Dynabook Portege X30L review: Comet Lake power in a featherweight shell

The barely-there Portege X30L crams a Intel Comet Lake U-series CPU into a 1.8-pound shell.

Credit: Ben Patterson/IDG

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.com. (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:

  • CPU: Quad-core 10th-gen Intel Core i5-10210U
  • Memory: 16GB DDR4
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 13.3-inch IGZO (470 nits, non-touch), 1920x1080 resolution
  • Webcam: 720p, dual microphone
  • 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.

Design

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.

dynabook portege x30 l top Ben Patterson/IDG

The Dynabook Portege X30L isn’t the prettiest laptop ever, but boy is it light.

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.

Display

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.

dynabook portege x30 l cameras Ben Patterson/IDG

The top display bezel of the Portege X30L packs in a 720p webcam and an IR facial recognition camera.

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.

dynabook portege x30 l keyboard Ben Patterson/IDG

The Dynabook Portege X30-L’s backlit keyboard features plenty of hotkeys, while the touchpad has an integrated fingerprint reader.

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.

Ports

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.

dynabook portege x30 l left side Ben Patterson/IDG

The left-side ports on the Dynabook Portege X30L include a SuperSpeed USB Type-C port, a microSD card reader, and a full HDMI port.

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.

dynabook portege x30 l right side Ben Patterson/IDG

On the right side of the Portege X30L, you’ll find two USB Type-A ports and Gigabit ethernet.

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.

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Ben Patterson

PC World (US online)
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