The Asus ExpertBook B9 is the world’s lightest business laptop and it’s feature rich offering make it a great choice for home workers. But it’s performance will put off power users.
- Lightweight, robust design
- Loads of business features
- Comfortable keyboard
- Good battery life
- Middling CPU ability
- A good screen – but not a great screen
- Pricier and less customisable than rivals
- UKRRP: £1659
- USARRP: $1699
- EuropeRRP: €2736
- CanadaRRP: CA$
- AustraliaRRP: AU$
Display:14in 1920 x 1080 IPS
Processor:Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics:Intel Iris Xe graphics
The Asus ExpertBook B9 is being marketed as the world’s lightest 14-inch business laptop.
The ExpertBook weighs just 888g, so this machine feels almost lighter than air, but there are compromises elsewhere, including middling components and display technology. With this in mind we’ve thoroughly tested the device to find out how does it stack up against the competition. Here’s what we found out.
Price and availability
The model I reviewed uses the part code B9400CEA, and it costs £1659 or $1699. It’s available in Europe, too, although it costs a fairly hefty €2736 on some sites. It’s also not listed on the Asus stores in various European countries, so it looks like continental availability is patchy right now.
At the time of writing, it’s only available with a Core i7 processor. It’s listed on Asus’ website with a Core i5 processor, too, so hopefully that option becomes available to reduce the cost.
Design and keyboard
- One of the thinnest and lightest laptops in the world
- Impressive build quality and features considering the size
- Keyboard is good, but rivals are better – and better-looking, too
The B9’s minuscule weight pairs with a body that’s just 320mm wide and 14.9mm thick, so it’s one of the most compact machines on the market.
Such a svelte body always makes me wonder about build quality, and there is a certain amount of give in the B9 – the screen is more flexible than most, and there’s noticeable movement in the metal around the keyboard and the base.
That’s by design though: the Asus uses multiple layers of magnesium-lithium alloy rather than a single block of metal, and it’s had MIL-STD-810G testing to ensure that it can withstand pressure, shocks, drops, vibrations, altitudes, and extreme temperatures. The hinge, ports and keyboard have also undergone similar tests.
So, while the Asus’ body does flex, it’s designed to take the bumps and keep working, so I’ve got no qualms about tossing this laptop in a bag.
This approach marks the Asus out from its biggest rivals. The Dell XPS 13 and Apple MacBook Air don’t have MIL-STD-810G certification, but they’re made from single blocks of metal and so feel initially more robust. The machines have all undoubtedly undergone similar testing. I have confidence that the Asus is sturdy enough to survive daily life – it’s a different approach to rivals.
The alternative approach from Asus also means that its ExpertBook undercuts its rivals in portability. The Dell weighs 1.2kg and is 14.8mm thick, while the latest MacBook is a 1.29kg notebook with a 16mm body.
Asus has done an admirable job of cramming features inside this tiny machine. On the right-hand edge it’s got a full-size USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, a headphone jack, and a Kensington lock slot, and on the left, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 4 ports that support DisplayPort and power delivery alongside an HDMI output. Interestingly, the Asus also includes micro-HDMI, which works with an included adapter to provide Gigabit Ethernet without occupying a USB socket. The only notable omission is a card reader, which will be a hassle for photographers looking to quickly transfer files between it and their camera.
Above the display, you’ll find a webcam with a privacy shutter and Windows Hello support, and below the keyboard is a fingerprint reader. On the inside, the Asus has dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 and a TPM 2.0 chip for security.
Neither rival can compete here. The Dell has the same internal connectivity, and it includes two Thunderbolt 4 ports alongside a microSD slot, but it has a weaker webcam, no full-size USB connection, and no HDMI. The MacBook Air has Thunderbolt 4 ports, but that’s it.
The B9’s keyboard has a spill-resistant design, and it has satisfactory performance – the buttons are fast and consistent, and they’ve got reasonable travel, but they proved a little too spongy for my liking during testing.
I still prefer the typing gear on the Dell and Apple machines, because both of those keyboards are crisper and quicker. The Asus will easily handle hours of typing, but the Dell and Apple machines feel cleaner and more satisfying to type on.
The trackpad is huge and responsive, so no complaints there. It also has a numberpad overlay, which is a helpful addition for people who spend lots of time in Excel.
The business-focussed Asus does fall behind in other areas. Its matte black metal looks decent, but both rivals are more stylish. The ErgoLift hinge digs into your thighs if you sit down, and the inclusion of the power button on the keyboard is a perennial irritation.
The competition arguably offers better value, too. An equivalent Dell XPS 13 costs £1599 / $1549 / €1699, and a MacBook Air is £1649 / $1649 / $1699, and there are more customisation options, so you get chances to reduce the price that just don’t exist with the ExpertBook.
- The 1080p panel offers solid quality and accuracy for everyday workloads
- Rivals go further here, with brighter and sharper screens on offer
- The speakers are disappointing
The display is a non-touch, 1080p IPS with an anti-glare coating, which is an entirely sensible business specification. The lid folds flat for easier collaboration, and the drop-hinge means the bottom bezel vanishes entirely, which looks sleek.
For everyday work, photo-editing, and media, the Asus’ display is top-notch. The Dell and Apple machines go further, though: Apple’s Retina display is brighter, sharper and adheres to the DCI-P3 gamut. The XPS’ default screen is a 16:10 model with a higher resolution, and it’s available with 4K and touch options. Color gamuts are ranges of color used by professionals to gauge accuracy.
I used a colorimeter to find more specific results for the Asus ExpertBook B9’s display to back up my own judgement.
The brightness level of 375 nits is fine for indoor and outdoor use, and the 0.27 nit black point is reasonable. The contrast ratio of 1388:1 is a great result for an IPS panel and delivers superb vibrancy and depth.
Meanwhile, the speakers are mediocre: tinny and without bass, and without much mid-range clarity. They’re only suitable for casual media duties.
- Intel’s chips are decent mainstream options, but Apple and AMD are both quicker
- Some CPU throttling means you won’t get the most out of this chip
- Quiet but noticeable fan noise is evident in tougher tasks
The Asus relies on the familiar Core i7-1165G7. It’s one of Intel’s most reliable laptop chips, with four cores and a potential top speed of 4.7GHz. It’s paired with 16GB of memory and a 1TB SSD.
For web-browsing, Office software, photo-editing and mainstream applications, this specification is