The Portege brand has long stood for high-quality, ultralight laptops, and that’s as true today under the Dynabook banner as it used to be under Toshiba (though nowadays you can buy a 15.6-inch Portege, which seems like a contradiction in terms). The 13.3-inch Portege X30L-G is amazingly light at 1.92 pounds and highly attractive in its dark blue magnesium-alloy skin, but it’s also jarringly expensive at $2,014 in our tested configuration. Even with extras like four years of on-site service (and even though a Dynabook rep assures me most sales in the channel are under MSRP), that’s steep enough to make premium ultraportables like the Dell XPS 13 and Razer Blade Stealth 13 look like bargains—and steep enough to knock a full star off the Portege’s review rating.
Paying by the Pound
While the X30L-G reviewed here does carry an ample 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, its platinum price tag doesn’t get you an Intel Core i7 CPU, a 4K touch screen, or a Thunderbolt 3 port. It has a quad-core, 1.6GHz Core i5-10210U processor and a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) non-touch display.
To be fair, the Dynabook does come with Windows 10 Pro instead of Home and both a fingerprint reader and face recognition webcam for Windows Hello. As a build-to-order configuration, it also carries four years of the company’s service plan instead of the three years of its ready-made sibling ($1,373.99 with 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD).
While it’s not the thinnest or most compact ultraportable (0.71 by 12.2 by 8.3 inches), the X30L-G is so light that, taking it out of the box, I was convinced the battery wasn’t installed. Though it’s passed MIL-STD 810G torture tests against shock, vibration, and temperature extremes, the Portege seems to be made of balsa wood, landing well under the magic 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) figure. Picking it up puts a stunned grin on your face. It’s barely detectable in a briefcase.
Port selection is a little quirky, and not just for the lack of the Thunderbolt 3 port we look for in an over-$1,000 laptop—there’s a round connector for a proprietary AC adapter on the system’s left flank, but the supplied charger uses the adjacent USB 3.1 Type-C port. The same edge also holds an HDMI video output, an audio jack, and a microSD card slot. On the right are two USB 3.0 Type-A ports and an Ethernet jack, plus a security lock slot.
Hey, Good Lookin’: It’s an IGZO Panel
Next to the Dynabook’s light weight, the screen is the X30L-G’s best feature—a 1080p Sharp IGZO panel with a matte anti-glare finish and a perky 470 nits of brightness. Colors don’t pop as they do on glossy displays but are reasonably rich and well saturated. Contrast is good, and fine details are clear without being squinty-small as on 4K screens of this size (though I dialed Windows’ zoom from 150 to 125 percent to shrink overly big icons).
The 720p webcam captures colorful but noisy, slightly soft-focus images. Sound from the bottom-mounted speakers is fairly loud but hollow and flat, with treble overpowering bass and overlapping tracks audible but muddled.
Also hollow is the keyboard’s typing feel—tolerable but a bit clunky, with a thud rather than snap as the keys hit home. The layout is nice, though the top-row keys and a few others such as Page Up, Page Down, and the cursor arrows are small. Some of the top-row choices are a bit odd—the volume controls are Fn+3 and Fn+4 plus Fn+Esc for mute; Fn+F3 is a sleep or hibernate key and Fn+F10 a cursor-arrow overlay. The smallish, buttonless touchpad glides smoothly but clicks dully.
Featherweights on the Test Bench
For our performance comparisons, I pitted the Portege against one deluxe Core i7 ultraportable—the Dell XPS 13, which I chose because the Razer Blade Stealth 13 and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 GPU skew toward would-be gamers—and three Core i5 systems: our Editors’ Choice ultraportable Dell Inspiron 14 7000, the latest Apple MacBook Pro 13, and the ultralight VAIO SX12 (which at 1.97 pounds weighs a hair more than the Dynabook despite a smaller 12.5-inch screen). You can check out their basic specs below.
As with virtually all ultraportables with integrated graphics, playing the latest games on the Portege is a non-starter; it’s strictly a traveling productivity partner. In that role, it performs capably, though its battery life is unexceptional—a big battery was one thing sacrificed for light weight.
PCMark 10 and 8 are holistic performance suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (formerly Futuremark). The PCMark 10 test we run simulates different real-world productivity and content-creation workflows. We use it to assess overall system performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet work, web browsing, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, meanwhile, has a storage subtest that we use to assess the speed of the system’s boot drive. Both yield a proprietary numeric score; higher numbers are better.
The Portege was just a nanometer shy of the 4,000 points that we consider an excellent score in PCMark 10, ably competing with the other Core i5 laptops. Like its rivals’ drives, its speedy SSD breezed through the PCMark 8 storage test.
Next is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 test, which is fully threaded to make use of all available processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU rather than the GPU to render a complex image. The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.
In our Handbrake video editing benchmark, we put a stopwatch on systems as they transcode a brief movie from 4K resolution down to 1080p. It, too, is a tough test for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; lower times are better.
The Dynabook trailed the field in these two tests, topped by even the older eighth-generation Core i5 in the VAIO. It’s fine for spreadsheets, but won’t be mistaken for a data-gobbling workstation.
We also run a custom Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Using an early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, we apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image. We time each operation and add up the total (lower times are better). The Photoshop test stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, but it can also take advantage of most GPUs to speed up the process of applying filters.
With a tied-for-second-place finish coupled with its above-average screen and microSD card slot, the X30L-G is a good choice for managing a photo collection.
3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike. Both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, but Sky Diver is more suited to laptops and midrange PCs, while Fire Strike is more demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff.
As I said, you can more or less write off the Portege as a gamer, aside from casual or browser-based games. The Inspiron’s GeForce MX250 GPU is the class of a very lackluster field.
Next up is another synthetic graphics test, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene, this one rendered in the eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We present two Superposition results, run at the 720p Low and 1080p High presets and reported in frames per second (fps), indicating how smooth the scene looks in motion. For lower-end systems, maintaining at least 30fps is the realistic target, while more powerful computers should ideally attain at least 60fps at the test resolution.
Again, being edged by the VAIO leaves the Dynabook in last place, but realistically none of these systems pretends to be game-ready.
Battery Rundown Test
After fully recharging the laptop, we set up the machine in power-save mode (as opposed to balanced or high-performance mode) where available and make a few other battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown test. (We also turn Wi-Fi off, putting the laptop into airplane mode.) In this test, we loop a video—a locally stored 720p file of the Blender Foundation short film Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.
Another last-place finish for the Portege, but a respectable one—you’ll have no trouble getting through a full workday plus some evening streaming, even if you won’t see the superlative stamina of the two Dell ultraportables.
Nothing That a Price Cut Couldn’t Fix
The Dynabook Portege X30L-G is simply too expensive to recommend, though the website’s 8GB RAM/256GB SSD config is saner—only a couple of hundred dollars overpriced instead of almost a thousand. (You can also opt for a four- or six-core Core i7 or a 1080p touch screen if you want to spend even more.)
The Portege is well-built, stylish, and wonderfully light, but it can’t compete with the likes of the XPS 13, let alone the appealing Core i7 HP Envy 13 and Asus ZenBook 13 models we’ve tested for around $1,200. Ultraportables already carry a price premium compared to bulkier laptops; this one goes beyond premium to painful.
Dynabook Portege X30L-G Specs
|Laptop Class||Business, Ultraportable|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-10210U|
|Processor Speed||1.6 GHz|
|RAM (as Tested)||16 GB|
|Boot Drive Type||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)||512 GB|
|Screen Size||13.3 inches|
|Native Display Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Variable Refresh Support||None|
|Screen Refresh Rate||60 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||Intel UHD Graphics|
|Wireless Networking||802.11ax, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.71 by 12.2 by 8.3 inches|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro|
|Tested Battery Life (Hours:Minutes)||10:44|