By Mark Hachman
On paper, Dynabook’s Tecra X50-F 15.6-inch business notebook looks like a pretty solid buy, with an attractive mix of features. Now majority-owned by Sharp, which took over the company in 2018, Dynabook’s product announcement earlier this year impressed us with its emphasis on large, lightweight business machines.
As the first out of the gate, however, the Tecra X50-F suffers from various small problems, overall lacking the polish of its rivals. It also barely avoids the cardinal sin of less than eight hours of battery life.
This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them.
The Dynabook Tecra X50 is surprisingly lightweight. The plastic chassis is a fingerprint magnet, though, and we found it difficult to get rid of the smudges on the trackpad after a few days of use.
A note on pricing: Late in the review process, we were informed that Dynabook sent us a build-to-order model instead of one of the standard Tecra X50 configurations. The unit we originally asked to review cost $1,544, which you can use as a reference point to inform your purchase of other Tecra X50s.
The Tecra X50-F design is a typical clamshell, folding back roughly 45 degrees off the horizontal. A pair of metal hinges accents the corners, securely holding the screen, which simply refuses to flop. Everything feels strong and sturdy, and yet the Tecra X50-F is surprisingly light for a 15-inch laptop.
Dynabook appears to have achieved the lighter weight in part through the plastic chassis. While there’s no shame in plastic, the material is hardly inspiring. It’s likely a cost savings, as is the display, whose 262 maximum nits of luminosity is barely enough to pass our usability threshold.
The Tecra in full recline. The port selection is one of the Tecra’s strengths, with a mix of forward-facing USB-C Thunderbolt ports and other, legacy USB Type A connections.
While the design includes quite a bit of functionality, some of it seems clumsily executed. Tapping the power button lights the keyboard, but leaves the screen blank and seemingly powered off until a “Dynabook” logo swoops in. The dual biometrics include a front-facing Windows Hello camera that sometimes had issues recognizing me, forcing me to type in a PIN or password, or use my fingerprint instead. The fingerprint sensor is a “swipe” model, which experience has shown needs recalibration over time. The camera’s sliding shutter actually fell out of its track once, though I reattached it without issue and it didn’t fall out again.
One or two of these issues, in isolation, probably don’t matter. But when they all tumble out at you while you’re still sipping your first coffee of the day—yikes.
The Dynabook Tecra X50 comes with a physical shutter that you can slide to cover up the Webcam. One time after sliding the cover closed, it popped off! I was able to reinsert it, though, and it worked perfectly thereafter.
The fan’s also a little loud for my tastes. Under its default configuration, Dynabook’s fan flips on quite frequently. The frequency is adjustable in the Dynabook settings, although there doesn’t seem to be an option to enable a true fanless mode. Our unit also occasionally produced some faint whining similar to a rotating a hard drive’s chatter, though no such part was installed.
The Tecra X50 comes equipped with a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is important if you’re considering adding multiple monitors. There’s an HDMI port, though that’s only capable of driving an external 4K monitor at a minimal 30Hz refresh rate. Dynabook shipped us an external Thunderbolt dock to compensate (it’s not bundled with the laptop), with a miniDisplayPort capable of driving the display at a comfortable 60Hz.
The left side of the Tecra’s chassis.
Typing on the Dynabook Tecra is a mixed bag. Its small, chiclet keys were surprisingly pleasant to type upon, though I made a number of mistakes while my fingers adjusted. There’s scant travel in the keys, though they’re resilient and provide a comfortable landing pad. The spacebar is also narrower than normal, in part because of a second Ctrl key in the bottom row. I found this particularly annoying.
While the Tecra’s keyboard hides quite a few options, they’re somewhat poorly implemented. All of the secondary function labels are faintly printed and difficult to find. Dynabook also made some odd or simply poor design decisions, such as placing the volume controls in the second, numerical row of keys, rather than next to the audio “mute” key in the function row. The page-up and -down keys, which tend to wander across various laptop designs, are down near the cursor keys at the bottom of the keyboard. The backlighting is wan.
The Tecra’s keyboard hides a lot of complexity. Unfortunately, this is offset by the fact that the spacebar is shorter than on other keyboards, possibly hampering your typing.
The most noteworthy addition is the traditional Tecra/ThinkPad-like pointing stick or joystick in the middle of the keyboard, which can supplement a mouse, touchscreen, or touchpad. By default, though, the pointing stick’s traversal across the screen is slow, so you’ll have to dig through the settings to adjust it.
The Tecra’s precision trackpad is medium-sized, smooth, and mostly navigable across the entirety of its surface. A pair of Tecra-style buttons at the top of the trackpad provide additional input options, though the middle button that appeared on 2013’s Tecra Z50 has disappeared. I noticed, however, that the trackpad accumulated a lot of smudges that were hard to clean off.
The Tecra’s trackpad is worthy of note, since it has both a fingerprint reader as well as discrete buttons.
Keep reading for performance benchmarks.
Dynabook’s Tecra X50-F is a large, lightweight, 15-inch notebook PC. But a busy fan, some hardware issues, and a scant eight hours of battery life pull it up short of the competition.
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