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Performing everyday tasks, the Kira just flies. Its fast start-up time from sleep and when powering on makes it the go-to device for checking anything quickly. It also has the processing oomph to handle mostly anything you throw at it, though it does get hot and noisy if particularly demanding tasks drag on for too long. The keyboard layout is a little bit uncomfortable for certain hand sizes, but you'll quickly get used to it.
The Harman Kardon speakers are, as expected, sharp and pump out good tunes, although the bass of course can't match a true subwoofer. The built-in DTS Studio Sound app lets you play around with the audio output, if you want to use 3D or surround sound, or equalize the sound.
Our test Toshiba Kira 107 came with Windows 8.1, an Intel Core i7-5500U CPU clocked at 2.40GHz, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Here's how it performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
- 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5510; Sky Diver: 2844; Fire Strike: 744
- Cinebench CPU: 279 points; Graphics: 29.75 fps,
- PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2771 points
- PCMark 8 (Battery Life): 4 hours and 40 minutes
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (1080p, Ultra): 10 fps; (1080p, Low): 25 fps
- Metro: Last Light Redux (1080p, Ultra): 2.7 fps; (1080p, Low): 12 fps
Let's just remind ourselves how that compares to last year's Kira scores.
- 3DMark: Ice Storm: 15,086; C loud Gate: 4,622; F ire Strike: 625
- Cinebench 11.5: C PU: 277pts; Graphics: 20.14 fps
- PC Mark 8 Battery Life: 11 hours and 15 minutes
Though the battery life is obviously hugely different, the other benchmarks are only slightly changed. That 50% improvement on the Cinebench graphics performance is down to the improved Intel integrated graphics, but the difference is only minor in the 3DMark benchmarks. Both the games are obviously unplayable at average settings – but then this is an Ultrabook.
Compared to the new Dell XPS 15 (which is 50% more expensive), this new Kira outperforms it at basic tasks, with much better home scores and a stronger battery life. We suspect much of that will be down to super-fast transfer speeds from the SSD.
But it falls down heavily on the graphics side, where the XPS 15 clocked in a 72 fps Cinebench score compared to the Kira's 30 fps, and 3DMark scores that are roughly double to treble the Kira's. Indeed, the Kira's graphical scores only just beat the much cheaper Asus Zenbook UX305, which has a 320-minute battery life compared to the Kira's 280 minutes and the XPS 15's 210 minutes.
The screen is genuinely stunning, with that huge resolution matching up with an enjoyable richness to impress even our jaded peepers. The screen brightness issues which we had with the previous two models haven't been addressed, staying too dim at each stage. It's probably half as bright as the MacBook Pro's screen, which is pretty astounding.
The other aspects of the screen are better, especially the wealth of screen real estate. The touchscreen is, again, nicely responsive if a little unnecessary for anyone but the iPad generation. The shiny screen is slightly problematic in bright light, but not as bad as other units we've tested – and it produces consistent brightness and colours across the screen, and from wide viewing angles. And it pumps out nicely saturated colours as well.
Thankfully, there's very little bundled software. To be honest, we can all accept that (beyond a free antivirus subscription) there's little we actually want installed as default with our hardware these days, because we prefer to customise things ourselves. So the limited number of Toshiba applications that deal with particular aspects of the Kira are welcome where they're subtle and in the background.
McAfee AntiVirus isn't, because it's an annoying trial version that will be a sod to remove, and which will pester you every day until you get rid of it. Similarly, the 30-day version of Microsoft LiveOffice is about as welcome as a combine harvester at a flower show. The Chroma Tune software is there for tuning the display's colours accurately.