Dynabook, formerly known as Toshiba, has been around for a really long time, especially when it comes to laptops. In fact, the company includes a leaflet inside the box for the Tecra X50 reminding customers that it created the world’s first mass-market laptop, the Toshiba T1100 back in 1985.
Nowadays, the company focuses mostly on business laptops, and even after its rebranding to Dynabook, it continued that trend. The Tecra X50 was launched back in September, and it packs the specs you’d expect for a modern laptop, save for the Whiskey Lake processors that are starting to feel a little outdated with Comet Lake already out, as well as some bonuses for business users. It’s also Dynabook’s thinnest and lightest 15.6-inch laptop, which is undoubtedly thanks to being made out of magnesium rather than aluminum.
Perhaps most importantly to me, it’s the first laptop I’ve ever reviewed, so my perspective is somewhat unique. I'm coming from an HP Envy x360 (late 2017), with a Core i7-8550U, a GeForce MX150, and 16GB of RAM.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8665U vPro processor (1.9 GHz base frequency, up to 4.8 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology, 8 MB L3 cache, 4 cores);|
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 620|
|Display||15.6" diagonal FHD (1920 x 1080) Sharp IGZO|
|Memory||2 slots: 1x16GB DDR4-2400, 1 free|
|Storage||512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD|
|Audio||harman/kardon stereo speakers, DTS audio processing, dual microphones|
|Connectivity||Intel Wireless-AC 9560 160MHz, Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 5|
|Ports||(2) Thunderbolt 3
(2) USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) HDMI 1.4
3.5mm combo audio
Smart Card reader
|Camera||720p HD webcam with privacy shutter; Windows Hello IR Camera|
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0
|Battery||3-cell 48Wh Lithium Ion battery, up to 10 hours and 45 minutes|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
As I pointed out in my initial hands-on video, the first thing that surprised me about the Tecra X50 is how thin and light it is. 3.16 pounds may not sound absurdly light, especially compared to something like Dynabook’s new Portégé X30L, but for a 15-inch laptop, it seems incredibly light to me. Coming from my usual laptop, I was shocked at how confidently I can pick this up with one hand. It almost feels like a toy, but in a good way.
Of course, this is thanks to it being made out of a magnesium alloy rather than aluminum, which also allows the laptop to be thinner while retaining the MIL-STD-810G rating for durability. Indeed, while there is some flex to the chassis, it feels pretty sturdy. I understand some people have problems with how magnesium feels in the hand, but I love the soft-touch finish of it, and it also feels a little less cold than aluminum on the cold days.
I also like the general look of the laptop a lot more than I expected to. Maybe it’s just that Dynabook’s laptops aren’t very photogenic, but my initial impression of the laptop was that it would look bulky and outdated. That didn’t turn out to be the case. Admittedly, it may be a little bland for some, but the engraved chrome Dynabook logo on the cover, and the silver accents below the trackpad and on the hinge give it just that little bit of flair to prevent it from being too boring.
For something as thin and light as it is, the Tecra X50 isn’t bad at all when it comes to ports. On the right side, it has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which are the default charging method for the laptop (a first for me, personally), an HDMI 1.4 port, and a microSD card reader. My unit also has the optional Smart Card reader, which can be useful for certain scenarios. In Portugal; ID cards can be plugged into these readers to make login easier on certain government websites.
On the left side, there are two USB Type-A ports, both of which are USB 3.1 Gen 1, which is to say they’re the same as the original USB 3.0 standard with 5Gbps data transfer speeds. There’s also a combo audio jack, making for an overall healthy supply of connectivity options.
Opening up the laptop, you see the 15.6-inch Full HD display which supports touch despite having a matte finish. It’s flanked by relatively small bezels on the sides, but the top bezel is fairly large to accommodate the Windows Hello IR camera in addition to the regular webcam. The bottom bezel is also a little big, but I wouldn’t call it jarring.
On the bottom half there’s the keyboard, which doesn’t include a number pad, as well as a touchpad with a built-in fingerprint sensor. There’s also the power button, which has a ring of light around it to indicate that the laptop is on. As you might notice, there are no speakers because Dynabook sadly decided to place them at the bottom of the bottom of the laptop. Again, there seems to be a lot of empty space around the keyboard, so it feels like poor use of space.
Display and sound
The 15.6-inch display on the Tecra X50 is 1080p, which isn’t mind-blowing for modern standards, but it’s still the best I’ve personally had in a laptop, and it’s the same as what I have on my own laptop. That is to say that, in terms of sharpness, I can’t really ask for better than what the Tecra X50 has to offer. I also appreciate that I have the touch-enabled version, since I just love laptops with touchscreens. I tend to prefer the convertible form factor, but I’ll take a touchscreen if I can get it, and the matte finish on this one is surprisingly nice to work with.
Where I do have some questions is the display color. When I first turned it on, I noticed that the Tecra X50 definitely has more of a blue tone to it, and at first, that seemed like a good idea, but the color in general also seems a lot more flat than my HP Envy x360 (late 2017). Most colors seem to lack some punch and some of them, like orange, look noticeably washed out compared to both my laptop and external monitor.
On the topic of imaging, the webcam on the Tecra X50 is, simply put, bad, and it actually surprised me that it’s technically HD. No matter how well lit a scene is, there’s a lot of noise which means that there’s no scenario where you want to take a picture with it, and it’s just passable for video calls. The Windows Hello camera, on the other hand, is a blessing, and I just love how easy it is to sign in by just sitting in front of my laptop. It’s so much better than using a fingerprint, though you can do that on this laptop, too.
As for audio, there’s only so much you can ask for from bottom-firing speakers on a laptop, but to its credit, the Tecra X50 delivers relatively well. They’re not extremely loud, but coupled with the DTS Audio Processing app, they’re still very much usable. The DTS app lets you choose between some audio presets for music, movies, and games, or you can fine tune the audio to your liking. I found that turning on the DTS enhancements makes the speakers louder, and each of the audio modes actually did enhance the experience for the target usage scenario.
In some situations though, like a Skype call where incoming audio isn’t always perfect, some sounds that get amplified can just end up sounding like crackling, which really hurts the experience. Thankfully, turning off DTS Audio processing helps with that. With that being said, a set of speakers somewhere around the keyboard would have been better, and I also wish they could go louder.
One big issue I had with audio was plugging in a headset. For one thing, this is one of those computers where the Control Panel separates the built-in microphone and speakers from the 3.5mm port, which I find annoying. But even setting it so that the connected headset always replaces the built-in hardware, I found that audio didn’t always route properly to the headset, and I just wasn’t able to hear anything until I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Also, audio captured by the built-in mic appears to be fine, but calling and streaming, the people on the other side said I was very quiet when I used a headset, despite it working well on my main PC.
Keyboard and trackpad
Given that I write for a living, you might think I have a good knowledge of keyboards, but I actually don’t consider myself picky in the slightest. Aside from adjusting to the U.S. keyboard layout (I’m from Portugal and this review unit was shipped to me from the U.S.), the keyboard on the Tecra X50 feels fine. Keys have nice travel distance and general seem to actuate when they should. The exception, I would say, is the Shift key, which often doesn’t seem to register when I’m trying to capitalize a letter, even after the adjustment period.
Also, given that this is a relatively large chassis and how much space there is around the keyboard, I wonder why we don’t get a dedicated number pad. In addition to the lack of top-firing speakers, it’s another reason why it starts to feel like there’s poor use of space on this laptop. I can concede, though, that maybe having a keyboard go right up to the edges could affect the number of ports that can fit in this body, and it’s not like I consider the number pad an essential tool, so this isn’t as concerning to me as the speaker issue.
Continuing on the theme of poor use of space, the trackpad could definitely have been bigger, both in height and width. It’s not cramped per se, but it does limit how much I can move my fingers to move the mouse across the screen. Plus, the built-in fingerprint sensor, while very effective for its purpose, interrupts the detection of my finger while moving over it, so it causes a real disruption in my flow. Also, as I noticed while taking the picture for this review, the trackpad quickly gets this smudged look under bright sunlight that I couldn't wipe off.
But I don’t mean to trash on this trackpad, I actually really like it. For one thing, I love the soft touch feel it has, which makes it very smooth and comfortable to use. Couple that with Microsoft Precision drivers, which I’m using for the first time, and it actually ends up being something I’d rather use over my own laptop. I really like the degree and ease of customization you get with Precision drivers, and how well the gestures work.
Performance and battery life
Being powered by an intel Core i7-8665U processor with vPro support, the Tecra X50 never really gave me any issues for general usage. It always breezes through most tasks I throw at it, with the notable exception of video rendering. We’ll get to proper benchmarks below, but I decided to create my own benchmark using the hands-on video I posted for this very laptop. I rendered the video in 1080p at 30 frames per second using Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve 16, and my main laptop, with a Core i7-8550U and a GeForce MX150 GPU, finished the task in around 37 minutes. The Tecra X50 took about 54 minutes.
Of course, this laptop isn’t really meant for people with GPU-intensive workloads, so here are benchmark results from PCMark 8 and 10 for different kinds of use cases.
|PCMark 8: Home||PCMark 8: Creative|
|PCMark 8: Work||PCMark 10|
Based on these benchmarks, performance is pretty much par for the course given the specs. It pulls ahead of HP's Elite Dragonfly in the Creative and Work tests, but loses by a small margin in the Home test and the general PCMark 10 benchmark.
One issue I did have with performance is how loud the computer gets, seemingly at random. Sometimes, after waking up from sleep, it ramps up the fan to pretty audible levels and stays there for no obvious reason. Task Manager showed high CPU usage from unspecified system processes, but it certainly wasn’t anything I was doing, and it never seemed to calm down.
Possibly even weirder is that the laptop sometimes just decides to wake up form sleep and ramp up the fan all on its own. I've seen this open with the laptop lid open and closed at different times, and the fan will just kick up for a second, turn back off, and ramp up again a few times before going back to sleep mode.
Battery life was within expectations, too. With a rating for 10 hours and 45 minutes (though depending on the configuration, Dynabook claims up to 17), I actually got between seven and eight hours out of it, often with about one hour of that time in sleep mode. This happened while doing my regular tasks, reading and writing in the stable version of the Chromium-based Edge browser, usually at half brightness or lower, and using the “better performance” power setting in Windows 10. To be fair, I’m rarely in a situation where I truly need the battery life, since I always work from home, so I can’t exactly say seven hours isn’t enough for me, but this seems like a decent result, and not too far off from Dynabook's claims.
In terms of software, there’s thankfully not a lot to talk about. I’m not a fan of companies shipping a lot of pre-installed apps, and Dynabook doesn’t. It has a few apps that display computer information, register your device with Dynabook, and a couple others. Really, the most notable one is Dynabook Settings, which lets you enable to disable features like USB Sleep & Charge, set a special power saving mode, adjust the keyboard backlight settings, and more. It’s generally simple and easy enough to use, but I don’t really like it when OEM apps try to replicate features that are built into Windows, so the power-saving mode didn’t really resonate with me. Aside from that, it’s mostly just driver-related applications.
Going into this review, I really wanted to like the Dynabook Tecra X50. It seemed better than my own laptop in almost every way on the spec sheet, and from the moment I picked it up and felt how light it is, I was super interested. The magic of being so light still hasn’t faded for me, and there’s quite a bit more I really like about this. The touchpad is comfortable and nice to use, even if a little small, the keyboard is also fine for typing, and I love the idea of a matte touchscreen. I also really appreciate the range of connectivity options that we get from such a thin laptop, how well the Windows Hello camera and fingerprint sensor work, and even the built-in mic, which actually lets me do Skype calls without a headset for once.
But there are some notable downsides to it, like the audio routing issues I had with my headset, the speaker placement, and in general, the poor use of space. Perhaps most glaring, though, is the price. This configuration costs $2,439. Compare that, for example, to the HP Elite Dragonfly -which is also promoted as a business device - that Rich Woods reviewed last year. It has a smaller screen, but it’s a convertible, it has almost as many ports, LTE support, and it costs $2,079. Otherwise, the specs are the same.
It's not just a problem at the high-end, either, and that's because specs aren't the reason for the price. Dynabook justifies the high price tag with the fact that the Tecra X50 comes with a four-year warranty, and truth be told, that's not unreasonable. Most electronics come with a one-year warranty and, personally, I've recently seen a PC break just a few months outside the warranty period, leading to a $300 repair from the OEM. Depending on how unlucky you are with your devices, this might be a good deal.
Additionally, this is a business laptop meant to be sold in volume through resellers, so Dynabook says the price will usually be lower than its MSRP. With that being said, if you do buy this laptop, I highly recommend taking some of the upgrades, because even with the extended warranty, $1,684 is hard to justify for the base model with a Core i5-8265U and 4GB of RAM. I personally wouldn't pay this much for it.