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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  • piroroadkill - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Eh, it'd be nice if it was 16:10.
    Also, I'd not buy a laptop with onboard intel graphics until Haswell.
  • ToTTenTranz - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    It's clearly a mistake to release this within a month of Haswell's release.

    I bet it'll come at about the same time as the MBP13 Retina's refresh with Haswell.
  • gxtoast - Sunday, May 12, 2013 - link

    Yeah, I totally agree with this. It is very puzzling as to why Toshiba would bring out such a nice ultrabook on the eve of the Haswell release and not include the new tech.

    This model in a 15" version, with the option to purchase with 16GB RAM using the top end Haswell chipset, would make this an instant buy for me. What a nice unit.
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I know I am going against the prevailing sentiment, but on a 13 inch screen, do you really need more than 1080p? My work laptop is a 15in with a 1080p screen, and even on a screen that large text is somewhat difficult to read. I do a lot of spreadsheet work, and I would love to have higher resolution on a large monitor, but on a 13 inch screen, I am not so sure.
  • evilspoons - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    The point of "retina" screens is not to make things smaller, but to make them sharper. If developers got their heads out of their arses and actually made everything compliant with resolution-independent DPI settings 10 years ago (when it first started to become obvious we weren't really moving anywhere on resolution) we wouldn't be having this problem now.
  • evilspoons - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Can I have this thing in a heavier chassis with a real video card, real processor, and a larger battery?

    At least we're getting somewhere on the 'compete with Retina' front.
  • hfm - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    This thing looks like it might give Samsung's NP900X3 1080p models a run for their money.
  • dgingeri - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    With the nightmares I've had with Toshiba equipment at work recently, and a personal history that's even worse, I wouldn't touch any Toshiba product with a ten foot pole. If they could get their reliability (over a 3% initial and 15% over 3 year failure rate on enterprise level hard drives, really?!?) and service up to at least industry average levels, I might consider them, but as they are now, no way in heck.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    Hard drives != notebooks. Completely different departments.
  • speculatrix - Thursday, April 18, 2013 - link

    I am really pleased a new manufacturer has come out with some laptops with decent spec. I would say the rez is somewhat too high, but I'd rather they erred on the high side!

    This looks like a potentially great laptop, but as someone else said, I'd wait for a while to see what problems get reported by early adopters.

    I still have a Tecra M9 (nvidia, core2duo, 6GB ram) still going strong five years on, and I know some other people who've been very satisfied with their Tosh laptops. OTOH, I know other people whose Tosh's were not particularly satisfactory.
    I learned my lesson buying a Sony ultraportable and being unable to get a replacement fan for it (Sony refused to sell the fan, and wanted $270 just to look at it), so I would also want to be sure that Toshiba will not try and milk their customers over support and maintenance. This is why I bought a Dell Latitude E6420 last year - not glamorous, but solid and easy and cheap to repair.

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