Toshiba Portege X30 review: The clamshell strikes back

Toshiba Portege X30 review: The clamshell strikes back

Sleek tablets and 2-in-1s get all the attention these days, but they still take a back seat to traditional clamshell laptops for outfitting business employees. Take Toshiba’s flagship Portégé X30 (technically called the X30-D), which combines peak performance with all the amenities that a traveling executive could want in a lightweight fold-open package.

I tested a souped-up X30 that costs $2,109 and includes just about every option available, from the high-performance Core i7 7600U processor that runs between 2.8GHz and 3.9GHz to its 16GB of RAM and 256GB solid state storage system. It also includes a 13.3-in. touchscreen that supports 1920 x 1080 resolution. (Toshiba doesn’t offer an X30 model with a 4K display.)

If that blasts your company’s IT budget to pieces, Toshiba offers preconfigured models that give you more bang for the buck, starting with a $1,429 Core i5-powered Portégé X30 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

At 12.4 x 8.9 in. x 0.6 in. and 2.4 lb., the X30 is bigger and a little heavier than either the Samsung Galaxy Book 12 or the HP EliteBook Folio G1, but offers the luxury of a 13.3-in. screen versus 12- and 12.5-in. displays for the others. You can easily slide it into and out of a bag or backpack, but note that it barely fits on a mock-up of the typical airline tray table, so there might be a problem when the person in 12D reclines his seat.

With its tiny AC adapter, the X30 hits the road at just under 3 lb. Happily, it doesn’t require a three-prong outlet, but you can’t plug the adapter directly into a wall outlet without a power cord, as you can with many laptops and tablets including the HP EliteBook line.

The X-30’s textured blue lid and black keyboard deck design are contrasted by brushed aluminum hinge corners, giving it a sophisticated two-tone look. The system has a magnesium screen lid, base and internal honeycomb frame, making it tough enough to stand up to the clumsiest workers. According to Toshiba, the system passed six of the harshest MIL-STD 810G tests for ruggedness, including drops, shock and vibration.

I used the test machine daily for two weeks and took it on a three-day road trip. I really liked the responsiveness of the touchscreen, which can interpret up to 10 independent touch inputs. On the downside, the screen wobbles too much when tapped or swiped, and its hinge opens to only about 130 degrees, so it won’t lie flat on a tabletop. Finally, there’s no pressure-sensitive stylus for writing on the screen.

Based on conventional LCD technology, the display lets you customize its color balance with the Night Light technology built into the Windows 10 Creators Edition. In my tests the screen registered 246 candelas per square meter of brightness, versus 310 cd/m2 for the AMOLED-based Samsung Galaxy Book display; still, it was more than bright enough for typical work when set at two-thirds full brightness.

Inside, the Portégé X30 has a slew of security and manageability enhancements that corporate buyers demand. In addition to a second-generation Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for safer remote access, it has Intel’s vPro processor security and manageability extensions.

There’s a fingerprint sensor slyly integrated into the touchpad (the system also has a keyboard pointing stick), and the system I tested has a webcam that supports Windows Hello facial recognition. An optional smart card reader is well worth the $10 for the security-minded buyer.

The keyboard has comfortable 19.1mm keys with 1.9mm of depth that provide enough feedback. It’s spill resistant and has backlighting with two brightness settings for those who work late.

Underneath are two forward-facing Harmon Kardon speakers that sound unexpectedly rich. Above are an HD webcam and a pair of microphones with active noise cancellation technology so your next chat won’t sound like it’s taking place in a shower.

The system delivers a good assortment of ports -- including one USB 3.0, two USB-C, an HDMI and an audio port -- as well as a micro-SD card slot, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. About the only adapter you’re likely to need is a USB-to-Ethernet converter for tapping into a wired network (not included). Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Book, the X30 does without a near-field communication (NFC) connection spot.

In addition to the X30 laptop, I tested one of Toshiba’s Thunderbolt 3 docking stations (sold separately for around $300) that connects to the system via its USB-C port. While it charges the system, the dock widens the connection circle with four USB 3.0, three USB-C and a gigabit Ethernet port. Back at the office, I used the dock’s two HDMI ports to connect to two HD displays; you can also use them for UHD screens. The dock also provides one DisplayPort, a mini DisplayPort, a VGA video port and an audio jack.

Overall, the system blends into the typical office environment. It worked well with a Minix Neo C hub, a Vivitek Qumi Q6 projector, a SanDisk Fit flash drive, a Monster iClarity wireless speaker, a TeckNet USB Gigabit Ethernet Converter and an HP Color LaserJet M452 printer.

Test results

My test Portégé X30 unit is a powerful system, scoring 3,399 on the PCMark 10 suite of business-oriented benchmark tests -- 27% higher than HP’s EliteBook Folio G1. The X30’s 6,076 score on the Productivity section of the benchmark compares favorably with the Folio’s 5,041. The X30 also outscored the Folio on the Spreadsheet and Writing tests, although the Folio had a slight advantage on the videoconferencing tests.

With 4,400milliamp hours of capacity at its disposal, the X30’s battery powered it for 6 hours and 44 minutes of stop-and-go computing using our Real-World Battery Life test. That’s half an hour longer than the Samsung Galaxy Book 12, which carries a battery that has 15% more capacity. Even when it was running at full blast, the X30 never got warmer than 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

(See “How we test Windows system performance” for details about our benchmark and battery tests.)

The X30 shows its business orientation by including Windows 10 Pro -- and a full 3-year warranty. This alone is worth a couple hundred dollars compared to a consumer laptop with an extended warranty.

Bottom line

At $2,109, the high-end version of the Portégé X30 that I tested does not come cheap, and even the starting price of $1,429 may strain some corporate IT budgets. But is a well-built and rugged system that not only stands up to daily use but can power through just about any task you throw at it -- and provides peace of mind with a three-year warranty.

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