ASUS has released ultra-portable notebooks with a record lightweight, which are optimized for the business environment. What opportunities do these devices represent in the current hybrid operating environment? One of the main mottos reflecting the current business realities is the expression “Work from anywhere.” Every major laptop manufacturer strives to offer a solution that meets this principle. In its line of business laptops, ASUS has decided to focus on combining ultra-portability, reliability, and information security.
The ASUS ExpertBook B9 (B9400CEA) model that came to us for testing is built on a hardware platform that includes an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with a clock frequency of 2.8 GHz with Intel Iris Xe graphics, 32 GB of LDDR4x RAM with a frequency of 4266 MHz and two SSDs of 2 TB each. The performance system is housed in an ultra-thin 1.49cm thick magnesium-lithium alloy chassis.
According to ASUS, it is the world’s lightest 14-inch business laptop with a 33Wh battery version weighing 880g. and when a more powerful 66 Wh battery is installed, the weight increases to 1005 grams. And we have to admit that this laptop feels light. Thanks to the pleasant-to-touch coating of the case, which does not leave fingerprints, it is confidently held in your hands. The manufacturer pays attention to the procedure for manufacturing the body, the parts of which are prepared for milling using a technological process that includes 21 processing stages.
This includes micro-arc oxidation technology to prevent corrosion. Since it is expected to use the laptop on the road actively, it received a reinforced structure to withstand possible damage. So the I / O ports and hinges are additionally reinforced with steel brackets. And the motherboard is equipped with rubber dampers designed to absorb external forces that can lead to its deformation. In addition, there are steel elements behind the LCD panel for protection against crushing forces of up to 30 kg.
The ExpertBook B9 series meets the requirements of the military-industrial standard MIL-STD – 810H, which includes protection against falls from a height of 10 cm, resistance to liquid spills, and impacts with a force of up to 150 grams. The manufacturer also announced that this development had passed additional tests, which included a test of the interface connectors (5 thousand cycles of connection/disconnection), a test for the strength of the keyboard (10 million keystrokes), tests of the display hinge (50 thousand cycles of opening/closing the lid). One of the modern trends is the increase in the ratio of the screen area to the total surface of the lid.
This allows not only to improve perception but also to reduce the overall dimensions of the device. In the ExpertBook B9400 model, the thickness of the side frames does not exceed 4 mm, and the upper one is only 7 mm, which made it possible to place a webcam with a shutter and LED-backlight on it, as well as an infrared camera, an array of microphones and a proximity sensor. We will dwell on the possibilities provided with its help below. In the meantime, we note that the ratio of the screen to the total area of the lid is 94%. This made it possible to fit a 14-inch display into the dimensions of a 13-inch form factor.
The laptop has an IPS matrix with an aspect ratio of 16: 9 and a resolution of 1920×1080. Its maximum brightness is 300 nits, and it claims 100% coverage of the sRGB color gamut and 72% for the NTSC system.
Among the non-standard features of the display, it is worth noting that a built-in video buffer allows you to update a static image without using a graphics adapter. This gives a gain in energy efficiency since turning off the graphics consumption also improves the system’s autonomy. The display lid opens to a maximum angle of 180 °, while the ErgoLift hinge design allows the case to be slightly raised when opening.
As conceived by the developers, this improves the ergonomics when working with the keyboard and opens up more airflow into the cooling system. Another feature of using the ErgoLift mechanism is related to the fact that the speakers are located at the bottom. Therefore, slightly lifting the cabinet contributes to a fuller sound. And now about the functionality associated with proximity sensors.
The fact is that with their help, the protection of the laptop is strengthened. First of all, it should be borne in mind when they recognize the movement in front of an open screen, the process of recognizing the face of the registered owner starts. And if he is behind the laptop, he logs in to Windows using the Hello function. This procedure allows you to refuse to enter a password, which is convenient in public places. And as soon as the owner leaves, the proximity sensor dims the screen and locks the system, preventing strangers from looking at the screen.
This mechanism also works in low light conditions since there is an infrared sensor with HD resolution. Since we are talking about access control in the ExpertBook B9400, a fingerprint scanner is installed in all notebooks series, and there is a TPM2.0 chip for storing passwords. The B9400’s fingerprint reader is located on the right-hand palm area below the keyboard for a comfortable thumb rest. At the same time, the risk of accidentally pressing anything is minimal. For business users, one of the important aspects of using a laptop is the keyboard’s comfort. The B9400 has a full-size backlight with three intensity levels for low-light performance.
It also includes a power-off button with a light indication, designed, among other things, to avoid accidental pressing, although this key is moved to the extreme right position in the top row. The key travel is 1.5 mm. The lack of a digital block is compensated by the ability to form it on the touchpad. In its upper-right corner, there is a dedicated area for activating the proprietary NumberPad function. Interestingly, when you turn it on, the touchpad can still recognize the continuous sliding of your finger along its surface and perceives this as cursor control.
But it is enough to start pressing the highlighted zones, and the system accepts the input from the digital block. You can also call up the “Calculator” application on the touchpad by swiping your finger from the upper left corner to the right. Double-clicking on the area in the upper left corner changes the brightness level of the NumberPad backlight between the two values. An extensive set of communication ports is another requirement for business users.
The ExpertBook B9400 has two USB-C connectors with Thunderbolt 4 functionality, which provide a 40 Gbps connection and work with two 4K displays. The built-in battery is also charged through these ports. There is also a full-size HMDI connector for easy connection of a wide range of display devices and USB-A, which allows you to work with peripherals and micro HDMI.
The purpose of the latter is to connect the laptop to the local network of the enterprise. Since the thin case of the device does not allow installing an RJ-45 port, the designers found the opportunity to do this using a micro HDMI / RJ-45 adapter. The peculiarity of this approach is that it meets the requirements of those companies that have implemented security policies that provide for binding client machines by MAC addresses.
If you use an adapter with a built-in Ethernet adapter, it will be a gross violation. Whereas in ASUS ExpertBook B9400, the built-in Ethernet adapter is soldered on the motherboard, so you can safely bind to its MAC address. And the micro HDMI / RJ-45 adapter only serves for switching the corresponding interface lines and is included in the delivery set of the model.
The ExpertBook B9400’s wireless communication capabilities include a WiFi 6 (802.11ax) adapter with a maximum throughput of 2.4 Gbps and Bluetooth 5. The WiFi functionality has been expanded with ASUS WiFi Smart Connect and WiFi Stabilizer technology. The essence of WiFi Smart Connect is to intelligently select the access point with the strongest signal, which allows you to move around the company without losing the connection. In turn, WiFi Stabilizer provides for filtering USB 3.0 interface signals using meta-materials that suppress their influence on the operation of WiFi antennas located in the palm area near the ports. Video conferencing has become an integral part of the hybrid work style.
ASUS has implemented several technologies to improve the sound quality during remote meetings. First of all, the ClearVoice Mic Noise Reduction feature is worth noting, which operates in four modes: Normal, Basic, Single Presenter, and Multiple Presenters. The essence of its operation is clear from the name; the differences between the last two modes are associated with the formation of the directivity pattern of an array of four microphones located in the screen frame. Moreover, the volume level of all the participants’ voices in the room’s video conference is equalized. The laptop also provides integration with Amazon Alexa.
The Alexa system is indicated by a light strip on the laptop case. Voice commands are received from a distance of up to four meters. After reviewing the functionality, it’s time to move on to a practical assessment of the ExpertBook B9400’s capabilities, for which we used the PCMark10 Pro package.
We have performed a performance study for the platform as a whole and the built-in storage system. When using the set of office tasks, the model received 4357 points, and in the Essentials section, which includes web browsing and video conferencing, the system was credited with 9765 points.
She scored 6740 points in the section of tests related to the productivity of performing office tasks. But the sections for creative tasks (5094 points) and gaming applications (2906 points) showed that the platform is not optimized for such a load. The study of the performance of the built-in storage system showed a result of 1265 points, while the exchange rate was 192.4 MB / s with an average search time of 126 μs.
One of the key metrics of an ultraportable platform is its autonomy. We evaluated it in the office load mode, when watching a video, and during a game load. Let the latter not be the target for such a laptop, but I wanted to see how long it can handle computationally demanding tasks. It turned out that the office set, the ExpertBook B9400 model, equipped with a 66 Wh battery, is capable of running 12 hours and 12 minutes, while the brightness was at 30% and the WiFi adapter did not turn off.
This system provides video viewing for 11 hours and 41 minutes. In this mode, the brightness was also set to 30%. And this platform was able to hold the gaming load for almost exactly 3 hours at maximum brightness.
The battery supports high-speed charging technology. According to our observations, we can fully restore it in about a couple of hours. If the user finds himself in conditions where access to the outlet is limited in time, he should bear in mind that it can replenish 60% of its capacity in 50 minutes. The manufacturer reports that it can use less powerful chargers instead of the standard power supply. But as shown by a short test, in this case, the charge replenishment time increases significantly.
Therefore, do not rely on non-standard power supplies. Let’s share our impressions of the cooling system of this ultra-thin laptop. Even under the highest loads, it was not too noisy. This is due to the integrated approach implemented here, which includes a monoblock system of a heat pipe and an impeller for removing hot air through the outlet channels located at the rear end of the housing and a graphene layer that distributes heat over the entire lower surface.
Summing up our acquaintance with the ExpertBook B9400 business notebook, we must admit that this is a truly outstanding solution optimized for modern hybrid working conditions. With a record of lightness and compactness, it fulfills all tasks facing a modern business person.
And of the features of this solution, it is worth paying attention to the fixed hardware configuration of the RAM. It is worth making sure in advance that the chosen equipment option is suitable for each specific set of applications since later it is no longer possible to increase the RAM capacity independently.