Dynabook Tecra A40-J review: The business laptop that shouldn’t be licked, unless you really want to
- Great keyboard
- Range of screen choices
- Lots of connection ports
- Thin and light
- Decent battery life
- Antimicrobial covering
- Uninspiring design
- Nobody, and we mean nobody should be licking their laptop
- Integrated Intel graphics are uninspiring
I've been reviewing Tecra laptops for some decades now, back when the manufacturing company still went under the wider Toshiba banner. It's called Dynabook now, but the basics that made Toshiba's laptops haven't really changed all that much over the years. Tecra are no-nonsense machines that don't have a whole host of visual "flair" to them, but equally deliver key performance relative to the market they're pitched at.
The Dynabook Tecra A40-J is technically a business-grade laptop, but its sensible approach makes it a suitable workhorse for just about anyone seeking out a decent laptop.
Dynabook Tecra A40-J review: Design
The plastic feel of the Tecra A40-J doesn't suggest a huge level of robustness in the way that you might get from a metal body model. However, appearances can be deceiving. Dynabook claims full MIL-DST-8102H drop and dust certification, so it should be able to take a few hits without knocking itself out.
The Tecra A40-J is built around a 14-inch display, but like most laptop makers there's a variety of technologies at play here. At the base level you'll get a 1366x768 LCD panel, while the mid-range gets a Full HD IPS LCD. Finally, the top tier model (which includes the model Dynabook sent me for review) gets that 14-inch Full HD IPS LCD with included touchscreen capabilities.
The Tecra A40-J won't do a full hinge flip to take advantage of that touchscreen if you did want tablet-style capabilities. Although, it will go fully flat, which is entertainingly odd. I'm long used to the propped up mode of many ultraportables being referred to as "tent" mode, but what do you call a fully flat laptop? Pizza mode, perhaps?
Many ultraportables offer thin designs at the cost of peripheral flexibility, but this isn't an issue for the Tecra A40-J. On the left hand side you'll find headphone, USB 3.2 A type, HDMI and dual USB C Thunderbolt 4 ports, just ahead of the power adaptor socket. On the right you get a microSD reader, another USB 3.2 A type socket and a gigabit ethernet socket.
To keep the Tecra A40-J slim, the ethernet port is the fold-out type, so it's a little trickier to fit than a full-sized port. If you're tethering to an ethernet port, this isn't likely to be a huge inconvenience.
Toshiba and Dynabook never had the greatest keyboards in my experience, but I was pleasantly surprised with the response and comfort of the Tecra A40-J's keyboard. This review has been written using it, and while for other laptops that's often more of a chore, it's been a pleasant experience.
One particularly nice factor here is that while it has solid key travel, so I can feel the solid strike of each and every key, there's also good noise muffling, so even at my machine-gun-worst, it's never particularly noisy.
On the camera front, you get a fairly bog-standard HD-capable camera which will be enough to get you through a few Zoom sessions, but not much more. It does give the Tecra A40-J compatibility with Microsoft's Windows Hello biometric authentication for quicker login.
If you're concerned about security and privacy, the webcam itself has a physical shutter that easily slides across to block visual access from the camera.
There's also an option for a biometric fingerprint reader, but this wasn't supplied on the review model, so I can't comment on its performance.
Finally, one of the sales pitches that Dynabook makes for the Tecra A40-J is that it features an antibacterial paint coating. I'm fairly sure that I'm not the first reviewer to be testing out the review model supplied, but I draw the line at licking laptops to see if I get unwell.
There are some things that even I won't do. In any case, it should be less susceptible to spreading germs than other laptops, but I'm not willing to benchmark that, even with good medical insurance behind me.
Dynabook Tecra A40-J review: Performance
The Tecra A40-J ships (at the time of writing) with a range of 11th generation Intel Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors. The model supplied by Dynabook for review ran on an Intel Core i7-1165G7 2.8Ghz processor. It's not quite the technical top of the performance tree (that'd be the vPRO capable Core i5 or Core i7 models) but certainly a premium unit. Bear that in mind, because the lower spec, cheaper Core i3 and Core i5 models won't perform quite as quickly.
That processor is matched up with between 4–32GB of RAM; on the review model I tested 16GB was present. Storage ranges from 128GB up to 1TB depending on price, with the review unit featuring a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD. CrystalDisk Info suggests that the review model features a Samsung SSD, although like many storage parts and chips that's subject to change and Dynabook doesn't specify that within the Tecra A40-J's specification sheet.
We've tested plenty of 11th Gen Core i7 systems, and they're all generally good performers within the kind of business space that the Dynabook A40-J targets. That's borne out by its benchmark results, where it doesn't take first place, but it doesn't embarrass itself either across a range of tests:
You wouldn't particularly throw the Tecra A40-J at any graphically intensive tasks to speak of. But, it's capable enough for essential photo manipulation, or, if the boss isn't looking a few lighter PC games.
The Tecra A40-J as shipped out of the box came with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled. But, it very quickly identified that it more than met the requirements for Windows 11, which installed without a hitch on the test unit. Windows 11 isn't a mandatory upgrade if you're concerned at a business level about compatibility, but when the time comes the Tecra A40-J should be able to handle it without issue.
Dynabook Tecra A40-J review: Battery is reliable, not exceptional
In the ultrabook space, a lot of manufacturers make some really overblown claims about battery life, claiming a day (or sometimes more) battery endurance for their thin and light marvels. Few live up to those claims on any kind of close examination.
Dynabook's approach is refreshingly plain here, claiming a more modest 10.4 hours for the Tecra A40-J. I could imagine some variance here, depending on screen and processor choice of course, but then battery life is always a variable matter depending on your laptop usage.
That's why we test battery life using 2 different scenarios. PC Mark 10's Gaming Battery benchmark gives us a tougher sustained test to get battery scores from, while a simpler local Full HD video looping test gives us a longer life test under less strain.
Here's how the Tecra A40-J compared against other convertible or thin and light laptops across those tests:The Tecra A40J doesn't quite make it to its claimed 624 minute run time in our video test, but it's quite close to that mark. That being said, there's plenty of other options out there that do manage better (in some cases a lot better) in that test. In the more gruelling gaming test, the Tecra A40-J fell into the middle of the pack, which overall suggests decently balanced battery life.
On a much more anecdotal level, I've been able to use it for everyday tasks within a standard working day with few issues, but again, your workload and battery life might differ.
When it comes time to recharge, you can use either of the USB C ports with a compatible charger, but it'll be quicker with Dynabook's supplied 65W AC adaptor.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you want a plain, no-nonsense business laptop.
- Don't buy it if you need higher graphics performance or battery life.
The Tecra A40-J, like Tecras before it going back many years isn't a flagship product. For Dynabook, that'd be something under the Portege branding. Instead, it's a workhorse product, styled as such and delivering good performance at a fair price. You won't wow anyone with its style, and anyone who needs high level GPU performance won't get on with its integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics.
However, for everyday business use, it's nicely balanced with a very nice keyboard, great assortment of ports and no frills to distract from getting the job done.
Dynabook Tecra A40-J review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
The Dynabook Tecra A40-J was supplied by Dynabook for the purposes of review. The unit supplied was tested and evaluated over a 1 week period, including benchmarking, battery testing, everyday app usage and physical usage testing. The author has been writing about and testing laptops for more than 20 years across a range of publications and has extensive experience in laptop testing, metrics and value.
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