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Toshiba Kira-101 review

A dead-ringer for a MacBook but can it match the performance?

The low-power processor with Haswell architecture is efficient, and the Kira's battery benchmark result of 8 hours 47 minutes in our standard video-looping test. This exceptional result is better than any Windows machine we've tested but still can't overhaul the MacBook Pro at the top of our table.

The 256GB SSD provides plenty of space for documents and multimedia, and its sequential read and write speeds of 512MB/s and 457MB/s are excellent. The Toshiba is responsive too, booting in 13 seconds. It's a fraction behind MacBooks which are ready to roll in 10 seconds.

Connectivity is reasonable. There's dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4. Gigabit Ethernet is absent, without a USB adapter in the box. This is the biggest omission from a reasonable port selection including 3 x USB 3 connectors, HDMI output, an audio jack and an SDXC card reader.

The Kira is a quick machine with superb battery life, but it's not subtle. The high-pitched fan spins up during demanding benchmark applications and stress-tests, and it was noticeable in our quiet office. The fan even springs into life during mundane tasks.

None of the internal components came close to overheating, but the Kira's bottom became noticeably hot. The temperature wasn't dangerous, but it'll prove distracting.

Ergonomics

The Scrabble-tile unit has black keys with a concaved top in an attempt to improve accuracy. 

We've got no problems with the layout, but the lack of travel makes it tricky to use the Kira for lengthy work. The lack of movement from every key means typing lacks any crucial feedback, and we also noticed the space bar occasionally missed our taps. The Dell's keyboard is superior, and the typing equipment on MacBooks and ThinkPads is better.

The touchpad is reasonable, with a wide, responsive surface and gesture support, and the two buttons are light and clicky, again not quite up there with MacBooks.

Software

The UK gets a bum deal when it comes to software. Our Kira notebooks include a one-year warranty and a 30-day trial for McAfee LiveSafe. Toshiba has wrapped many of Microsoft's own settings in its branded front-end, and installed apps like eBay and Evernote, which are free anyway.

The US model has more generous add-ons including a two-year warranty, two-year subscription to Norton Internet Security, and full versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 and Premiere Elements 11.

Overall

The Kira's price and availability - 1,299 and from Selfridges - makes this machine feel like a high-class affair, but the reality isn't quite so sweet. The high-quality screen is hampered by lack of software optimisation, the performance is mediocre and is accompanied by noise and heat, and the design just can't match the pure class of rivals. The keyboard, trackpad and battery life are all good, but are also all bettered elsewhere.

We like the fact that Toshiba is trying to make luxurious laptops - but it hasn't quite nailed it here. If you want to spend this much on a laptop, you'd be better off investing a bit more to get a MacBook Pro or Dell Latitude E7440.

Verdict

Despite the great battery life and design, the Kira can't quite capture the performance of the MacBook range.

Processor: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-4500U  GPU: Intel HD Graphics 4400  Display: 13.3in 2,560 x 1,440 IPS touchscreen  Memory: 8GB RAM  Storage: 256GB SSD  Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0  Ports: 3 x USB 3, HDMI output, 1 x audio jack, SDXC card slot  Dimensions: 316 x 207 x 21.5mm (WxDxH)  Weight: 1.35kg 

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