Introducing the Toshiba KIRAbook

As a notebook and now ultrabook manufacturer, Toshiba has always had an odd streak. I mean that in the most affectionate way possible; while their budget notebooks have been generally solid offerings for a good price (and typically preferable to similar kit from backsliding leaders like HP and Dell), their middle and high end kit has shown a willingness to experiment that includes pre-ultrabook notebooks like the Portege R700, ultra-widescreen kit like the Satellite U845W, and if you're willing to go back far enough, their now defunct Libretto line.

What we've been missing, though, is a genuinely high end, flagship ultrabook from Toshiba. HP has their Folio line, Dell has their XPS ultrabooks, ASUS has their Zenbooks, and even Acer has a pretty broad range of ultrabooks to serve everyone from the most cash-strapped customer to the user looking for a premium computing experience. Toshiba did well with their Portege Z835 in the first wave of ultrabooks, but that had more to do with the low entrance price. To satisfy premium customers, Toshiba is launching a premium line of ultrabooks, and they start with today's KIRAbook.

KIRAbook isn't just the name of this notebook, it's the start of a new brand within Toshiba, and it's a brand they've desperately needed. Satellite serves mainstream customers, Tecra serves business, Qosmio serves gamers, and Portege serves the ultraportable market, but none of these brands outside of maybe the Qosmio line is really "premium." With the KIRAbook and the KIRA branding, Toshiba's actually opening an entire wing of business just dedicated to supporting notebooks under this brand. The KIRAbook comes with a 2-year "platinum warranty" standard; KIRAbook owners don't go through Toshiba's primary customer support channels but instead have access to their own 24/7 help line along with rapid repair service and other perks.

None of that would matter if the product itself isn't worth the expense and effort, though, and while I don't feel like Toshiba has a homerun on their hands, they do have a pretty strong start. The real fly in the ointment is the impending launch of Haswell; I suspect the KIRAbook launching with Ivy Bridge hardware on the eve of Intel's next generation is akin to Dell's launch of the XPS 13 shortly before Ivy Bridge became available. I think Toshiba is getting their foot in the door with this brand and at the same time decoupling it from Intel's cadence out of the gate.

Toshiba KIRAbook Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-3537U
(2x2GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.1GHz, 22nm, 4MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM76
Memory 2x4GB integrated DDR3-1600
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.2GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 2560x1440 IPS Touchscreen
Hard Drive(s) 256GB Toshiba THNSNF mSATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 802.11b/g/n 2x2
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Conexant CX20751/2 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Single combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-Cell, 52Wh (integrated)
Front Side -
Right Side SD card reader
Mic/headphone combo jack
USB 3.0
Left Side AC adaptor
USB 3.0
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
Dimensions 12.44" x 0.7" x 8.5" (WxHxD)
316mm x 18mm x 216mm
Weight 2.97 lbs
Extras HD Webcam
Backlit keyboard
harman/kardon speakers
Corning Concore Glass touchscreen
Adobe Premiere and Photoshop Elements 11 included
Norton Online Backup, Internet Security, and Anti-Theft 24-month subscription included
2560x1440 IPS display
Warranty 2-year limited "Platinum Service"
Pricing Starts at $1,599
As configured: $1,999

The starting price of $1,599 stings mightily, but at least that model is likely to be the preferable one. That "entry level" KIRAbook has an Intel Core i5-3337U (1.8GHz) which has lower turbo frequencies and a 200MHz lower nominal clock speed than the top-end model, but the only other sacrifices are the touchscreen and the Windows 8 Pro license. Everything else is the same as the spec table above, and it's at least a lot more palatable, especially when you take into account that Toshiba notebooks routinely sell for $100-$200 cheaper when they hit retail channels.

For your money, though, you do get an awful lot of notebook. The star of the show is going to be the 2560x1440 13.3" IPS display, which is essentially the highest resolution display currently available in a Windows notebook. The 16:9 aspect ratio means you lose 160 pixels of vertical resolution compared to Apple's 13" Retina MacBook Pro, but it's tough to complain too much when most of the Windows notebook market is still stuck in the 1366x768 stone age.

Backing up the beautiful display is a fairly snappy 256GB Toshiba SSD; I'm having a hard time discerning if it's using a third-party controller or one of Toshiba's own, but either way, it's fast enough to get the job done. It has to be, since nothing in the KIRAbook is user-serviceable, including the 8GB of RAM and the battery. Where Toshiba fails and fails hard is the wireless card, which is bargain basement Intel and doesn't feature 5GHz connectivity. In 2013, and especially in a premium-class notebook, this is inexcusable.

Toshiba has also gone the distance with the included software. While the boatload of Toshiba software included is on the bloated side, everything else actually makes sense. Full versions, not trials, are included of Adobe Premiere Elements 11 and Photoshop Elements 11, while the subscriptions to Norton Online Backup, Internet Security, and Anti-Theft basically cover the warranty length of the KIRAbook. The only trial software included is one month of Office 365.

In and Around the Toshiba KIRAbook
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  • nportelli - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    The only reason I didn't pre-order one last night was because of the pending Haswell release and only 8GB. I'd rather have more. But if the first few new Haswell laptops come out with crap resolution... read not at least 1080p no matter the size of the screen. No 5Ghz? I can live with that since I don't have it now.
  • TrackSmart - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    That and the 256GB SSD, with no option for anything larger. That's partially a limitation of it being an mSATA SSD (only 4 NAND chips), but that issue should be solved soon with Crucial's new higher capacity modules. Another reason to wait a bit longer.
  • Gunbuster - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    I know it’s Japanese but really Kira on the name? Did they do any user testing to see if naming a $1500 laptop Kira was a good idea? Jennabook, Beckabook, Kirabook

    Hi, this is my cool new laptop with a 10 year old girls name.
  • solipsism - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    1) It's a town in Japan, among other things.

    2) "10 year old girls name"? Where are you from that girls are giving new names based on their age? Where I'm from a name is given around birth and is kept throughout one's life.
  • chrnochime - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Nothing else to whine about other than the name? If they name it Jenna you'd whine about it being named after a p0rn star.
  • cknobman - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Personally I was onboard @1599 until I read no touchscreen unless you pay $200 more.

    F_CK THAT Toshiba!
  • akp - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    Don't be too quick to dismiss the lid flex as a problem. Google for 'Portege Z835 cracked screen' and then ask yourself if you'd really want to put down $1599 for one of these.
  • Hrel - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    You mention this is Toshiba's way of "getting their foot in the door". But then you lament the colors of the notebook? Doesn't it make sense to use silver/grey for the "foot in the door"? Sure there are probably very few people who SEEK OUT grey, but there's an equally small number of people who would actively avoid it. Seems like a pretty safe bet, cover the widest base. Then once they've established market share they can be more aggressive with designs they know will only appeal to certain people; and then cover the difference with more designs. Obviously this increases operating costs and required resources; not to mention risk.

    So, to me, it makes perfect sense to design it this way. Really the only thing that makes no sense at all is the wifi card and I think they'd have a really solid offering if only they had used a dual band ac card.
  • Hrel - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    The reason I bring it up is I feel that this counter point should be raised in the article after lamenting the color/design choices. You sacrifice sophistication anytime you want to hit the largest possible audience.
  • KPOM - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - link

    I'm a bit surprised by the resolution. 2560x1440 translates to 1280x720 when scaled. That gives less usable real estate than the typical 1366x768 display. Sure, you can scale to less than 200%, but I think Toshiba would have been better off going with 2560x1600 like the 13" rMBP. Lots of programs (e.g. Quicken 2013) "expect" to have 768 pixels of usable vertical space, and when scaled, this screen won't give it to them.

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