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Dynabook Tecra A50-J-11X review: A robust 15-inch business laptop with excellent connections

dynabook-tecra-a50-j-11x-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    7.9 Very good

Pros

  • Plentiful ports
  • Matte screen (15.6-inch)
  • Separate number pad
  • Optional LTE mobile broadband

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Mediocre speakers

Dynabook's Tecra range of business laptops spans three models: the 13.3-inch A30, 14-inch A40 and 15.6-inch A50. These are no-nonsense conventional laptops -- there are no touch screens or 360-degree rotating hinges here. But they are big on connections -- and in the case of the Tecra A50-J-11X reviewed here, big on size. This entry-level A50-J model is light on the wallet, too: in the UK you'll pay £789 (ex. VAT; £946.80 inc. VAT), while in the US the A50-J range starts at $939.99. 

A 15.6-inch laptop is unlikely to be ultraportable, and you'll certainly notice the Tecra A50-J's 1.65kg weight in a bag or backpack. And however you carry it, this laptop will need plenty of space as it measures 358.2mm wide by 236.9mm deep by 19.9mm thick. 

Although there is some flex in the lid, the chassis feels solid. Dynabook says the Tecra A50-J meets MIL-STD-810H, so it should handle drops, high and low temperature, humidity, vibration and shock. The chassis is Mystic Blue, a colour that lies somewhere between deep blue and black. 

dynabook-tecra-a50-j-11x-main.jpg

Dynabook's 15.6-inch Tecra A50-J series runs on 11th-generation Intel Core processors with up to 32GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage. It weighs 1.65kg.

Image: Dynabook  

As noted, the Tecra A50-J-11X has a sizable footprint, and the ability to rotate the screen 180 degrees to lie flat on the desk, while potentially useful, may challenge users with cluttered desks.  

The screen sits in fairly narrow short-edge bezels, but the bottom bezel is sizeable. The upper bezel is just deep enough to house the webcam, which has a sliding privacy cover, and IR support for Windows Hello face authentication. If you don't want face login, there's a fingerprint sensor in the touchpad. Additional security features include an optional smartcard slot, which was present on my review unit on the front right side.  

The 15.6-inch IPS screen is not touch-responsive (none of the three Tecra A50-J models available in the UK are) and has a matte finish, which will please those who don't like seeing their own reflection while they work. Its FHD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels, 141.2ppi) is fine for typical writing, email and web browsing tasks, although viewing angles are not great in either horizontal or vertical planes. The 16:9 aspect ratio makes it possible to have two working documents side by side. Video is rendered reasonably well, but if you're seeking high-quality full-screen video playback, look elsewhere.  

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The stereo speakers sit on the front of the chassis, with grilles on the underside where the chassis curves upwards slightly. Sound percolates up through the keyboard pretty well, and audio quality is acceptable at best. Volume goes up reasonably high and doesn't distort, but it's light on bass and heavy on treble. 

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The backlit keyboard has a bouncy action, and may be noisy if you're a heavy-handed typist. The 15.6-inch chassis provides room for a separate number pad on the right side.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The keyboard area is wide enough to incorporate a separate number pad, but not wide enough for the number pad keys to be full size, or for there to be a clear separation between it and the main QWERTY section. It took me quite a while to hit the Enter key accurately every time rather than jabbing the 7 or 4 key instead. 

The key action is bouncy, but you need to apply significant pressure to depress each key. Typing generates a dull 'thunk' that gets louder the heavier the typing action. This may become irritating for other people in quiet spaces. Unlike in Dynabook's Portégé range, there's no AccuPoint stick as an alternative to the (responsive and efficient) touchpad. 

The Fn keys are relatively small. There are no assigned second functions for F10, F11 and F12, yet Dynabook puts volume control as third Fn-key-controlled actions on the 3 and 4 keys, and a zoom function as a Fn key action on the 1 and 2 keys (this will, for example, zoom in and out of web pages, or increase/decrease text sizes in a word processing app). This arguably creates some unnecessary overcrowding. 

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Left side (top): power, 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 4, HDMI 2.0, USB 3.2, 3.5mm audio in/out. Right side (above): smartcard reader, MicroSD card slot, USB 3.2, RJ-45 Ethernet (flip-open).

Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

There's an expansive range of connections. On the left edge the 3.5mm audio in/out jack is joined by a pair of USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a USB-A port and a round-pin power input. The advantage of a dedicated power jack is that both USB-C ports are always accessible. There are two lights on this edge: one lets you know the power jack is plugged in, while the other tells you the machine is powered on (handy if you just shut the lid without switching off, but only visible if you happen to be looking at the laptop's left edge).  

The smartcard slot is towards the front of the right edge, while towards the back there's a MicroSD card reader, another USB-A port and an RJ-45 Ethernet port. The chassis isn't quite deep enough to accommodate the latter without providing a hinged flap at the base, but that flap pushes down without affecting the laptop's equilibrium on a desk. If you opt for LTE mobile broadband, the SIM slot is also on this edge.

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This array of connections is impressive considering that many laptops offer no more than a couple of USB-C / Thunderbolt ports and a USB-A port, and that one of the USB-Cs is often out of action when the device is being charged. Bravo, Dynabook. 

There are three configurations of the Tecra A50-J available off the shelf in the UK. My Core i5-based review unit was the entry-level model: 

Tecra A50-J-11X (as reviewed) 
Intel Core i5-1135G7, Windows 10 Pro, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS non-touch screen, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD 
£789 (ex. VAT) 

Tecra A50-J-151 
Intel Core i7-1165G7, Windows 10 Pro, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS non-touch screen, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD 
£839 (ex. VAT) 

Tecra A50-J-13W 
Intel Core i7-1165G7, Windows 10 Pro, 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS non-touch screen, Intel Iris Xe graphics, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD 
£949 (ex. VAT) 

There are five preconfigured Tecra A50-J models in the US, starting at $939.99 and rising to $1,329.99. There's also a configurable build-to-order option. 

Dynabook rates the Tecra A50-J-11X's 4-cell 53Wh battery as good for up to 9 hours of life. My usual test, based on an everyday workload of writing, streaming and browsing, involves working from a fully charged battery for three hours. After that period the battery had fallen to 65%, suggesting battery life of around 8.5h on a linear extrapolation. On other occasions I achieved 6h and 7h working periods from a fully charged battery. So, depending on what you're doing, you may or may not get a full day's work from this laptop on battery power. 

Dynabook says the battery will reach 40% capacity in 30 minutes. Testing this on one occasion when the battery had fallen to 40%, I put it on charge and after 15 minutes the battery had risen to 55%. A further 15 minutes took it to 67%, and after a total of 45 minutes of charging the battery was at 77%. 

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Image: Dynabook

Conclusions 

The Dynabook Tecra A50-J-11X is a relatively bulky and heavy 15.6-inch laptop. It's a no-nonsense business device, whose display and audio subsystems are not up to consumer pursuits such as gaming or video viewing. But it has reasonable battery life and a plethora of connections, including an Ethernet port. If you value a large screen for working with words or spreadsheets, appreciate a separate number pad, and don't need a touch screen or top-quality sound, it could be worth considering.  

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