Introduction, Design Features
The business notebook market is a tough business. Today, it’s tougher than ever thanks to the sheer wealth of choices and the increasingly competitive level of quality among similarly priced models. Lenovo, HP, Dell, and Toshiba all produce refined biz laptops, and have been at it for a long time. The 14-inch Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017)ThinkPad 25 Anniversary Edition illustrates just how long this game has been going on.
Toshiba is clamoring to have a piece of that 14-inch pie, too, with its Tecra X40-D. This elite business machine is swathed in magnesium alloy and all of the latest tech. It’s one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks in this size range. Although our fully loaded review unit commanded north of $2,000, the Tecra X40-D in its base iteration (SKU D1452) was on sale on Toshiba’s Web site for $1,189 as we tapped out this review. That gets you a 14-inch touch display, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of solid-state storage. It’s noteworthy that the Tecra X40-D comes standard with a three-year international limited warranty, too. For roughly the same specs and warranty coverage, you’re looking at spending $1,764 for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017), while the Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480) goes for an even higher $1,859.
That said, if you’re spending what it takes to get a top-of-the-line business machine, there’s probably more than dollars and cents that go into the equation. Let’s see what the Tecra X40-D adds to the mix to make it worth—or not worth—your while.
The dark blue exterior of the Tecra X40-D doesn’t work particularly hard to attract the eye. Perhaps that’s the idea with business-class models like this. We don’t mind the drab looks, although some who spend well into the four-figure range might.
The outer shell of this notebook is magnesium alloy, a material that could be mistaken for plastic at first glance. Its cool temperature and the high-pitched, almost scratchy sound it makes when you run your fingers across its surface are enough to tell you it’s definitely not plastic, though. This lightweight material helps the Tecra X40-D barely register on the scales at 2.8 pounds. The Toshiba neatly slots in between the 2.5-pound Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) and the three-pound Dell Latitude 14 7000 (7480).
Not only is the Tecra’s mag-alloy exterior lightweight, but it’s also strong. We couldn’t visibly flex or bend the Tecra’s chassis in any particular way, and that included the lid. As a matter of fact, the lid was extraordinarily stiff for being so thin.
The silver display hinges are all that provide color contrast in the overall design of this notebook. The hinges permit the display to tilt back 45 degrees past vertical, as we’d expect. Unless you do it very quickly, the hinges are too stiff to allow the lid to be opened one-handed. On the plus side, they do keep the lid from wobbling too much while you’re making use of the touch screen.
The Tecra X40-D has slightly slimmer-than-usual dimensions for a 14-inch notebook. The display bezel isn’t as narrow as it is on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017), but it’s trim enough to keep the notebook from looking dated. The chassis measures 13.1 inches side to side, 9 inches deep, and just 0.7 inch thick. It’s one of the slimmest 14-inch notebooks out there, though it’s bested by the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017).
We enjoyed typing on the Tecra X40-D’s full-size keyboard. The keys have a light but firm feel and plenty of travel for good feedback. The keyboard isn’t as engaging to type on as the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s, but we’re not complaining. There’s one level of white LED backlighting under the keys for working in the dark. The keyboard’s layout is fine; stand-alone Page Up and Page Down keys sit near the arrow cluster, while Home and End keys are at the upper right. The top row and arrow keys are quite small and take some precision. The only real layout nuances we can point out are the undersize space bar, right-Shift, and forward-slash (”) keys. This keyboard otherwise passes our scrutiny with flying colors.
Toshiba includes a rubber pointing stick in the center of the keyboard, something that only a few notebooks possess anymore. The pointing stick has its own left- and right-click buttons just under the space bar. Although novel, this pointing-stick setup doesn’t stand up to Lenovo’s UltraNav solutions on its ThinkPads. The Tecra’s stick isn’t as responsive, nor are its buttons as reliable for providing feedback. At least the button clicks are relatively quiet.
The Synaptics-powered touch pad has a luxuriously smooth anti-glare surface. The pad is amply sized for the Tecra X40-D’s 14-inch display. The clicking action is precise, requiring just the right amount of pressure while making a minimal amount of noise. The right-click area is at the bottom right, approximately where a physical right-click button would be located. A smart feature of the pad is that if you’re tracking your finger across the surface, anywhere you press down, including in the right-click area, will be a left click. This makes it quite natural to move and click, so to speak. Lifting your finger off the pad and then pressing in the right-click area performs a right-click.
A Type-A USB 3.0 port and an audio combo jack (headphone/microphone) are the only connections that grace the left edge of the chassis…
The USB port over here is the sole Type-A port sample on this notebook—you know, the rectangular USB port we all know—which can be problematic if you have more than one traditional USB device. Also on this side is a Kensington-style notch for a lockdown cable.
Most of the Tecra X40-D’s ports are on the right edge of the chassis. On the far left is the optional SmartCard reader. Past the midway point, you have the MicroSD card reader, dual Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C USB) ports, and the HDMI video-out. The power adapter included with this notebook connects via Type-C USB; either Type-C port can be used for charging the notebook. It’s nice to see that the HDMI port is full-size. There is no native DisplayPort connectivity on this notebook, but you can get an optional Toshiba Thunderbolt 3 dock to solve that problem. (Take a look at our review of the Toshiba Portege X30-D for our take on that device; we had it in hand, then.)
The 14-inch display on our Tecra X40-D review unit had 10-point touch support. The anti-glare screen surface wouldn’t make you think that, though; it was a surprise to us when we touched the screen and something happened.
The display is an in-plane switching (IPS) panel with excellent image quality and wide viewing angles. The picture doesn’t wash out when you tilt it forward or backward, let alone side-to-side. The brightness is above average; at 70 percent brightness, it seems at least as bright as the maximum we’ve seen on other 14-inch notebooks. We have an inclination that the display’s brightness actually worked against the Tecra X40-D in our battery life test, which we run at 50 percent brightness.
We were also fond of the display’s 1080p (1,920×1,080-pixel) resolution. This is just about perfect on a display with a 14-inch diagonal. Text looked fine to our eyes at 125 percent scaling. Overall, Toshiba couldn’t have put a better 1080p display on this notebook. Just watch out for the configurable versions of the Tecra X40-D, which can come with an anemic 720p (1,366×768-pixel) panel with limited viewing angles. Opting for the 1080p touch display over the 720p one is well worth the $150 upcharge.
Above the display is a traditional 720p/30fps Webcam, and an IR camera that allows you to use the Windows Hello biometric login in Windows 10. It’s not that often we see IR cameras offered on business notebooks; consider it an investment for the future. The Tecra X40-D also has a fingerprint reader built into the touch pad, a feature we definitely look for on a business notebook.
The speakers in this notebook are under the front palm rest. Tuned by Harman/Kardon, they have a reasonably full sound if the notebook is sitting on a solid surface. On a soft or uneven surface, such as your lap, the speakers lose most of their ability to project sound. The volume level is sufficient for personal use.
The Intel Core i-series 15-watt processors at the heart of this notebook see to it that daily tasks are no problem. We found photo editing was pretty seamless, too, although the power wasn’t there for 4K video editing. (It’s not like the Tecra X40-D is designed for the latter, but that never stopped us from trying.)
Toshiba sent us a custom-configured model that was brimming with options. Ours had the fastest processor offered, the Core i7-7600U. Its dual processing cores operate at 2.8GHz, with the ability to jump to 3.9GHz for brief stints via Turbo Boost. The Core i5-7300U processor that is standard in this notebook should perform similarly for most tasks; you’d see a mild improvement with the Core i7-7600U if you were running CPU-intensive tasks.
Toshiba offers up to 32GB of RAM in the Tecra X40-D. Our unit had 16GB in a two 8GB-DIMM configuration, our preferred amount for a high-end machine like this. The 8GB of RAM that comes standard in this machine ought to be just fine for most things.
Storage-wise, this notebook has a single M.2 slot for solid-state-drive (SSD) storage. Limited storage capability is expected baggage on a notebook as trim as this one. Our review unit had a 256GB drive; Toshiba offers options up to 1TB.
You can upgrade the Tecra X40-D’s RAM and storage. We’re glad to see the end-user accessibility. The competing Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) doesn’t offer upgradable RAM, opting instead to have it soldered to the motherboard. Accessing the internals of this machine takes a couple of minutes, but it’s easy enough. Both DIMM slots and the M.2 slot are accessible after removing the 12 screws holding the bottom panel onto the chassis.
For cooling, the Tecra X40-D has one fan located toward the center-rear. The fan is responsive to what you’re doing; it predictably turned on if we did something other than basic productivity. There’s just not a whole lot of room in this notebook’s svelte chassis for the heat to go, so the fan has to get rid of it in short order. The fan was audible in our quiet testing room while it was running at a lower volume, and it was audible with background noise while running at maximum speed. We only ever noted the fan kicking up to maximum revs while we were running our benchmarks. We wished it were a bit quieter when running at lower RPMs, though.
The chassis tended to heat up near the underside’s center and back to the rear from there, but like the maximum fan speed, this occurred only while we were running benchmarks. Otherwise, the Tecra’s chassis was warm to the touch, at most.