I am on a quest. A quest to find a tablet-style device that I can do all my office work on and double up for all my personal needs. More precisely, a computer with the grunt to tackle big spreadsheets and edit videos while still handy for browsing the internet while watching TV on the couch. This review will look at the ASUS ExpertBook B5 to see how it measures up. If you need help understanding the key features of buying a computer, check out our guide in our sister publication Small Business Answers.
Details: ASUS ExpertBook B5 Flip OLED
|Warranty||36 months, battery 12 months|
|Country of manufacture||China|
|About||Established in 1989, ASUS is a multinational company known for motherboards and high-quality personal computers, monitors, graphics cards, routers and other technology solutions. Today, ASUS is designing and building next-generation smart technologies to provide experiences that enhance people’s lives.|
The ASUS B5 ships with a carry case, stylus, USB-C Power supply and an Ethernet adapter cable. The notebook itself is sturdy to hold, and the screen will fold 180 degrees back on itself to operate in tablet mode. The screen itself is 13.3 inches and is also a touch screen.
The unit weighs in at just under 1.3kg on my digital scales, which makes it about average in this space, but this tablet is pretty highly specified. The B5 has an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD (Solid State Drive). With these specs, the B5 will manage pretty much anything the average person could need.
The ASUS ExpertBook B5 OLED screen
The screen image is stunning, which you would expect from an OLED panel. OLED screens have better blacks with no bleed of light between different very dark and lighter areas. Colours pop, and the image looks very sharp with no movement lag. The screen resolution is Full High Definition or 1920 x 1080 pixels. While this is decent, a higher resolution display would be a bonus if you want to fit a lot on screen or want to see loads of detail, but it would push the costs up too.
We found the touch interaction with the screen worked well, but the stylus occasionally did not work. Rebooting fixed this, so perhaps it was caused by a Windows issue.
After using it for a few days with the stylus, keyboard and my fingers in normal and tablet modes, I found myself gravitating back to the traditional notebook configuration.
Note that with the available external ports, up to three external 4K monitors can be attached, not that you’d need to, but it shows that there’s plenty of graphics processing power on tap.
Sound, video and noise cancelling
With the advent of video calling and movie streaming, sound has become so much more important in a laptop. I trialled watching YouTube videos in both laptop mode, tablet mode and halfway in between. I was surprised at how good the audio sounded, and there’s even a detectable surround-sound effect.
Traditionally, notebooks have had poor cameras. The B5 supports a 720p HD camera with a 3D noise reduction feature. This produces clear image of yourself, even in low light conditions.
At GadgetGuy, we normally talk about noise cancellation for headphones. The ASUS has built this technology into its microphone and sound chipset so unwanted noise will be removed from your end, sending cleaned-up audio to the other end. Think of it as simply of reducing background noise from a busy office environment or a screaming child.
Full-sized, backlit, spill-resistant keyboard
I have to admit I like the feel of an external keyboard over a notebook’s integrated version. Maybe it’s the satisfaction of ‘pounding the keys’. The ExpertBook B5’s keyboard key travel is deeper than other notebooks I have used. It delivers a more tactile and satisfying experience, which is maybe why I like using the built-in keyboard. While 1.5mm of key-travel does not seem like much, it worked well for me. This spill-resistant keyboard also lights up, making it easy to type on a plane or in a dark room.
My favourite feature of the whole machine is the number pad. Notebooks don’t have full-size number pads, let alone a 13-inch laptop. This very clever design turns the touchpad into a backlit number pad allowing numbers to be typed easily, just like a full-size keyboard. An icon in the top right-hand side of the touchpad turns the number pad on or off. The off is indicated by a black touchpad.
The touchpad supports multi-gesture input with up to 4 finger gestures, making it easy to switch applications or screens.
Key features we liked on the ASUS B5
Having the ASUS B5 to test for a few weeks rather than a longer review period means it’s a little tricky to asses long-term durability. However, I was interested to find that this unit has passed various “military” tests. These relate to hinge use, drop resistance and keyboard durability. Two tests of note were the aforementioned keyboard spill resistance, and yes, I have previously spilled a drink on a notebook and killed it. [Thanks Angus, we’ll remember not to loan you another laptop – Ed]. Then there’s reinforced USB sockets, as these, especially when used for charging, will get a fair bit of wear so this will add some peace of mind.
The B5 supports the addition of a second Solid State Drive. This is a great feature to allow for storage expandability, or alternatively, add an internal backup by duplicating data across two SSDs.
The model we tested came with a 66Watt-hour (Wh) 4 cell battery, translating to around 12 hours of continuous use. This is, of course, dependent on battery saving settings etc., but it would get most people through a working day. We also liked that the supplied charger will get you from flat to 60% in 49 minutes (39 minutes for the 33Wh model).
Wi-Fi 6 is standard, and we did note that the ASUS had improved Wi-Fi performance and signal strength compared to older PCs at my home. This is important in the connected world we live in. To learn more tips on how to maximise your home network speed, check out our GadgetGuy guide for improving your internet.
For business users, there is a fingerprint reader, TMP 2.0 enterprise security, camera privacy shutter and lots of connectivity ports listed below:
- 2 x Thunderbolt™ 4, USB-C™ (up to 40 Gbps, DisplayPort and power delivery support)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
- 1 x HDMI 2.0
- 1 x micro HDMI to RJ45 LAN port
- 1 x Kensington® lock slot
- 1 x Combo audio jack
A red LED light on the top cover will even alert others when you are on a conference call.
Unfortunately, this model will not meet my quest to find a PC that fits perfectly between leisure and work. In fairness, it ticks all the right boxes but based on its specifications (and price), I found it too bulky/heavy to use in bed or on the lounge, and overkill for my personal needs. This PC is a business person’s dream given that it’s portable, powerful and only 17mm thick. If work is paying, this is a machine to lust after, having just the right productivity features to maximise video conferencing and crunching big spreadsheets. The battery life is great, and it charges fast to keep you mobile.