The Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA (starts at $1,599.99; $2,349.99 as tested) is a 14-inch business laptop that mixes portability and power. It’s super thin and light at just 0.59 inch thick and 2.2 pounds, but it still finds room inside to run a potent 11th Generation Intel Core i7 processor. The B9450CEA has an attractive grab-and-go design, more ports than you might expect, and good performance for its class, but we didn’t see the extraordinary battery life we admired when testing the original B9450, and it’s a bit pricey compared to some alternatives. The new ExpertBook is a solid contender with a full feature set, but we prefer the stellar Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon or a slick convertible like the Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1 if we’re going to spend this much on a luxe ultralight.
Give Me a Slice for the Road
The ExpertBook’s exterior is identical to the last version’s, since this is largely a component and feature update. That might not give me a lot to add here (see our original review for a deeper dive on the design), but it’s not a negative. This is one of the most portable business laptops, measuring just 0.59 by 12.6 by 8 inches (HWD). This is right in line with compact competitors like the systems mentioned above. The Latitude is a bit heftier at 3 pounds, though the 13-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is even lighter at 1.99 pounds.
The ExpertBook’s light weight is owed in part to the construction material, a magnesium alloy that cuts down on heft but feels more premium than cheaper plastic. It has a textured but soft feel to it, so it’s a nice choice for portability and build quality. The dark blue color is also appealing, and helps it stand out a bit from the crowd of mostly black business notebooks.
All of this paints the picture of a travel-ready business laptop, but of course how well it fulfills that purpose comes down to the features and components. The ExpertBook’s trim overall footprint precludes a big screen—obviously no ultraportable is a replacement for a desktop monitor setup—but the 14-inch display is a good fit, giving a little more room to work than 13-inch alternatives.
The screen itself offers full HD (1080p) resolution and looks plenty sharp and bright. The bezels are quite thin (Asus claims a 94% screen-to-body ratio), but there’s still enough room for a webcam on the top bezel.
The bottom bezel actually hangs below the keyboard deck when the lid is open, thanks to Asus’ ErgoLift hinge design. This causes the bottom edge of the lid to push against the desk or table, propping the laptop at a slight angle that’s more comfortable for typing and gives the cooling fans a bit of extra breathing room. It also has the added bonus of essentially taking the bottom bezel out of the equation, since it disappears behind the raised keyboard.
The raised typing angle is a plus, even if it’s not a massive one, while the keys feel comfortable for typing. A system so thin doesn’t leave much room for vertical key travel, but the ExpertBook’s keyboard is more than serviceable, even though it won’t be matching a desktop PC or most ThinkPad keyboards anytime soon.
The touchpad is also plenty roomy, and as with some other Asus laptops, lets you tap a button in the corner to activate an LED numeric keypad…
This is a clever compromise for spreadsheet jockeys, since you won’t find a real number pad on a laptop this small.
Open for Business
The other expert-grade features discussed in our review of the original still apply to this updated version. They include MIL-STD 810H durability certification, a physical shutter on the IR face-recognition webcam, a fingerprint reader in the palm rest for a second shortcut to Windows Hello logins, Intel vPro manageability, Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, four far-field microphones, and TPM 2.0. This model also supports fast charging to get you a quick burst of juice at the start of a charge session in case you need to unplug again soon.
The included software utilities, chiefly Business Manager and Control Center, also bolster the feature set. These let you view hardware specs, use restore points, shred files permanently, update the BIOS and software, manage power consumption, and more. All of this plus additional functionality such as setting fan, battery, and charging modes can be found through the preinstalled MyAsus app collection. A smartphone app offers file-transfer and screen-mirror functions.
Finally, the physical port connections. The left edge of the ExpertBook provides two USB Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI video output, and a micro HDMI port used with a proprietary dongle, not included, as an Ethernet port. On the right, you’ll find a headset jack and a USB 3.2 Type-A port. For a slim system, the Asus acquits itself well on this front, with ample connections for professional productivity.
Components and Performance Testing
Our $2,349.99 ExpertBook B9450CEA improves on its predecessor’s 10th Gen Intel CPU with a Core i7-1185G7 “Tiger Lake” mobile processor with Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of memory, and a 1TB NVMe solid-state drive.
To see what these parts are capable of, we put the Asus through our usual suite of benchmark tests, comparing its results to those of both the previous model and a batch of business-laptop competitors whose specs you can see in the table below. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL. The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both tests yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
The new ExpertBook asserted itself in PCMark 10, tying the X1 Nano for the win and easily clearing the 4,000-point mark that indicates excellent productivity for Microsoft Office or Google Docs. The laptops’ speedy SSDs breezed through PCMark 8’s storage exercise.
Next comes Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
Cinebench is often a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing trial, another tough, threaded workout that’s highly CPU-dependent and scales well with cores and threads. In it, we put a stopwatch on test systems as they transcode a standard 12-minute clip of 4K video (the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to a 1080p MP4 file. It’s a timed test, and lower results are better.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image, timing each operation and adding up the total. As with Handbrake, lower times are better here.
For starters, you can again see the advantage the new ExpertBook’s CPU has over the old one’s. Beyond that, the B9450CEA proved one of the better performers for media editing, though none of these business systems is intended for use as a content creation workstation. They’re ideal for multitasking among the productivity apps and online and chat services you may need while working.
We run two tests apiece in two gaming simulations. The first, 3DMark, measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. 3DMark’s Sky Diver and Fire Strike subtests are both DirectX 11 benchmarks, but the former is more suited to midrange PCs with integrated graphics while the latter is more demanding and made for high-end and gaming PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.
Another graphics test, Unigine’s Superposition, similarly renders and pans through a complex 3D scene but measures results in frames per second (fps), with 30fps generally desirable for smooth animation while serious gamers prefer 60fps or more. We run the test at 720p and 1080p resolution with low and high visual quality settings respectively.
Since these are business notebooks, it should come as no surprise that they’re ill-suited for gaming or other graphically demanding tasks. Casual gaming with browser-based or simple titles, or older games at low quality settings, are about all you can expect from their integrated graphics.
That said, you can see the clear uptick in scores thanks to the Iris Xe graphics in the newer ExpertBook and the ThinkPad X1 Nano, versus the other models’ older Intel UHD Graphics. Iris Xe doesn’t make either one a gaming laptop by a long shot, but you can likely manage some satisfactory play at 720p and modest settings.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop in airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the same Tears of Steel short we use in our Handbrake test—with screen brightness set at 50% and volume at 100% until the system quits.
I’ll start off by saying that, on its own, 14 hours of battery life is a fine result, more than enough to get you through a workday plus an evening of Netflix. That said, a glance at the runtime of the original B9450 will show you why I’m a little disappointed: The new ExpertBook fell far short of the incredible 30-hour video-rundown battery life of its predecessor. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it does subtract one of the original’s standout attractions.
Fully Featured and Travel-Ready
The updated Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA is undoubtedly a more potent version of the previous edition, with solid performance and the welcome combination of thin-and-light design and the ErgoLift keyboard. Against that, our test configuration will cost you, and we prefer the build quality of its ThinkPad and Latitude rivals. If you like its style and are counting every ounce to save travel weight, there’s certainly nothing wrong with the ExpertBook, but it falls short of Editors’ Choice honors.