KIRA elaison: Has Toshiba burned Apple’s Retina Display?



blog Laptop stalwart Toshiba has beaten Apple to the punch by offering an extremely high-resolution display in a slimline Ultrabook that has been clearly designed to appeal to buyers’ deep love of everything shiny. The new 1.21kg KIRA laptop offers a 13.3-inch ‘PixelPure’ display with native resolution of 2560×1440 at 221 pixels per inch (ppi), offering what Toshiba calls “a crisper, brighter picture without the detection of pixels”.

That’s not exactly a new concept, but it does put Toshiba one up on Apple, which has still not released its ultrabook-like laptop – its MacBook Air range – with the company’s high-resolution Retina Display.

Within the Apple stable, that display is only available on Apple’s heavier 1.62kg 13-inch and 2.02kg 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Those models offer higher resolution than the Toshiba unit – 2560×1600 at 227 ppi and 2880×1800 at 220 ppi, respectively – but the difference may be accounted for by the units’ different aspect ratios (1.6:1 for Apple vs 1.78:1 for Toshiba). Here’s the mellifluous praise that Toshiba heaped on its MacBook Air killer:

Toshiba’s KIRA is derived from inspired engineering with precision in every detail…From its concept, KIRA has been crafted with design and performance at its core. KIRA’s unique construction from AZ91 pressed magnesium alloy combined with a honeycomb-base structure, means that KIRA is more robust than traditional aluminium alloy devices, whilst still remaining ultra-light.

Consensus has been that the high-powered graphics chips necessary to run Retina-class displays were too power-hungry to be squeezed into the MacBook Airs – but with Toshiba apparently having managed it, a similar Apple model can’t be too far behind. In the meantime, however, Toshiba’s laptop, which runs Windows 8 and has the option of a touchscreen if you like using your laptop like an iPad, is looking pretty sweet – and, at $1699 to $2199, is price-competitive with the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display models, starting at $1649 and $1849 (the MacBook Air weighs 1.35kg and costs $1349 to $1549). Is the difference enough to sway you one way or the other?

Image credit: Toshiba


  1. Is the battery life anywhere near as good as the MacBooks though? Toshiba claim “up to 6 hours, 10 minutes”, but I’d assume that’s idling with the screen on minimum brightness. You can get over 7 hours of actual usage out of a MacBook Air or Retina MBP.

    • “anywhere near as good as the MacBooks” – yes 6 hrs odd is indeed near as good as the 7 hours you quote – HOWEVER with all the problems of MBPro/OSX battery life (some getting only 2 hours), in fact this Toshiba is streets ahead of the Mac!

      • lol@peter,

        What problems? I run all day on mine. Yet to see that in many other laptops. Let alone Mac is the only computer who sleeps (no power) properly when you close the lid. Look it up, you will see what I mean.

        • the only laptop that sleeps properly??

          give me a break. every laptop i’ve ever owned was able to sleep properly.

          keep your apple loving to a minimum, champ…

  2. For those who use ultraportables on their lap regularly, or sit within 1′ or so of the screen, FHD makes a lot of sense – you get a great deal more desktop space and applications are very usable, compared with the poor, compromised usage you get out of many notebook screens compared with even cheap desktop monitors. Likewise, QHD is a brilliant (even necessary) resolution at anything greater than 24″ on the desktop – that extra screen real estate translates to huge productivity improvements for most people.

    But QHD on a 13.3″ screen? Windows currently needs a complete redesign to play nice with very high res on little screens – the built in adjustments just don’t work seamlessly between applications, making for something of a hodgepodge experience. Why OS designers aren’t using vector graphics and fonts across the board yet is beyond me – doing so would solve a lot of these issues. But today they don’t, so I’m sceptical about the actual usability of QHD at this size. Sure pixel density will be amazing, but without an OS that natively supports size customisation that works seamlessly across all applications you are going to have a very compromised and frustrating user experience. Unless of course you don’t mind using the screen 6″ from your face – then you can leave everything at 100% scaling and it will look amazing. But it will make for an odd user experience. And you’ll look a right pillock ;-)

    • Haha, you pretty much nailed it. Window’s 8 lack of resolution independence on the desktop will indeed require a lot of squinting at small text, or zooming where possible to make out text. The Metro UI would be vector based and scale properly I would imagine though? In which case given its touchscreen, this machine will really work best in the Metro environment, particularly as it only has Intel 4000 integrated graphics. That’s not a bad graphics chipset for 1080p ultrabooks, but I’d be concerned about frame rates at 1600p resolution when running graphics intensive applications, or doing a lot of multitasking.

      The Macbook Pro with retina screen certainly struggles on occasion with a low frame rate, once you have too much happening on screen, and it uses the same graphics chip. Whether Windows drivers will make it run better or worse at that res remains to be seen (the Toshiba’s screen is also a slightly lower resolution screen than the Macbook due to being 16×9).

      • Can you imagine wasting a screen like this in ‘Modern UI’ apps? Besides, most real applications drop you into the desktop anyway – there are essentially no serious business apps running on modern yet. Personally I’ve found very little use for Modern beyond a full page application menu, and I’ve been trying – my main notebook has been running Win8 Pro since launch day.

        And now it looks like Win 8.1 is going to patch Win to allow users to default to desktop instead of Modern, which effectively dooms app development for desktop replacement apps. But that’s no bad thing – MS should have kept Modern as an option on PC desktop Windows from day 1, not forced the interface on everyone. I was optimistic about Modern at first, but given I haven’t found a use for it beyond an application launch screen, it is a very clumsy way to replace the Start menu (although still an improvement IMO). But Modern apps for PCs need a lot of work – more flexibility for starters.

        Anyway, I’m way off topic now ;-) My point is Modern is not the solution – redesigning the GUI engine from the ground up is what’s needed. Imagine being able to customise default font sizes, bezel widths and icon sizes all with just a click and drag, or pinch, and those changes stick throughout your Windows experience. Nothing less than this will do for QHD on small screens and the ultra high resolutions coming in the next few years. Believe me Apple will be doing everything in their power to nail this soon. Innovate or die, Microsoft.

        • Oh I never said that Metro (still haven’t gotten used to calling it ‘Modern UI) was the answer, nor that I liked it. The fact that I run Windows 8 on my desktop with the “Start8” tweak should give you an idea of what of think of it :) I was simply saying that given the presumable resolution independence of Metro, and the average performance of the Intel 4000, that this particular machine is currently best suited to using with Metro (forgetting for a second the limitations and total lack of decent apps available).

          As for Windows Blue allowing a boot that bypasses Metro, from what I recall that was found in an early build, but The Verge reported yesterday that Microsoft have said it won’t be there in the final product. And most of the leaked improvements sound like their focus is still well and truly focused on ‘modern UI’.

          In regards to “Apple will nail this” they already have started in a way with OS X. I don’t think it has true resolution independence yet, but its at least properly optimised for higher dpi. The effective viewing space on a retina 15″ screen is the same as non retina (1280×800). You can also adjust this to an effective viewing space of 1920×1080 (with somewhat weird scaling) and finally you have the option to run it in native resolution where everything is minute. Of course that has meant many updates to the OS and Mac app’s bitmap graphics, and other things that don’t scale well, but they did a good job (as have most 3rd party developers) as the screen looks utterly amazing while everything is just the right size. They just need to give it a more powerful graphics chipset to drive the screen better.

          I’m not a Mac user, but I certainly appreciate Apple’s push to higher dpis, and love the retina screens on all their products.

          • For shame – Microsoft’s pigheadedness here is reminiscent of their stance over Vista. In that case market pressure won out, as it did with Intel over the P4 architecture, and the P3 and RAMBUS integration. Microsoft (and particularly Ballmer) are slow learners when it comes to hubris.

            Don’t get me wrong – Modern is the right direction for portable devices and even for desktop integration. But forcing it on desktop users and tieing Windows accounts so closely with cloud accounts in a way that locks users out of using more than one account for every Modern app is idiotic – sure, make it the default option, but ffs give people the option to choose to do what they like. That really is, after all, one of MSs key competitive advantages over Apple’s extremely limited and controlling business model.

            But you’re right – Apple is streets ahead with high res screen customisation and the way they’re going they will get there years ahead of Microsoft. Talk about your missed opportunities…

          • “Don’t get me wrong – Modern is the right direction for portable devices and even for desktop integration. But forcing it on desktop users and tieing Windows accounts so closely with cloud accounts in a way that locks users out of using more than one account for every Modern app is idiotic”

            Agreed. I think Metro Modern UI does makes sense for Windows tablets in the long run, and there’s some excellent gestures and handy features like being being able to pin apps to the side (which will be expanded to support multiple pinned apps with Windows Blue). However given Microsoft were late to the game (again) with adopting ARM processors, Windows RT/Modern UI is still severely lacking developer support, and therefore many compelling apps (and it doesn’t even run particularly well on Microsoft’s own Tegra 3 Surface tablet ) so even when it comes to tablets, Windows RT is not a viable option for many people yet unless they really need Office on a tablet. And alongside that, we all know how poorly Windows Phone 8 is going with lack of market share, and only a fraction of the top end apps that hit Android and iOS.

            I guess time will tell, but Microsoft’s lack of awareness of where the market was going, and initial resistance to change, is similar to the way RIM and Nokia reacted to Apple. Totally underestimating the touchscreen market, and the appeal of mobile apps, and therefore being so late to the game with their next gen mobile OS’s and products, have crippled these companies severely. Whether they can bounce back remains to be seen.

    • Couldn’t agree more.. It’s not like you can run something that is better than the current crappiness of Win8/7 or MacOS or even free is there…


  3. QHD on 13 inch running Linux would be grand. Can’t wait to get one and have a play.

    I was originally thinking that maybe a chrome pixel if they ever came to Aus, but finally someone is starting to make a laptop for developers.

    I feel limited/cramped by a single FHD screen. At work I use 2 FHD screens and I would love more screen space. Using 2 screens vs one can be annoying as the bevels get in the way. If we could get a 15 inch ultrabook version, that would be ideal, with 8GB/16GB RAM and minimum 256GB SSD.

    Hopefully the wait for a decent developer laptop is nearly over :)

    As usual I will just have to replace the crappy OS with Linux unless the hardware manufacturers finally start deploying without an OS as standard. Now, if only the BIOS developers could follow a standard.

    • Heart this comment so much. BIOS’s are the bain of my life in PC world.

      *turns on Vt-d in bios*

      BIOS: “oh you wanted vt-d did you? let me report the the incorrect memory addresses to your hypervisor. Which you need to pass through your devices directly to the VM.”

      ME: “FFFFUUUU!”

    • “If we could get a 15 inch ultrabook version, that would be ideal, with… 16GB RAM” 


      Ultra book style form factor, <1cm depth, <1.3kg, 16 to 32gb RAM and QHD on a 15" screen (hell, I'd settle for FHD at 15" if other specs were met). It's odd there is just nothing like this on the market – you can either get ultraportables in max 13.3" with FHD, or you go to nearly 2kg nothing-like-an-ultraportable if you want 15" (and good luck finding FHD). Believe me there is a huge market for 15″ notebooks with the thin profile and reduced weight of their ultraportable brethren, and yet almost no options in this space.

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