Dynabook Portégé X30-F-14U review: Lightweight and compact, with Wi-Fi 6

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  • Editors' rating
    7.9 Very good

Pros

  • Good keyboard
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Matte screen
  • Good battery life
  • Wi-Fi 6

Cons

  • A lot of flex in the lid
  • Only one USB 3.0 port
  • No sliding cover for camera
  • No screen-obscuring security feature

A year ago there was a laptop manufacturer called Toshiba, with a laptop called the Portégé X30-E in its portfolio. Although Toshiba has become Dynabook, the laptop range is consistent with what went before, and so the new Portégé X30-F retains much of the styling of its predecessor.

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Toshiba has become Dynabook, but it's still a Portégé .

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

A key criticism that has been levelled at the Portégé range in the past is its somewhat flimsy chassis. That's relevant here too: the lid has a lot of flex and it wasn't difficult for me to bow it in my hands, which means the screen is vulnerable. The base feels solid enough, but the lid issue means a protective sleeve will be needed when travelling with this ultraportable.

That's a shame as the Portégé X30-F is made for travel. It's lightweight at 1.05kg and compact at 316mm wide by 227mm deep by 16.4mm thick. It's the ideal size to drop into a small backpack or bag. 

This is a standard hinged laptop, not a 360-degree convertible. The silver hinges add a visual feature to the look and the chassis colour is 'onyx blue'. (Don't worry, it won't stand out like a sore thumb in the office: at a glance, the chassis looks black.)

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

The 13.3-inch screen sits within relatively large bezels. Dynabook is not interested in laying claim to ever-narrower screen bezels, so the short bezels measure, by my reckoning, close to 10mm to the outer edge of the lid, while the top bezel is a generous 20mm. The latter houses a multitude of sensors including an IR camera for Windows Hello and a webcam. There is no sliding privacy cover for either camera though.

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The screen has a matte finish, which will please those who find reflective screens an irritation. Viewing angles are good on both the vertical and horizontal planes, but the matte finish does mean that colour rendition suffers a little, making this arguably not the best laptop for delivering presentations. That said, the 13.3-inch screen size might count against that anyway.

There is positive news on the audio front, thanks to the Harman Kardon stereo speaker system. Top volume is loud and a bit distorted, but drop to two-thirds of maximum and sound quality is good and loud enough to reach across a small meeting room. Bass could be deeper and richer, but that's hardly unusual for laptop speakers.

Back to the screen itself. You get a standard FHD (1,020 x 1,080) panel here, although my review sample's screen was touch responsive, which is unusual for the X30-F series (see below). Dynabook may find itself falling behind the trend on visual security, with both Lenovo and HP now offering functionality to narrow viewing angles -- and prevent snooping in public places -- on their higher-end business laptops.

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The keyboard is cramped in places, but it's quiet in operation, with a light action.

Image: Dynabook

The keyboard has a light touch and keys spring back nicely. The sound is more 'thunk' than 'click', but it's pretty quiet and you're unlikely to draw attention to yourself when typing in a quiet space. The keys are well sized and well spaced, although inevitably with such a compact laptop the cursor keys are a bit squished. Volume controls are a FN key combination on the 3 and 4 number keys rather than on the FN row, which I found a little annoying. Mute is an FN-Esc key combination.  

Sitting between the G, H and B keys is the Dynabook AccuPoint, a stubby pointing stick with two accompanying hard buttons above the touchpad. The arrangement is not as well designed or usable as Lenovo's iconic TrackPoint, most recently seen on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen and ThinkPad X1 Yoga 4th Gen: the AccuPoint is flush with the keys, making it a little difficult to manipulate, and the buttons are also less pronounced than Lenovo's.

SEE: Former Toshiba PC business now known as Dynabook

Dynabook calls its touchpad the SecurePad, because of its integrated fingerprint reader. I had no problem using a fingerprint reader in this location.

Ultraportables aren't known for exceptional battery life. Dynabook claims up to 10.5 hours for the Portégé X30-F. My test, involving working into a web-based writing tool, browsing the web and streaming both audio and video at various times saw the battery deplete from 100% to 55% in five hours. 

The screen was set at 50% automatically by the laptop, and I found this a little dim. If I were using this laptop regularly I'd have the brightness closer to 75%. My experience suggests that 10.5 hours is possible but unlikely in real-world use, but a day's work may well be possible from a full battery.
 
There are currently three preconfigured models of the Portégé X30-F on the UK Dynabook website:

Portégé X30-F-12L
Intel Core i7-8265U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
£1,119 (ex. VAT)

Portégé X30-F-12M
Intel Core i7-8565U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
£1,279 (ex. VAT)

Portégé X30-F-15V
Intel Core i7-8565U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD (plus 32GB Intel Optane Memory)
£1,529 (ex. VAT)

My review unit was a high-end build-to-order system that's not available off the page. Here are the key specs:

Portégé X30-F-14U
Intel Core i7-8565U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD (plus 32GB Intel Optane Memory)
from £1,599 (ex. VAT).

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Ports and slots on the Portégé X30-F.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Portégé X30-F isn't overburdened with ports and slots. On the right side there's a full size HDMI port, a pair of USB-C ports (both with Thunderbolt 3) and a MicroSD card slot. The left side has a single USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headset jack. One of the USB-C ports is used for charging. 

Conclusions

The Portégé X30-F is a lightweight and compact laptop with a well-made keyboard and a matte FHD screen. Battery life is good and it's great to see Wi-Fi 6 here.

The flimsy lid is a concern, it would have been nice to see another USB 3.0 port, and with the lack of a camera cover and screen-obscuring technology it's arguable that Dynabook is falling behind key competitors on some security features. The Portégé X30-F is pricey enough for such features to be expected as standard. 

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