I recently had an opportunity to take a meeting with Toshiba in San Francisco. Meetings with reps from major notebook vendors are oftentimes an exercise in enthusiasm coupled with frustration; I usually like the direction a company is taking their designs (Toshiba in particular still never seems to get the attention they deserve when HP and Dell continue to languish, chasing their tails), and then when I ask for the speeds and feeds the display is invariably 1366x768. Cue the lecture.

That's why Toshiba's KIRAbook was such a welcome surprise. It's a good looking ultrabook, employing a magnesium alloy shell and Corning Concore Glass, and if it's not exceptionally original in its aesthetic it's at least very well built and specced to please. I'll get into details about its fit and finish later, but for now, all you need to know is this:

13.3" IPS 2560x1440 display. Standard.

It's true we're still essentially stuck with the 16:9 aspect ratio on the PC side while Apple's 13" Retina MacBook Pro offers a 2560x1600 panel, but this is still a very welcome change of pace.

As for the rest of the KIRAbook, Toshiba's reps talked a heavy game about its design and for what it's worth, they raise excellent points. The port layout is smart, the keyboard was designed specifically to avoid backlight bleed from the individual keys, and they're using specially engineered Harmon Kardon speakers that are surprisingly loud for such a slim chassis. Impressively, the whole thing is just 2.6 pounds.

Unfortunately it all comes at a price. The starting model is $1,599 and comes with an Intel Core i5 ULV processor; upgrading to the $1,799 model gets you 10-point multitouch on the display, and the $1,999 model adds an upgrade to a Core i7.

You do get 8GB of DDR3-1600, the QHD IPS display, a 50Wh battery, and a 256GB SSD standard in all models, along with useful Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Premiere Elements 11 pack-in software and a standard two-year warranty with 24/7 phone support and basically a dedicated department specifically for handling and servicing KIRA models (it's safe to assume more are en route.) Examining the model, I also found that the bottom panel uses standard Phillips head screws, so theoretically you can swap out the SSD and wireless card, though the RAM is probably soldered to the motherboard.

Either way, we're looking to have a KIRAbook in house for review in time for launch, so stay tuned. Pre-orders start May 3, and the KIRAbook becomes available for purchase on May 12.

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  • purrcatian - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I use the Intel HD 4000 in my Thinkpad x230 to drive my dual WQHD monitors. In other words, I routinely drive twice as many pixels without any problems. Docking stations are awesome.
  • CSMR - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Current Intel graphics drives 1440p with no problems. I have this on my Dell U2711 display.
  • StealthX32 - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Looks like they spent a ton of time on the industrial design. Oh wait....

    This is like fodder for Apple, c'mon Toshiba. Everything from the keyboard layout, the hinge, to the wedge shape is ripped straight off a MBA. At least TRY to innovate a little on that front and avoid a lawsuit, sheesh.
  • karasaj - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Apple doesn't generally sue products with Windows on it; I believe they have a cross licensing agreement.
  • purrcatian - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I think you will find Apple wasn't the first to do any of those things.
  • StealthX32 - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    It's not about being the first, it's about combining multiple design aspects in the EXACT same way as another company. So few companies are willing to innovate nowadays, it's pretty sad.
  • hfm - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    You do know Sony was the first major notebook manufacturer with that island style keyboard layout, right?
  • StealthX32 - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Look closer.

    It's not just the island "style", it's the same key layout. It's also the same inset/sunken keyboard w/ beveled edges, same power button, same trackpad, etc.
  • Gigaplex - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Looked closer... Yep, it's the same key layout. They both use QWERTY.

    Seriously, you take a closer look. There's page up/down keys on the Toshiba where there's none on the Apple, key size/spacing differ, and all the similarities essentially boil down to the QWERTY nature.
  • frogger4 - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Intel HD 4000 graphics (the ULV version that is) concerns me at that resolution. Given the framerate troubles the Retina 13 inch macbook pro has just in basic applications, I'm a bit concerned about general performance on the new KIRAbook. On top of that, the Retina MBP 13" uses a full power i5-3210M (GPU clock 650 to 1100MHz), while the KIRA uses a ULV part (GPU clock idles at 350MHz).

    The point I'm making is that if the Retina 13" MBP has performance problems, this just might be worse. I still do appreciate the attempt at higher resolutions though!

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