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KIRA Ultrabook
Company: Toshiba

Pros: At $2,199 this is an expensive beast. But is it worth it? My view is yes for the simple reason that an Ultrabook of this ilk is going to get used and the last thing you want if you use an Ultrabook every working day is one that cannot last the test of time and the constant thrashing that a lot of Ultrabooks get. What you get is quality construction, a blindingly stunning display screen and a device that looks and feels classy. If you rely on a notebook as I do to deliver day in day out it’s going to be very had to go past this beast especially has Toshiba has thrown in a superb support package. It includes an on-site 2-year warranty for capital cities with regional owners getting a pick-up service) the package also includes covers accidental damage and a dedicated phone line for support. It also ships with the Pro version of Windows 8.

Cons: On the downside Toshiba needs to work on the cooling fan and the problems associated with the sheer resolution of the display screen, neither of these two small issues take away from the fact that this is the best Ultrabook we have ever seen.

Product Rating:

5 Star Rating: Recommended

Editor Rating 5

User Rating 5

New Toshiba KIRA Offering, Is It The Best Ultrabook Yet?

By David Richards | Saturday | 01/06/2013

A pragmatic interpretation of what constitutes quality especially in an Ultrabook is a subject that is open to multiple benchmarks. Is it design, components, after sales service, components, speed and performance or the quality of a display screen versus what were past industry benchmarks?

During the past decade very few mass notebook manufacturers have been able to differentiate their notebook offerings. Many had bog standard chipsets, motherboards and the only point of difference was the casing that the common components were housed in, the one exception being Apple and their MacBook range.

Recently Toshiba took a massive punt with the launch of a new premium brand called KIRA and one of the first products delivered under this new premium brand is an i7 Ultrabook (PSU7FA-00T00K). It comes with a display screen that delivers the best display I have ever seen in a notebook or Ultrabook, whilst the minimalist design includes a power on button with almost no LED lights other than a Wi Fi indicator on the front of this PC.


Click to enlarge
Smooth rounded edges and brushed aluminium is all part of the quality look that cocoons this device.

If there was ever a PC company that can make premium quality PC components it is Toshiba.

A Japanese company which delivered the first ever notebook, Toshiba has the engineers and the technical skill to deliver breakthrough technology and it shows with this new offering.

Miniaturisation and making things work in small form factors is one thing Toshiba does well.

Their Android tablets were the first wafer-thin devices to deliver not only a great look and feel but functionality such as built-in HDMI and USB attach capability. Even Samsung struggled to deliver the capability that Toshiba was able to achieve in their tablets.

Now the company has delivered a premium Ultrabook range that sets a new benchmark in the space.


Click to enlarge
Weighing in at 1.28kg, this Ultrabook is just 20mm thick or 23mm if you count the rubber mounts on the bottom.  

In the hand the first thing you notice with their new i7 touchscreen Ultrabook is that it has a superior look and feel and when you open the lid what bursts into life is a display screen that packs 2560 x 1440 pixels into 13.3-inches.

Running a video is a sheer delight as the vivid colours scream from the display and the sharpness is as good as any HD TV.

For some this screen could present a problem. Firstly, it delivers a superior resolution which when it comes to using the device for standard PC functionality such as emails, writing a report or working on an Excel spreadsheet, is far superior to what is needed.


Click to enlarge
Icons appear small on the screen and text is reduced, especially if you have the display screen set to maximum resolution. All you have to do to overcome this problem is go into your display setting and set your screen at a lower resolution.

For movies and video you can easily reset the resolution. One great idea would be for Toshiba to build in a button that allows users to toggle between work mode and movie mode. Toshiba has installed a program called Desktop Assist that allows you to enlarge text by up to 200 per cent when you use the custom settings. This did not work for me as I am a big Chrome user and the text appeared way too large.

Videos delivered at lower resolution appear normal but they lack the real sharpness that the 2560 x 1440 pixel display screen is capable of delivering.

A key advantage of the higher resolution is that you can pack more in when operating in side by side mode with two pages easily displayed to the KIRA screen.

As someone who spends hours on a keyboard I found the Toshiba keyboard extremely easy to use, the spacing between keys is right and the key size is excellent. Another big advantage is that the keyboard is backlit so working on an aircraft at night or at home in low light is easy.


Click to enlarge
Under the bonnet is a Core i7 CPU which screams along and Toshiba have to be complemented for getting this processor to work in such a small package. It is also available with an Intel Core i5 processor.

The Core i7-3537U in the version that SmartHouse reviewed ran at 2GHz, and was one of the fastest we have ever experienced in an Ultrabook.

The casing is made out of pressed magnesium alloy that has a honeycomb structure, this design add strength while keeping the weight down. The hinge is extremely strong and the instant open design allows one to easily boot this Ultrabook in seconds. The rigidity of the honeycomb design and the strength of the hinge which I believe is a key component in any notebook or Ultrabook design has allowed Toshiba designers to deliver a truly superior structure while not compromising on the design or the weight of this Ultrabook.

A power button and an HDMI and two USB ports are located on the left side of the casing. On the right side is a full-sized SD card slot and a third USB port.

There is no Ethernet port, with users having to rely on the built-in 802.11ndual-band Wi-Fi. There is also Bluetooth version 4.0 built-in, along with a 2.0 megapixel webcam. An Ethernet dongle is optional.

Storage comes in the form of a 256GB SSD drive and 8GB of RAM.

Where this device was a real knock out was in Ultrabooks performance. I took the device on a three-day trip to Melbourne and after a full day of use delivering PowerPoint presentations, doing emails and Skype calls it still had juice left in the battery.

We also ran the screen flat out running a movie and two additional videos and the Ultrabook delivered 4 hours and 50 minutes of battery life before it was screaming for a power top up.

A small drawback is the fan which can be noisy when it is spinning at full belt, something that Toshiba needs to work on.

The touchpad is large (105x59mm) and I found it easy to use, however I would have preferred it to run flush across the brushed aluminium as opposed to having a stainless steel ridge; a change in colour would have done the job. The touchpad supports Windows 8 swipe-in gestures.

 


Click to enlarge
Another big standout on this Ultrabook is the inclusion of  Harman/Kardon speakers which when you think about it have to be powerful because of the size. They don't only deliver excellent sound despite the low frequency but are also discreetly housed under the Ultrabook, with the speakers pointing out to the sides.

Conclusion

At $2199,  this is an expensive beast. But is it worth it? My view is yes for the simple reason that an Ultrabook of this ilk is going to get used and the last thing you want if you use an Ultrabook every working day is one that cannot last the test of time and the constant thrashing that a lot of Ultrabooks get.

What you get is quality construction, a blindingly stunning display screen and a device that looks and feels classy. If you rely on a notebook as I do to deliver day in and day out, it's going to be very had to go past this beast, especially as Toshiba has thrown in a superb support package.  

It includes an on-site two-year warranty for capital cities, with regional owners getting a pick-up service. The package also covers accidental damage and a dedicated phone line for support. It also ships with the Pro version of Windows 8.

On the downside Toshiba needs to work on the cooling fan and the problems associated with the sheer resolution of the display screen, though neither of these small issues detract from the fact that this is the best Ultrabook we have ever seen.

 

 

Width: 316mm

Depth: 207mm

SOFTWARE

Operating system Windows 8 Pro

Included software Adobe Premiere Elements 11 Adobe Photoshop Elements 11

STORAGE

Hard drive interfaceSATA

Hard drive type Solid-state drive

Internal storage256GB

Solid-state drive? Yes

Supported memory mediaSD

WARRANTY

Warranty information on-site, accidental damage

Warranty length (months): 24

WEBCAM

Webcam resolution (megapixels): 0.9

WIRED CONNECTIONS

Number of USB 3.0 ports:3.0

Wired Terminal/PortsCombination headphone/microphone, HDMI, USB 3.0

WIRELESS CONNECTIONS

Bluetooth: Yes

Wi-Fi (wireless networking): Yes

Wireless technology supported Bluetooth, Wireless 802.11a, Wireless 802.11b, Wireless 802.11g, and Wireless 802.11n

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KIRA Ultrabook Reviewed by David Richards Rating: 5