Toshiba Kirabook (2014) review: The high-end Kirabook gets a battery life upgrade

Some parts of the Windows ecosystem adapt well to these higher screen resolutions, while others do not. The actual Windows 8 tiles interface does, along with every Windows 8 app we tested. The traditional Windows desktop also works well, but some programs, including the copy of Photoshop Elements 11 that came preloaded on the system, ended up with text and menus that were so small as to be nearly impossible to read. A higher-resolution screen remains a cool extra feature to have on a laptop, especially for smooth text and more screen real estate for editing photo and video, but it's not a necessity for most.

Toshiba Kirabook (2014)
Video HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 3 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

Connections, performance, and battery
Slim laptops often skimp on the ports, but in this case, you get three USB 3.0 ports, which is one more than you'll find on a MacBook Air or Pro (although those include one or two Thunderbolt ports). Note that one of the USB ports also supports Toshiba's useful sleep-and-charge technology, that can draw power from the battery to charge accessories even when the system is off. The HDMI port supports 4K output in the rare event that you have an external monitor with a resolution that's as good or better than the internal one.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The two available configurations of the Kirabook are largely similar, with the less expensive model using a fourth-gen Intel Core i5 processor and the higher-end model using a Core i7. Compared with the original third-gen Core i7 Kirabook we reviewed last year, the performance differences were essentially nonexistent. Overall, we've seen very minor bumps to performance generation-over-generation, especially from higher-end Intel CPUs, with the real advantage coming from improved battery life.

And battery life is really where the updated Kirabook outdoes its predecessor. The 2013 Kirabook ran for 5 hours and 5 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, which was middling for a travel-friendly ultrabook. The 2014 version ran for 7 hours and 51 minutes on the same test, which is an outstanding improvement, and a number I'd call good enough for all-day professional use. Some similar systems still run even longer, including the Samsung Ative Book 9 Plus and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
The original Toshiba Kirabook was a well-intentioned attempt to capture some boutique-level mindshare from other high-end, high-design laptops. Despite excellent craftsmanship, it missed on enough levels, from oddball price/feature combos to disappointing battery life, to fall just short of a strong recommendation.

Despite no design update, the newer version presents itself much better, dropping the pointless nontouch version and adding a major battery life boost. It helps that in the intervening months no one has put forth a killer high-end ultrabook that targets the same CEO-level demographic, making the Kirabook, almost by default, a laptop I could see myself gravitating towards if my budget allowed for it.

HandBrake multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 2560 x 1440 ( WQHD )
  • Installed Size 8 GB
  • Weight 2.97 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • CPU Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) 4500U / 1.8 GHz