Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: A well-connected compact convertible
With a high-quality display, ports galore and tablet-form controls the B5 Flip is one of the best compact enterprise 2-in-1s
No matter what size display you are after the Asus ExpertBook range of enterprise laptops has a machine for you. With 13.3, 14, 15.6 and 16in models on offer, there are plenty of options. You can also choose between standard clamshell designs without touchscreens and 2-in-1 touch-enabled convertible models, the latter carrying the Flip designation.
The ExpertBook B5 14in machines have recently been revamped with 12th-generation Intel processors and Asus has sent us the Flip variant (code number B5402F) for evaluation. Available via the Asus enterprise sales team in the UK it costs £1,124 exc VAT.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Design
Visually the B5 is a rather conservative and sombre affair with no outlandish design features to frighten the enterprise horses. The dark grey Anthracite colour scheme certainly does not attract attention. Look back to our review of a B9 ExpertBook in September 2020 and you'll notice a strong family resemblance with ExpertBooks of yore.
Asus seems to have put rather more thought into the layout of its 2-in-1s than some other manufacturers. In deference to its foldable design, the power button is on the right-hand edge where it can be accessed while in tablet, tent or stand mode. We initially found it rather hard to locate blind but familiarity soon smoothed the problem away. Opposite the power button on the left is a volume rocker which again makes for easy volume adjustment when the B5 Flip is in anything other than laptop mode.
Made largely from aluminium the B5 is a very solid machine. Even if you grab it by the lid there's little sign of wobble or flex and the two hinges do a good job keeping the Flip in whatever position you set it. While on the subject of the lid there is a bright LED in the ExpertBook logo that lights up when you are on a video call as a signal to anyone approaching not to interrupt; a small but thoughtful feature.
The B5 scores highly for portability weighing just 1.38Kg and measuring 323.4 x 223.1 x 17.9mm. For a convertible with all the extra weight incumbent in the 360-degree hinges that's really rather good: The 13.3in M2 MacBook Air only weighs 140g less.
Asus claims the B5 is MIL-810-STD resistant to vibration and particle ingress and that the keyboard is spill resistant to up to 66cc of liquid being thrown over it. Obviously, we have to take Asus at its word here as PR agencies tend to view it dimly if we send review samples back full of sand or coffee or making a rattling noise.
Remove the bottom panel – not the easiest of jobs, the knack is to put a screwdriver into the stylus garage and prise that side open first – and you will find that the new B5 supports two PCIe Gen 4 2280 SSDs and has one SODIMM slot so you can add between 8GB and 32GB of memory to the 8GB soldered to the motherboard. For a compact laptop that's a good range of upgrade opportunities.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Keyboard and touchpad
The keyboard has no foibles worth noting in terms of layout or action. The keys have a nicely damped 1.5mm of travel and the slightly convex keycaps are very pleasant to the touch. The only small niggle we have is with the half-height cursor keys when there is clearly space for a full-height set.
At 65 x 130mm the trackpad is a little on the short side though to be fair there isn't all that much free space above or below to make it much bigger. With a glass coating and a firm but precise click-action at the corners, it proved entirely drama-free in use.
Asus' handy NumberPad feature which illuminates a virtual numeric keypad on the touchpad is an optional extra on the B5 but sadly it was missing from our review machine. We've always been a fan of the NumberPad not because it's actually a replacement for a physical keypad but because on a compact machine like the B5, it makes data entry easier than no keypad at all.
The backlight is a single-level affair which seems a little niggardly at this price point but it shines brightly. The 1-4 keys have translucent sides so they show up very brightly when the backlight is engaged. This is because they are part of Asus' ExpertWidget system that lets you assign almost any Windows action to one of those four keys along with the Fn key. If, for instance, you need to regularly switch your Wi-Fi radio on and off or open a specific file folder it's a feature that can prove very useful.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Specs and performance
The new B5 is available with four processors, the i5-1240P and 1250P and the i7-1260P and 1270P. In performance terms, there's nothing to choose between the two i5 chips or the two i7 chips the difference being that the even-numbered chips support Intel's vPro Essentials while the odd-numbered chips support the complete vPro Enterprise platform. Our review model featured the 1260P processor with Intel's Iris Xe integrated graphics and 16GB of DDR5 quad-channel RAM. For reference, the i5 model features a 256GB SSD and costs £1,042 exc VAT.
The performance of the B5 proved to be broadly similar to other machines we've tested here at ITPro built around the i7-1260P chip. Our 4K multimedia benchmark scored 171 points, 26 shy of the result from the LG Gram 16 2-in-1 we recently reviewed. The difference is down to some mild thermal throttling on prolonged, high-demand runs (the single fan inside the B5 looks a rather petite affair) but the difference isn't enough to be noticeable in everyday use and the exterior of the B5 never gets excessively warm. In the GeekBench 5 test, the Asus bested the LG scoring 1,676 single-core and 8,846 multi-core to the LG's 1,624 and 8,073 respectively.
With the fitting of a second SSD comes the option to choose between a Raid 0 configuration for increased performance or Raid 1 which offers redundancy through mirroring. Out of the box, the performance of the Micron 2540 512GB SSD was nothing to be excited about with average sequential read and write speeds of 2,948MB/s and 2,225MB/s respectively. Even the rather workaday – and much cheaper – Acer Aspire 5 that we tested recently has the B5 beaten here.
Wireless communications are handled by Intel's ever-reliable AX211 card that supports 6Ghz Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. We experienced no issues with signal reception or speed but then we never do with the AX211.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Display
The B5's touch-enabled display may be a perfectly conventional 14in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS affair but it hits all the important metrics. Maximum brightness is a very good 392cd/m2 while the contrast ratio is an equally impressive 1637:1 helped by a low black luminescence of just 0.24cd/m2. There's no lack of colour either with 96.5% of the sRGB gamut accounted for. It's even reasonably colour-accurate with a Delta E variance of 2.1 vs sRGB which means that even professionals will struggle to notice any waywardness in colour accuracy.
Enterprise laptops tend not to come with exotic high refresh rates so the only options on the B5 are a standard 60Hz or 48Hz if you want to conserve some power. The high brightness and fully-laminated construction make the display impressively resistant to reflections from bright light sources despite the gloss finish.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Battery life
The 63Wh battery does a reasonable job of keeping the lights on managing 8 hours and 10 minutes in our standard run-down test which involves looping an SD video in VLC with the display brightness set to 170cd/m2 and Flight mode engaged. That's not a stellar result when compared to the likes of the LG Gram 16 2-in-1 which kept going for over 10 and a half hours but it does mean that you should be able to get through a full day at the office on a single charge.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Ports and features
Asus has done a very thorough job squeezing in a wide selection of ports so you get two Thunderbolt 4 connectors, a gigabit RJ45 LAN socket, an HDMI 2.0 video output, two USB-A ports (One 10Gbit/s 3.2 Gen 2 and one legacy 2.0) a 3.5mm audio jack and a MicroSD card reader. Considering the two sides of the B5 also make the room a volume rocker, power button, Kensington lock and a stylus garage this really is a textbook example of how to fit a lot of things into a small amount of space.
The stylus garage is almost reason alone to consider buying the B5 Flip because it means the stylus is always to hand. The rather large square block on the top of the pen which fills the end of the garage when docked and houses the charging contacts isn't the most aesthetically pleasing of designs but it doesn't hamper the pen when in use. The bundled stylus is a pretty typical MPP 2.0 affair supporting 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and works perfectly well though the barrel is a little on the thin side.
System and user security haven't been overlooked with a physical shutter to cover the Windows Hello IR facial recognition-capable webcam, a fingerprint scanner built into the power button that worked with impressive consistency considering the lack of surface area, a TPM 2.0 chip and a Kensington lock. Sadly the 720p webcam isn't particularly impressive in its primary role as a camera, with images looking dull, drab and grainy. In this day and age, the camera fitted to the B5 just isn't good enough
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip review: Verdict
The B5 Flip's main strength is its sheer versatility. Besides the usual 2-in-1 origami, it's the presence of a gigabit LAN connector, two Thunderbolt ports and a 10Gbit/s USB Type-A that should draw your attention. Compare that to what's on offer from machines like the MacBook Air and Dell XPS 13 Plus. The B5 makes a good case for itself in other areas too: The display is good, the sound system is above par and the performance from the Alder Lake Core i7 chipset is more than enough for most enterprise needs. Asus has added some useful hardware and software features too like the stylus garage and the ExpertWidget. A faster SSD would have been nice and the 720p webcam is thin gruel compared to what's on offer from the likes of Apple and Huawei these days but other than that the B5 Flip is a thoroughly convincing and good value package.
Asus ExpertBook B5 Flip Specifications
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