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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  • ananduser - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Don't forget OSX. OSX only runs on macs. If you want or need OSX you have no choice but to get a mac. Windows compatibility ads to the desirability. Mac sales really "exploded" when they switched to Intel. If they were mutually exclusive with Windows I doubt they would've passed the 1-2 million/year volume.

    About crap ... the mbp 13". 1280x800 resolution(TN panel), 5400 rpm, integrated graphics. All for 1400$(in Europe). Ironically it is the most purchased item within Apple's line up.
  • solipsism - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    » "Mac sales really "exploded" when they switched to Intel."

    That doesn't mesh with the time lines as Intel Mac sales jumped immediately but the ability to do dual boot or run a VM came later. Sure, people could have assumed this would soon be a viable option but that hardly seems like the primary reason to drop $2k for a notebook

    The MBP were a new design in a time when PPC had long sense drop the ball for mobile chips. The boost in performance per Watt and the anticipation was tremendous. Mac users knew these were coming, they just came much sooner than Apple had promised.

    » "If they were mutually exclusive with Windows I doubt they would've passed the 1-2 million/year volume."

    I'm not so sure. As Silma says, they are goal oriented. I think if they only sold Windows they would be the best Windows notebook vendor on the market.

    On top of that it doesn't really jibe with your previous comment that they only became popular because of Windows.
  • ananduser - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    I always thought that if Apple would start pumping Windows only macs they would eat(at least in the States) Dell and HP's lunches.

    They are still "relatively" popular in the States alone(even there 11% or 12%); don't overdo it. Apple is after margins not share, so in absolute terms I believe I am right. Windows compatibility definitely made many people switch that were on the fence due to some win exclusive software. There isn't a single macuser without parallels/vmware and a Win license, metaphorically speaking ofc.
  • B3an - Friday, May 10, 2013 - link

    "Don't forget OSX. OSX only runs on macs. If you want or need OSX you have no choice but to get a mac."

    It's easy to get OSX running in a VM. Or theres always the hackintosh route. How can you not know this...
  • KPOM - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Macs also have better trackpads. Until the Chromebook Pixel, no non-Mac notebook came close to the Mac. It can't be that much more expensive to put in a decent trackpad.
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    yeah. My issue is nobody seems to make an end to end good computer. With desktops I could build my own and choose what I was willing to compromise on (if anything). But laptops you can't do that.

    At this point in my life I'm not interested in compromising on much of anything in my work computer. At least not if it's just cost related (like a wifi card and touchpad). Obviously there are heat/weight/performance tradeoff's that a little money can't fix, but otherwise I'd really like a premium machine start to finish. As a software developer/enthusiast/occasional gamer, ideally it would have an excellent screen, keyboard, touchpad, connectivity (network, audio/video,usb etc), graphics, fast encrypted storage, everything :-). I really don't think it's impossible or unreasonable, but nobody seems to have built a laptop that caters to me yet. Macbook pro's are close but I have extremely little interest in mac os. I have a mac mini for occasional mobile development and that's it. My most important apps are visual studio, eclipse, sql server, postgres, chrome, and internet explorer. Half of those are windows only.
  • bji - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    As a software developer I greatly prefer OS X to Windows. It's probably because I come from a Unix background and my primary development environment for nearly 20 years was Linux. I find that OS X gives me nearly the same set of nice development tools (oriented towards my preferred development style) as Linux did, while also giving me a first class graphical environment and graphical development tools.

    Of the software that you listed, unless you are truly wedded to Visual Studio, there are equivalent or identical software choices available on Mac OS X and Linux. I know that a development environment can be a very personal thing and it's hard to switch, so if you have to have Visual Studio, I guess you're stuck on Windows. If you can handle a different IDE then nothing that you listed sounds like a reason to stick with Windows.
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    My primary employment is enterprise .net apps running on microsoft sql server databases :-). To be honest, I really like Visual Studio and c# is my favorite programming language. Windows is ok. It would be nice if it had a bourne shell and gcc and great posix support, but virtualization is so easy these days it's not a big deal anymore. I write most of my linux applications (c/c++/ or mono .net) in visual studio as well. I certainly could use a different IDE for those but it's a workflow thing :-)
  • robinthakur - Monday, May 13, 2013 - link

    I just run server 2008r2 in a virtual environment on my MBP and it works great for Visual Studio Development. This is a handy setup for me because you need a Mac to run Xcode and iOS development.
  • ahamling27 - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - link

    About 4 years ago now, (wow I can't believe I'm still using this laptop) I was in this same predicament. But I found the Gateway P-7811FX and I'm still using it as my laptop of choice. Sure it's not an ultrabook (it's nowhere close) but it has a dual core 2.2 ghz proc, and that hasn't changed a whole lot anymore. It's a 17" screen which turns some people off, but it's 1920 x 1200 resolution is impossible to find today. Sure you can argue that a 1080p 17" screen is only 120 pixels less top to bottom, but you tend to still find more 768p monitors than anything, 4 years later.

    Plus it has 2 bays for hard drives. I don't have an SSD in it, because I threw in a couple 500 GB WD Blacks in raid 0, and I don't want to mess with that. But it's plenty snappy.

    Also the Nvidia 9800m GTS can play most games, just nothing like Crysis 3.

    Anyway, my point is, there was a time before "Ultrabooks" that they did try and make some great laptops for a great price, hell I only paid $999 for that Gateway. Now that they have a buzz word, I think it gives laptop manufactures a excuse to charge more for a laptop that really should be priced lower.

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