Toshiba KIRAbook Review: Hi-Res Ultrabook With Style

by Reads (23,574)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 8.5
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 7
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 7.5
    • Performance
    • 8.5
    • Features
    • 8.5
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.86
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • Hi-res screen
    • Good port selection for an Ultrabook
    • Very portable and stylish
  • Cons

    • Dim screen
    • Slick keyboard
    • Frustrating trackpad

Quick Take

The Toshiba KIRAbook's high resolution display, great speaker quality, good specs and sleek build make it a solid addition to the ultrabook family.

The 2014 Toshiba KIRAbook is an ultrabook bearing impressive specs, including very good speakers and a very high-resolution screen, but is it more than a pricey media device? Read on to find out.


KIRAbookBuild and Design

Overall, this Toshiba laptop is one slick customer. The KIRAbook’s logo-emblazoned palmrest and top feature a silvery brushed magnesium alloy, while the rest of the machine features the same material but smooth and without the brushed texture. The casing is surprisingly sturdy, yielding very little to tough presses on the corners of the palmrest thanks to the inner “honeycomb” structure that provides the chassis with lightweight support. The screen lid has a bit more flex to it, but with the sturdy hinge it’s not going anywhere fast even with pokes and prods to the touchscreen while open. There is not much screen rippling even when you press hard enough to flex the back of the screen, which is nice.

At 0.7 inches thick and weighing only 2.9 lbs, the KIRAbook is a bit thicker than other ultrabooks, but still a very portable machine. Due to its very small bezel around the screen, it even has a smaller profile than other 13-inch laptops, adding to its appeal.

Display and Speakers
The main distinguishing feature of the Toshiba KIRAbook over other ultrabooks is its super high-def screen. With a 2560×1440 widescreen resolution, the 13.3” ten-point multitouch screen has very impressive pixel density. However, while this may interest gamers or graphic artists, many programs not downloaded directly from the Windows Store feature cramped, tiny text (such as in the included Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements) thanks to the resolution, even after tweaking view settings. Other downsides to this high-definition screen are its low brightness, even at maximum settings, and its touchscreen features a thin glass coating that attracts smudges and is a bit too reflective for our liking.

KIRAbook Front KIRAbook Tilt
KIRAbook Side KIRAbook Tilt Down

The Conexant HD Audio speakers on this computer are, in short, great. Loud enough to fill a moderately sized room at maximum volume, the sound is clear, crisp, and pleasing, all the way from from metal to classical tracks. The dual stereo speakers don’t get tinny in the way tiny notebook speakers tend to at high volumes, and maintain distinction even at fairly low volumes (10% of maximum) even though bass disappears a bit when turned that far down. There are also modes for bass boost, virtual surround, room correction, and loudness equalization in the speakers’ properties for finer control. These speakers coupled with the high-res screen make the KIRAbook a solid choice for a portable multimedia computer.

KIRAbook KeyboardKeyboard and Mouse
The backlit keyboard is a nice addition to this ultrabook, allowing users to see the keys clearly in dim lighting conditions. Using smaller function keys lets the KIRAbook fit more options in along the top of the keyboard, such as play/pause, scene rewind and fast-forward video controls, and a dedicated Airplane Mode button. While the keys are a bit short in terms of travel distance, they are well-spaced and have a very slight concavity to the tops, meaning they feel good when touch-typing. The keyboard is also quiet, and doesn’t feel clattery or wobbly. While the keys are very smooth on the tops, it is still one of the better chiclet keyboards we’ve used lately.

The KIRAbook’s trackpad on the other hand has a few major issues. While including a right-click area is nice in theory, in practice we kept hitting it when we were trying to click normally, as the entire bottom right corner of the trackpad is dedicated to right-click. The trackpad also features rounded corners close to the keyboard, which results in wasted space. Finally, the trackpad is a bit slick and hard to perform gestures like two-finger scrolling on, with response and movement feeling sluggish even when the settings for scrolling were altered. This all can prove a bit frustrating, and led to us using the touchscreen more than the mouse for gestures.

Ports and Connectivity
This device’s features a fairly basic setup for ports, with two USB 3.0 and an HDMI output on the left side, and one more USB 3.0, a headset jack and an SD card reader on the right. The KIRAbook also has Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, but no Ethernet adapter.

KIRAbook Left KIRAbook Right
Left: AC adapter, HDMI, USB 3.0 x2 Right: SD Card Reader, Headset Jack, USB 3.0


Software and OS
The KIRAbook runs Windows 8.1 and comes pre-installed with Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Premiere Elements 11 for basic photo and video editing. However, due to the high resolution of the screen, at their basic settings unoptimized programs like these from Adobe look tiny, and the text is near-unreadable due to its size.



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  1. HiDesertNM

    From the pictures that display looks like a TN panel. At any rate, for that price it should be 300 nit minimum and IPS. The Samsung for the same price destroys this. Toshiba is losing its Mojo IMO. Have not seen anything interesting from them in quite some time.

  2. seirios

    @HiDesertNM: I just love smartasses like you who post rubbish without thinking (and looking) twice. FYI this laptop has an IPS panel and the brightness is 350 nit. Go figure. As for comparing it to Samsung… I’m sorry. Of course this is a matter of taste as well, but this laptop blows away any Samsung product on any day. I considered buying Samsung laptops and monitors several times in the past, but I always ended up choosing something else, because I cannot stand the oversaturated colours and the blueish glow that is omnipresent in the Samsung universe. To me it feels fake.

    As for the review, and particularly the cons listed, I must say I don’t agree at all. I’ve used this ultrabook outdoors and also our offices are very bright with much natural sunlight – I never had problems with the brightness of the panel. In fact I don’t remember ever using it at 100%. As for the touchpad and keyboard (slick kb is a con ?!) – these are among the best designed features of the laptop. I type a lot, so I wanted an ultraportable device with an outstanding typing experience, and this laptop is excellent at it.

    To me the greatest and only con is the annoyingly small text size which, as stated in the article, cannot always be readjusted. But this is of course Microsoft’s epic failure – simply put, Windows 8.1 (the latest and “greatest”) is not ready for QHD. Maybe a bit more juice in the battery would help, but this is definitely not a deal breaker. Other than that, I’m absolutely satisfied with this device, after having used it for more than half a year.