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There’s light, and then there’s light, and the Dynabook Portege X30L falls into the latter category. Weighing a mere 1.8 pounds, the Portege X30L manages to pack in decent (if not chart-topping) quad-core Comet Lake performance, a bright 13.3-inch display, fingerprint and facial biometrics, and solid battery life. Productivity-minded users who like to travel light (and have a healthy budget) will get a kick out of this barely-there laptop, although we do wish Thunderbolt 3 had been part of the package.
Portege X30L Specs and Features
Dynabook’s 13.3-inch Portege X30L offers many configuration choices. A single off-the-rack model (the Portege X30L-G1331) comes with a quad-core, 10th-gen Intel Core i5-10210U Comet Lake CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive for a list price of $1,600 from Dynabook.comRemove non-product link. (As of this writing, it was $1,374 with discounts.) Build-to-order options range from the Core i5-10210U all the way up to a hex-core i7-10810U CPU. Likewise, you can expand the 8GB of RAM up to 24GB, or quadruple the SSD storage to 1TB. You could also opt for a touch-enabled FHD display. No 4K option is available, but on a screen this size it’s arguably overkill. (A 1440p option would have been nice.)
Our review laptop retails for a hefty $2,014 from Dynabook.com as configured, although that price is comparable to that of a close competitor, the HP Elite Dragonfly. The Portege X30L is also backed by a three-year warranty, versus the standard one-year warranty you’ll get with most mainstream laptops.
Here are the specs on the built-to-order review model we received:
Connectivity: One SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps (formerly known as USB 3.2 Gen 2) Type-C port, two SuperSpeed USB (5Gbps, formerly known as USB 3.2 Gen 1) Type-A ports, HDMI, combo audio jack, microSD memory card reader
Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Gigabit ethernet
Biometrics: Fingerprint reader and IR facial recognition camera
Battery capacity: 42 watt-hour
Dimensions: 12.2 x 8.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 1.8 pounds (2.5 pounds with AC adapter)
Overall, that’s a nice mix of mid- and high-end features, particularly when it comes to the roomy 512GB solid-state drive and the Wi-Fi 6 networking (which means you’ll be ready for bleeding-edge 802.11ax routers). The 16GB of RAM should offer plenty of headroom for multitasking or having many browser tabs open at once. The quad-core Core i5-10210U should deliver smooth everyday performance while holding its own with CPU-intensive activities such as video processing and database crunching. The full-HD display comes with an impressive 470-nit brightness rating (in our real-world tests, it scored even higher), but it isn’t touch-enabled (the optional FHD touchscreen has a somewhat lower 300-nit rating).
Of course, the key spec to keep in mind here is weight—a mere 1.8 pounds (that’s our measurement, a tad lighter than the 1.9-pound factory specification). That makes the Portege X30L one of the lightest laptops (if not the lightest laptop) we’ve ever tested with a full-on U-series Intel processor. The U-series chip allows for higher base clock speeds compared to low-power Y-series CPUs, not to mention DDR4 memory support.
The corporate-focused Dynabook Portege X30L has a couple of design advantages, but looks isn’t one of them. With its nondescript onyx-blue magnesium chassis, perfectly flat lid and utilitarian hinge, the X30L reminded me of the similarly dull (design-wise, anyway) Lenovo ThinkPad series, although at least the logo on the ThinkPad sits at a jaunty angle.
But the Portege X30L’s best design feature must be felt rather than seen. It feels ridiculously light, making it a delight to hold in your hands (or even one hand, for that matter). It’s also tough, with Dynabook promising that it exceeds military MIL-STD 810G standards for drops, shocks, and other environmental hazards.
The Dynabook Portege X30L’s 13.3-inch display is a bit of a departure from standard display panels in that the TFTs (thin-film transistors) that make up the display consist of IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) transistors, rather than more typical a-Si (amorphous silicon) transistors. IGZO-TFT displays can achieve the same brightness as a-Si-TFT screens while consuming less power, but (as Display Ninja notes) they’re also quite a bit pricier.
In any event, the Portege X30L’s display is certainly bright, measuring about 550 nits (or candelas) according to our measurements. That far exceeds our 250-nit standard for comfortable indoor viewing (I actually dialed down the brightness to 36 percent while using the laptop in my dining room). It’s even bright enough to use outdoors on a sunny day (although I still had to squint a bit to make out the text on a webpage). BThe display also boasts great viewing angles, dimming only slightly when viewed from the sides or the top or bottom.
The screen has relatively narrow side bezels but somewhat chunkier bezels on the top and bottom. Embedded in the top bezel are two cameras: a 720p webcam with dual microphones, along with a Windows Hello-enabled IR facial recognition camera. I used the IR cam to log into Windows for much of my testing, and it typically recognized my face within a second or so.
Keyboard, trackpad, speaker, and extras
The Dynabook Portege X30L’s keyboard feels good, with adequate travel (the distance a key travels when it’s pressed) and a satisfying tactile bump and springy rebound with each keystroke. The keyboard felt a tad flimsy compared to the sturdy feel of, say, the HP Elite Dragonfly’s keyboard. Then again, the Elite Dragonfly weighs a good half-pound more than the Portege X30L.
The Portege X30L boasts Function-enabled hotkeys for Windows lock, muting the microphone, disabling the trackpad, cycling between power plans, and Airplane mode, although there aren’t any media playback hotkeys. Unusually, the volume hotkeys sit on the ‘3’ and ‘4’ keys rather than on the top row of function keys.
The X30L’s trackpad worked smoothly and with few hiccups. The cursor resisted false inputs on the touchpad. Even when I dragged my palms along the bottom corners of the trackpad, the cursor only jumped sporadically, and it almost never jittered during the normal course of typing.
Embedded in the top left corner of the Dynabook Portege X30L’s touchpad is a Windows-enabled fingerprint reader. I alternated between using the fingerprint reader and the X30-L’s IR facial recognition camera for unlocking Windows. As with the IR camera, the fingerprint reader worked smoothly for me, generally recognizing my fingerprint within a split second or so.
The Portege X30L’s down-firing stereo speakers sounded fair as far as laptop speakers go, loud and reasonably detailed on the high end but delivering little in the way of bass response. Obviously, the X30L’s sound quality won’t impress anyone while you’re streaming Spotify playlists (you’d be better off with headphones or an external Bluetooth speaker), but they’ll be fine for Zoom calls or audio presentations.
Speaking of Zoom, the Portege X30L’s 720p webcam delivers colorful, if typically grainy and somewhat blotchy video—in other words, par for the course, and adequate for Skype, Google Meet, or Zoom.
The Dynabook Portege X30L comes with a reasonably diverse selection of ports considering its size. On the left side, you get a SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps (formerly known as USB 3.2 Gen 2) Type-C port, a full HDMI port, a combo audio jack, and a microSD memory card reader. Our review model came with a USB-C power adapter. There’s a barrel-shaped charging port too, with an optional matching 45-watt AC adapter.
On the right side sit a pair of SuperSpeed (5Gbps, formerly USB 3.2 Gen 1) Type-A ports, a Gigabit ethernet port (not something you usually see on a laptop this slim and light), and a slot for a laptop security cable.
All in all, not bad, particularly when it comes to the ethernet and twin USB-A connectors. We’re disappointed by the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port, which we’d generally expect on a laptop this pricey.
How does a laptop this thin and light perform? Find out on the next page.
Portege X30L Performance
Cutting to the chase, let’s just say that the Dynabook Portege X30L’s multi-core performance won’t blow anyone’s socks off. That said, the numbers look a lot rosier when you consider the X30L’s slender 1.8-pound design. The laptop also makes the most out of its smallish battery.
PCMark 8 Work Conventional
First up is PCMark 8, a test designed to simulate such everyday activities as web surfing, spreadsheet work, online shopping and video chat. A score of 2,000 or better bodes well for smooth Office performance.
With a score a tad north of 3,600, the Dynabook Portege X30L lands in the middle of the pack. We should also point out that most of the activities simulated by the PCMark 8 benchmark demand only a single core, which means dual-core laptops often score just as well as quad-core systems like the X30L.
Next comes a much tougher test, which involves encoding a 30GB MKV video file using the free HandBrake utility. It’s a multi-core benchmark that reliably cranks up the heat on laptop CPUs. Systems with the most cores generally rise to the top of the chart.
The Portege X30L’s last-place finish doesn’t look so great at first glance, but remember that it’s at least a half-pound lighter than every other laptop in our comparison. The lighter the laptop, the tougher it is to keep cool, hence the dialed-down CPU performance.
Also, it’s basically in a three-way tie for last place, neck-and-neck with the HP Elite Dragonfly, another slim-and-light laptop for corporate users. Only one laptop in our roundup managed to score below 4,000 in our HandBrake test (remember, lower scores are better): the supercharged Dell XPS 13, with its cutting-edge Core i7 Ice Lake processor.
Cinebench, our other CPU test, shows us how a system performs during a short but intensive sprint of activity, rather than a marathon like HandBrake.
Again, the Dynabook Portege X30L is stuck in last place, somewhat behind the Lenovo Yoga C740-14ML (which has the same CPU but a heftier chassis), yet surprisingly close to the Acer Swift 3 (which benefits from a speedier Ice Lake processor) and the HP Elite Dragonfly (which has a faster boost clock thanks to its Core i7 chip). Note that its single-thread Cinebench result is right in the mix with that of every other laptop in our chart, save for the Core i7 Ice Lake-powered Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy 13. Overall, the Portege X30L’s sacrifice is a modest one.
3DMark Sky Diver
You can’t expect silky-smooth gaming performance from a business-oriented ultralight like the Dynabook Portege X30L, but 3DMark’s Sky Diver benchmark can help you manage your expectation. Laptops with discrete graphics cards will usually beat anything with integrated graphics such as the Portege X30L’s Intel UHD, although we’ve been seeing great results from systems with Intel’s new integrated Iris Plus graphics.
The Dynabook Portege X30L brings up the rear of a cluster of laptops that have similar integrated graphics cores. Meanwhile, our three chart-toppers all boast Intel’s spiffy new Iris Plus.
The Portege X30L’s performance is perfectly adequate for light photo editing and streaming video. If you really want to game on this laptop, there’s always GeForce Now or Google’s Stadia service. I spent several hours playing Destiny 2 on the Portege X30L via Stadia without any issues.
We test battery life on laptops by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with the screen brightness set to about 250 nits (which, in the Portege X30L’s case, meant dialing its brightness down to 46 percent) and the volume set to 50 percent (with a pair of wired earbuds attached).
This time, the Portege X30L lands right in the middle of our chart. The result (557 minutes, or about 9.3 hours) is even more impressive when you consider that the laptop’s 42 watt-hour battery is the smallest of the bunch.
Your mileage will vary. If you’re streaming Netflix or encoding video, the laptop’s battery will die sooner. Still, considering its featherweight design, the Portege X30L wrings an impressive amount of performance out of a relatively small (and light) battery.
Note: Our original Portege X30L review unit’s USB-C power adapter gradually lost its ability to fully charge the laptop’s battery. We sent the unit back to Dynabook, where engineers managed to replicate the issue. A Dynabook rep assured us that the problem (which may have resulted from “a faulty USB-C port or solder joint”) had never been reported before. A second unit worked flawlessly for the remainder of our testing.
Sure, we’ve tested faster laptops than the Dynabook Portege X30L, but none that were this light while also packing in a U-series Intel CPU. While compromise is the name of the game when it comes to such featherweight designs, we believe the performance trade-offs are largely worth it.
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.