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Katherine Stevenson Nov 12, 2013

Toshiba Kirabook

At A Glance

Luxury

Eye-popping screen; good looks and build; strong performance; bundled extras.

Lackary

Expensive; value depends on interest in extras.

Kirabook review: The luxury lover’s laptop

While much of the PC industry is hustling to bring lower-cost Ultrabooks to market, Toshiba is unabashedly raising the high end, complete with an all-new brand meant to ooze excellence. The first product to wear this proud badge is the 13.3-inch Kirabook . With its upmarket looks, über-high-res screen, and serious-for-its-size parts, this high-priced newcomer is gunning for no less than Apple’s Retina display–boasting MacBook Pro.

The Kirabook’s Harmon Kardon speakers pack a nice punch for such a portable device.

Aesthetics are obviously central to the equation, and the Kirabook’s got them, exuding elegance in everything from the subtly wedged profile that measures just 0.7 inches at its thickest, to the rounded rear corners of the chassis, to the brushed-metal finish, to the matte-black keyboard with backlighting. It’s all packaged in a magnesium-alloy body that’s both thinner and lighter than its MacBook Pro equivalent, but still feels sufficiently sturdy while being sure to draw approving looks.

One of the Kirabook’s most visually distinct features, however, isn’t evident until you power on and its 2560x1440 screen comes to life. That’s the highest-res panel of any Windows-based ultraportable and just 160 pixels shy of the vaunted Retina display in the 13-inch MBP. At 221 pixels per inch (the MBP has 227ppi), the Kirabook’s panel, which sits behind protective Corning Concore glass, looks lovely, with nice color and impressive detail. Besides being a boon to HD videos and pictures, the increased resolution gives multitaskers a welcome boost in real estate. Just be warned that when using the notebook’s 10-point touchscreen (something the MBP doesn’t have, incidentally), it can be tricky to accurately tap a given box, word, or menu item when working in the less touch-friendly desktop environment—a frustration we’ve encountered on even 1920x1080-res notebook touchscreens. Fortunately, the Kirabook’s touchpad is capable. It’s not quite as smooth as the MBP’s touchpad (sadly, few Utlrabook touchpads are), and we did have to tweak the sensitivity some to keep the cursor from jumping randomly, but we were able to do real work on the Kirabook without resorting to a mouse.

The Kirabook sports a full-size HDMI-out port, and thankfully it’s version 1.3, so it supports 2560x1600 resolution.* The Kirabook lacks an Ethernet port, but has three USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. It does not support 802.11ac.

Component-side, the Kirabook packs some decent horsepower for its size, most notably a 2GHz Core i7-3537U, 8GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, and a 256GB SSD that hit near-500Gb/s sequential-read and -write speeds in CrystalDiskMark. The only benchmark where the Kirabook stumbled was in our Adobe CS3 tests, but that has less to do with the notebook’s hardware than it does with the age of the benchmark, and likely incompatibilities with the full versions of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements that come bundled with the Kirabook.

Those programs plus two years of Norton Anti-Theft Security and a two-year warranty that includes 24/7 technical support contribute to the Kirabook’s high asking price of two grand.

If you’re into those extras and having the highest-res screen on an Ultrabook, the Kirabook’s your ticket to living large.

$2,000, www.toshiba.com

* Editor's note: The HDMI port is actually version 1.0 and is thus limited to 1920x1080 output.

Benchmarks
 Zero-point

Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)
840
WNR
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
100WNR
ProShow Producer (sec)
1,122
1,042
MainConcept (sec)
1,901
1,840
Quake III (fps)358.2429.3
Quake 4 (fps)76.181.1
Battery Life (min)221232

Our zero-point ultraportable is an Intel reference Ultrabook with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U, 4GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, integrated graphics, a 240GB SSD, and Windows 8.

Specifications
CPU
2GHz Core i7-3537U
RAM 8GB DDR3/1600 dual channel
Display 13.3-inch 2560x1440 IPS LCD
Storage Toshiba 256GB SSD
Connectivity
HDMI, headphone/mic, 3x USB 3.0, media reader, 802.11n
Lap / Carry2 lbs, 12.8 oz / 3 lbs, 6 oz 
THE VERDICT

Toshiba Kirabook

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