Display offers vivid colors without excessive glare. Speakers deliver robust bass. Good key stability.
Expensive. Awkward pointing stick. Relatively small SSD.
- Bottom Line
Expect to pay a lot for the Toshiba Portege X30-D, but in return, you'll get an ultraportable with an excellent display, robust performance, and rich audio.
Toshiba's Portege X30-D (starts at $1,179.99; $2,109 as tested) is an extremely light ultraportable that still manages to pack an Intel Core i7 processor, a full HD touch screen, and all-day (if not class-leading) battery life. There are a few minor downsides, though—including a rather bland design and a price that's high compared with similarly equipped laptops—that keep the X30-D from unseating our Editors' Choice for best ultraportables, the Dell XPS 13 Touch.
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Sleek and Business Like
From the outside and with its lid closed, the X30-D looks like any other sleek black business laptop. There's little to mar the expanse of black magnesium alloy other than a Toshiba logo etched in one corner of the lid, and two silver hinges located at each rear edge. It measures 0.63 by 12.4 by 8.9 inches (HWD), which is your first indication that Toshiba isn't kidding around with the laptop's portability. The 0.60-inch thickness mark is what modern ultraportables strive for, and although certain competitors go even thinner (including the 0.52-inch Razer Blade Stealth), you certainly won't be complaining about the X30-D's dimensions. Nor will you be moaning about its heft: the laptop weighs just 2.3 pounds, even lighter than the ultra-thin HP Spectre 13 (2.45 pounds), although not quite as feather-like as the LG gram 14 (2 pounds).
The 13.3-inch display is a full HD touch screen, with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080. Its colors are especially vivid for a matte screen, although this matte screen is really more of a glossy-matte hybrid that I wish more laptops would offer. It's a bit more reflective than the display on the HP ZBook Studio G4, but not so much that fluorescent lights create a distracting reflection, as they occasionally do on the Apple MacBook. Toshiba's display also offers far more vibrant colors than most matte displays do, including the one on the Lenovo ThinkPad T470.
The X30-D's port selection is far from generous, but it still offers more options than the single USB-C port you'll find on the Apple MacBook or the Asus ZenBook 3. Along the left edge, you'll find a traditional USB 3.0 port, a Kensington lock slot, and a headphone jack. The right edge offers not one but two USB-C ports, each of which support Thunderbolt 3 and charge the laptop, since there's no dedicated charging port. The right edge also sports an HDMI port and a microSD card slot, which comes in handy since more and more cameras are adopting the microSD standard. Above the screen, you'll find a webcam and the requisite sensors to enable Windows Hello face recognition login, which worked flawlessly in my testing, even when the display was tilted slightly away from my face. The Harman Kardon speakers deliver much better sound than what you'd expect from an ultra-thin laptop. You won't have trouble watching YouTube videos or having Skype sessions, and I even experienced surprisingly robust bass during testing at maximum volume from the two front-facing speakers, which are uniquely positioned along the front edge of the chassis.
Toshiba sent us a nearly maxed-out review unit, complete with an Intel Core i7-7600U processor, 16GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD that uses the M.2 interface instead of the older, slower SATA interface. My only complaint with the specs is the relatively stingy SSD. For a laptop that costs more than $2,000, I would like to see at least 512GB of solid-state storage. The Dell XPS 13 can be configured with a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD for $2,000, slightly less than the cost of this X30-D review unit. Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi.
The backlit, chiclet-style keyboard is a pleasure to type on. Its keys are even more stable than the ones on the ThinkPad T470, which is my all-time favorite laptop keyboard. The key travel is shallower than Lenovo's, however, and the keys themselves are flat and square, as opposed to the ThinkPad's, which are slightly scalloped. The face of most of the keys are also very busy, filled with symbols that are often difficult to decipher. The control for the keyboard lighting, for instance, is a combination of the Fn and S keys, and the gray logos that guide you to this shortcut aren't backlit. The glass touchpad is comfortable, although it's a bit small. Its left and right buttons are located above the pad, rather than below, in order to do double duty as the clicking options for both the pad and the ThinkPad-style pointing stick. Unfortunately, the stick itself is too close to the G and H keys, and I found myself frequently typing Gs and Hs by accident as I moused around.
The fingerprint reader is embedded in the touchpad's upper left corner, and despite its small size, it's a touch sensor rather than the inferior swipe sensor that occasionally shows up in business laptops. Windows gave an error the first time I tried to register my print, but after the second attempt, the sensor worked flawlessly each time I used it to log in.
The X30-D is mercifully free of bloatware (unwanted trial software installed at the factory), although it does include Toshiba's surprisingly useful and well-designed Service Station app. Service Station gives you one-click access to the system's power consumption and temperature, and offers automatic testing tools for motherboard stability, cooling performance, storage monitoring, and USB ports. These tests are mostly pass/fail—they'll only tell you if the component is working correctly or not—but if you don't consider yourself a power user and you need to pinpoint an issue, they are a good first step. If something is actually wrong, Toshiba offers a standard three-year warranty, which is much better than the one year that you'll get from Apple or most Dell and HP consumer PCs.
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It'll Get You Through a Workday
The white-hot competition of the ultraportable market means that high-end machines have very similar specs, especially when it comes to GPUs. Most of the the models that compete with the X30-D have integrated graphics, and except for the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro, most of those integrated GPUs are the Intel HD Graphics 620, which offers dismal gaming performance. As such, the MacBook Pro, with its superior Intel Iris Plus graphics, was the only one that was able to eke out more than 30fps (frames per second) on our gaming tests at medium quality settings, but I still wouldn't play anything other than Minecraft or a game with similarly light demands on any of these systems.
As for general computing power, the X30-D holds its own. It posted a class-leading score of 3,335 points on the proprietary PCMark 8 benchmark, which measures word processing, spreadsheet editing, videoconferencing, and other common tasks that PC users are likely to perform daily. The X30-D is also an adequate video-encoding and image-editing machine, completing our Handbrake video-encoding test in 2 minutes and 3 seconds, faster than everything I compared it with except the MacBook Pro. Its scores on the Cinebench test (358) and the collection of Photoshop video-editing tasks (3 minutes and 45 seconds) are in the middle of the competition. Given these results, I wouldn't hesitate to use the X30-D as an everyday computer and expect it to quickly chew through most of my usual workflow, which involves typing, spreadsheet editing, and image manipulation.
The X30-D's only glaring performance weakness is its battery life. It lasted 10 hours on our battery-rundown test, which involves playing a looped video at 50 percent screen brightness and with the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas turned off. That might get you through a workday, depending on how much you tax the processor, but it's several hours shorter than most ultraportables we've tested recently. The MacBook Pro, for instance, lasted 16 hours and 26 minutes, and many others lasted for at least 14 hours.
So Who's Paying?
The Toshiba Portege X30-D has a lot going for it. It checks all the boxes expected from an ultraportable, and even manages to throw in a few unexpected niceties like a three-year warranty, robust speakers, and a Goldilocks display that expertly toes the line between glossy and matte. Whether or not this is the ultraportable for you, however, depends on your price sensitivity and your opinion of Toshiba. It's one thing to overpay for one of Apple's MacBook Pros, which are notoriously overpriced but boast a track record of excellence and robust support options from Apple. On the other hand, paying more than $2,000 for a notebook with the same specs as ones that cost a few hundred dollars less is a tough decision.
I consider $1,600 to be the ceiling for a high-end Windows laptop with an Intel Core i7 and sub-2.5 pound weight. That's how much the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon costs, and at $1,500, the LG gram 14 is even cheaper. If my IT department issued me an X30-D, I would accept it in a heartbeat. If I had to pay for it myself, however, I probably would buy the Lenovo, the LG, or even a MacBook Pro.
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As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's sister site, Computer Shopper, where he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of water. In his spare time, he's written on topics as… More »
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