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Toshiba Kirabook: Rich and thin, but still short of awesome

Michael Brown | March 21, 2014
The Kirabook definitely looks the part of a luxury laptop, and it’s the first Ultrabook to compete with Apple's Retina lineup. But Toshiba made several disappointing decisions on the way to a $2000 price tag.

As it turns out, the eval unit arrived set to use an "eco" power plan (with the description "saves energy using the settings recommended by Toshiba") that renders the display very dim, even when the unit is plugged in. PCWorld Lab policy is to benchmark machines they arrive from the vendor, but this "eco" power severely depressed its Worldbench score. When I queried Toshiba about this setting and what it did, I was told that the Kirabook should have arrived set to use Microsoft's "Balanced" power plan. When we changed the Kirabook's power settings to that setting and retested it, its WorldBench score jumped to an impressive 77. Since that's the way it should have arrived from Toshiba, my review score is based on that performance.

The Kirabook's battery lasted a very respectable 5 hours and 46 minutes--over 30 minutes longer than the Yoga 2 Pro (which has a higher-resolution display), but about the same as the XPS 13 (which has a lower-res display). We did not retest the battery using the "balanced" setting, but it's safe to assume it wouldn't last as long. If I bought this machine, I definitely would not use it in "eco" mode--you just give up too much.

The Kirabook is an impressive notebook, but it's also very expensive. Lenovo's Yoga 2 Pro and HP's Spectre 13t are its closest competitors. The Yoga 2 Pro, with the same CPU and memory but an even higher-resolution display (3200 by 1800 pixels) and more storage (a 512GB SSD), goes for $1599. The Spectre 13t, with the same processor and same-resolution display, costs $1505. But neither Lenovo nor HP matches Toshiba's white-glove service: 24/7 telephone support from U.S.-based technicians (with call pick-up within 45 seconds), setup assistance, annual tune-ups, and paid shipping both ways for repairs under warranty.

If you crave that kind of luxury treatment, the Kirabook earns its price premium. But I still don't count it among the best values on the laptop market today.


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