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Toshiba Kirabook review:

High-end specs, and a price to match

Connections, performance, and battery
The Kirabook deserves credit for making all three of its USB ports of the faster 3.0 variety, plus one of them is a powered sleep-and-charge port, which is a handy feature allowing you to plug a device into the port and recharge from the laptop's battery, even if the system is powered down. Other than that, you won't find any high-end extras, such as an NFC chip or Thunderbolt port.

There are three configurations of the Kirabook. The $1,599 model is the least expensive, trading down to a Core i5 CPU, but with the same 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD as the other versions. The big difference here is that it does not include a touch screen. That's surprising on two fronts. First, that someone is still interested in making a Windows 8 ultrabook without a touch screen; and second, that it would cost $1,600. The version without a touch screen is a little lighter, so there's always that.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Adding a touch screen costs a surprising $200 extra, for what is essentially the same configuration. The next step is our review configuration, which adds a Core i7 processor, and upgrades the operating system to Windows 8 Pro. All three configurations include copies of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Adobe Premiere Elements 11, and a special Platinum level of support, which consists of a two-year warranty, a special 24-7 support phone number to call, setup assistance, and a promised "annual tune-up."

Take an ultrabook and pack in an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a large SSD, and you're virtually guaranteed to get excellent performance. The Kirabook does indeed perform like a premium laptop, and ran our benchmark tests as well or better than other U-series Core i7 laptops. Plus, the system was able to play higher-resolution videos easily, including 4K videos.

But, considering the things most people use their laptops for -- Web surfing, media playback, social-network sharing, and e-mail -- you're not likely to notice a huge difference between this and a solid Core i5 ultrabook in everyday use. The HD 4000 graphics from Intel can handle some basic gaming, as long as you keep your expectations modest, and you don't try and run games at the system's native resolution. The new BioShock Infinite at 1,366x768-pixel resolution with medium settings ran at 16.1 frames per second.

A high-end laptop needs high-end battery life. Working in the Kirabook's favor are the power-efficient CPU and SSD, but working against it is the need to drive many more pixels than the average laptop screen. In our video playback battery drain test (which uses a 1080p video), the Kirabook ran for 5 hours and 5 minutes. That's good, but not especially impressive, considering that the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro ran for nearly 7 hours and the $800 Toshiba U845T ran just over 6 hours.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When Toshiba first showed us the Kirabook in person, company reps asked my colleague and I what we thought the system would cost. We gave a couple of well-reasoned guesses, but came nowhere close to the $1,599-to-$1,999 range.

But there is room for premium laptops even among today's price-sensitive shoppers. To make that leap, you really need a design that stands out from the $800-to-$1,200 crowd, and the Kirabook fails to do so, despite having a higher-resolution screen as its main selling point. That said, it's a great example of a more expensive laptop built with superior construction and materials, and feels great to use while typing, tapping, and swiping.

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)

Find more shopping tips in our Laptop Buying Guide, and find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations

Toshiba Kirabook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2GHz Intel Core i7-3667U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Toshiba SSD

Dell XPS 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Sharedl) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Samsung SSD

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch w/ Retina Display (October 2012)
OSX 10.8.2 Mountain Lion 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 768MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000, 256GB Apple SSD

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

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