Toshiba KIRAbook Ultrabook Reviewby Dustin Sklavos on May 9, 2013 12:01 AM EST
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.
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baronmog - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkWow. I was reading the specs and mostly thinking, "that's pretty cool," or "eh, I could live with that," until I got to the "no 5GHz wifi support." Dude, that doesn't cut it. The ThinkPad my work provided to me a year ago has 5 GHz support. My Galaxy S3 (from a year ago) has 5 GHz support. My Nexus 10 has 5 GHz support. The Netgear router I bought almost a year ago has 5 GHz support...
Seriously, what was Toshiba thinking?
danstek - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link$1599 but no dual band WiFi is just lulz. Seriously, all single band WiFi adapters and routers at this point should just be banned from existence.
Hrel - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkAgreed
SirKronan - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - linkYup!
CajunArson - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkI have a 5 year old Core 2 notebook with Intel 5Ghz wireless-N support fer crying out loud!
elitegibson - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkI think that's funny because my 2008 Toshiba Satellite has 5ghz wifi. I would probably cost them like $3 per laptop to put a good wifi card in it. Major misstep Toshiba.
chrnochime - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkSo one manufacturer finally makes a laptop with a good screen and all you have to complain is no 5GHz support? BTW 5GHz has crappy wall penetration so it's not like you're going to be using it anywhere BUT completely open space anyway. Besides there are crapload of 5GHz wifi adapters to buy to remedy this.
sosrandom - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkYup 5Ghz is pretty bad on my router, upstairs in my plaster board house the signal is really weak.
Gigaplex - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - linkI get better reception and speed on 5GHz than 2.4GHz throughout my entire (admittedly smallish) apartment. I'm certainly not willing to give it up especially if it's not user serviceable so I can switch in my own WiFi adapter.
SirKronan - Saturday, May 11, 2013 - linkA sleek, expensive, premium looking/feeling ultrabook is not supposed to have unsightly things hanging out of it and taking up your precious few USB ports... just to get 5GHz. This is one standard where costs shouldn't have been cut. It makes an otherwise premium device at least "seem" less premium to consumers, and will chase away many "premium" buyers that expect 5GHz as a standard.