Toshiba's luxurious Kirabook is the first Windows laptop to feature a display rivaling Apple's Retina technology. The Kirabook is also thinner and much lighter than Apple's MacBook Pro, and it's outfitted with a touchscreen. But although I wish I could report that Toshiba has crafted a masterpiece that fully justifies its $2000 price tag, this machine suffers from a couple of significant flaws.
With a native resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels, the Kirabook's 13.3-inch display delivers a pixel density of 221 pixels per inch--just shy of the 227 ppi that Apple packs into the 13-inch MacBook Pro's 2560-by-1600-pixel display. If you think Apple's computers are overpriced, consider the fact that a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 3.0GHz Intel Core i7-3540M processor sells for $100 less than the Kirabook, which runs on a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7-3537U CPU. Apple, however, doesn't currently offer any full-blown computers with touchscreens (the iPad doesn't count).
Clock speeds aren't everything, of course. The processor that Toshiba picked boasts a TDP (thermal design power) of just 17 watts, versus the 35-watt TDP of the chip that Apple uses. (Thermal design power refers to the maximum amount of power that a computer's cooling system must dissipate. A lower TDP is desirable for a mobile computer, because it improves battery life. In our test, the Kirabook's battery lasted an impressive 5 hours, 14 minutes.) The Kirabook's other key components include 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory and a 256GB solid-state drive. I'll get into the Kirabook's performance in depth later.
Photos, movies, and documents look gorgeous on the Kirabook's display. But when I compared the Kirabook to a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (Apple doesn't offer its high-res display on its thinner, lighter MacBook Air line), I found that Apple's product delivered far better contrast. Both machines rely on the Intel HD 4000 GPU core integrated into the CPU, so I don't know whether the Kirabook's problem is due to Toshiba's choice of Corning Concore glass (which is specifically formulated for touchscreens) or due to the fingerprint-resistant coating on the glass. Whatever the reason, it was no contest: The Retina display produced much deeper blacks.
Why no super high-res on the big screen?
Toshiba's touchscreen is very responsive, and since it supports ten touch points it accepts all Windows 8 gestures. But Toshiba made a serious mistake by outfitting the Kirabook with only an HDMI video output. If you connect the notebook to a big-screen monitor, the maximum resolution you'll get is 1920 by 1080 pixels. Had the laptop's designers specified DisplayPort, the Kirabook would have been able to drive a 27-inch display at its native resolution. I get it: HDMI is the most common digital video input on modern TVs and video projectors. But DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters are dirt cheap and easy to carry. Limiting the Kirabook to HDMI-out cripples the system for desktop use.
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