In and Around the Toshiba KIRAbook

I'm of two minds when it comes to the design of the Toshiba KIRAbook. On the one hand, it's definitely an attractive ultrabook, manufactured primarily out of pressed magnesium alloy that Toshiba claims is stronger than the aluminum alloy used for the MacBook Air. On the other hand, while the KIRAbook certainly photographs well for Toshiba's site and there was clearly attention paid to the fit and finish, there's still something weirdly chintzy about the build quality.

First, the good parts: while the display uses a glossy coating, it's still very beautiful and the hinge is extremely sturdy. That at least allows you to use the KIRAbook's touchscreen without being too dainty or delicate about it and worrying about tipping the notebook over. The body of the KIRAbook is also borderline flexproof, and there's no flex in the keyboard. The white LED backlighting for the keyboard is also attractive, and the keyboard action is about as good as you're likely to find on a sub-14" ultrabook. I think I still ever so slightly prefer Dell's XPS 13 keys, but the KIRAbook has a much smarter keyboard layout.

So why am I not completely on board with the KIRAbook? Because for $1,599 and up, there shouldn't be any flex in the screen or lid, especially not this much, and my thumbs shouldn't be able to bow the bottom panel of the notebook. The clickpad is serviceable, but it absolutely pales in comparison to the clickpads used on HP's EliteBooks. Finally, the silver and black with chrome trim has been kind of done to death. This was one place where I feel like Dell really nailed it with their XPS line by going almost entirely black. What about gunmetal? What about bronze? What about even going back to white? There are other aesthetics to work with, and Toshiba does the KIRAbook a disservice with such a conservative look.

Thankfully the overall experience of using the KIRAbook is a positive one. I don't ordinarily point out audio branding in the spec table because it's almost never actually relevant; notebook speakers generally suck, and no amount of Beats Audio or harman/kardon branding does much to change that. Yet the KIRAbook does appear to actually have specially designed speakers, and I bring this up because audio resonates from it loudly and surprisingly clearly. The low end is always going to suffer, but these really are subjectively the best speakers I've ever heard in anything short of a 17" notebook. Though they're down-firing, they actually produce more body and sound better on a flat surface than they do when they're clear, and I can only assume they were engineered that way.

I'm also not sold on touch in notebooks (and even less so on Windows 8's Modern UI in general), but the implementation in the KIRAbook feels like a solid one, owing at least partially to that well-designed screen hinge. The problems with the user experience of the KIRAbook, at least where Windows is concerned, have virtually nothing to do with the quality of the hardware and display and more with the pitfalls of Windows itself. Modern UI is productivity hell, yet it demands a touchscreen. Meanwhile, the traditional desktop is well suited to productivity, but touch is a total disaster there. The high resolution display also looks spectacular, but third party applications have always interacted horribly with Windows scaling, resulting in a series of compromises. None of this can be blamed on Toshiba; they're giving us what we've been asking for in the first place.

Introducing the Toshiba KIRAbook System Performance
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  • wanderer000 - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Why does a laptop need to have things hanging out of it to achieve 5Ghz? It's all internal.......
  • wanderer000 - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    Whoops just ignore me, your comment confused me on first read.
  • madmilk - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - link

    They're not the one manufacturer that finally made a laptop with a good screen. They're the second, following Apple, and in any case being first doesn't mean no other standards apply. For comparison: the $1500 rMBP comes with a dual-band, 3x3 802.11n adapter, and that really should be the norm for a laptop of that price.
  • Dalamar6 - Monday, May 13, 2013 - link

    They aren't the 2nd to use a "good screen" by far. They're the second to use one this good that's higher res than 1920x1200.

    In any case, I do not see the point to using such a high res screen on less than a 20" notebook, or at the very least, 17". 1080p pixel pitch is TINY on 15.6" already.

    I wouldn't buy this... that much money's better spent on an IPS screen laptop elsewhere.
  • ShieTar - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - link

    Actually, the tiny resolution does make sense, because it makes texts and other fine details more readable if the software offers reasonable scaling. Which any office suite, web browser and a lot of other productive stuff do.

    When you view videos or play games, resolution becomes less relevant. Nevertheless, if the HD4000 is too weak to play the full resolution, it is nice to be able to use half resolution without major resampling artifacts. That actually works fine with the 1440p screen scaled to 720p, which is a design resolution for most modern games anyways, but you won't be able to scale anything modern to 960x540 and still enjoy it.

    Alternatively, you can try to play the full resolution an just switch of any kind of AA, as you basically get a biological AA due to the sub-visible pixel size.
  • wanderer000 - Sunday, May 26, 2013 - link

    It is when it costs an arm and a leg.
  • JoseAntinio - Friday, May 10, 2013 - link

    Hi I'm new here and would appreciate some advice.

    My understanding is that 2.4GHz Vs 5GHz have both plus and minuses and many believe that 2.4GHz is a better option for the home user.

    If I am right there are no speed issues, in fact as I understand it 2.4GHz can run quicker.

    Could it be that Toshiba have actually got it right for the target market?
  • hp79 - Friday, May 10, 2013 - link

    Yup, both plus and minus. I use both at home. 2.4GHz is too crowded these days especially if you live in an apartment. That's when 5GHz does a great job.

    Wifi cards generally support only 2.4GHz, or both 2.4GHz&5GHz. It's very rare to find a card that only supports 5GHz. If you look at prices on ebay, intel 6300 wifi cards costs about $20 while the cheaper models costs about $15. There's not really that much price difference, so it's just crazy not to put a proper wifi card in a flagship device.

    My Galaxy Note1 also supports both 2 and 5GHz band, and my HTC One even supports 801.11ac (max 450mbps, 5GHz band). Toshiba should have put a card that supports 801.11ac since nothing is replaceable.
  • CSMR - Sunday, May 12, 2013 - link

    Very few people will even know what this means, let alone notice the difference. Ultrabooks have clear compromises (e.g. 256GB total storage); this is an extremely minor point in comparison. Any wireless internet, regardless the speed or standard, will fill up 256GB in no time.
  • jeffkibuule - Saturday, May 18, 2013 - link

    Umm... the problem with 2.4Ghz is that in an apartment complex that has 25 wireless networks around it, using that spectrum is bound to cause interference when there are only 3 non-overlapping transmit channels. That manifests itself in dropped packets. It has nothing to do with downloading data off the Internet.

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