Trade Resources Industry Views Toshiba Has Its Back to The Wall

Toshiba Has Its Back to The Wall

LIKE several Japanese technology firms, Toshiba has its back to the wall. The vagaries of the yen, decline in demand for TVs and computers and Japan's earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 left manufacturers wounded.

Case in point is Toshiba this month announcing a 62 per cent drop in quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2013, compared to a year ago. That news came just as Toshiba announced the release in Australia of its flagship 'Kira' quad HD high resolution screen ultrabook, along with a range of more than 25 notebooks and All-in-One devices.

Toshiba deserves congratulation for coming out fighting with such a ground breaking Windows Ultrabook. (Kira means 'beam of light' in Sanskrit.) It's ground breaking enough to have a 13.3-inch screen with a resolution probably too advanced for Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.

The screen resolution is 221 pixels per inch which all but matches the 227 ppi 'Retina' resolution of high end-of-market MacBooks with Retina Display.

Nonetheless, webpages, graphic and documents display in full glory, and, incidentally, colours are superb and blacks really dark.

Unfortunately the Windows 8 Desktop, which is not optimised for this screen resolution, gets to look a bit wonky with program icons decidedly smaller and the Windows taskbar ribbon-like. Text in some menus can be too small to read. Software is available to correct this.

Nevertheless Microsoft needs to get with the times and cater for beyond 1080p resolution, and lots of established programs too will need to update to look good on to finer-resolution devices.

I also found touchscreen performance to be excellent. The display was responsive, scrolling smooth, and no delay in zooming in and out.

In general the Kira is a nicely engineered ultrabook with a magnesium alloy chassis, a fast Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 8GB of memory, a 256GB mSATA solid state drive, and Harman/Kardon speakers that offer decent sound, emanating just below the screen base. However for an ultrabook at around $2000, you'd expect nothing less than this.

The Kira also boasts a usable backlit keyboard. Keys are well spaced, and it's easy to type accurately, although Lenovo remains the king of notebook keyboards in our minds. The cursor keys at the bottom right are somewhat cramped however.

Despite its stunning screen Toshiba has stuck with on-board graphics - the Intel HD 4000 series, rather than a dedicated graphics card. While the Kira is a great multimedia ultrabook, it is by therefore not a gaming computer.

However it is not alone. In the 13-inch market, Apple's comparable MacBook Pro with Retina which has a 2,560x1,600 pixel display and costs from $1,849 also doesn't have a separate graphics card, it's only 15-inch models that come with dedicated Nvidia GeForce graphics.

Port wise, the Kira has 3 x USB3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI Out port (external HDMI resolution is 1080p) and a full-sized SD card slot, but it lacks a dedicated Ethernet port. Anyone who's encountered poor Hotel WiFi on their travels will know the value of plug in Ethernet.

The Kira does not ship with a USB to Ethernet connector so you'll have to buy one. It costs $49.95. Again, for an ultrabook at this price, the connector should be thrown in gratis, as some other manufacturers do.

The Kira has reasonable, although not exceptional battery life. Watching video for 45 minutes drained 14 per cent of juice, the equivalent of 5 hours, 21 minutes of battery life.

Toshiba is selling three configurations of this ultrabook in Australia: two have touch screens but the cheaper $1799 model doesn't.  I can't see the sense of outlaying $1799 on a Windows 8 ultrabook and not enjoy the benefit of touch, when for $200 more you can have it. Toshiba is throwing in 2 years of Platinum support for buyers.

Overall the Kira is a classy piece of kit that shouldn't disappoint, and we've rated it highly, but we'd have rated it even higher if it were considerably cheaper.

Price: $1799 (Core i5, no touch), 1999 (Core i5, touch), $2199 (Core i7, touch)
Rating: 8

Contribute Copyright Policy
Toshiba's Luxury Kira Laptop Set to Take on Apple Macbook