Pros Check pros in my summary
Cons Check cons in my summary
Summary The Toshiba KiraBook is technically an UltraBook, an ultra-thin laptop built for an on-the-go lifestyle. It has features of a tablet, though, and it brings an awful lot to the table. This particular KiraBook is more powerful than many notebooks on the market and is well-suited for heavy business use, though there are a couple of negatives that require mention.
The KiraBook was designed for extreme efficiency and utility while making it as portable and lightweight as possible. This means that, as is true with most UltraBooks, there are certain features that have been eliminated from the feature set. Most notable is the absence of a CD/DVD drive. If you need to read/write CDs or DVDs, you will need an external USB-based drive to connect to this system. Also missing is a VGA or DVI connector (though there is an HDMI port). Though this may not seem like a big deal on the surface, it is an issue if for any reason this system will need to be connected to a projector or an external display, something that business users often need to do. The most startling omission, though, is an Ethernet port - this system can be used *only* with wireless networks unless a USB-based Ethernet connector is connected to it.
With a 3.1GHz Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), Toshiba built this system for extreme speed. I timed the boot-up from completely powered off to sitting at the desktop and ready to work - 8 seconds. It is even faster when coming out of standby. I realize this is mostly a function of the SSD, but the CPU and quantity of RAM contribute just the same. Working with applications it is easy to see that this is a top-drawer system that is ready to work at a moment's notice.
As is true with other UltraBooks I have seen, the KiraBook is not upgradeable and has no user-serviceable parts. That is, the user has no ability to replace the hard drive or add memory without sending the system off for service. This is a double-edged sword: on one hand, it means that it is a maintenance-free system and the user does not need to be concerned with fiddling with the hardware. On the other hand, though, it does mean that when there is a need to replace the hard drive or memory, there's no getting around a service call.
This system comes preloaded with Windows 8 Pro. Most home users will not need the extra features that come with Windows 8 Pro but business users will see some benefit when the system is connected to a network. In particular, the Pro edition of Windows 8 allows for connecting to a Windows domain, allows for remoting the desktop as a host and allows for setting group policies. There are other differences between Windows 8 Home and Windows 8 Pro, but these are (in my opinion) the three primary differences.
One thing that caught my attention about this system that bothers me just a little bit is the ventilation. Toshiba put a minimum of ventilation on the base which, to me, does not look like nearly enough if the computer is going to be used under heavy load. It would be very advisable to use this computer with a cooling base if it's going to used in the same location most of the time. Now, that said, I have not noticed the system getting too hot when in use, but mostly it is handling such things as email and web surfing - under a number-crunching load I would expect it to get very hot and the fans to kick in.
The touch-screen features of the KiraBook make this a fine system for people who wish to have the features of a Windows tablet without giving up the keyboard. The touch screen works well and it is very responsive without being too sensitive. It does require some getting used to, especially when one is used to a standard notebook touchpad. It is possible to use a stylus with the KiraBook which will cut down on some of the "fat finger" errors when touching the screen but that could prove to be an inconvenience.
Aside from the touch features, the KiraBook has by far the brightest and most crystal clear screen I have ever seen in any system. Images on the screen are sharp, bright and colorful. The default resolution (2560x1440) is a little small though, especially on a 13.3" screen, and it may give some users a little trouble. Windows 8 makes setting the resolution very easy and there are a number of available lower resolutions, so users should have no problem setting the screen up to their liking.
Though it is mostly a matter of personal preference, I really dislike the touch pad and I turned it off. It is very large compared to most other laptop systems I have used and as a result I have a bad tendency to tap it while typing. There's something a little more serious about the touchpad, though. Looking very closely at it I can see through the gap next to the edge of the touchpad - that means there is enough clearance that stuff can get down inside through that gap. It's a small gap, but it's enough for a strand of hair to get in, and enough hair and dust in the system will cause heat issues.
The cover is a brushed metal finish and is smooth and attractive. This is a very handsome machine and is resistant to showing scratches and dirt.
My first order of business with this machine was to build recovery media. No manufacturer includes recovery media with their systems anymore and it is up to the consumer to generate the DVDs. Fortunately, Toshiba's utility for doing this is intuitive and straightforward and in short order I was able to generate a set of DVDs without much thought or effort. As a plus, the utility can be run to generate more than one set of media, which is not true of all manufacturers.
In operation, I have found no real issues with this system. As the specs would suggest, it is very responsive and the Windows 8 OS makes it very user friendly. Almost all frustrations I have encountered have been with Windows 8 and the learning curve from earlier Windows editions, not the physical machine.
Battery life has been very good though not stellar. Using the system primarily for email and occasional visits to the web, we ("we" being my wife and I) usually close the lid and let the system go into standby. When we do this, it lasts about 24 hours before it dies. So, plugging in the KiraBook every other day seems to work well for our needs. If doing things like software development or calculating math-intensive functions one could expect the battery life to drop significantly.
The KiraBook comes with 2 years of Norton 360 protection and also includes Norton's anti-theft package, which allows one to track the computer if it is stolen. I have had no issues with Norton on this system and I think Norton's security offerings have come a long way in the last 5-6 years - it stays out of the way, it does not seem to bog the system down and it's easy to use. The 2 years of updates is great - most new systems I have used come with only 30-90 days of updates.
I have mentioned that I would classify this machine as a business machine, not a gamer's machine. Though it has enough power to run some of the more resource-dependent games, the screen is a little small for gaming and the graphics processor is not up to the task of more recent offerings.
Toshiba has put together a nice system aimed squarely at business users who need a lightweight, powerful and user-friendly system that can move with them. The KiraBook is not without its faults but it is a very good choice when considering the target audience. I would not recommend it for gaming users, but for the traveling professional it is a good choice that's worth consideration.
NOTE: check for great deal for this Laptop at: Laptopstouchscreen.blogspot.com/p/toshiba-kirabook-13-i7.html
Hope it helps, good luck
Pros The overall feel, weight, and performance. MacBook Air...watch out.
Cons I guess I could upgrade to Windows 7 but I refuse to pay for that after spending 2K on a laptop. CPU Fan seems to kick on quite a bit when *nothing* is going on.
Summary So here's the deal. I come to CNET all the time to review products and read reviews and am always most appreciative of the feedback I get. This is the first review I've ever written and felt so inclined to do so because of my experience with the Toshiba Kirabook. I am not a computer guru/wizard/whiz by any means. I bought my wife a MacBook Air last year and have been praying/hoping that someone in the PC world would come out with something that would compete in size, performance, weight, and sexiness. The Toshiba Kirabook delivers on *all* those levels with flying colors. It feels much like the MBA. The touch pad is about 80% of the way there to the MBA touchpad, but it's getting close. I use a mouse about 65% of the time now and am really getting used to the pad on the Kirabook. I use this machine for purely office/business work with high use in the Office apps (Outlook) so if you are looking for a review with any kind of Photo/Video/Graphic interface, this ain't it. I use my computer for work...and work it does! One of the big negatives is the fan CPU as it seems to come on at very random times when I am doing nothing on the computer. Not sure what is going one and I've tried to open the resource manager to see what's happening to no avail. Finally, the last negative is Windows 8. If this machine came with Windows 7 Pro I would give it a 4.5. If the Touch Pad worked like the MBA I would give it a 5.0...CPU fan aside. (I could live with that with the other two parameters) Other than that...I love, love, love it. The touch screen is nice, but unless you are in love with Windows 8, you will forget about it.
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