The market in business-grade convertible laptops is hotting up, as Toshiba enters the fray with a powerful new 2-in-1.
The Toshiba Portégé X20 is the company's latest stab at reclaiming some of the ground stolen by Apple and others in the business-class market. This sleek 2-in-1 is packing some serious specs, including powerful internal hardware, stonking battery life and enterprise-grade biometric security.
But has Toshiba done enough to muscle its way back into the business notebook arena? Let’s look at each key criteria in more depth.
The Portégé X20 initially looks attractive, but unfortunately the build quality isn't quite as appealing. Despite using a magnesium chassis, the Portégé feels somewhat flimsy and creaky, and it doesn't have the premium sheen of some of its sturdier, aluminium-framed rivals. It doesn't feel cheap, necessarily, but it feels less like a premium laptop than the likes of a MacBook or Dell XPS 13.
This is a shame, because the design is otherwise good. The hinge feels sturdy with a smooth action, and once we positioned it we didn't have any worries about it shifting or falling down. Visually, it looks sleek and professional, with a brushed-aluminium effect on the black lid and keyboard surround – we just wish Toshiba had splashed out a bit more for sturdier materials, particularly given its premium price.
On a brighter note, the 1.1kg weight puts it squarely towards the lighter end of its bracket in terms of portability. At 15.4mm, it's not as thin as some of its rivals, but this also means that the Portégé can fit in a full-sized USB 3.0 port and a full-powered Intel Core chip, so it's a compromise we're more than happy to make.
Keyboard and touchpad
Of course, like virtually all convertibles, it's a touch too heavy to be comfortably used as a tablet for any extended period of time. It works beautifully in both tent and stand mode, however, and it's not nearly as weighty as some other 2-in-1 devices we've seen.
The keyboard itself is generally good – the keys are well-spaced with decent travel depth, and we had no problems typing for long stretches with it. The only complaint we had with it is that the feedback from the keys isn't quite as crisp and defined as we would have liked, although we've seen far worse and this is hardly a deal-breaker.
The trackpad, unfortunately, is less impressive. It feels small even for a 12.5-inch laptop, and we found ourselves having to reposition our finger quite often to reach from one edge of the screen to the other. This can be alleviated somewhat by bumping the sensitivity up in the options, but the fact we had to do this at all is discouraging, particularly on a $2000-plus business machine. Compared to the generous trackpads on some competitive laptops, Toshiba's 100mm x 57mm offering feels somewhat miserly.
The Portégé's 12.5in screen isn't particularly attention-grabbing on first glance. While the matte-coated panel is well-suited to harshly-lit office environments, it lacks the razor-thin bezels that make devices like the XPS 13 so immediately attractive and its Full HD resolution is merely average rather than impressive.
Look beneath the surface, however, and you'll find a rather excellent display. The Portégé offers superb contrast, a capable 354cd/m2 maximum brightness and excellent colour accuracy. There's a touch of undersaturation on the reds, but on the whole, the sRBG colour coverage is excellent, with a rate of over 95%. It really is a superb screen, and one that's as suited to photo and video editing as it is to standard office work – if you don't mind the entry-level resolution, that is.
The touchscreen is smooth and responsive, with the Portégé’s AES stylus and palm-rejection technology ensuring that jotting down notes or sketches can be done quickly and easily. It’s not quite as well-suited to graphics work as something like the Surface Book or the iPad Pro and the stylus isn't quite as fluid and natural to use as the likes of the Apple Pencil or Surface Pen, but it's perfect for quickly annotating documents or taking notes in meetings. Plus, it has the advantage of being bundled for free, whereas both of the above examples are sold as after-market extras.
Specs and performance
Shipping with a choice of seventh-generation (Kaby Lake) Intel processors – ranging from a dual-core 2.5Hz Core i5-7200U to a 2.8GHz Core i7-7600U – the Portégé isn't exactly skimping on power. The inclusion of full-powered Core processors rather than low-profile Y-series chip used in other ultraportables means the Portege is more than competitive when it comes to performance.
We tested the Portégé model with Core i7-7500U processor and 8GB of RAM – and not only does it run rings around most of the other ultraportables we've tested, an overall benchmark score of 53 puts it above even Dell's excellent XPS 13, which is high praise indeed. Scoring highly for both single and multi-core operations, the Portégé can safely handle all the workloads you'd expect from a high-end business device.
Of course, the price of using a full-power processor is that the Toshiba has had to sacrifice the fanless design sported by competitors, opting for a 'Hybrid Air Cooling System' in order to keep things chilled. Not only does this increase the thickness, it also means that the Portégé can occasionally go into what we call 'hairdryer mode' when over-taxed, emitting a loud and irritating whine as the fans go into overdrive to maintain thermal efficiency.
Theoretically, this should only happen when you push it to the absolute limit, but we found it happening with some regularity – too often for a premium laptop.
The battery life, thankfully, was a brighter note. In our battery benchmark tests, the Portégé racked up a mammoth score of 10 hours 58 minutes. This outstrips not only Dell's XPS 13, but even the mighty MacBook family – another seriously impressive feat.
Ports and features
As is common for ultraportables, connectivity options are light – there's just one USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port for power and data and a USB 3.0 port, in addition to a 3.5mm jack for headphones and microphones. While this is about the standard for ultraportable devices, the fact that the Portégé is a quite a bit thicker than a standard ultraportable makes it feel a little bit mean that more options weren’t included.
If the connectivity features are somewhat lacking, however, the security features certainly aren't. The Portégé features support for Windows Hello's biometric authentication in two forms, courtesy of a fingerprint reader built into the trackpad and an IR camera. This is in addition to Toshiba's BIOS and TPM 2.0 encryption, along with Windows 10 Pro's security features such as BitLocker drive encryption, giving you peace of mind that your business data is going to stay secure.
Don't be fooled by its unassuming exterior – under its demure shell, the Toshiba Portégé is secretly an enterprise-grade powerhouse. It blows other ultraportables out of the water, and even manages to match the mighty Dell XPS 13 in terms of raw performance.
Toshiba has also managed to pack in a superbly high-quality display. The resolution might not match up to more impressive rivals, but in terms of colour accuracy, contrast and general fidelity, it's a professional-grade panel.
It’s not cheap though. Prices start at $2,145, which includes an Intel Core i5-7200U processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB PCIe solid state drive. There are five other models, ranging in price up to $2,915 – which gets you a Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD.
That entry-level price is around $150 dearer than an equivalent Surface Pro or XPS 13, although you’re getting plenty for your money – including Windows 10 Pro – and it’s cheaper than the entry-level XPS 13 2-in-1.
There are few niggles, like the fan noise and small trackpad, that we’d prefer not to see in a premium laptop. However, there's still an awful lot to recommend the Toshiba Portégé X20W, and if you can look past those niggles, you'll find yourself with a very capable and versatile business hybrid.
This review is based on an article that originally appeared at IT Pro.