Review: ASUS Pro B9440UA Laptop

Ultrabooks have continuously pushed the limits of laptops to be thinner, lighter, and more powerful since Intel coined the term in 2011. While the Ultrabook name is a trademark and only applied to certain licenced models, it has inspired many manufactures to make laptops with similar goals and the ASUS Pro B9440UA certainly fits this trend. At 0.7 inches thick (20mm) at the thickest point and just under 2.4 pounds (1070g), the B9440UA certainly qualifies as thin and light.

The first impression from the box is certainly professional as very little adorns the grey box beyond the ASUS and Intel logos and a captivating shot of the laptop. Upon opening the box, some clever packaging holds the box lid in the open position and displays ASUS’ “In Search of Incredible” slogan. The B9440UA is wrapped in a soft bag and securely held in place by some HDPE foam. Underneath the laptop is a fabric-lined vinyl sleeve for protecting the laptop when on the go. The compartments at the bottom of the box contain the Mini Dock, a user manual, a warranty card, and oddly enough for a computer without an optical disc drive, a DVD. I tossed the DVD into another computer to discover that it contains drivers and programs that come pre-installed. The final compartment in the box houses the laptops’ USB Type-C power charger, which includes a cable management strap on each portion of the cable.

Designed with the on-the-go business professional in mind, ASUS has certainly managed to cram a lot of powerful hardware into this svelte package. My model came equipped with an Intel Core i5 7200U processor, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM running at 1866MHz, and a 512 GB SATA3 SSD in an M.2 form factor. Graphics are handled by an integrated Intel HD 620 while connectivity is provided by an Intel 8260NGW M.2 WiFi + Bluetooth card. Interestingly, ASUS claims the card is Bluetooth 4.1 on their website while Intel lists it as version 4.2 on their site. I didn’t have any devices available above 4.0 so I couldn’t verify which claim is correct. The Intel 8260 does provide 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac(2×2) WiFi which allows for connections to current and legacy WiFi networks.

The B9440UA sports a 14″ LED 1920×1080 screen with an anti-glare coating. I found that this was a very nice screen to look at indoors or out, even on bright days. The colours are vibrant but not harsh and the anti-glare coating definitely made the screen usable in situations where I’ve previously had issues with glare. The most impressive feature of the screen in my opinion is the 5.3mm (0.21″) bezels on three sides. ASUS claims the B9440UA with its 14″ screen is smaller overall than most 13″ laptops and that certainly was the case when comparing it to an HP Stream 13 I had on hand. Despite such small bezels, the screen and body of the B9440UA felt sturdy and well-built.

In order to improve the typing experience, the screen hinge is located in from the edge a bit which causes the edge to swing below the base and lift the bottom off the surface the B9440UA is sitting on. This makes typing on the laptop’s back-lit chicklet keyboard a reasonably pleasant experience. Centered in the body below the keyboard is the large (for a 13″ laptop) and responsive touchpad. Asus did not use a Precision Touchpad with the B9440UA and instead opted to support Windows 10’s gestures through their ASUS Smart Gesture software. While a Precision Touchpad would have been ideal,  I’m normally a staunch mouse user with laptops and I found that most of the time I didn’t miss having one, so kudos to Asus on the touchpad.

Adding a mouse to the B9440UA would have involved carrying the included Mini-Dock dongle that Asus provides or buying a Bluetooth mouse as the only ports other than a dual purpose mic/headphone jack, are a pair of USB 3.1 Type-C ports, one of which is used for charging the laptop. The Mini-Dock provides a USB Type-A port, a full-size HDMI port, and a Type-C port. The Mini-Dock has a rubberized underside and enough heft that it can sit flat when in use, while still being small enough the put in the pocket of a bag for travel. The Mini-Dock does seem to require the charger to be attached in order to function however.

I spent three weeks commuting to my day job with the B9440UA in my backpack and took it many different places on evenings and weekends. My conclusion was that ASUS really did nail the portability and performance combo with the B9440UA. I set up my fingerprint for Windows Hello using the reader next to the power button and could be at the desktop in less than 3 seconds from sleep or 12 from cold boot. The sleeve that comes with the B9440UA was perfect for keeping it protected in my bag and is large enough to accommodate a few sheets of paper with the laptop. Battery life was long enough that bringing the cord wasn’t common but having each part cable wrapped meant throwing it in a bag pocket was easy when I did need it. The Harmon/Kardon speakers were not only loud but also clear, presenting the full orchestral arrangement when faced with the title song of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I did encounter a few omissions and drawbacks during my time with the B9440UA as well. The lack of a webcam in the bottom bezel of the display means that to make a business video conference call you’d need a separate webcam. I have yet to see a USB Type-C webcam so the Mini-Dock would also be needed. As mentioned earlier, it would have been nice to see a Precision Touchpad used as every update I did required me to re-install the ASUS Smart Gesture software which requires 3 reboots to install each time. Lastly, the system fan can be quite audible when doing anything moderately graphics intensive.

Overall, my experience with the B9440UA was very positive and I’m sad to return it to ASUS. As a lightweight travel companion, the B9440UA lives up to the Pro moniker by excelling at portability while retaining a remarkable level of performance. Seamless integration with Windows Hello for fast logins, long battery life, slim dimensions, and less than 2.5lbs makes the B9440UA a great option for the professional on-the-go.
The B9440UA is available for $994 from Amazon, as well as with leasing options from major business suppliers like CDW and TigerDirect.

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