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.

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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.

dynabook portege x30l g pcmark 8 Ben Patterson/IDG

The Dynabook Portege X30L’s PCMark 8 performance sits right in line with its competitors, a good sign when it comes to everyday computing duties.

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.

HandBrake

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.

dynabook portege x30l g handbrake Ben Patterson/IDG

The Portege X30L’s last-place finish in our HandBrake chart doesn’t tell the whole story.

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

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.

dynabook portege x30l g cinebench Ben Patterson/IDG

The Dynabook Portege X30L’s multi-threaded Cinebench score is meh, but its single-threaded score fairs much better.

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.

dynabook portege x30l g 3dmark sky diver Ben Patterson/IDG

The Portege X30L’s 3DMark Sky Diver score is what one would expect given its integrated Intel UHD graphics core.

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.

Battery life

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).

dynabook portege x30l g battery life Ben Patterson/IDG

Even with the smallest battery of the bunch, the Dynabook Portege X30-L manages an impressive score in our battery drain test.

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.

Bottom line

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.

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At a Glance
  • We’ve tested faster laptops than the Dynabook Portege X30-L, but none that were this light while also packing in a U-series Intel CPU.

    Pros

    • Featherweight, yet rugged design
    • Bright display
    • Fingerprint reader and IR facial recognition camera

    Cons

    • Mediocre multi-core performance
    • No Thunderbolt 3 port
    • Drab design
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