Toshiba recently announced the KIRABook, a premium Windows 8 UltraBook with Ultra HD display, and now the verdict on this notebook from a few major publishers have been appearing on the web. Unfortunately we don’t have the same $2,000 machine on hand other reviews have received to give you our own verdict (waves to Toshiba) but a summary of the best reviews to have been published so far can give you a good idea of what you do and don’t get for such a steep starting price of $1,599:
The Verge – “Finally, a flagship Windows 8 laptop”
The title of The Verge’s review is somewhat misleading and you’d think the review would be 100% glowing, but in fact it is not. The reviewer takes issue with the fact that, despite having a gorgeous display, many of the applications look horribly blurred or have tiny controls because Windows software developers did not design their software with a 2560 x 1440 resolution display in mind. For instance, the Chrome Browser displays text so blurry it’s almost impossible to use. The hardware is ahead of the software in this case.
Another complaint comes due to the lid having horrible flex. Though Toshiba touts the KIRABook’s Mag-Alloy material as being stronger than the aluminum on the MacBook Pro, it apparently is layered so thinly in the lid area that it flexes like a trampoline.
Battery life was found to be quite good, at around five hours. Performance was decent with fast bootup of 7 seconds, but sometimes multi-tasking slowed the machine down, likely a symptom of the high-resolution display and extra pixel pushing that requires.
AnandTech – “It’s a good product that has a questionable price and poor timing, and that’s ultimately where things go south.”
Dustin over at Anandtech is a great reviewer and really knows his stuff. He makes the very valid point that the timing of the KIRABook release just two months ahead of Intel’s Haswell release is somewhat tragic. Who wants to pay nearly $2K for a notebook that you know will be out of date and outperformed in just two months? Now is not a good time to be spending a huge chunk of change on a laptop, for those buying budget machines it doesn’t matter so much, but we’d advise against spending more than a week’s worth of salary for something that will depreciate a few hundred bucks the moment Toshiba releases an Intel Haswell equipped version of the KIRABook.
Dustin also took issue with the cheap Intel wireless chip used inside the KIRABook as it is not WiFi 5GHz capable, a head scratching design decision on a premium machine when even budget friendly notebooks often have this feature. Either Toshiba design engineers had to find a way to save $5 – $10 on parts or something about a 5GHz capable wireless chip caused concern. The unsettling lid flex was also noted in the review.
Negatives aside, AnandTech felt the 2560 x 1440 Ultra HD screen was everything Toshiba had promised it to be, with a bright display and vibrant and true colors. The keyboard and mouse input were very good by Ultrabook standards and battery life of around 5 hours under light usage conditions was right where you’d expect it to be. Premium offerings such as the touchscreen and faster Core i7 are nice to see, but way overpriced in the reviewer’s opinion.
CNET – “High end specs, and a price to match”
CNET Editor Dan Ackerman seems to like the Toshiba KIRABook, but can’t understand the pricing of $1,999 for the system reviewed and believes that the design falls short given the price. CNET likes the keyboard, mouse and display – all very important aspects of laptop usability. However, the reviewer keeps coming back to the point that the system doesn’t feel all that more special than other notebooks that are half the price, including Toshiba’s own Satellite U845T Ultrabook that retails for $800 and gets well reviewed. Bottom line, nice machine, but not worth the price.
The common theme amongst all of these reviews are that it was a nice effort on Toshiba’s part and the high quality display is appreciated, but given some software incompatibilities with the display the hardware may be a bit ahead of its time for the Windows platform. Toshiba has priced the KIRABook system above that of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display that starts at $1,499, and it’s hard to swallow paying more for a Windows machine with very similar hardware to a Mac OS X machine when people expect Windows machines to not have the “Apple tax” (extra margin Apple can charge simply due to their branding). Still, good luck to Toshiba with at least trying this more premium approach. Ironically Sony, the other company willing to make premium products and charge more, just ended offering their $1,500+ VAIO Z line and is focusing more on laptops under $1,000 so Toshiba may end up learning the same lesson Sony just got the message on, extremely high priced Windows machines don’t sell all that well.