Toshiba KIRAbook Review

Laptop manufacturers have been in the process of upgrading their current product lines to feature Full HD screens, which are capable of a 1920 x 1080 resolution, which has certainly impressed us in the past considering how visually pleasing it is to have a 1080p screen sitting in your lap or on your desk. But when you put a Full HD screen up against a screen like the MacBook with Retina Display, you’ll probably think manufacturers could certainly push the envelope a bit in terms of the resolution their laptops are capable of producing.

Google recently announced its Chromebook Pixel and is capable of producing 4.3 million pixels on its screen, but PC users have, for the most part, been left out in the cold if they wanted a super-high-resolution laptop to work on. Enter Toshiba with its completely unexpected announcement of its KIRAbook, which is the first Windows 8 high-resolution ultrabook that is equipped with a 13-inch PixelPure 2560 x 1440 HD touchscreen. That’s very impressive, but is having that many pixels in a 13-inch ultrabook all it’s cracked up to be? That’s exactly what we’re going to find out in our review, so let’s get to it!

Context

Owning a MacBook Pro for work, laptops are extremely important to me as there’d be no way I’d be able to pay the bills without being able to write, edit video and produce regular content for this fine website. The power of a laptop is important to me as I need it to edit video and play the occasional modern-day video game like SimCity or Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Portability is also extremely important to me in a laptop as I often attend events both in New York City and in remote locations. Lugging around a heavy laptop is not my idea of a good time, so the lighter it is, the happier my back will be.

Lastly, a laptop’s keyboard is also of importance considering a good portion of my day is spent writing stories. If a laptop’s keyboard doesn’t feel right, it could ruin my workflow, meaning you won’t get to read as many exciting and interesting stories from moi.

Just to clarify, I’ve been reviewing a number of laptops recently so I’ll certainly spend a bit of time comparing it to others I’ve used in the past, but just wanted you to know what I currently own and use on a regular basis for my day-to-day work

Technical Highlights

13.3” diagonal WQHD PixelPure™ LED backlit touchscreen display (2560 x 1440)
Intel® Core™ i5-3337U Processor (3MB Cache, up to 2.7 GHz) with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology + Mobile Intel® HD Graphics
8GB DDR3 1600MHz
Windows 8
256GB mSATA SSD
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 2230, 2×2 BGN
Bluetooth® version 4.0
3x USB ports 3.0 ports (1 with USB Sleep and Charge), 1x HDMI-out,  Memory Card Reader
1x combo headphone / microphone jack
315.97mm x 207.01 x 17.78mm (12.44” x 8.15” x 0.70”)
1.34kg (2.97lbs)
4 cell/52Wh Lithium Polymer battery

Official Specifications on Toshiba.com

Industrial Design (excellent!)

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

We’ll get to drooling over the KIRAbook’s 2560 x 1440 display in a moment, but until then, let’s first check out the entire package Toshiba has built around its high-resolution display. The body of the KIRAbook is built completely out of a magnesium alloy enclosure that looks similar to brushed aluminum (but a bit darker) and not as reflective. Thanks to this treatment, the Toshiba KIRAbook has a “premium” feel from top to bottom as there isn’t a spot on the KIRAbook that doesn’t have the magnesium alloy. Well – except for the keys and its display, but we’re sure you could already assume that would be the case.

The back of the KIRAbook’s display has a Toshiba logo located at the bottom-right corner that looks to be made of glass, which offers a nice contrast to all of that magnesium alloy. Underneath its base is where you’ll find the KIRAbook’s speakers which are angled outwards and located close to the front-edge of the base.

Four rubber stumps are located at the four corners of the base’s underside, as well as 11 visible screws located in the rear, middle and front. Two exhaust vents are located at the rear of the base’s underside, one that is straight and another one that spirals. The top of base is where you’ll find the KIRAbook’s power button along with an LED for Wi-Fi connection.

The KIRAbook weighs a total of 2.97lbs and we found it wears its weight well as there isn’t an area that feels heavier than the rest and can easily be held in one hand. The magnesium alloy feels smooth when touched, while at the same time offering a secure feeling that slightly grips your hand to the ultrabook. The first time I held the KIRAbook, I was surprised to feel how light the Toshiba KIRAbook was, especially for an ultrabook at this size and with this kind of display resolution.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

The keyboard on the KIRAbook has a feel I personally prefer on my laptop keyboards as it is quite clicky while offering a slight sponginess at the end of a key press. The keys respond very well when pressed as they offer a nice feedback when pressed and released. Each key is black with a white symbol and overall feel smooth with an extremely slight texture to it at the location of each key’s symbol. The overall size of the keys feel comfortable with the top row of keys (ESC, F1, etc) made smaller so they would all fit.

The palm rests on the KIRAbook feel rather short as my hands are nearly at its edge when typing. The magnesium alloy material allows for my palms to move about without little effort, while at the same time, allowing them to stick to the ultrabook if I decide they’re in a good spot. The edges of the palm rest feel a bit sharp as the edge of the KIRAbook’s base has a very thin strip which connects the base’s underside to the keyboard. The corners of the base closest to you are also quite sharp as they’re rounded out, but when you glide your hands over them, they don’t feel smooth at all.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

Next is the trackpad which is a wider trackpad, meaning you’ll be swiping the night away without having to do much finger lifting. The trackpad feels smooth and features two thin lines towards the bottom, which we’re sure was put there in order to help KIRAbook owners left and right click. A left click can be performed by tapping the trackpad or clicking it in, while a right-mouse click is performed by clicking the bottom-right corner of the trackpad.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

Ports: The ports on the KIRAbook are easy to access as they’re all located at the sides of the ultrabook. The right side is where you’ll find a USB 3.0 port, a dual headphone / microphone jack and a memory card reader. The left side houses two additional USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI-out port and an AC adapter port. It’s interesting to see Toshiba decide to include a full HDMI port in the KIRAbook when most ultrabook manufacturers have been offering mini-HDMI ports, which we certainly like since we have a ton of HDMI cables collecting dust in our office that the KIRA could make good use of.

Display (excellent!)

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

We’re sure this category is one of the main reasons why you are considering the Toshiba KIRAbook, and we’re happy to report it certainly doesn’t disappoint as each time we viewed a high-resolution image on the ultrabook, we were blown away at the amount of detail its 2560 x 1440 display is able to produce. Not only is the KIRAbook equipped with a high-resolution display, but it uses IPS display technology, which means it can be viewed at extreme angles, although we noticed it was slightly difficult to read the display at the most extreme angles, but photos looked fine.

If you have never used a high-resolution display on a laptop, the principle is just the same as smartphones and tablets: the higher pixel density makes: 1/ reading more agreeable 2/ the user interface and icons look sharper and 3/ high-resolution photos look very much sharper. 1080p movies would be no different, or only slightly better since the source video uses a lower resolution anyway (some real-time upscaling improvements are possible)

The KIRAbook’s display has a 350 nit brightness, which on an overcast day, we found it to be comfortable to use at around 20% – 30% of its full brightness. At its full brightness, the display could be used on a sunny day without any difficulty as we were able to work on it without searching for the sanctity of shade.

Toshiba definitely deserves to be commended for being the first PC manufacturer to offer a laptop with a super-high-definition display.

Webcam (poor)

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

The KIRAbook features an HD webcam which is capable of capturing images and video at 720p. For the purposes of our review, we put the KIRAbook’s webcam up against the Asus Zenbook’s 720p HD webcam.

In our daylight test, the KIRAbook’s HD webcam seems to have an unnatural glow to its image and slight blur, even though we kept the ultrabook completely steady. When compared to the image the Zenbook produced, we can see a lot of the finer details in the image are lost with the KIRAbook’s webcam.

Our low-light test resulted in the KIRAbook producing an image that was barely recognizable as it was extremely dark. You could barely make out the faces of the figures I used as my test subjects, although at least you can see some of their colors come through when compared to the overall beige color the Zenbook’s webcam produced.

Performance (excellent!)

The Toshiba KIRAbook we used during our review time was i5 Touchscreen version which features an Intel Core i5 processor which normally clocks in at 1.8GHz, but because of the included Intel Turbo Boost technology, the KIRAbook is capable of churning out speeds of 2.7GHz when thermal conditions permit it. During my real-world use of the KIRAbook, I didn’t notice any slowdown and its response time was great, no matter how many tasks I threw at it. With that said, let’s see how exactly this KIRAbook performs in a number of our benchmark tests.

One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is PCMark 7 which is a  benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

In our PCMark 7 benchmark, the KIRAbook scored a 4840, which is high considering it’s equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor. To compare, the Asus Zenbook we recently reviewed scored a 5070 and features an Intel Core i7 processor. In other words, the KIRAbook is powerful and will keep up with a large amount of multitasking and may outscore the Zenbook if you choose to purchase the i7 Touchscreen version of the KIRAbook.

The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3DMark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine. And we’re not talking Facebook or Flash-based games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

The going trend for ultrabooks has been to include the Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU which is certainly capable of performing simple graphical tasks, but in no way has helped in having us consider any ultrabook featuring it as a gaming machine. With a 3DMark 11 score of P623, this just solidifies our theory you should probably not be using the KIRAbook as a serious gaming machine.

The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

We don’t know what kind of witchcraft Toshiba called upon when it made the KIRAbook, but it absolutely destroyed competing ultrabooks in our Geekbench benchmark with a score of 5689. This means the raw power of the CPU inside of the KIRAbook is quite powerful.

Value for weight, price

We know when purchasing any PC, people tend to look at its internal specs and purchase a computer based on what they currently need. One factor many overlook is its weight as more powerful portable computers will most likely be heavier than PCs that aren’t as powerful. That’s why we also like to look at a PCs performance relative to its weight so we can see if all of that power is worth you breaking your back over or if a PC’s weight isn’t worth its sub-par performance.

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

The Toshiba KIRAbook we reviewed is deceptively light as it weighs a total of 2.97lbs, but it feels lighter as the ultrabook disperses its weight evenly across its base. According to our formula, the KIRAbook can certainly be recommended based on the what kind of performance you’ll get out of it and its weight.

Battery Life (very good)

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

As shining as our review has been for the KIRAbook, its battery life leaves much to be desired. It certainly isn’t a dealbreaker, but it certainly can be improved considering how long competing ultrabooks, like the Asus Zenbook, which lasts for up to 10 hours in our least stressful battery test. The first battery test we ran on the KIRAbook was a long-term battery drain test to see how long it would take for it to drain. Our testing showed an hour of battery drain resulted in a 13% drop in the KIRAbook’s battery under the conditions of leaving its Wi-Fi on, its screen at 50% of its brightness and leaving it on to let its battery drain. This means you should expect a little over 7 hours of battery life under these conditions.

Having the KIRAbook sit and letting its battery drain is probably the last reason why you’d consider purchasing this ultrabook as you may actually want to use it once in awhile, which is why we run additional battery tests where videos are played to see how far its battery would drain. The first video test was done under the conditions of playing a 1080p local video with 50% screen brightness for an hour and noted a 21% drop in battery life, which means you can expect 4.7 hours of battery for local videos. As for streaming videos, we watched a 1080p YouTube video with 50% screen brightness for an hour and noted a 26% drop in battery life, which means you can expect 3.8 hours of battery for streaming videos.

Battery Charge (good)

When you’d like to recharge the KIRAbook from a completely drain state, we recommend you consider charging it overnight as we recorded it took a little over 4 hours for it to charge from 0% to 100%. We recently experienced this slow charging in another product, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, which also features a Lithium Polymer battery. The KIRAbook’s battery can hold a charge of 52Wh, but due to its battery being sensitive to how exactly it draws power, this results to it taking a little longer than most ultrabooks.

Conclusion (very good)

Toshiba KIRAbook Review

When Toshiba announced the KIRAbook, we were blown away by its specs, especially its high-resolution display. After playing around with it for our reviewing purposes, we’re still impressed with Toshiba’s offering, although the KIRAbook isn’t quite as perfect as most people had hoped it would be.

Sure – it has a killer display, a fast processor and is deceptively light, but its battery performance and its relatively high retail price may make you reconsider if its 2560 x 1440 is worth spending at least $1,599 for its touchscreen-less i5 version. The same specs with touchscreen, called the i5 Touchscreen, will bump the price up to $1,799, while the Intel Core i7 version, the i7 Touchscreen, will retail for $1,999.

If money is no option to you and you want to have the highest-resolution display possible on PC, then by all means, pick up the KIRAbook. But if you want the biggest bang for your buck and don’t “need” all of that resolution (although it’s still very nice) when you’re responding to emails, Facebooking or watching cat videos on the Internet, then there certainly are slightly cheaper options, like the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which performs just as well as the KIRAbook and is $100 less, although you would have to purchase a Windows 8 license (and deal with Apple’s questionable Windows power management) and have to deal with a heavier laptop as the 13-inch MBP with Retina weighs in at 3.57lbs versus the KIRAbook’s 2.66 (!).

Overall product rating: 8/10
This article was filed in Homepage > Computers > Featured > Reviews and was tagged with Laptop Reviews, Toshiba and ultrabooks.
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