The KIRAbook Has Arrived

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When looking over the vast options of Ultrabooks™ lately, one is left to wonder: which is the right one for me? There are Ultrabooks that cater to work-minded professionals, soccer moms and students. Ultrabooks come outfitted with all types of bells and whistles like Bluetooth, solid-state drives, USB connectivity and more. The market for Ultrabooks has advanced so far that there are different levels of Ultrabooks—think of them in terms of average, good and great Ultrabooks. But the question remains: which Ultrabook is right for me? And the answer is always the same. It depends.

I got a chance to test drive the new premium line of Ultrabooks from Toshiba, dubbed KIRAbooks. These new high-end machines take some of the guesswork out of choosing your options. What Toshiba has done is to combine a number of impressive features to make an Ultrabook that is far superior to stock, out-of-the-box Ultrabooks.

Toshiba started by building a premium Ultrabook from the base on up. Using a hexagon honeycomb core to provide a stable yet lightweight alternative to heavier metal construction, while continuing to provide efficient heat distribution, the body is constructed with AZ91 magnesium alloy, which Toshiba claims is 90 percent stronger than the aluminum alloy used in the manufacturing of the MacBook Air. They also rounded out any harsh edges on the frame, which gives the unit a smooth, comfortable feel. Even with all of this, the KIRAbook only presents a starting weight of 2.6 pounds and a thickness of only 0.7”.

In real-world terms, that’s about as light as a MacBook Air. I really felt that difference when tossing the KIRAbook into my shoulder bag. It’s light—real light. Light enough so that you don’t mind taking it from room to room, leaving it on your lap or even using it when propped up in bed. I have an ASUS Transformer Pad 300T tablet that weighs more than this (albeit with a keyboard dock and trifold faux-leather cover).

But what’s really startling at first glance is the KIRAbook's amazing display. You’ll immediately notice the ultra-sharp pixel count on the 13.3” LED backlit PixelPure™ display, which boasts 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution. The 10-point multi-touch touchscreen (on the latter two models) is made from Corning® Concore™ glass and also features a 16:9 aspect ratio, native support for 1080p content (and higher) and an eye-crunching 221 pixels per inch. That ppi count definitely puts this Ultrabook in the same ring as Apple’s Retina display. The KIRAbook also features Intel's® WiDi technology, which allows you to transmit content wirelessly to WiDi-enabled HDTVs or monitors. I used the HDMI port to connect the KIRAbook to my television and was amazed by the picture. Unfortunately, I do not have a WiDi-enabled television, so I can’t speak to that experience, but if it ran as smoothly as the HDMI, there may be a very specific purchase in my future.

KIRAbook is available in three configurations. The KIRAbook 13.3” Ultrabook Computer features a 1.8 GHz Intel® Core™ i5-3337U dual-core processor, but no touchscreen. The Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3" Multi-Touch Ultrabook Computer features the same processor, but additionally includes a touchscreen, and the Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3" Multi-Touch Ultrabook Computer uses a 2.0 GHz Intel® Core™ i7-3537U dual-core processor. For our review, we used the Core i5 multi-touch version.

The KIRAbook also features 8GB of DDR3 1600 MHz RAM to power its engine. Eight gigabytes of DDR3 RAM is more than enough for heavy multi-tasking and heavy-duty spreadsheet or document proofing. At 1600 MHz, the RAM is the fastest available without over-clocking. I saw no slowdown or lag when connected to my home network (which was just a screen swipe away from startup), and even with several windows open and running, there were no performance issues. Everything ran as smoothly as Toshiba said it would in their literature, and with the enhanced Windows 8 operating system (which still requires a small learning curve), even the bootup and shut-down times clocked in at less than 16 seconds, which is swift.

Other premium features on the KIRAbook include integrated Harmon Kardon stereo speakers with DTS Studio Sound. In the demo we sat through, the speakers delivered impressive sound for an Ultrabook, considering most speakers on laptops usually underwhelm you. In a medium-sized room with people speaking in a constant stream, you could still clearly hear the dialogue in a test video clip that was played. As for playing Netflix or Hulu Plus content, this unit challenged my Sony Soundbar for room dominance for clear mid-level sound, but as most Ultrabooks go, could not reproduce room-shaking bass or high-level pitch without breaking up. Compared to other Ultrabooks in its class, it did a great job.

Toshiba even went after a small but significant mechanical apparatus that most companies forget about: the hinge. Realizing that the hinge takes major abuse, and that the constant swiping, pinching and multi-touching that goes on with capacitive touchscreens will eventually take its toll on the display’s mechanics, they built a sturdy hinge that helps prevent screen bounce-back or loosening of the display’s mooring. At first, the KIRAbook seems almost too hard to open because of the strength of the hinge. But after a couple of sessions with it, you come to appreciate the resistance on the hinge when applying solid and sturdy finger-tapping on the touchscreen.

Toshiba included additional premium features that users have come to expect from a high-end device like this. The KIRAbook features a frameless LED-backlit keyboard with responsive chiclet-style keys, a 256GB solid-state drive for maximum speed when accessing programs or the Windows 8 operating system, and an integrated webcam and microphone. For extra storage, they’ve nixed an optical drive (as most Ultrabooks do these days) and added a memory card reader with SD, SDHC, SDXC, miniSD, microSD and MMC support.

The keyboard is definitely a winner. The backlighting on the keys is not subtle—even in dim light, these keys emitted a glow that made them easily discernible. The keyboard may seem a little cramped at first, but even during my morning commute I was able to easily flex my fingers across the keyboard without knocking into my seatmate (this review was typed on the train). The keys may seem a little small, but for hunt-and-peck typists like myself, they were more than adequate. The touchpad was responsive and intuitive, with mouse buttons set into the bottom and accessed by slightly raised bars, almost indistinguishable from the touchpad itself. Like anyone who’s mouse-driven (me), getting used to the touchpad could take some time.

As for ports, one HDMI out and three USB 3.0 ports are included, one with USB Sleep & Charge functionality, which lets you charge a USB device even when the KIRAbook is turned off. It’s perfect for travelers on long flights who want their smartphones charged when they land. There’s also a combo mic/headphone port with Toshiba’s Sleep & Music functionality that enables you to take advantage of the Harman Kardon speakers even if the KIRAbook is turned off. For networking, the KIRAbook uses the Intel® Centrino™ Wireless-N 2230 card, which includes Bluetooth 4.0. As I wrote above, using the 5.0 GHz band of my dual band router, I had fast, reliable and stable connections during all my Internet sessions.

Toshiba states that battery life on the 4-cell 52Wh lithium-polymer battery is 6 hours and ten minutes (taking into account that individual usage will alter the run time for an individual user). I turned the KIRAbook over to my 14-year old daughter for the real test—teenage-based online surfing. After a couple of hours of Netflix, YouTube, Quotev, Facebook and Tumblr, we found there was still enough charge left for me to check baseball scores and my work email. All told, the run time averaged about 5 hours with heavy usage—well within the 6-hour-10-minute claim. This makes the KIRAbook a true road warrior, able to withstand airport delays, extended late-night meetings and train-commute schedules without needing a recharge.

Toshiba also includes a nice pack of software that should raise your productivity levels if you’re looking to use the KIRAbook as a workstation. Full versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Photoshop Premier Elements 11 are bundled with each unit, as are full two-year subscriptions to Norton Online Backup, Norton Internet Security and Norton Anti-Theft. Toshiba has also raised the warranty to a 2-Year Limited Warranty and adds platinum service and 24/7 dedicated support from US-based agents. The Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premier Elements are especially nice, considering you have a Retina-like screen to play with. But at only 13.3”, you may want to opt for a secondary monitor.

Which brings about another factor—font size with the high-res screen. Toshiba has included a scaling utility for viewing text on the KIRAbook. Without this feature, some sites may become almost unreadable because of the resolution. Text would be so miniscule that eye-strain would be inevitable; thus the utility. With the zoom on, the text is bearable, although extended hours of e-Book reading is not advised.

These little extras factor in when considering the KIRAbook’s cost. This is not a mid-range Ultrabook. The KIRAbook is poised to gain market share against the über-popular MacBook Air, and that battle requires an Ultrabook with an amazing display, light, thin construction and lightning-fast processing. Thankfully, the KIRAbook delivers on those fronts.

Click below to see a video about the Toshiba KIRABook

For more information on the KIRAbooks, please stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, or contact a sales professional over the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or online via Live Chat.

  Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3" i5 Ultrabook Computer Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3" i5 Multi-Touch
Ultrabook Computer 
Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3" i7 Multi-Touch
Ultrabook Computer 
Performance 
Processor 1.8 GHz Intel® Core™ i5-3337U Dual-Core Ivy Bridge™ 1.8 GHz Intel® Core™ i5-3337U Dual-Core Ivy Bridge™ 2.0 GHz Intel® Core™ i7-3537U Dual-Core Ivy Bridge™
Cache L3: 3MB L3: 3MB L3: 4MB
System Bus 5GT/s 5GT/s 5GT/s
Memory Type: 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Installed: 8GB
Capacity: 8GB
Type: 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Installed: 8GB
Capacity: 8GB
Type: 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Installed: 8GB
Capacity: 8GB
Graphics Card Type: Integrated
Installed: Intel® HD Graphics 4000
Type: Integrated
Installed: Intel® HD Graphics 4000
Type: Integrated
Installed: Intel® HD Graphics 4000
Display 
Type Widescreen Touchscreen Touchscreen
Size 13.3" 13.3" 13.3"
Backlight LED LED LED
Aspect Ratio 16:9 Aspect Ratio 16:9 Aspect Ratio 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Finish Glossy Glossy Glossy
Native Resolution 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1440
Storage 
Hard Drive Installed: 256GB SSD Installed: 256GB SSD Installed: 256GB SSD
Optical Drive None None None
Input/Output Connectors 
Ports 3x USB 3.0 (A) (1 with USB Sleep and Charge) 3x USB 3.0 (A) (1 with USB Sleep and Charge) 3x USB 3.0 (A) (1 with USB Sleep and Charge)
Display 1x HDMI-out 1x HDMI-out 1x HDMI-out
Audio Integrated Stereo Speakers (harman/kardon)
Integrated Microphone
1x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack (Toshiba Sleep and Music)
Integrated Stereo Speakers (harman/kardon)
Integrated Microphone
1x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack (Toshiba Sleep and Music)
Integrated Stereo Speakers (harman/kardon)
Integrated Microphone
1x 1/8" (3.5mm) Headphone/Microphone Combo Jack (Toshiba Sleep and Music)
Flash Media Slot 1x SD
1x SDHC
1x SDXC
1x MiniSD
1x Micro SD
1x MMC
1x SD
1x SDHC
1x SDXC
1x MiniSD
1x Micro SD
1x MMC
1x SD
1x SDHC
1x SDXC
1x MiniSD
1x Micro SD
1x MMC
Communications 
Network None None None
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.0
Mobile Broadband None None None
Webcam Yes Yes Yes
General 
Operating System Windows 8 (64-bit) Windows 8 (64-bit) Windows 8 Pro (64-bit)
Keyboard Type: Standard Notebook Keyboard Type: Standard Notebook Keyboard Type: Standard Notebook Keyboard
Features: LED Backlight Features: LED Backlight Features: LED Backlight
Pointing Device TouchPad with Multi-Touch Control TouchPad with Multi-Touch Control TouchPad with Multi-Touch Control
Battery 4-Cell Built-In Lithium-Polymer Providing up to 6.16 Hours per Charge (52Wh) 4-Cell Built-In Lithium-Polymer Providing up to 6.16 Hours per Charge (52Wh) 4-Cell Built-In Lithium-Polymer Providing up to 6.16 Hours per Charge (52Wh)
Power Requirements AC: 100-240 V AC,
50-60 Hz
Consumption: 45W
AC: 100-240 V AC,
50-60 Hz
Consumption: 45W
AC: 100-240 V AC,
50-60 Hz
Consumption: 45W
Dimensions (WxHxD) 12.4 x 0.7 x 8.1" / 31.5 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm 12.4 x 0.7 x 8.1" / 31.5 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm 12.4 x 0.7 x 8.1" / 31.5 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm
Weight 2.66 lb / 1.21 kg 2.97 lb / 1.35 kg 2.97 lb / 1.35 kg