to get the i7 configuration in order to also get 16 GB of RAM on this device.
Design and construction
First of, this is a mini tank. The entire chassis is made from solid pieces of magnesium-lithium alloys, which helps make for a tough construction. The screen doesn’t flex or warp even when abused, and while the keyboard deck shows some give when pressed hard, it’s not that bad and it’s something I for one can live with.
As far as looks go, the ExpertBook B9450 is available in this dark blue color with this sort of sparkling finishing. The materials feel a bit rough to the touch and sound a little weird as well, but at the same time they also seem to hide smudges and finger oil very well, and hopefully, will also age nicely.
The design is overall clean, with subdued branding elements and no flashy lights, except for an annoying mini light bar on the front lip which lights green, red or blue. I couldn’t figure out what each color corresponds to, but seems to be tied to the battery charge status and the selected Power profile. This was most likely inspired by the Dell XPS 13, but it makes no sense to me on a business ultraportable such as this one, and I couldn’t find any way to disable it from the software. It does seem to switch itself off when unplugging the laptop.
Design aside, for what is worth, the laptop meets military-grade standards for strength and reliability, but so do most of the other modern Asus ultrabooks. In fact, this borrows plenty from the more popular Asus ZenBook lineups, including the compact form-factor with very small bezels around the screen and the Ergolift hinge design.
This system lifts up the laptop’s main body on rubber feet placed at the bottom of the screen chassis, in order to ensure a slightly inclined typing position and improve airflow underneath the device. It also creates the illusion of a smaller design, by hiding the screen’s chin behind the main body.
That, however, also creates what I think is one of this laptop’s design flaws. If you’ll look closely you’ll see that the cooling system blows out hot air through a grill placed just about a centimeter or two away from the panel. In other words, hot air is blown straight into the panel, which as a result reaches temperatures of 50-55 degrees Celsius with demanding loads. I’ve asked Asus officials about this and they claim the design is safe and the heat won’t affect the screen, but I’m still concerned that heat could cause problems long-term.
This aspect aside, the ExpertBook is well thought of and ergonomically designed. It’s also highly portable, weighing just shy of 1 kilo in this version with the 66 Wh battery.
Despite its small size, it gets an uncompromised keyboard, a large clickpad, and a fairly roomy palm-rest. There’s also a recess on the front lip that allows you to easily grab and lift up the screen, which can be easily adjusted with a single hand and goes all the way back flat. Furthermore, Asus also made sure to include a camera at the top of the display, with a physical privacy cover and integrated IR functionality. The image quality is poor, but the mics are fine for occasional calls.
At the same time, my wrists are not fans of the sharp front lip and pointy corners, and I also think Asus should have put grippier feet on this notebook. I’d be careful not to trip on the power cord, as the USB-C plug won’t disconnect easily and the laptop will most likely end up falling from the table, with the limited grip of its feet.
Asus did a great job at the IO, though. Most ultrabooks get miniaturized ports these days, but not this one, despite its ultra-compact form factor. It comes with two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, a full-size USB-A ports, full-size HDMI and an extra micro-HDMI port that can be used to hook up to a wired Internet connection, with the help of the adapter included in the box.
Keyboard and trackpad
Inputs are another aspect Asus aced on this ExpertBook. The keyboard is tactile and springy and quiet to use. It took me some time to get used to its feedback, as I’m more accustomed to the softer and shallower keys of the Dell XPS 13, but overall this is one of the nicest you’ll find on an ultraportable these days, right there next to the Latitudes and ThinkPads of the business segment.
The keys are also backlit, of course, the LEDs get pretty bright at the maximum level and switch on with a simple swipe across the clickpad, just as they should. However, because these keys are a bit taller than what you’d normally get on ultraportables, light creeps out quite noticeably from under some of the keycaps.
The clickpad is a spacious glass surface with Precision drivers, so pretty much the best you can get these days. It’s smooth and responsive with daily use and gestures, and Asus also made sure that the implementation is sturdy and doesn’t rattle with taps. Furthermore, this can also turn into a virtual NumPad with a press of the tactile button in its top-right corner, which some of you might find handy.
One aspect to mention here is the inclusion of a finger-sensor, which is no longer part of a power button as on the previous B9 version, but a stand-alone feature placed beneath the arrow keys. On top of that, the camera also supports IR, so can also be used to quickly log into Windows with Hello.
The screen is, surprisingly for a device of this caliber, one area where the ExpertBook B9450 is not really on par with the competition.
For one, Asus doesn’t offer multiple screen choices for this product, but only a standard matte IPS panel. And then, while the contrast, color accuracy, and viewing angles are pretty good, the max brightness peaks at under 300-nits, according to our measurements.
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO623D (B140HAN06.2);
- Coverage: 99.5% sRGB, 72.5% AdobeRGB, 77.0% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.2;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 272 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness:1032:1;
- White point: 6500 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.25 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
We haven’t noticed any flickering and the panel didn’t suffer from obvious uniformity or bleeding issues. Calibration gets Gray Levels and the White Point on par, but further reduces brightness by a few nits.
Overall, this is for sure fine for daily use, for video and even some occasional photo/video editing, but it’s not bright enough if you plan to use the laptop outdoors or in bright office spaces. I was definitely expecting a brighter panel, given what the competition offers these days and the fact that even Asus implement brighter screens on their consumer ZenBook S UX392. On top of that, some of you might also want a touch or a higher-resolution option, and you’re not going to get these with this ExpertBook.
Hardware and performance
The ExpertBook B9450 is built on an Intel Comet Lake Core U hardware platform and gets an up to quad-core i7-10510U processor, 16 GB of RAM and 2TB of storage (without RAID support), which is exactly the configuration we have for our tests.
The memory is soldered and non-upgradeable, but inside you do get two M.2 PCIe x4 slots for storage. Getting to them is fairly easy, you just have to remove the back panel, hold in place by a couple of screws. In here, you’ll notice the thermal module and the fact that a big part of the interior is reserved for the battery, the larger 66Wh version on this configuration.
I do have a hard time understanding why Asus went with this choice of a CPU for a computer launched in 2020. On one hand, they stuck with the 14nm Comet Lake platform and not the newer 10nm IceLake with improved graphics and faster, more efficient memory, which is available on many premium ultraportables in this first part of 2020. At the same time, they opted for just the quad-core i7 and not for the six-core i7 that’s available as part of Comet Lake Core U, and something Lenovo puts on their updated ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Vaio on the updated SX14. This six-core i7 would have made a lot of sense on this product, especially since Asus put effort into the thermal design and created software profiles meant to squeeze good performance out of the CPU.
There’s a Turbo profile in the MyAsus app that boosts the CPU’s power allowance and thus the overall performance in demanding loads, while also ramping temperatures and fan noise to about 44-45 dB at head-level in our tests. That’s far from the levels mentioned by Asus in their marketing materials and quite noticeable, but there are also Auto and Silent power profiles that are better suited for everyday use and prioritize lower noise. In fact, the fan remains completely inaudible with daily use on the Silent profile, which is fine for Netflix or Youtube or browsing.
That means you should only switch to Turbo when running taxing chores on this thing, and that’s what we’re going to test next. Keep in mind we’re running out tests with the drivers and BIOS version (205) available as per early February 2020, and future updates might change some of our findings.
First off, the Cinebench loop test runs Cinebench R15 for 10+ loops, with 2-3 sec delay between each run, to test the performance in longer-term high CPU loads. The i7-10510U did well on the Turbo power mode, constantly running at 25W for the entire duration. The processor reaches temperatures in the 92-98 degrees Celsius, but the performance is not limited by thermal throttling. That’s an excellent result for such a thin-and-light ultraportable, as most others struggle to maintain this sort of power in the Cinebench loop test.
The power allowance drops significantly on both the Auto and Silent modes, with the CPU running at around 7-8 W in those cases. This makes sense for the Silent profile, but I was expecting the Auto profile to offer a more balanced 15W power limit.
We also went ahead and tried to tweak the Turbo profile by undervolting the CPU, but with limited success. Our sample was only stable at -50 mV, which resulted in a slight 3-5% gain in Cinebench results and minor gains in other tests and benchmarks. That’s because the CPU can runs at slightly higher in this case, within the same 25W power lit and while reaching similarly high temperatures of 92-98 degrees celsius.
Finally, we ran the same test with the laptop unplugged. In this case, the CPU is limited to 15W, but still performs very well within this power limit. All the results are detailed in the logs and pictures below.
Furthermore, to test the performance in combined CPU+GPU loads that would simulate tasks like video encoding or data processing, we ran our 3DMark and Luxmark 3.1 stress tests. The system passed the 3DMark stress test. In Luxmark, the CPU kicks in hard at 30W+ and then settles at around 27W, where it holds steady.
We also ran Need for Speed: Most Wanted on this laptop, not necessarily for the gaming experience, but as another simulation of a challenging CPU+GPU load. The results are detailed in the logs below, and on par with our previous findings: steady CPU and GPU performance across the board, within a 25W power envelope while plugged in, and 15W while on battery. The CPU and GPU drop in speed when the laptop is unplugged, but the overall experience is hardly matched by any other similar laptop.
Finally, we ran a handful of benchmarks on the ExpertBook B9450FA, for those of you interested in numbers.
Firstly, here’s what we got on the Auto power profile.
- 3DMark 11: P1644 (Graphics – 1645, Physics – 4825);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 987 (Graphics – 1081, Physics – 5593);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 382 (Graphics – 335, CPU – 1977);
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5408, Multi-core: 13975;
- GeekBench 5.1.0 64-bit: Single-Core: 1183, Multi-core: 2765;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 473 cb, CPU Single Core 145 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 966 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –119.28 fps, Pass 2 – 21.88 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 163.48 fps.
And here’s what happens on the Turbo profile.
- 3DMark 11: P2159 (Graphics – 1924, Physics – 6758);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 987 (Graphics – 1081, Physics – 5593);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1194 (Graphics – 1340, CPU – 8638);
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5398, Multi-core: 15902;
- GeekBench 5.1.0 64-bit: Single-Core: 1243, Multi-core: 4024;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 626 cb, CPU Single Core 176 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1499 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –182.54 fps, Pass 2 –43.45 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 82.74 fps.
Lastly, here’s how switching over to the Turbo profile with a -50 mV CPU undervolt affects these findings.
- 3DMark 11: P2247 (Graphics – 1981, Physics – 8795);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 1243 (Graphics – 1365, Physics – 11271);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 498 (Graphics – 433, CPU – 3549);
- Passmark: 4215 (CPU Mark – 11030, GPU Mark – 1345);
- PCMark 10: 4142 (Essentials – 9527 , Productivity – 6743 , Digital Content Creation – 3003);
- GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5430, Multi-core: 17175;
- GeekBench 5.1.0 64-bit: Single-Core: 1274, Multi-core: 4198;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 748 cb, CPU Single Core 190 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1685 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 –189.78 fps, Pass 2 – 45.68 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 77.92 fps.
In conclusion, the ExpertBook B9450FA is one of the best performing ultrabooks on the market and one of the best implementations of an Intel Core U processor we’ve ever tested, including devices with a larger form-factor. I can only hope this also translates into the final retail units that Asus offer in stores.
And now just think how well would the six-core i7-10710U have performed in this chassis and how that would have put the ExpertBook at the top of the performance sheets in this class. And yet Asus chose not to implement the six-core in this ExpertBook.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The ExpertBook B9450 gets a basic thermal module, with a single fan and a heatpipe between the CPU and radiator.
However, mention they put a lot of effort into developing the overall thermal design required to keep this CPU in check on the Turbo profile. The small form factor only left room for a compact fan, but the design was improved to ensure similar cfm to the larger version used on the previous B9. On top of that, larger graphite sheets have been added to the chassis, in order to spread out the heat and dissipate it quicker.
The results are pretty good, within reason. The fan stays idle with basic use on the Silent power profile and only kicks sporadically with multitasking. And while the Silent profile takes a toll on CPU’s behavior, the laptop remains snappy and usable with daily tasks.
Of course, the fan kicks up with demanding loads and games and gets fairly loud for an ultrabook. We measured a maximum noise level of 44-45 dB at head-level, while on Auto or on Turbo – Battery that dropped to around 40 dB.
As far as outer-case temperatures go, the surfaces get mildly warm with daily use, due to the mostly passive cooling. They also jump to high 40s, low 50s with games and other demanding loads, which is again hotter than the average ultrabook. In comparison, the ZenBook S13 ran much cooler, and even the thermally challenged ThinkPad X1 Carbon ran significantly cooler.
Furthermore, as already mentioned earlier, the screen area around the exhaust reaches high temperatures as well, of around 50-55 degrees Celsius, and I find this concerning on the long-term.
Overall, this Asus Expertbook B9450FA runs both hotter and noisier than other premium ultrabooks at max-settings, but don’t forget that it also performs better. On top of that, the Auto power/fan profile allows for a drop in thermal and noise levels, alongside the drop in performance, for the situations where a 25W Core U implementation is not required.
*Daily – Netflix for 30 minutes in Edge, fan mostly off
*Load – playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted for 30 minutes, fans 44-45 dB
For connectivity, there’s latest-gen WiFi 6 with an Intel AX200 module on this ExpertBook. It performed very well with our setup, the signal remained strong when moving farther away from the router, and we haven’t noticed any drops or inconsistencies.
Wired Internet is also an option with the adapter included in the pack.
Audio is actually OK on this laptop, as long as you make sure to activate the Music Music profile in the included Audio Wizard app, which has a major impact on the perceived audio quality. Still, there’s only so much a pair of downward-firing speakers can do, so don’t expect volumes above 72-74 dB or much in terms of bass, which was only noticeable from around 120 Hz. Yet somehow the audio sounded richer than on other laptops with similar speaker stats, due to software optimization.
Finally, there’s an HD camera at the top of this laptop’s screen, flanked by 4 microphones. These are fine for occasional calls, but the camera quality is muddy and washed out.
Asus offers the ExpertBook B9450FA in two versions, with either a 33 Wh or a 66 Wh battery.
Keep in mind that they advertise the 33 Wh version as the lightest 14-inch business laptop, at under 900 grams, but I would stay away from that variant and opt for the bigger version instead, in which case the ExpertBook still only weighs about 1 kilo.
Here’s what we got on our review unit in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~70 brightness).
- 7 W (~9+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent/Better Battery Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.8 W (~11+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent/Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 6.6 W (~10+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent/Better Battery Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 10 W (~6 h 30 min of use) – browsing in Edge, Auto/Better Performance Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 27.5 W (~4- h of use) – running NFS: Most Wanted, Turbo/Best Performance Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
I’ve seen more efficient implementations of Whiskey and Comet Lake Core Us, so I also expect Asus to improve on battery life with future BIOS updates. After all, they advertise 24 hours of battery life for this notebook.
The laptop comes with a 65W charger that plugs-in via USB-C. It’s a two-piece design with a small brick, but a lot of cables. A full charge takes about 2 hours, but quick charging fills-up 60% of the capacity in about 40 minutes.
Price and availability
The Asus ExpertBook B9450 is not widely available in stores at the time of this article, so we’ll have to update once we find know more about final prices and configurations.
For now, it’s only listed in a few shops in Europe, starting at 1800 EUR for the Core i5 / 16 GB/ 1 TB configuration, while the Core i7 variant goes for 100 EUR extra for the same specs. I’d expect lower-tier configuration to be available for less.
Asus have clearly positioned the ExpertBook B9450 at the top of their ultrabook lineup, and for the most part, they have all the right to do so.
This product nails many aspects I would want in a modern 2020 ultrabook: it’s one of the best performers in its category, it includes one of the larger batteries in its class and doesn’t compromise on build quality, weight, inputs, IO or features. In fact, my single major complaint about it is the inclusion of a rather dim panel, while most other premium ultrabooks get brighter screens as default, as well as options for higher resolution, higher color accuracy or touch.
However, there’s also the issue of the high temperatures and noisy fans while running demanding loads on the max-performance power mode, as well as the design limitation that blows hot air right into the screen. The temperatures/noise part makes sense given the performance this laptop can squeeze out of the hardware inside, but I’m not comfortable with the exhaust’s design, despite Asus’s reassurances that it is a safe approach and the heat won’t affect the display long-term.
Finally, the ExpertBook is only based on a quad-core Comet Lake Core U platform, which is pretty much 2019 hardware. Instead, most of the current alternatives are either based on the better balanced IceLake hardware, with improved graphics and memory support, or on the six-core Comet Lake i7-10710U, which ensures improved performance in CPU demanding loads. As it is, the ExpertBook B9450 feels a bit obsolete and falls behind both these options in terms of versatility, and that could be a deal-breaker for potential buyers looking for the best performance in a very compact envelope.
Even with these quirks, though, I still feel the ExpertBook B9450 is certainly one of Asus’s finest ultrabooks to date. And it’s not necessarily a business ultrabook, but something the regular consumer looking for a clean and well-made product should also consider.
However, the competition is extremely tight these days, and picking the right model for your needs and budget is not going to be easy. We’ll talk about how this compares to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the Vaio SX14 or the Dell XPS 13/Latitude 14 in a future article.
For now, though, we’re going to wrap up this review of the Asus ExpertBook B9450FA. Let me know what you think about it and get in touch in the comments section below if you have any feedback or questions.
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