Asus ExpertBook B5 16in review: A superlight 16in with a stunning WQUXGA OLED screen
Tick the right boxes on the options list and the ExpertBook B5 is the best lightweight 16in laptop on the market
With the new ExpertBook B5 Asus is out to steal the LG Gram 16's crown. Like the LG it's surprisingly light for a full-sized 16in notebook at 1.4Kg and like the LG it boasts MIL-STD-810G military-grade resistance to shock and particle ingress.
The exact price you'll pay for the B5 depends on what you tick on the options sheet. You can specify three graphics processors, Intel's UHD or Iris Xe integrated iGPUs as well as the Arc A350M dGPU, two processors, Intel's i5-1240P or i7-1260P in either vPro Essential or vPro forms and two displays, 1,920 x 1,080 IPS or 3,840 x 2,400 OLED, and two battery capacities. You can even choose whether or to not have a keyboard backlight and Windows Hello facial recognition.
We were quoted £1,208 exc VAT for an i7-1260P Iris Xe model with the OLED screen, a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM but if you hold the Asus UK enterprise sales team's feet to the fire there are no doubt deals to be done.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16in OLED review: Design
Much like its smaller ExpertBook B5 Flip brother and the Gram 16 the basic design of the ExpertBook B5 hasn't changed much in recent years. In fact, the Asus B5 looks much like the Gram 16: Tape over the logos and you'd struggle to tell the two apart. A dark grey and angular affair the design has "corporate" written all over it.
As with the LG, the efforts to make it as light as possible have left the B5 just a little on the wobbly side, the lid in particular flexes a fair amount if you twist it. Asus says the B5 is "crafted" with magnesium-aluminium alloy and pure aluminium which is pretty much what LG says about the Gram 16. In fact, there's nothing much to choose between the two machines when it comes to build quality and the slight lack of rigidity has to be expected given the weight of either.
We like the way the display can be angled back all the way to 180 degrees and the way in which the bottom of the lid props the rear of the base up by 10 degrees to improve the angle of attack when typing.
Remove the base panel and you'll find two SSD slots, one PCIe 4 spec and one PCIe 3. There's also a spare SODIMM RAM slot so you can add up to 32GB to the 8GB soldered to the motherboard.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16in OLED review: Keyboard & touchpad
The keyboard is a reasonably solid affair with only a little bounce discernable when you push hard on the keys in the middle. The 1.5mm key travel is pretty standard for laptops of this ilk and the action is both firm and clean. There's nothing out of the ordinary in the layout though our machine had an international rather than UK keyboard so we can't make any definitive statements on that front.
Considering the amount of space available it's a bit of a shame the up and down cursor keys are half-height (we made the same criticism of the B5 Flip and there's much more space on the B5's deck). The Enter key is only one row tall which again isn't ideal in our eyes. The numeric keypad is clearly a boon. We can't comment on the backlight because the machine Asus sent us didn't have one.
As is the case with the B5 Flip the 1-4 keys have translucent sides to highlight Asus' ExpertWidget system that lets you assign a Windows action to each of those four keys for activation when pressed with the Fn key. If you find yourself regularly switching your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios on and off or constantly needing to open a specific file folder it's a feature that you'll soon come to appreciate.
The 150 x 90mm glass touchpad is slightly offset to the left and is big, tactile and ergonomoncally sound. The click-action on the lower portion is a little on the noisy side but the action is very crisp and precise. Our review unit lacked Asus' trick virtual numeric keypad but since the B5 has a real numeric keypad that wasn't really a loss.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16in OLED review: Specs and performance
The B5 that we were sent had a rather curious base specification consisting of a Core i7-1260P processor, Intel UHD integrated graphics, 8GB of dual-channel RAM and a 512GB Micro SSD. We didn't expect great things from that combo so were pleasantly surprised when the ITPro 4K multi-media benchmark returned a very healthy score of 254.
That compares to 171 for the Asus B5 Flip running on the same chip but with 16GB of RAM and 197 for the LG Gram 2-in-1, again running on the same processor and again with 16GB of RAM.
The difference is that the dual-fan cooling system in the B5 is highly efficient so the processor was never subject to thermal throttling and was able to consistently maintain its stated TDP of 28W. In short runs, the B5, B5 Flip and LG Gram 2-in-1 were more evenly matched returning GeekBench 5 figures of 1,703, 1,676 and 1,674 (single-core) and 8,463, 8,846 and 8,073 (multi-core) respectively.
The B5 suffered in the graphics test but given that it has to soldier on with the Intel UHD iGPU is hardly a surprise. The GeekBench 5 OpenCL score of 16,050 lagged behind both the Iris Xe-equipped B5 Flip (19,296) and LG Gram 16 (19,464). Of course, neither the B5 Flip nor the Gram 16 can be specified with a discrete GPU. A B5 fitted with the Intel Arc A350M, even one rated at 25W, would show the Xe-powered competition a clean pair of heels.
The performance of the Micron 2540 512GB SSD was nothing to write home about with average sequential read and write speeds of 2,896MB/s and 1,667MB/s respectively. Those scores are even lower than the same model of SSD achieved in the B5 Flip. As well as adding more storage space fitting a second SSD gives you the option to choose between a Raid 0 configuration for increased performance or Raid 1 for redundancy through mirroring.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16in OLED review: Display
There's no point beating about the bush, 16in 16:10 3,840 x 2,400 OLED panel is an absolute blinder of a display. Maximum brightness is an impressive 410cd/m2 and it's very colourful with 100% sRGB gamut coverage, 95.8% AdobeRGB and 98.3% DCI-P3. Even more impressively the screen registered a Delta E colour variance of 0.44 vs sRGB which is basically perfect. It goes without saying that the 283dpi pixel density makes for absolute crystal clarity.
If you want a lightweight laptop for any job that requires serious colour fidelity then this Asus is an obvious choice. Away from dry technical data, good quality 4K video looks absolutely superb on the B5; wonderfully colourful and saturated. If we had to pick a hole in the display it would be that the refresh rate is capped at a humdrum 60Hz.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16in OLED review: Battery life
The B5 is available with two battery capacities, one with three cells rated at 50Wh and one with four rated at 84Wh. Our test machine came with the former and only managed a very poor 5 hours 20 minutes in our standard battery run-down test which involves looping a 480p video in VLC with the screen brightness turned down to 170cd/m2. That's not really good enough.
By simple extrapolation, the larger battery should keep the lights on for around nine or ten hours which is still not as good as the LG Gram 16 (not wholly unexpected as a bright 4K OLED screen is always going to use more power than a dimmer 2.8K IPS panel) but does mean you should get through a full working day on a single charge.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16 OLED review: Ports and features
Asus has bestowed the B5 with a good selection of I/O ports. On the left, you'll find two Thunderbolt 4 ports along with an HDMI 2.0b video output, a Gigabit RJ45 LAN port and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port. On the right, there is a USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm audio jack, a MicroSD card reader and a Kensington security lock. The right side is also home to the power button which doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. There's no dedicated DC-in jack so you lose one of the Type-Cs to charging duties.
Wireless communications in our review machine were provided by a MediaTek MT7921 card which doesn't support 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E but according to the spec sheet, a 6E card (presumably the same Intel AX211 component used in the B5 Flip) is available. All the wireless cards support Bluetooth 5.2 but only the optional 6E card has a vPro option.
Sat above the display you'll find a 1080p webcam and a rather fine example of the breed it is too. It has a physical shutter to allay fears that you are being surreptitiously watched but once you slide that open the resultant video feed is sharp and colourful and it performs surprisingly well in low-light conditions. IR facial recognition is an option on the B5 but didn't come fitted to the sample sent to us.
A nice feature shared with the B5 Flip is the red LED built into the ExpertBook logo on the lid which lights up when you are on a video call. It's a more elegant solution than sticking a post-it to the lid with "Go Away. I'm Busy" written on it.
Asus ExpertBook B5 16 OLED review: Verdict
The Asus ExpertBook B5 is a truly outstanding business laptop but only if you end up with the right version. Opt for the larger battery, Intel Arc A350M GPU, OLED 4K display and keyboard backlight and you've got one best lightweight 16in laptops on the market. The only area in which the LG Gram 16 bests the Asus is in the weight stakes and you have to ask yourself if 280g really makes that much difference in the grand scheme of things. Of course, the reverse of that is that if you end with a B5 with the Full HD IPS display, 50Wh battery and Intel UHD iGPU then the LG Gram 16 is 280g lighter and better. If given the choice you have to ask yourself a question: Just how well-liked are you by the IT department?
Asus ExpertBook B5 16 OLED Specifications
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