Toshiba KIRA review
By its own admission, Toshiba is quite happy to focus on the 'value' end of the market and its recently unveiled spring line-up did feature a preponderance of budget 15-inch and 17-inch laptops. See Group test: what's the best ultraportable laptop?
However, there were two notable exceptions to that rule – the 15.6-inch Satellite P50 with its eye-popping 4K display, and the 13.3-inch Kira-101, which Toshiba refers to as the 'ultimate Ultrabook'.
The P50 hasn't arrived in the UK yet, but we've been able to test the Kira and can't deny that it's one of the slimmest, lightest Windows laptops we've seen so far. See all ultraportable laptop reviews.
The tapering profile of the Kira and its silvery-grey metallic casing invite the inevitable comparisons with the 13-inch version of Apple's MacBook Air.
The Kira is slightly thicker – 19.8 mm along the rear edge, compared to 17.5 mm for the MacBook Air. However, the Kira has a significantly smaller footprint, measuring 316 mm wide and 207 mm deep, whereas the MacBook Air is 325 mm wide and 227 mm deep.
It's close in weight, as both laptops weigh around 1.3 kilos, the Kira 1.26 kg and the Air 1.35 kg. The smaller footprint of the Kira gives it a narrow edge on sheer portability; but the MacBook Air wins on screen size. Both are specified with 13.3-inch displays but since the MacBook has a 16:10 ratio it has a larger viewable screen.
Build quality is excellent, with the magnesium casing providing firm support for the screen panel and keyboard. Needless to say, there's no room for a DVD drive in that slimline design, but the three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and 802.11ac Wi-Fi cover most other connection needs.
The speakers aren't particularly loud, but they do manage to avoid the irritating, tinny sound that afflicts many laptops. It's a shame, though, that there's no Ethernet for an office network.
Mind you, the MacBook Air is no great shakes when it comes to connectivity either, and there's one important area where the Kira completely outguns its Apple rival.
The 1440x900 resolution of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air hasn't been updated in a couple of years, and its resolution pales in comparison to the 2560 x 1440 resolution and 221 pixels per inch density of the Kira's display.
The Kira looks brighter and sharper, with crisper colours and contrast. Toshiba doesn't specify the type of screen panel that the Kira uses, but it does have the near-180-degree viewing angles that we'd expect from an IPS display.
It's touch-sensitive too, and finished off with scratch-resistant and smudge-resistant Gorilla Glass. Our only complaint is that the glossy Gorilla Glass does throw off a lot of glare and reflection, making it difficult to see in daylight.
At the moment, the Kira is only available in a single configuration in the UK, costing £1299 with Windows 8.1 Pro running on a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i7 dual-core processor, 8 GB of memory and 256 GB solid-state drive.
It seems odd that there's no option to use the standard Windows 8.1 or a slightly less expensive Core i5 processor, but a score of 5100 points when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchtest suggests that the Kira is one of the fastest Ultrabooks we've seen so far. In contrast, the version of the MacBook Air with 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 processor scored 4602 points when running PCMark 7.
The Kira's performance with the Home and Work suites in PCMark 8 was a little lower, at 2200 points and 2630 points respectively, but the Kira still has enough horsepower to provide desktop-replacement levels of performance for demanding tasks such as photo- or video-editing.
Gaming performance is limited, though, as the Kira has to rely on its integrated HD Graphics 4400. It could manage 17 fps when running our Stalker test at 1920 x 1080 resolution. However, that score did increase to a playable 30 fps when set to 1280 x 720, so it should handle some moderate gaming at lower settings.
There is another area where the MacBook Air still has an edge, though. The Kira lasted for seven hours and ten minutes when streaming video from the BBC iPlayer. Very light use may indeed allow it to come closer to Toshiba's quote of nine hours. The MacBook Air on the other hand canlast beyond 12 hours n the same test.
In that respect it's perhaps fairer to compare the Kira with the 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro with Retina display. That has an even higher 2560 x 1600 resolution, for which Apple quotes a similar nine-hour battery life – although in our tests it actually gave us almost 10 hours of streaming video against the Kira's 7 hours.
Go to the next page to see our original hands-on review of the Toshiba Kira.