Display Quality

The Toshiba KIRAbook's claim to fame is its 2560x1440 13.3" IPS display, and that display really is a beauty. Viewing angles are excellent as one would expect, but there are two very minor issues. First, response time is good, but not great, and there's minor ghosting when dragging a window or the start screen. There's also backlight bleed on the edges of the display that's fairly typical of an edge-lit panel. Neither of these are dealbreakers and I'd still very easily take the KIRAbook's display over just about any competing notebook's, including the 1080p IPS stunner in the Dell XPS 13.

LCD Analysis - Contrast

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

LCD Analysis - Delta E

LCD Analysis - Color Gamut

Everything about the KIRAbook's display screams quality except the measured delta-E, but in practice I found the display color to be plenty accurate and certainly worthy of the packed-in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Color gamut's quite good, brightness is beautiful without being excessive, and black levels are stellar. It's difficult not to be impressed with this panel.

Battery Life

When dealing with a high-resolution IPS panel, especially one as bright as the KIRAbook's, it can be hard to predict just how the battery life will play out. That's compounded by the fact that space for battery cells inside an ultrabook is always at a premium. The 52Wh integrated battery is at least slightly above average, though.

Battery Life 2013 - Light

Battery Life 2013 - Medium

Battery Life 2013 - Heavy

Battery Life 2013 - Light Normalized

Battery Life 2013 - Medium Normalized

Battery Life 2013 - Heavy Normalized

In broader terms, the KIRAbook produces battery life competitive with other ultrabooks in its class. When you normalize it, things look slightly worse, but not substantially so. There's clearly a very minor trade-off taking place to get that better display quality. That trade-off is largely negated by the slightly larger battery and substantially superior panel.

Heat and Noise

Toshiba made a big deal about the KIRAbook's cooling mechanism, but in practice this cooling system is essentially identical to the one in the Portege Z835. That worked out great for the Portege when we reviewed it, which featured a turbo-free Sandy Bridge low-voltage Core i3, but the KIRAbook has a harder time dealing with the horsepower of the i7-3537U.

Thermals under load are quite good, but noise is much less so. Idle noise is stellar; the KIRAbook is basically inaudible. Sustained load hitting the CPU causes the fan to spin up gradually, and again I lament the bottom-intake fan. During Cinebench R11.5 testing the i7-3537U spent most of its time at 2.3GHz, and it did take a good minute or so before noise the fan started spinning up, and a low narrow whooshing was eventually accompanied by a slight whine. Thankfully surface temperatures never got uncomfortable, though I'd recommend against touching the area near the hinge on the inside of the notebook.

A far as cooling systems go, this isn't necessarily a bad one, but I'd almost give up some of the ports on one side of the KIRAbook just to get side-oriented cooling. The Acer Aspire V5-171 I reviewed was a budget notebook just a touch too fat to get the ultrabook branding (to say nothing of the dismal stock hard drive), but that extra girth also allowed it to integrate a vastly superior cooling system that made it much more practical in the long run.

System Performance Conclusion: So Very Close
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  • madmilk - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - link

    Yes, but one option is legal, and the other isn't. While you may not care, real businesses with real legal departments buying laptops do.

    Also, the common complaint of Boot Camp is that Windows doesn't really run well. A Hackintosh is even worse, in that 90% of the time there is some piece of hardware that just isn't supported. Which leads to the obvious conclusion: If you want to use Windows, get a Windows laptop, and if you want to use OS X, get a Mac.
  • ananduser - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Windows8 Pro is 200$ worth of software that needs to be added to the cost of the macbook. Also the bundled Adobe software isn't exactly cheap either. Add those to the bottom line also. All in all the mac will end up costing more while performing worse.
  • Sm0kes - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Umm... a Windows 8 Pro license can be had for much less than $200. Also, factoring in bundled software (that may or may not be used) can't just be added to the bottom line dollar for dollar. Sure it may increase the value proposition for those interested in it, but I suspect the vast majority could care less.
  • robinthakur - Monday, May 13, 2013 - link

    WTF??? You can run Windows in bootcamp on a Mac, better than you can on a dedicated PC. Can you say the same for this laptop? Can you run OSX even in Hackintosh? Doubtful. I run OSX these days having stopped building my own pc's a while back running dedicated windows, and have no trouble with "Apps". I have Windows Server 2012 environment running in a vm for my SharePoint development and otherwise just use OSX which is reassuringly familiar and stable.

    I certainly wouldn't spend this sort of money for something as written in the review with a flexing cover, dubious build and no dual band, and with resale value which will be wiped out when the next revision hits. It's simple economics really.
  • Zink - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Awesome. It would be nice to have an option at 3.5 lbs with a bigger battery though. 4-5 hours isn't enough for many days.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Remember that our battery testing is particularly strenuous. You can probably eke out another hour or so just dropping the brightness by 100 nits.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Magnesium alloy can have a plasticky appearance, especially after being treated with corrosion resistant finishes. For instance, the mag-alloy shift paddles on my steering wheel look like plastic, but I am definitely glad they're not aluminum on hot sunny days (when my aluminum shift knob burns my hands but the mag paddles are comfortable to the touch).
  • bji - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    I can confirm this. The Panasonic Y2 that I had for 7 years before getting my rMBP had a magnesium alloy case and there were times I was sure that Panasonic had lied and that it was really plastic. But after I didn't need the laptop anymore I disassembled it and found that the body panels bent like metal after all.
  • Silma - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Wishing for an update soon with decent Wifi + Haswell
  • Silma - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    "You can make something that's ostensibly better than an Apple product, but if it's running Windows, you need to charge less for it". Fanboyism at its best.
    Why should you charge less with a Windows laptop when you get a vastly greater software choice, that there are very very few interesting software available on the Mac that isn't available on the PC, that you get tremendously better device support and touch as well if you so desire.

    The real lesson pc manufacturers have so tough a time to learn is: stop putting crap on your notebooks sur as 1368x768 1:200 contrast ratio screen, 2.4 GHz wifi, 20 Wh excuses-of-a-battery or I-suck-aplenty-3200rmp HD.

    Where Apple is unfortunately - for wintel notebook users - vastly Superior to notebook manufacturers is that Mac laptop are generally much more coherent. It is rare to get a crappy component on a Mac whereas it is the sad norm on pc notebooks. It seems Apple is goal oriented (let's have 6h battery life even if this means bigger 70Wh batteries) whereas the pc notebook manufacturers are crap-orientated (let's see how much crap I can hide in my notebook and let's pray consumers don't notice it). But consumers do notice and vote with their wallet. The industry, instead of mending its ways is putting the onus behind Windows 8's supposedly lack of success but they really should clean their own house and drop the blinders.

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