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Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Master of none

A decent business machine tainted by a low-quality screen and a disappointing battery

The lid of the Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101
Price
£949 exc VAT
  • Great keyboard
  • Powerhorse for business tasks
  • Welcome security features
  • Truly awful display
  • Disappointing battery life

In the last few years, Dynabook has released a number of blazingly quick laptops within its price bracket, with the Tecra range known for its no-frills performance packages, if also for its corner-cutting when it comes to displays. The Tecra A40-K-101 lives up to the family name when it comes to performance, but unfortunately also inherits all the flaws of its predecessors.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Design

The Tecra A40 won't win any awards for its design. Certainly, the brushed metal or soft plastic of the MacBook, XPS or Surface line is entirely missing here, in favour of that trademark Dynabook blue and black. So too is the Tecra A40 missing the slim profile of these competitors – at 18.9mm thick, it's definitely one of the thicker 'portable' laptops on the market. That said, there is a sense that where comfort or artistic satisfaction has been sacrificed, portability and rugged performance have been somewhat enhanced, and the low-profile visual elements of the laptop are far from a deal-breaker.

At 1.45Kg, the Tecra A40 is far from the heaviest laptop on the market (the XPS 15 is 1.8kg), but not quite the lightest either (the 2022 MacBook Air is 1.24kg). That being said, it fits nicely in one hand and is eminently portable by backpack or suitcase. Simple as this sounds, the hinge action when opening the laptop is pleasingly easy, and can be performed with one hand unlike with prettier entries such as the Dell XPS 15.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Display

The Tecra A40's display is underwhelming on a number of levels and gives something of a poor first impression of the laptop's capability. Before conducting any tests, colours generally appeared muted on the display, with YouTube videos lacking vibrancy and contrast, and blacks coming out as dark greys. Additionally, its 16:9 aspect ratio feels outdated, given that the majority of workspace laptops now offer 16:10 for fuller display real estate. One might be forgiven for thinking that with the filmic ratio, Dynabook intended the laptop to be used by creative professionals.

With an extremely poor 58.1% for sRGB gamut colour coverage, however, the Tecra A40 is wholly unsuitable for photographic or video editing, as well as graphic design. At colour reproduction levels this low, you're unlikely to find that even a deck made on the Tecra A40 will look the same on your screen as the office projector.

The anti-glare coating on the screen is quite good and did a decent job at keeping text and images legible even with a torch pointed at the display in our tests. It's a necessary feature, as the Tecra A40's brightness peaks at 275.70 cd/m², below the average for laptops of this category. This is suitable for indoor use, but take the laptop out and about, as advertised, and you might find yourself squinting at the screen somewhat.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard is a clear highlight of the whole machine, and despite being slightly oversensitive, provides a very satisfying typing experience. At this price point, one would expect proper build quality and not the mushy keys of cheaper netbooks, and happily, Dynabook delivered the goods in this regard.

The keyboard layout on the Tecra A40 holds little surprises, being more or less the standard UK fare. One point of contention that may come up, especially if regularly taking calls on the Tecra A40, is the relegation of volume controls to the numbers, rather than the function keys or their own place on the keyboard. This means that each time you want to quickly turn the volume up or down, the function key must first be pressed, which proves a little annoying especially when media keys have become such a staple of laptop keyboards.

While the keyboard is sturdy and functional, the trackpad feels frustratingly cheap. The smooth plastic doesn't provide anything near the tactile experience of the MacBook Pro's brushed metal, large trackpad, but beyond this, it also greatly lacks precision. This makes any kind of detailed work on the Tecra A40 – without the assistance of a mouse – difficult, and in our tests we even found tasks such as clicking on spreadsheet cells a chore.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Specs and performance

With 16GB RAM and a 2.1Ghz, 12-core i7-1260P processor, the Tecra A40 provides more than enough power for intermediate business use, and then some. For day-to-day tasks such as checking emails, working on spreadsheets and taking calls, users should face no problems whatsoever. In our tests

Under IT Pro's in-house performance benchmarks, the Tecra A40 scored 184 for overall computing, a great score that proves it can handle a range of tasks. For the majority of business use cases, this will present no problem, and those seeking to nonetheless perform audio or video editing on the Tecra A40 should find the process responsive enough. The 512GB NVMe SSD that came with the model tested will help greatly in this department, ensuring read and write speeds keep up with the demands of most any application. That being said, the aforementioned colour accuracy problems hold the Tecra A40 back in this department, even when the performance does not.

When handling a tough task, the Tecra A40 does tend to run a little loudly. With just a few tabs open in Edge, the laptop faced no slowdown but did start to ramp up its fans very audibly. This isn't a deal-breaker by any means and is certainly a common feature of laptops that aim for performance. That being said, it could theoretically pose a problem if you were looking to use the laptop for a function such as podcasting, although it doesn't go nearly loud enough to drown out speech.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Battery life

In our tests, the battery lasted just 6hrs 28mins – well below Dynabook's claims of 9h16min, and not even enough to get you through a full day of work. This is disappointing, particularly given that the sacrifices in design and overall build could have been done in order to place more attention on the business-specific aspects of the laptop such as battery life.

The shorter battery life is also somewhat baffling considering the pared-back specs of the screen. Even the XPS 15, which boasts a 4k OLED screen, lasts longer at 7hrs and 16mins. 1080p IPS displays simply shouldn't draw more power than this, and Dynabook should at least have ensured the laptop was capable of surviving the commute into and back from the office without needing a top-up.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Ports and features 

With two USB 3.1 ports, as well as USB-C Thunderbolt ports – both of which can facilitate data and power transfer – alongside a gigabit-capable ethernet port, HDMI port, and MicroSD card slot. This is almost all the connectivity one could need in a work laptop and amply caters to any user's monitor or keyboard needs. The versatility of having a dedicated power port, alongside the option of feeding power in via the Thunderbolt ports, is particularly handy, allowing users to use USB-C chargers for both their phone or laptop.

The Tecra A40 comes with both Windows Hello facial recognition and a fingerprint sensor, which both provide more secure access to the device than a simple password. This is in line with more premium offerings such as the MacBook and XPS lines. Arguably, business laptops require these features even more than consumer tech, as a work laptop could contain vital company information worth much more to threat actors in a data breach, so they're a welcome addition.

Although the microphone on the Tecra A40 is sharp enough for any video call, producing a well-balanced voice mix in our tests, the webcam built into the laptop is extremely poor. While not essential for a work call, good video reproduction can make the difference between an engaged online meeting and one where workers phone it in – literally – with cameras off and don't engage half as much. This is particularly the case with the increase in working from home and digital transformation.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 review: Verdict

Overall, the Dynabook Tecra A40 is something of a middling entry to the business laptop space. Though it scored very well on performance, proving its worth as a portable workhorse, its other shortcomings make it hard to imagine a use case in which it really excels. Battery life and colour accuracy are the clear pitfalls here.

Despite this, it's still a capable entry in the Dynabook range, if one without a clear purpose in mind. Light, equipped with a great keyboard and with more ports than you have peripherals, the Tecra A40 is a capable, if not indispensable, laptop for business use.

Dynabook Tecra A40-K-101 specifications

Processor

Quad-core 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU

RAM

16GB DDR4 3,200MHz RAM  

Graphics adapter

Intel Iris Xe graphics

Storage

512GB NVMe SSD

Screen size (in)

14in

Screen resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Screen type

IPS

Touchscreen

N/A

Memory card slot

MicroSD slot

3.5mm audio jack

Combo 3.5mm jack

Graphics outputs

2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 1x HDMI 2

Other ports

2 x USB-A 3.2, Gigabit Ethernet

Web Cam

720p IR webcam

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 6E

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5.2

NFC

N/A

Dimensions, mm (WDH)

323.6 x 220.6 x 18.9mm

Weight (kg) - with keyboard where applicable

1.45kg

Battery size (Wh)

53Wh battery

Operating system

Windows 10 Pro

 
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