By Ian Wallace
For people in the market for laptops and thin notebooks, more often than not it can be a headache to search through the sea of products out there. Not only do you have to worry about the varying OEMs, but also the individual component manufacturers like AMD and Intel for CPUs, and AMD, Nvidia, and now Intel surprisingly in these past few years for GPUs. Especially with the new contender on the block Intel with their Iris and Arc GPU platforms they have been introducing discrete laptop format as well as dedicated card format. When it comes to the decision of choosing what CPU/GPU manufacturer to go with in your laptop, Intel has been trying to make a compelling offer to consumers that their GPU platform is the place to go. But what options does one even have if they want to go Team Blue? Dynabook has an answer as a matter of fact.
We’ve been sent the Portege X30W-K to do a full review of, and as we mentioned before it features a full Intel lineup when it comes to the CPU and GPU. Its rocking a i5-1240p, a 12 core 16 thread CPU (4 being performance cores and the remaining 8 being efficiency cores), that can handle a max turbo frequency of 4.40 GHz. These are pretty modern specifications, especially given the split performance/efficiency core architecture in the CPU. Additionally the CPU die itself contains some Iris execution units for integrated graphics. But, we’ll have to see how this CPU matches up in the benchmarks later in the review, especially with the Iris execution units.
The model we were sent also has 8GB of 5200 MHz DDR5 RAM, and a 256gb SSD. But likely the most flashy feature, the anti-glare coated touchscreen display that also has a stylus with adjustable tips! The stylus itself is made of brushed smooth aluminum and is quite nice to hold, although it doesn’t have a grip in the pen itself. Later in the review we will evaluate the pen and the touchscreen quality. And speaking of quality, the first thing off the bat we have to note is the build quality. The chassis itself is made fully out of aluminum, with the keyboard chassis having a slight texture to it along with the rest of the aluminum body and touch pad being a smoother grit aluminum. It’s light to carry, only about a foot long and all around feels great. The aluminum chassis is the big point here, it really helps the laptop feel more premium all around which is much needed considering the Portege is supposed to be Dynabook’s premium laptop line. The keyboard itself also has a subtle blue underglow, which is a nice touch for working in the dark or more low light scenerios. (Plus, its a bonus for those on Team Blue out there)
As for the I/O, the power delivery is a USB-C which is always nice to see on a modern laptop, along with a USB-C port and a HDMI out, and a surprise 3.5mm audio output/input, which is becoming ever more elusive on electronics these days and should be cherished! Over on the right side there’s a USB port and a lone micro SD card slot, although there is another model of this laptop that comes equipped with a SIM card slot as well for LTE usage. We should also note Bluetooth is included on the motherboard. Overall, the I/O is a bit modest but considering the form factor of this laptop and the intended use case its understandable and points are given for the inclusion of the 3.5mm port and the micro SD card slot.
One things for certain we have to talk about the display, the anti-glare is very nice to have especially if you are out and about and are doing something on the laptop say at a park on a sunny day. The coating itself isn’t really noticable, although there is a slight decrease in the sharpness of the overall image, but this is consisent with other anti-glare displays. The colors themselves of the monitor are nice and pop, and overall would be good in creative applications like video editing or photoshop. And we can’t forget the fact that it’s touchscreen! While this is a limited use case for most people, for those looking for a laptop for educational purposes this can be very useful especially since the display can fold back into a tablet-esque appearance much like the Surface Pro. Our model of the Portege came with a offical stylus as well, and with our tests in Krita and GIMP it worked rather well as a sketch pen and for quick note taking. As digital art isn’t our forte, we can’t ascertain if this would be suitable for more professional types of digital art, but it’s perfectly suitable for educational use and hobbyist use from our use!
All in all, the exterior of this laptop is very well put together and has a premium vibe to it. The build quality is very nice and the aluminium chassis and keyboard really help pull this together. But the screen really makes it the trifecta, and turns it from a normal thin and light notebook to a premium experience. But the exterior is only one side of the story, although build quality and aesthethics are important when considering a laptop, its internal performance is a whole different story and equally as important!
To start, this laptop comes with Windows 11 pre installed and licensed, which is par for the course for computers these days. We went over the main specs already, so instead lets go over general performance and benchmarks. Chrome and Firefox both worked fine while opening 20+ tabs, but after the 30 mark things began to slow down a bit. This was also while we were writing the review with Libre Office, which didn’t really slow down while we were doing the tab test with Chrome and Firefox. Overall despite the RAM being on the low end, it still has an okay amount of headroom for doing multiple productivity tasks at once. Video playback worked great too, 4K videos on YouTube played just fine and the same applied to locally stored high resolution content played on the laptop. More intense productitvity tasks also worked decently well such as Photoshop, which was a bit slow during startup but after that for basic image editing purposes was responsive even with Libre Office open with our review document in the background. Adobe Premiere was alright, but working with high resolution content within the timeline began to slow down the computer a bit. We suggest lowering the timeline playback for more usable performance during editing.
Another feature added onto this laptop reminding you that you’re using a premium device is the speakers, which are Harmon / Kardon speakers, so not just any old speaker setup! And they do not disappoint! With our trusty benchmarks being a few songs such as the infamous Crab Rave, these speakers exhibit a rather impressive soundstage for the given size, along with a clear deep bass and overall range to the sound. These speakers are perfectly usable for playing music if one needs to be, and work excellently for media and content playback. The sound is crisp, nothing sounds muttered or too basey or crinkly, overall the sound is just plain excellent. It really can’t be understated how nice it is, even if its subtle. Once again it’s a must have feature to have, especially given the premium status of this laptop.
But software performance really is key when it comes to a laptop of this price performance, and of a new graphics platform no less. Although this laptop is not intended for workstation tasks and high performance gaming and the like, we thought it was important to include benchmarks in those sorts of applications to get a better idea of the general performance of the machine, but also to see what the magic in the Intel Iris GPU can do!
The first benchmark we did is the classic: Cinebench R23.
We did the basic benchmark, and the single core performance weighed out to 1145 Points and the multi-core benchmark ended up as 6605 Points. All things considered, for a thin and light laptop this is pretty damn good! On the multi-core benchmark it ended up in 8th place, right behind an Intel Xeon X5650! That’s a surprising amount of single core performance in a little package like this. We were certainly surprised when we did the benchmark, and it gave us a good indicator that this puppy could likely handle some light 3D workstation tasks if need be! One thing to note though, during all of our benchmarks the fan ramped up quite dramatically. It’s not super loud, but loud enough to be audible. Thankfully, the pitch of the fan itself isn’t too high so it’s not grating on the ears, but if you are in a quiet or mostly silent room it will be definetly audible when doing more intensive tasks. The left center of the keyboard also begins to heaten up during intensive tasks so bear that in mind.
Next up we tried the AIDA64 GPU benchmark to see what sort of bandwidth the Intel Iris GPU has. We won’t go over this benchmark in too much detail as it really doesn’t apply to most users who will be purchasing this device, but we thought to add it for the enthusiasts out there as it does show some interesting things about the Intel Iris GPU such as it’s memory read/copy speed, AES/SHA hash benchmarks, fractal benchmarks etc.
Stepping away now from the more enthusasist type benchmarks, we decided to try one that would be more relatable to the average person interested in buying this laptop. File extraction and compression is something that’s done on a day to day basis with laptops, especially in a work or productivity environment, so we gave the built in 7-Zip benchmark a go. We tried at dictionary sizes 12, 24, and 64 megabytes, (We could not go further due to the low RAM size of the laptop) and while although some of the stats were borked like the CPU utilization for some reason, we got a decompression rate of 400-500mb/s, and for compression we got around 35-40mb/s. All around pretty decent and more than enough for basic file extraction.
And now, for the moment you all have been waiting for…gaming benchmarks! Yes, even though this laptop really isn’t marketed as a gaming machine or anything like that, in theory its specs should allow for light gaming and various e-sports and older titles! And with this new Intel Iris GPU, what’s the worst that could happen?
We had a few games in mind when we decided to start benchmarking games on this laptop, so we chose some highly optimized ones to attempt and showcase the Intel Iris GPU. We decided to start with CS:GO since it’s a relatively light e-sports game but still has decent graphics. At 1920×1080 with everything on high settings, dust2 averaged around 30-45 FPS when nothing was happening or just strolling around. But when you shoot or an enemy appears? It drops dramatically, and there were plenty of stutters throughout the match. Turning down the settings to low allows you to get a playable 60 FPS, but we did notice some hiccups. First, when we tried changing the graphics settings, the game crashed. And sometimes, the game would just crash for no reason.
That appears to be the cost of bleeding edge Intel GPU technology, in some cases the driver support can be rather finicky. However it is important to bear in mind that this is software, not a hardware issue, and further stability can be improved in future Intel GPU driver updates. But our experience at the time of writing this article was less than stellar for CS:GO. But it was still playable!
Next up, we tried Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which isn’t the most traditional benchmarking game, but we chose it for a few reasons. Primarily, because of its excellent optimization. MGSV is made with the FOX engine, a high performance multiplatform engine that is extremely well optimized. As such, it’s a decent indicator of a system’s performance since it can run amazingly on even extremely old Nvidia cards. We loaded up EPISODE 3: A HERO’S WAY at 18:00, 1920×1080 with everything on high, we were averaging around 30-40 FPS. When things get dicey, it begins to drop though. Turning down the settings just a bit though solved it and we were able to play at 60 FPS no problem. We were expecting these results though as MGSV is a very well optimized experience, but we also can pleasantly say that we did not experience any crashes, shader or any other technical issues while playing (Although we only played that episode for an hour or two for the most part). Cutscenes looked great as they always do! (Thanks, FOX Engine!)
And last but not least, we decided to try another well optimized game, so we chose Left 4 Dead: 2. We played at 1080p just like before, and with everything high we got around 30-40 FPS with quite a few stutters. Though like before, lowering the settings a bit dramatically improved performance and made it a much more playable experience without comprimising on the visuals. And we didn’t run into any weird crashes or graphical issues, so the fluke before may have just been a CS:GO thing. All in all, it was an excellent experience with little to any comprimise!
Overall, although this laptop really wasn’t designed with gaming in mind, it can still play older titles and e-sports games just fine! We wouldn’t recommend trying anything too demanding though, as the laptop is rather thin and playing a demanding title would likely heat up the laptop fast (along with the keyboard too; watch your fingers!) so it probably wouldn’t be all that good of an experience.
The bottom line is, this laptop is pretty much good at everything. It excels in basic productivity and lesiure tasks like word processing, web browsing, light video and photo editing and light gaming. But it certainly surprised us with its workstation application performance. This laptop really could be used as a mobile workstation if you needed to get some basic 3D work done portably. Blender and Unity3D would likely be great canidates for software one could use on the go with this thing. And with a roughly 8 hour battery life, even when doing performance tasks which will drain it faster, it lasts a decent amount of time. Intel’s CPU effiency/performance core architecture shines a lot in this laptop. And hell, we almost forgot about the touchscreen anti-glare display that also comes with a rather versatile pen! This thing can geniunely be used for light digital art production along with a more traditional (but yet digital!) form of notetaking. The versatality of this thing really cannot be understated.
Bottom line is, we were skeptical of this laptop and especially Team Blues GPU surprise, but we were more than pleasantly surpised, we were damn impressed! However, we have to talk about the price. The fact of the matter is, this is a nearly $1600 dollar laptop. That really is quite a lot of money for a laptop, but its not entirely unjustified. The build quality still impresses us, and the amount of bells and whistles on this thing is quite astonishing. There really aren’t that many laptops out there that have all of these features, along with premium quality in the selection of parts such as the Harman / Kardon speakers. This laptop obviously isn’t for everyone. But, if you are someone that needs a relatively powerful thin and light laptop, someone who’s interested in dipping their toes into Intels GPU platform or has a specfic use case for their GPU, and even an artist who does digital 2D art and 3D modeling, this laptop will impress you. And it will keep on impressing you. Is it a gaming laptop that will play the latest and greatest games at the highest frame count? Nope.
But it’s rather clear about what it is. This is a device for professionals, people who need to get stuff done. And if you fit that bill, we can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend the Portege X30W-K