Toshiba KIRA

At a press event in London today, Toshiba showed us a laptop first launched in May of last year, the Kira Ultrabook range - also known in the States as the KIRAbook. Or as Toshiba UK has styled it, just KIRA™.

The Toshiba KIRA is a 13.3-inch ultraportable laptop built to Intel's template for an Ultrabook™. That is, inspired by the Apple MacBook Air but with Windows 8 pre-installed. See also: Group test: what's the best ultraportable laptop?

Toshiba KIRA: touchscreen display

Aside from operating system, another significant departure from the Apple laptop is the touchscreen display. It has Retina-class resolution, similar to the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display, but smaller at 2560 x 1440 pixels rather than the taller 16:10 IPS panel used by Apple of 2560 x 1600 pixels.

On the KIRA, the display had vibrant colours and decent viewing angles, as we'd expect of an IPS display, although reflections were more annoying on the Toshiba. It may lack the anti-reflective coating that helps tame glare on the MacBook.

Toshiba KIRA Windows is not optimised for high-resolution display like this, not even Windows 8, and we saw jagged bitmapped text and graphics in about half of the windows and control panels we opened and examined.

Touch control worked reasonably well. When you open the lid from closed, you'll need two hands to pull it apart as the hinge is stiff; but this helps when you try to use the display as a touchscreen. Apart from some wobble, the screen did not move from its set angle in our short trial.

Toshiba KIRA

Toshiba KIRA: MacBook Air-like chassis

The chassis is more closely modelled on the original 2008 MacBook Air, rounded in corner and beautifully sculpted on the underside. The KIRA appears to be constructed from a combination of plastic on the underside and then metal veneer for the wrist-rest area and display back. One cooling fan draws air from a round cut-out on the base, and exhausts through slots on the back of the hinge. In our limited use in a noisy room, we couldn't hear the fan at work.

Inside, the Toshiba KIRA model that's coming to the UK – and there will be but one version – will be a Haswell-generation Intel Core i7 processor, the 4500U version. This takes slower Intel HD Graphics 4400 than the chip's best 5000 solution. The CPU/GPU chip is backed with 8 GB of memory and a Toshiba 256 GB SSD.

For wireless it takes the latest draft-11ac Wi-FI, in this case the two-aerial Intel AC7260 wireless card rather than a 3x3 solution used in premium models.

Toshiba KIRA

Toshiba KIRA: usable keyboard

Toshiba KIRA We found the keyboard eminently usable, an area where many Ultrabooks pay little attention, and the Apple-style buttonless trackpad was large and precise in operation. Toshiba, like other Microsoft hardware partners, has now adopted the Apple natural scrolling too, such that two-finger dragging downward brings the window contents downward too.

Inside the KIRA, we're told it has a honeycomb construction to help keep the thin chassis stiff. Build quality was mostly neat and trim, although the sample we tried had a nasty warp to the chassis which meant it wobbled on the glass tabletop.

Toshiba told us battery life for the KIRA is 9 hours of use. The model we tried started at 100 percent battery capacity, and was down at 89 percent after roughly 20 minutes of unintensive use. At this point Windows reported 3 hours 15 mins remaining, suggesting actual total runtime closer to around 3 hours 40 mins. See also: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?

Toshiba KIRA

Verdict:

The Toshiba KIRA is one of the better Windows Ultrabooks we've tried, although at £1299, £50 more than a similarly specified 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, it's going to have its work cut out. Yet this is one promising Windows ultraportable. Those that like the idea will relish the touchscreen display, although this may in part be responsible for the short battery life we observed. We hope to run a full review after the laptop launches in the UK.

Specs

Toshiba KIRA: Specs

  • 13.3-inch (2560 x 1440 pixel, 221 ppi) IPS display
  • 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7-4500U (3.0 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit)
  • 8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 256 GB solid-state drive
  • 802.11b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p webcam/microphone
  • 1x headphone/microphone socket
  • 52 Wh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 316 x 207 x 19.8 mm
  • 1.26 kg

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