Dynabook Portégé X40-J-11C review: Dependable 14-inch portability for mobile professionals

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  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Robust build
  • All-day battery life
  • Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6 support
  • Removable base
  • Privacy cover for IR webcam

Cons

  • Some flex in the keyboard
  • Display and speakers somewhat lacklustre

Dynabook's Portégé laptops seek to offer a blend of light weight, robust build and good performance. The last Portégé I looked at, the 13.3-inch convertible Portégé X30W-J10C ticked a lot of boxes, notably with its sub-1kg weight and all-day battery life. The Portégé X40-J-11C has a larger (14-inch) screen and is not convertible, but like the X30W, runs on 11th generation Intel Core processors and offers Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. 

There are two Portégé X40-J models available off the page in the UK: the Core i5-based J-11-9 (£869 ex. VAT; £1,042.80 inc. VAT) and the J-11C, reviewed here, which runs on a Core i7 and costs £959 (ex. VAT; £1,150.80 inc. VAT). In the US, the Portégé X40 series starts at $1,299. 

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The 14-inch Portégé X40-J-11C runs on an 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM (expandable to 24GB) and a 256GB SSD. It weighs 1.4kg.

Images: Dynabook

The Portégé X40-J-11C is neither particularly thin nor particularly light. It measures 323mm wide by 220mm deep by 17.9mm, which is not unusual for a 14-inch laptop. And while the starting weight of 1.4kg seems reasonable on paper, it did feel just that bit heavier than it should when being carried around. The MIL-STD 810G-tested chassis is robust, though: the base is firm, and while I was able to flex the lid a little, there's minimal movement. Overall, this is a solidly built laptop that should travel happily without a sleeve unless you feel the need to protect the lid's smooth, matte Mystic Blue (looks like black) finish. 

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There's a large fan vent on the ribbed underside, which is removable.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The underside is ribbed, but that's not to help with grip on a desktop – two small raised rubber feet at the front and a longer rubber lozenge at the back cater for that. It's most likely part of the cooling system, as there's a large fan vent on the underside. The speakers are on the base too, towards the front where the upward angle means their sound is less likely to be muffled by a desk. It's also worth noting that the base is removable, making end-user or IT support team upgrades possible. 

The screen hinge is firm and the display will rest flat on a surface if required. On the inside, the hinge is the same dark colour as the base and screen surround, but it's silver on the outside, adding a flash of colour that accents the large Dynabook branding on the lid. 

The screen sits in bezels that aren't especially slim, and Dynabook provides no measurements. For the record, I made the side bezels about 6mm wide, the top bezel about 11mm and bottom bezel about 20mm. At a time when more and more laptop makers are minimising bottom bezel to provide more screen height and a 16:10 aspect ratio, the 16:9 Portégé X40-J-11C looks somewhat old-school. There is a real usability benefit to the slightly taller screen format: even with smaller screen sizes like this 14-incher, working with two documents side by side is much easier with a 16:10 screen. 

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My review unit had a 14-inch non-touch, non-reflective FHD (1,920 x 1,080, 16:9, 157.3ppi) screen. There's plenty of brightness, but not a great deal of pizzazz. If you're looking for a laptop to bridge the work-home divide, you might want to look elsewhere. There's a webcam sitting above the screen with a sliding privacy cover and IR capability for Windows Hello face authentication

The speakers are also somewhat lacklustre. The audio is powered by Dolby Atmos, but the speakers sound a little harsh at the top of the volume range, and -- as so often with laptops, there's not much bass. It's adequate for spoken voice and occasional multimedia, but not ideal for regular video viewers or audio fans. 

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The full-size backlit keyboard offers plenty of functions, although heavy-handed typists might notice some flex when pounding the keys.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The keyboard comprises nicely sized and well separated QWERTY keys. The Fn key row includes options to toggle flight mode, turn on the numerical overlay that sits on several of the QWERTY keys providing a pseudo-numberpad arrangement, disable the touchpad and, on the ESC key, mute the speakers. Key action is quite springy and I easily achieved my usual touch-typing speed.  As with the convertible Portégé X30W, there's some flex in the keyboard. As a light-touch typist it didn't bother me, but others may find it more of a problem.  

Dynabook's AccuPoint pointing stick sits between the G, H and B keys, with two small buttons on top of the touchpad ideally positioned for use with it. There's a fingerprint sensor built into the top left of the touchpad. Between them these additions and the silver frame to the touchpad itself make the pad look rather busy. In fact, the whole keypad area is busy with double or triple functions on many of the QWERTY keys. This isn't unusual for Dynabook, but it might not appeal to fans of minimalism. 

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The Portégé X40-J-11C runs on an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor with integrated Iris Xe graphics, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. The RAM is expandable to 24GB, but the 256GB SSD is all that's on offer with this model. There's a good range of ports and connectors: a smartcard slot and a pair of USB 3.1 ports on the right side, and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size HDMI connector, a 3.5mm headset jack and a MicroSD card slot on the left. Wireless connectivity is bang up to date, with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) on-board.

Battery life is quoted as up to 12.5 hours. During the review period I worked to my normal schedule, writing into web apps, using multiple web browsers with multiple tabs open at the same time, and streaming audio and video content at regular intervals. A three-hour session saw the battery fall from 100% to 72%, suggesting battery life of around 11 hours. I left the screen brightness at its auto setting, and found this fine to work with. It might be possible, if brightness and other settings are tweaked, to get 12.5 hours from a full battery, but I suspect real-world usage, like mine, will fall short of this mark. Still, all-day battery life (8 hours) shouldn't be a problem. 

Conclusions 

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Image: Dynabook

Dynabook's Portégé X40-J-11C doesn't offer very many bells and whistles, and the screen and speakers are nothing to get excited about, but it's a solid performer. It should comfortably deliver a day's worth of work from a full battery, and there are plenty of ports and connectors. The keyboard, while busy, is comfortable to use, and the platform is up to date with an 11th generation Core i7 processor, Wi-Fi 6 and two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports. And if you need to access the laptop's innards, that's available too, thanks to the removable base. 

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