Ah, the smell of new gadgets. To some, it’s as sweet a scent as that of the rose. Most of the time, when I get to unbox a new device, I’m pretty chill about it. After all, when you’ve had as much technology placed in your hands as I have, it can get pretty mundane.
But recently, I was asked to kick the tires of the new ASUS ExpertBook B3, and — according to the PR material — I would fall in love with it at first sight.
A rose by any other name.
According to ASUS, “ASUS ExpertBook are the best take-anywhere laptops, crafted for lightness, engineered to deliver next-gen power and made with military-grade toughness.”
How could you not be excited?
After tearing into the packaging (you know that drill) I pulled out the boxes, only to find this wasn’t what I was led to believe. Instead of a flagship, elegant laptop, I was greeted with what looked like a tablet with an attachable keyboard and kickstand.
My woes didn’t end there.
After putting the pieces together and giving it a full charge, I booted it up only to find it ran, sigh, Windows 11. What was I to expect? Linux? That certainly would have been a major improvement.
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I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let me step back a bit.
The pieces and parts
In the box, you’ll find three pieces that come together to create the ExpertBook:
- Case back and kickstand.
These pieces click in place by way of some pretty strong magnets, and the hinges on the kickstand are tight, which is one for the pro card. However, the strange purple and gray cloth cover that served as a case (the back sides of the kickstand and keyboard) were frayed at the edges, making it look cheap and ready to unravel at any minute. That could have been a product of the device being a review unit, but I have no way of knowing.
I received a 10.5″ version of the device, and — because of that diminutive size — the keyboard felt really tight (and I have smallish hands). Even after using the keyboard for a week, I couldn’t get accustomed to the tightly packed keys and the small trackpad. Combine that with the cheap feel of the keys and the keyboard is a pretty hard sell. This might not be the case with larger models, but the 10.5″ version certainly suffered.
So, let’s talk about how the ExpertBook performed. The unit I received was specced out with a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 7c Gen 2 (1MB L3 Cache, up to 2.55GHz, 8 cores) CPU and 4G LPDDR4 RAM. Anyone who’s ever used a modern iteration of Windows knows that 4 GB of RAM is pushing their luck and the ExpertBook shows that off to perfection.
Apps are quite slow to open and animations and window movement are a chore. It’s not that the performance is so bad as to render the device unusable, but if you’re accustomed to a more powerful machine, the ExpertBook (at least with the configuration I was sent) will feel like a dinosaur.
And then there’s Windows 11. But being a hard-core, long-time Linux user, I’ll recuse myself from commenting on the operating system.
Are there any pros?
Actually… yes, there are. First off, the display is quite good. Powered by a Qualcomm® Adreno™ GPU 618, the 10.5-inch touchscreen (WUXGA (1920 x 1200) 16:10, Wide view, Glossy display, LED Backlit, 320nits, sRGB 121% sRGB 121%) is very nice. Although it might not be equal to Apple’s displays, this screen is quite lovely. Viewing angles are wide and glare is very minimal.
Another pro is when you strip the ExpertBook of its keyboard, you have a 10.5″ tablet that does outshine the device when it’s in laptop mode. In fact, I much prefer using the ExpertBook in tablet mode, especially with the addition of the pen that’s tucked in the upper right corner of the device. The pen has two buttons which are pretty small and do take some time to get used to. The pen does work quite well with the B3 in tablet mode.
The only caveat to that is you’ll need to strip both pieces from the tablet (keyboard and kickstand back) to shed weight because the tablet is heavy. Granted, I’m accustomed to using very light Android tablets, so hefting about a tablet as heavy as the ExpertBook isn’t exactly something I’d want to do long-term. Even so, the tablet mode for the ExpertBook is pretty nice.
The price for the ExpertBook B3 is $599.00, but the big question is, should you buy it? If you ask me, the answer is no. With the combination of the cheap keyboard, the heavy tablet, the low performance, and Windows 11, this small device just doesn’t cut it.
Alternatives to consider
If I were looking for an alternative to the ASUS ExpertBook, I’d go with one of the following: